Before we start, I, Dr. James St.Clair, 100% believe in a balanced nutritious diet for dogs. I also believe that there are very high-quality comprehensive diets available on the market to consumers. In no way am I advocating discontinuing your dog’s normal diet.
It is a fact that certain foods are potentially very dangerous to our dog’s health and we need to be aware of them. (See link at the end of this post) That said, there are a far greater number of WHOLESOME, FRESH, REAL FOODS that can be advantageous to your dog’s health i.e. foods that can provide valuable nutrition, health promoting antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and more.
I believe that as consumers we need to be educated and aware of the marketing messages that we encounter daily. Some consumers travel through life in essence “blindfolded”, not aware of the hundreds of marketing messages presented to us daily. The better educated we are, the better consumers we can be, thereby supporting the companies that are truly honest and care about our health and well-being. I hope that you will read this blog post with open eyes and are open to the basic concept I am presenting. Hope you enjoy it!
Here’s the post:
One of the funniest, most bizarre concepts that I come across every day in practice is pet owners’ perception that “people food” is bad for their dogs. In all honesty, this concept people have in their minds still perplexes me every day. Therefore, I thought it would be a great topic to dive into a little.
My clients, which I assume are a typical cross-section of the average pet owner across the country, for the most part, unanimously “shout from the rooftops” that they don’t give their dogs any “people food”. Most of them, in fact, almost wear this as a badge of honor.
A Little Sarcasm Can Make a Point While Having Some Fun
Here are my typical responses to my clients:
- So let me ask you this, does “dog food” grow in a different place than “people food”?
- Are there crops in the United States that only grow this “special” dog food, that I don’t know about?
- And even more importantly, if “people food” is bad for dogs then maybe I should not be eating it either.
Obviously, in making these sarcastic statements, I have slightly made my point and for the most part, my clients have a bit of an ah-ha moment, at least I like to think. Yet, I often wonder if they really, truly “get it.”
Here are some of their responses to me:
- Really!!! I can give my dog people food?
- I thought it was bad for them.
- I thought it would make them sick.
- I thought you were only supposed to feed them dog food.
So just in case you are not following me on this, my point is this:
Food is Food. Meat is meat. Wheat is wheat. Proteins are proteins. Carbohydrates are carbohydrates etc. etc. Then, dog food and people food are the same. The difference is simply the way it has been processed, packaged, and marketed by the companies that make this “special food for dogs.”
Don’t get me wrong we all have our food intolerances. I am lactose-intolerant, therefore dairy products, and I, don’t see eye to eye. That said, I also have come to find out that 2 of my 3 dogs are not friends with tomatoes.
A Long History but Only a Recent Phenomenon
A brief synopsis of the history of dog food brings us back to the mid-1700s in both France and Britain where there are well-documented writings and conversations about proper animal nutrition.
Yet, it was not until the mid-1800’s that the actual first “dog food” was created by an American electrician named James Spratt, from wheat meal, vegetables, and meat. He named the food “Spratt’s Patent Limited.” Spratt’s food gained a lot of press and awards within the dog show community and so the trend began.
It was not until the 1930’s that canned dog food was introduced by the Gaines Food Co. and by the end of World War II, pet food sales had reached over 200 million dollars.
Eventually, the original Spratt’s dog food line became a part of General Mills Corp.
In addition, within a relatively short period, most of the major food companies had jumped on the dog food bandwagon and were all manufacturing dog foods of their own. This proved to be a perfect vehicle for them to utilize and market their animal waste by-products as a profitable source of income.
Now a 20 Billion dollar industry, yes that’s right 20 BILLION DOLLARS, you can see why protecting the consumer’s perception that “dogs need to eat only dog food” is very important to some very powerful companies.
So Who Did It? Who Put This Into Pet Owners’ Minds
It is very simple, just follow the MONEY.
Considering that this was an extremely profitable revenue stream for all of these major food companies over the decades, they have spent millions and millions of dollars marketing “the concept of dog food”. Not only do they aggressively market to consumers, but they also spend millions of dollars marketing to veterinary students and practicing professionals. It all starts from day one when you enter veterinary school. Many of these companies provide FREE food to veterinary students’ pets, they provide books, lectures, grants, etc.
That being said, millions and millions of dollars have also been spent on perfecting the optimally balanced diet for our dogs. This very essential point needs not to be overlooked.
A Balanced Diet Can Go a Long Way
Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I saying that all dog foods are worthless and the whole thing is a big conspiracy because that is simply not the case. I intend to only open your eyes and have you ponder this concept.
We all acknowledge the importance of a balanced diet for our health. Our doctors talk about it, the TV talks about it, it is everywhere. Yet do we follow these guidelines ourselves? Absolutely not! Based on the obesity statistics in the USA alone, we know that the vast majority of humans, themselves do not have a balanced diet daily.
Therefore, in theory, providing your dog with food that contains everything they need, including all the essential vitamins and minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to maintain a healthy life is, again, a good concept or goal. That said…why do we need to eliminate FRESH, REAL, LIVE food from their diet?
The Final Point
This is a topic that is near and true to my heart. Being a father of four human children and three dog children, I want nothing more than to protect them and provide the best for them. Having said that, I’ve made it a mission of mine to dive deep into this topic over the next year and uncover the truth behind the dog food phenomena.
Aside from genetics, I truly believe that we are what we eat and the same holds true for our pets.
PS: Oh and YES, “dog food” is made with real “people food” and therefore, people food (with a few exceptions of grapes, bakers chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, and a few others) is not poisonous for dogs.
For a list of the “Poisonous Foods” for your dog click here.
PPS: To this day I personally still provide my dogs with balanced, high-quality dry dog food. But I also take great pride and joy in adding high-quality, organic vegetables, essential fatty acids, and organic meats into their diet to enhance the flavoring and bring joy to both my dogs and my life. See some of the foods I feed my dog here.