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  • Pet food manufacturers and the associations that promote them are hoping to convince dog owners they should be feeding their pets ‘breed-specific’ diets.
  • Major players in the pet food industry sell varieties of dog food that claim to answer the special size, energy and health requirements of certain breeds.
  • On closer inspection, the ingredients in these formulas are remarkably similar, no matter the breed of dog; they are also similar when it comes to their overall low quality.
  • There are many dog breeds, but all dogs are the same species. The most important feature of any dog’s diet is how appropriate it is for the species … not the breed.
  • Feeding your pet balanced, species-appropriate nutrition means you can zip right by all those store shelves sagging under the weight of specialty dog foods.
 

Does Your Dog Need a 'Breed-Specific' Diet?

December 22, 2011 | 14,486 views
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By Dr. Becker

According to the chief executive of the U.K. Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, Michael Bellingham, dogs should be fed diets 'formulated specifically' for their breed.

In a recent PetfoodIndustry.com news item, Bellingham states:

"Certain breeds of dogs are prone to specific health problems, making it important they receive the proper diet.

Additionally, size, energy requirements and health issues should all be considered in selecting a pet's food."

I think this statement is something most of us can agree with.

Every dog has certain 'breed flaws,' many dogs have specific health challenges, and understanding all this is key to keeping your pet healthy and vibrant.

But then the article goes on to mention two popular pet food brands and their 'breed-specific' formulas.

This is where common sense morphs into a marketing gimmick.

Let's take a closer look at a couple of pet food varieties marketed as breed-specific.

Breed-specific Food Comparison #1: Yorkie Formula vs. GSD Formula

Below is a comparison of the first dozen ingredients in breed-specific dry formulas (made by the same pet food company) for Yorkshire Terriers and German Shepherds. Also shown is the guaranteed analysis for both.

Yorkshire Terrier Formula German Shepherd Dog Formula
  1. Chicken meal
  1. Chicken meal
  1. Brown rice
  1. Brown rice
  1. Rice
  1. Oatmeal
  1. Chicken fat
  1. Chicken fat
  1. Corn gluten meal
  1. Barley
  1. Barley
  1. Rice
  1. Wheat gluten meal
  1. Natural chicken flavor
  1. Natural chicken flavor
  1. Pork meal
  1. Powdered cellulose
  1. Soy protein isolate
  1. Dried beet pulp
  1. Sodium silico aluminate
  1. Anchovy oil
  1. Wheat gluten meal
  1. Dried brewers yeast
  1. Dried beet pulp
Guaranteed Analysis
Crude protein (min) 28% Crude protein (min) 24%
Crude fat (min) 16.5% Crude fat (min) 17.5%
Crude fiber (max) 4.7% Crude fiber (max) 4.1%
Moisture (max) 10% Moisture (max) 10%

In terms of the quality of these foods, the only relatively good news seems to start and end with the first ingredient in both: chicken meal. The next several ingredients are grains, flavorings, and chicken fat.

The German Shepherd formula shows pork meal down the list as the eighth ingredient, so it's doubtful there's much if any protein benefit there. The pork meal is followed by soy protein isolate, a low grade, allergenic protein commonly used to cheaply increase protein content in lesser quality pet foods.

The ingredients in the two foods are remarkably similar, despite the fact one is specifically formulated for tiny Yorkies, while the other is marketed as breed-specific for GSD's.

Looking at specific health problems for these two breeds, a short list of common hereditary issues in Yorkies includes:

German Shepherds are predisposed to elbow and hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy (a progressive disease of the spinal cord), and bloat.

I can't imagine how the breed-specific diets described above even begin to address the breed-specific health problems of either dog. Further, a six-year Purdue University study on the causes of bloat in dogs found a 170 percent increased risk of gastric dilatation volvulus (bloat) in dogs eating dry diets containing fat as one of the first four ingredients.

Breed-specific Food Comparison #2: Rottie Formula vs. Chihuahua Formula

Now let's take a look at the first 12 ingredients and guaranteed analysis in breed-specific dry formulas (again, made by the same pet food company) for Rottweilers and Chihuahuas.

Rottweiler Formula Chihuahua Formula
  1. Chicken
  1. Chicken by-product meal
  1. Chicken by-product meal
  1. Corn meal
  1. Corn meal
  1. Ground whole grain sorghum
  1. Ground whole grain sorghum
  1. Ground whole grain barley
  1. Ground whole grain barley
  1. Chicken
  1. Chicken flavor
  1. Chicken flavor
  1. Brewers rice
  1. Dried beet pulp
  1. Dried beet pulp
  1. Chicken fat
  1. Dried egg product
  1. Fish meal
  1. Chicken fat
  1. Dried egg product
  1. Brewers dried yeast
  1. Calcium carbonate
  1. Fish meal
  1. Potassium chloride
Guaranteed Analysis
Crude protein (min) 25% Crude protein (min) 28%
Crude fat (min) 13% Crude fat (min) 18%
Crude fiber (max) 5% Crude fiber (max) 4%
Moisture (max) 10% Moisture (max) 10%

The quality of these two diets is also poor.

In this example, the Chihuahua formula has chicken by-product meal as the first ingredient, and chicken down the list at number five. Chicken by-product meal, which also appears as the second ingredient in the Rottweiler formula, very often includes hard-to-digest, undesirable chicken pieces-and-parts.

The AAFCO definition of chicken by-product meal:

Chicken by-product meal consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.

Similar to the formulas shown in example #1 above, the next several ingredients in these two foods are grains, fillers, flavorings and chicken fat. And like the ingredients in the Yorkie and GSD foods, these formulas – one specially prepared for a small Chihuahua and the other for a breed weighing five or six times more – are surprisingly similar.

When it comes to breed-specific health issues, Rotties are genetically inclined to develop CCL ruptures, hip dysplasia, osteochondrosis (joint cartilage disease), and entropion (an eyelid condition).

Chihuahuas, like Yorkies, are prone to floating kneecaps, collapsing tracheas, hydrocephalus (an abnormally large head and associated problems), and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

As with the first example above, I fail to see how the low-quality ingredients in the Rottweiler and Chihuahua diets address any of the breed-specific health challenges these dogs often deal with.

Think Species-Appropriate, Not Breed-Specific

I'd suggest pet food manufacturers first concern themselves with making products designed to meet the nutritional requirements of the species they serve. I'd like to see them really nail the basics before venturing into specialty areas like breed-specific, or allergen-free, or weight loss, or senior pet formulas.

Dry pet food with little or no high quality animal protein, minimal moisture, but plenty of grains, carbs, allergenic ingredients, non-nutritional fillers, additives and preservatives is not species-appropriate nutrition for any dog, regardless of breed.

Strange as it may seem when comparing a Great Dane to a Maltese, dogs of every size and breed are pretty much identical when it comes to their genetic heritage. They are all canine -- Canis lupus familiaris.

Now, it's true humans have chosen to breed certain types of dogs down to sizes so small their organs often don't function normally. But this isn't a genetic flaw as much as it is a result of deliberately breeding already small dogs down to 'tiny' or 'teacup' size, in order to wind up with a canine the size of a rodent.

Since nature didn't design dogs to be that small, health problems are to be expected.

Certainly size, energy output and health problems are a consideration when determining any animal's nutritional requirements, but a dog is still a dog – a carnivorous canine.

The vast majority of dogs do best on a diet based on 75 percent human-grade animal muscle meat, organs and bones, and 25 percent veggies and fruits. This is a far cry from what is offered in most commercial pet food formulas.

[+] Sources and References

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