Myth: MILLIONS OF DOGS ARE SAFELY EATING 'COMPLETE AND BALANCED' COMMERCIAL FOODS EACH DAY.
This is a statement that is more of an observation, but one that is false on many subtle levels. One can easily point to these millions of dogs and say that kibble is not all that bad. It is then implied that raw diets are not necessary because dogs can eat commercial foods and still be healthy. But let us think about this statement and all its associated issues. Is kibble safe? Is it healthy? Are raw diets really necessary?
Millions of dogs eat kibble. And millions of dogs—at least 85% of all dogs—suffer from periodontal disease by age 3 as a result of eating these processed foods (Penman, S. and P. Emily. 1991. Scaling, Polishing and Dental Home Care. Waltham International Focus. 1(3): 2-8. In Lonsdale, T. 2001. Raw Meaty Bones. pg 110). This translates to teeth covered with plaque and teeming with bacteria. These bacteria get into the gums and provoke the body's inflammatory response continually for the rest of the animal's life. Dogs (and cats!) are doomed to have nasty teeth and rancid breath. "It's normal," people said. "Dogs are supposed to have bad dog breath."
But as greater awareness of periodontal disease and its effects on the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, joints, skin and other systems of the animal grew, so did the industry for 'alleviating' the problem. Now you can buy a myriad of dental chews and plaque-scrubbing "bones"—most of which work minimally. Special dental formula foods were formed to clean pets' teeth, but these effects are inconsequential. Vets hand out toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental washes, and dental bones to their clients' owners, instructing them to brush their carnivore's teeth regularly and to schedule frequent dental cleanings for the pets—dental cleanings that cost hundreds of dollars. Instead of treating the problem at its source, veterinarians and pet food companies and pet industries market hundreds of different products and services that are simply band-aids and attempts to cover up the problem. It is not an industry motivated by the welfare of our pets, but by greed and money.
Millions of dogs eat kibble, and millions of dogs fill the waiting rooms of veterinarians, bad breath and all. These pets suffer from dermatitises of all sorts, or from cancers, joint problems, heart problems, kidney problems, digestive problems ("lack of enzymes"), liver problems, pancreas problems, coat problems, tooth problems, anal gland problems, glandular disorders, allergies, and soft doughy bodies brought on by eating a grain-based, artificial, highly-processed, additive-filled food touted as "healthy" for your dog. Thousands of dogs die from diet-induced diseases like bloat each year (and that is not to say all diseases are caused by diet, but many of them link strongly with processed diets and diet-induced periodontal disease. Refer to Raw Meaty Bones for a more in-depth discussion.), and yet the industry keeps on churning out artificial pet foods and vets keep recommending them to their clients.
Most veterinarians do not know any better; most vets receive on average only 8 hours or less education on pet nutrition (in their 3-4 years of study). Much of their nutritional education is sponsored or even administered by pet food companies (to read more about just what goes on in vet school nutrition classes, please read "A First Year Veterinary Student Comments" in the 13 April 2004 RMB Newsletter). In addition, they receive a good deal of revenue by selling special "veterinarian-administered only" commercial diets designed to "fix" and cover up the problems created by artificial diets in the first place. There are weight management formulas for older or obese dogs, special diabetes formulas for diabetics, protein formulas for kidney patients, easily-digested formulas for older patients or those with digestive problems, hypo-allergenic formulas for dogs with allergies. For almost every ailment there is another commercial food designed to help the poor suffering animal, and pet owners are now forced to keep their pets on this expensive, processed food that will "manage" the problem. Ironically, most of these diseases are dramatically improved by taking the pet off a processed diet and by feeding it raw meaty bones—the very food many vets say is unsafe and unhealthy for dogs. Think of how much revenue would be lost if no one bought kibble from their vets, had healthy dogs, and did not need to get doggie dentals done. There would be a lot fewer veterinarians! Granted, veterinarians hold a valuable place in society, but they too need to look critically at these problems caused by processed foods. They need to step up and hold true to their creed of first doing no harm!! For more information about the link between the veterinary profession and the processed pet food industry, please read the Vets and Nutrition myth.
Millions of dogs are eating kibble, suffering from bad teeth and stinky breath, decreased longevity and quality of life, and underlying health problems. Millions of dogs are being maintained on an artificial, grain-based diets containing synthetic vitamins and minerals plus a myriad of chemical preservatives and additives—the collective effects of which have NEVER been researched. The key here is that dogs are merely existing. Sure, kibble (even "premium" kibble) is sufficient for keeping your dog alive, but is it the best, most appropriate food for your dog?
In a roundabout way, this brings forth the 'complete and balanced' claim. So many kibbles to choose from, so many proclaiming to be more 'complete and balanced' than the others. How can this be possible? Either it is complete and balanced, or it is not. Yet hundreds of brands all carry the claim bestowed upon it by AAFCO—'complete and balanced for the proposed life stage'—but exhibit a tremendous variety in quality. What does this 'complete and balanced' claim mean? This means 6 of 8 dogs were kept alive on that food for 26 weeks without any noticeable nutritional deficiencies. That is it. If a dog food does this, then it is considered complete and balanced enough to feed your pet for its entire life—even though nutritional deficiencies can take years to develop! Essentially, this complete and balanced kibble is only guaranteed to keep your dog (and millions of other dogs) alive with no noticeable side effects for six months. Please read the AAFCO Standards myth page for an in-depth look at their feeding trials and their nutrient profiles.
So according to the pet food industry and those in bed with it, millions of dogs are "safely" eating kibble with "no ill effects" caused by these diets (obviously, except for the hundreds of dogs killed or permanently injured by aflatoxins in various commercial foods over the years—Pedigree dog foods, Diamond Pet Foods, etc.). The problems dogs do have are the fault of someone else—the fault of the dog being a dog, or being poorly bred, or being fed a less-than-par kibble—not the fault of feeding a carnivorous animal grain-filled, pelleted, processed feed. Dogs and cats can apparently survive perfectly well on a diet devoid of freshness and life, eating the same processed pet cereal every day for their entire lives. No variety, and heaven forbid you offer table scraps or fresh food! Yet processed food has been deemed unhealthy for humans, and the recommendation is to stick with a variety of fresh, whole foods. The recommendation for our pets, on the other hand, is to never give them fresh whole foods because that could upset their delicately balanced, processed diet. Does anyone else see flaws in that logic?
Please note: raw diets are not a "cure-all". Many conditions can be improved and possibly even relieved by feeding a raw, species appropriate diet. However, the toxic burden on our pets—accumulated over years of repeat vaccinations, poor diets, pesticide administration, environmental pollution, and genetic chronic disease—is quite large and has undoubtedly contributed to the illnesses we see in our pets. Commercial diets are but one part of this problem, BUT it is a large part. Diet is one of the cornerstones of total health, and if the diet is poor, how can the animal effectively fight off assaults on its system and repair the body? Feeding a species appropriate raw diet provides the animal with the best possible nutrition for total health. For more information on vaccines, homeopathy, flea/tick and heartworm medications, please visit the Vaccines page.