“What should I be feeding my dog?” is one of the most common questions I am asked in clinical practice.
Considering the expansive choice, effective marketing and contradictory recommendations, I am not surprised most owners feel utterly bamboozled when deciding what to put in their furry friend’s bowl. Even as a vet, wading through the conflicting evidence can prove a challenge! The recurring debate however, seems to centre on the appropriateness of high levels of carbohydrate in many of the commercial dry foods fed to a large proportion of our canine companions.
From an evolutionary standpoint, the domesticated dog evolved from their wild wolf ancestors approximately 15,000 years ago. At this point, the diet heavily consisted of raw animal products, high in protein and fat with minimal carbohydrate. Fast-forward to modern times and many commercial dry foods contain between 30-60% carbohydrate with a much lower ratio of protein and fat. While there is certainly evidence our domesticated pooches are better able to digest and absorb carbohydrates than their wolfish predecessors, the question remains, just because they can eat something…. does it mean they should?
Research out of Massey University in New Zealand is looking at just that and importantly, whether dogs instinctively know what type of diet suits them best. A recent study has shown that given the option of three diets; high in fat, protein or carbohydrates – 65% of dogs were instinctively drawn to the diet high in protein first, and 31% to the high fat diet. Only 4% chose the carbohydrate heavy diet over the other 2 options.
Further, the average macronutrient ratio of the diets consumed when chosen by the dog over the trial period was 38% protein: 59% fat: 3% carbohydrate. This is significantly different to many of the commercial dry foods currently fed. Whilst research is ongoing in this area, this study lends weight to the idea that dogs instinctively prefer to eat a diet closer to that of their evolutionary roots.
So then we ask, just because a dog prefers to eat something… does it mean it is better for them? Whilst the jury is still out on this one and further research needs to be conducted, raw meat diets have shown to be highly digestible, resulting in both low faecal volume and desirable faecal quality. Should we then all be feeding our dogs a side of beef every night for dinner? The answer is NO. Just like ourselves, a balanced diet including all the essential vitamins, minerals and fibre is critical for a healthy and happy dog. Whilst it is possible to create this at home, it is quite complex and better left to those in the know like the team at K9 Natural. It is also important to remember that if your dog has a medical condition it is imperative you consult with your vet in regards to their diet. In general however, this is an exciting area of research and suggests that instinctively perhaps our pooches do know best! I certainly know what my pup Albus would choose.
By Dr Josie Gollan