Less than 10% of dog owners know the correct proportions of key nutrients that should make up their pets diet. Despite this, many owners buy breed-specific food, believing it will be beneficial to their pet. There is little research to back up that breed-specific dog food is necessary for all breeds, but some can benefit from it. More importantly, dogs should have a species-specific diet that suits their size, age and health.
It’s All in the Advertising
Research has looked into whether breed-specific dog food can benefit dogs. Most have found that the nutrition in food for one breed will be almost identical to the food for another breed, and it will also be very similar to regular dog food. While there are some benefits for a small amount of breeds to have a breed-specific diet, it seems that it’s largely a very clever marketing ploy to encourage pet owners to spend more money on the pet food they buy. Breed-specific food often claims to reduce the chance of illnesses associated with the breed, as well as making the live longer lives, but no research can consistently back up these claims. It’s safe to say that breed-specific dog food is generally a very good bit of marketing by food manufacturers.
Can any dogs benefit from a breed-specific diet?
There are certain breeds that can benefit from a diet specific to them, depending on if they’re genetically predisposed to any medical problems. For example, Labradors love their food and can easily become overweight, so a breed-specific food for them would be lower in calories and biscuits that are big shapes to help slow them down and prevent weight gain. Diets for dogs that have flat faces, such as Bulldogs and Pugs, can be made into shapes that are smaller and easier to pick up and chew with their short jaws. However, this doesn’t mean that they can only have breed-specific diets. A balanced diet with good portion control can be just as effective for Labradors, and many biscuits will be designed for small dogs, so come in smaller shapes to suit breeds like Pugs.
Breeds that come in different sizes
There are several breeds that come in different sizes, such as Poodles, Schnauzers and Dachshunds. In this case, dogs should be fed a diet based on their size, such as a miniature Poodle will need different and less food compared to a standard sized Poodle. This makes buying a breed-specific food these types of breeds difficult as they can greatly vary in size. However, some dog foods do cater for this. For example, Carlotta Cooper picks AAFCO-approved dog foods for Poodles as they meet all the nutritional requirements for any sized Poodle, as well as being suitable for each life stage.
Picking the Best Food for Your Dog
If your dog isn’t predisposed to health conditions and doesn’t need certain sized and shaped biscuits, then buying a breed-specific dog food can be unnecessary. Many of them will have similar ingredients and nutrition to each other and to standard dog food. Picking a food based on your dog’s size and age is a better option, as well as factoring in health conditions specific to them, which your vet can assist you with. For example, the AAFCO has specific guidelines for how much calcium and phosphorus that should be in puppies diet depending on whether they’re a small or large breed as they have been linked to health issues in larger breeds only.
Large Breed Puppies
Large and giant breed puppies are an exception to the rule and should be fed a diet specific to their size. Puppy food is usually high in calories to assist with the rapid growth that happens during this life stage, but big breeds that grow too quickly can result in problems with muscles, joints, tendons, bones and nerves. Many owners think that puppies that grow quickly will result in a desirable bigger adult dog, which isn’t the case. Their adult size largely comes down to genetics, not nutrition. Feeding a diet that is species-specific and suits large breed puppies in general, rather than just breed-specific, is the best option.
What to avoid in commercial dog foods
There are several ingredients that you should avoid feeding to your dog that go into both breed-specific and regular dog food. Even brands that are respected and considered high-end may still use them, often because they’re cheap and bulk food up. Ethoxyquin is a common ingredient that is used as a preservative. However, it was originally developed as a herbicide and has been linked to kidney and liver damage, cancer and blindness. By products are also frequently used and refers to the internal remains of animals, not including muscle meat. Unfortunately, this can include tumors, diseased tissue and organs, none of which are good for your dog. You should also avoid difficult to digest corn, artificial colors, unnamed meat sources and gluten.
Dog owners love to feed their fur babies human food. Some do it as an occasional treat, but others will regularly make homemade meals. Feeding homemade meals can work for your dog if you can commit the time to it and understand their dietary requirements. It’s important to make sure you get the proportions of protein, fats, vitamins and minerals correct with what you make. You may need to top food up with supplements. It’s important to closely monitor your dog’s weight when they’re on a homemade food diet as measuring calories and portion sizes can be difficult. For this reason, homemade food may not suit breeds prone to weight gain, such as Labradors, but can work well for breeds that are good at only eating until they’re full, like Huskies.
A breed-specific diet can be beneficial for certain breeds, but a diet based on their size, age, health and weight is best for most dogs. If you’re not sure what your dog will thrive best on, ask your vet for advice that is tailored to your dog.