Ideally the nutrition of a dog is a close as possible to the natural nutrition of carnivores. Meaning based on fresh, raw sources of animal protein, such as meats and eggs, plus bones.
However the ideal way is not always practicable under every circumstance. Some owners consider raw food messy. Feeding raw is also very expensive.
In general there is nothing wrong with feeding processed pet food (kibble or can), especially because those foods are already formulated to meet a lot of the basic needs of your pet regarding nutrients, minerals and vitamins.
And luckily the pet food industry holds a whole lot of alternatives ready to choose from today. Actually so many alternatives that it is hard to find the right stuff at a glance.
However, with convenience and great prices, there always comes a catch.
Processed foods for pets come with the very same disadvantages as processed foods for humans regarding processing and ingredients. Dogs have health requirements similar to humans in may ways, and especially when it comes to preservatives, pesticides, fillers, enhancers etc.
If you did not know it yet, let me tell you a nasty truth:
The wrong pet food – even if the manufacturer labels it “super healthy”- can make your dog sick, worsen critical health conditions and even and shorten his life.
Therefore it is important to take a closer look at pet foods, to read and do research in order to make a well informed decision. NOT only based on manufacturer’s claims in their advertising and “healthy looking images” on the packaging.
Dry dog food – Kibble
Grains (mostly corn, but also others) are among the bad boys in dry and even in canned dog food. And unfortunately it is absolutely legal for the pet food industry to use them in large amounts as fillers.
Grains deliver lots of protein and are much cheaper than meats, making them the perfect ingredient to lower the production costs of a pet food while still being able to stuff it with protein.
There is a wild discussion boiling between advocates and opponents of grain-consisting diets for dogs. It mostly evolves around the role of grains as a trigger of skin disorders and allergies as well as the different availabilities and structures of plant and animal proteins. I will not jump into both discussions, especially because I am not an expert.
For now I only point out the red flags. Maybe I will write about that topic in more detail another time.
If you want to read more about the debate, I highly recommend reading this article about the use of corn in dog food.
The interesting fact is that diets very rich in grains are highly associated with a number of adverse health effects, one of them gastrointestinal problems and as another widespread phenomenon: skin disorders & allergies in dogs.
As a dog owner myself I honestly do neither care, if the grains really are the widespread trigger of allergies or just interfere with the functionality of a dog’s digestion in one or the other mysterious way.
I also do not care, if a carnivore’s digestive system should have adjusted after generations of grain-fed individuals to processing grains. Nor do I care, if it’s just pesticides, molds or other substances introduced by the grains as a carrier that actually cause the allergies.
While I don’t know of any scientific study or hard evidence explicitly confirming the role of grains in dog’s health issues, their negative effect on dogs’ health has been proven in practice thousandfold by owners with suffering dogs, improving quickly when switched to grain-free diets.
So, for now let’s just note that we can exclude ONE possible source of problems by feeding our dog a GRAIN-FREE food.
When a dog starts itching and it is likely connected to the nutrition, there also are other ingredients acting as possible allergens. But to my own experience a grain-free diet is a good start.
There is also a rule of thumb (rule of thumb always means that it is NOT true for EVERY single case, but for many):
The cheaper the dog food, the more fillers and other unwanted ingredients, such as animal by-products, enhancers, toxic preservatives etc. it contains.