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Knowing Your Enemy is Half the Battle – Commercial Dog Food


If you know all about the food value of commercial dog foods, please move on to the next chapter.  If you think processed foods are the best way to feed dogs, it would be worthwhile to keep reading.

What follows is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject of commercial dog food.  That in itself would take many books.  It is a summary of some of the relevant facts I have learned about these products.  I have no doubt, that with the passage of time, many problems, other than the ones I mention in connection with them will be discovered.



Commercial dog food was first manufactured in the 1850’s in England.  It was a biscuit type product, based on cereals and meat meal.

In 1885 the idea caught on in the States.  Astute mill owners realised the huge profit potential in feeding the nation’s dogs on the scraps of their industry.  Their dog food was composed of milling by-products, the floor-sweepings, plus meat-meal.  The modern product has not changed substantially.

In 1922, Ken-L-Ration, which was canned horse meat, hit the market in the States.  This has since been followed by many other types of canned dog food.

Commercial dog food is now the most popular method of feeding dogs in Australia, America and Great Britain.  That is why vets are commonly asked ‘’…which dog food is the best?  Which one should I feed my dog?’’  This chapter is here to help answer that question.  I hope it helps you decide not to feed any of them.

Dogs have lived, reproduced and been extremely healthy without commercial dog food for millions of years.  It is only in the last thirty years that Australian dogs have eaten these products in large volumes.  In that period their general health has declined dramatically.



As a veterinary student in the early seventies, I found it hard to understand why Aussie vets had fewer and simpler dog and cat diseases to deal with than the Americans.  It seemed to make the Aussie vet somehow inferior.  We did not need to be trained to the same high degree of complexity and sophistication.

There was a simple explanation.  At that time, more than seventy percent of Aussie dogs were still fed bones and scraps.  They were still pretty healthy.

American dogs had been eating processed food and no bones for decades.  They had developed a wide range of problems.  Their vets had had to develop a complex set of diagnostic and therapeutic tools to deal with them.

I need not have worried.  Our dogs’ disease problems are increasing on a par with their increasing consumption of processed and cooked foods.  We Aussie vets now have to be as good as our American counterparts to deal with them.

The question in many people’s minds, the question I have been seeking answers to for some years is why?



There are a multitude of reasons.  It all begins with the reason that dog food exists.


Dog Food Does Not Exist to Make Dogs Healthy

Dog food manufacturers take useless wastes from the human food industry and sell it as dog food.  Why do they bother?  Advertising implies they are there to promote the health of dogs.  Their primary concern is in fact profit.

The laws which govern dog food production do not require it to promote health, reproduction, growth, or longevity.  The law requires that it contains specified minimal amounts of certain nutrients.  So long as the product meets those requirements the law is satisfied.

A careful examination of dog food advertising shows that most manufacturers make no claim that their product contains certain nutrients which meet its legal obligations.  In their advertisements, they allow dog owners to make claims about the product for them, or they refer to some aspect of the product which people assume is associated with good nutrition and good health.  All this is done in such a way that people make favourable assumptions about the product which are not necessarily true.

Unfortunately, they have even conned people who claim to be vets into endorsing these products.


Processed Food Loses Nutritional Value

All processed foods lose much of their nutritional value by the various processing methods involved.  This may prompt you to ask…

‘’So why is it done?  Why is food processed if it becomes less valuable nutritionally as a result?’’

If food is not processed, it will not keep.  It will go off.  In other words, the main reason food is processed, is to enable it to be stored and transported without deteriorating.


  • Its own enzymes break it down.
  • It combines with oxygen.
  • It is attached by micro-organisms.

To prevent this happening, the makers of commercial food products have to REMOVE the enzyme rich parts of some foods.  Most foods have to be COOKED in order to destroy any enzymes, together with parasites and micro-organisms.  Sometimes the food is preserved with ADDED CHEMICALS including salt, sugar, and many others, and then packaged to exclude oxygen and ‘’germs’’.

Unfortunately, all this processing removes or destroys the nutrients that promote health and prevent disease.  This includes enzymes, vitamins, and natural anti-oxidants.  Added chemicals such as salt and sugar actively promote poor health.



Dry Dog Foods

Dry dog food is the cheapest commercially produced dog food available.  The cost is about one half to one third the cost of feeding canned dog food.  It is the most popular form of dog food in the United States.  In Australia, the most popular way to feed a dog is on a mixture of canned and dry dog food.

Dry dog foods are made from cereals and cereal by-products plus meat by-products composed of ground up cooked bone and offal.  To this is added fat, vitamins and minerals.  They contain about 10% water.

Dry dog foods are low in digestibility and nutritional value.  They are made from low quality ingredients which have undergone an extremely harsh form of cooking.  They are how in energy, fats, good quality protein, most vitamins and many minerals.  They contain lots of starch and calcium.

Dry dog food is supposed to prevent tartar build up on the teeth because of its abrasive effect.  Numerous controlled studies demonstrate that this is not true.  Most promote almost as much tartar build up as canned food.

Because dry dog foods are low in energy, poorly digested and high in insoluble fibre, they result in very moist, offensive and voluminous stools.  Those wet offensive stools result in a concentrated urine which burns the lawn.  In addition the high levels of cereal products cause an alkaline urine, high in certain minerals. 

This combination helps produce both bladder stones and bladder infections.

The stones can make it difficult for your dog to urinate, or they reach enormous sizes in the bladder, causing discomfort, and the need for surgery or expensive diets to get rid of them.

Because of their low nutritional value, dry dog foods are unsuitable for growing, pregnant, lactating, working or thin dogs that need to gain weight.

If you wish to use a dry dog food for such purposes, find one formulated with extra nutrients.  Only use it if controlled trials have demonstrated its suitability for your purpose.  Do not simply believe the advertised claims…..  Good luck in your search.

The major consistent disadvantage of dry dog foods is that most of them are deficient in ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS.  Essential fatty acids are an essential nutrient commonly found in plant oils and chicken or pork fat.  Like vitamins they are essential for the proper functioning of your dog’s body.  Without sufficient of them in its diet, your dog will develop a range of diseases, including problems with growth, reproduction and the most awful skin diseases.

This is a MAJOR FAULT with dry dog foods.  It is why there are so many health problems, particularly skin problems and reproductive problems, in the canine world today.

The reproductive and skin problems caused by dry dog foods are also due to a lack of zinc.  This is cause by the excessive calcium in most dry dog foods.  The calcium combines with the zinc producing a compound which cannot be absorbed, resulting in a zinc deficiency.

This lack of zinc results in health problems at all stages of a dog’s life.  It is involved in skeletal and growth problems, skin problems, infertility of both sexes, sugar Diabetes, Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Insufficiency…..  the list goes on and on.

The excessive calcium in dry dog foods is heavily implicated as a cause of bloat in the adult dog and of skeletal problems in growing dogs.

Dry dog foods have a short shelf life.  The fats in them rapidly become rancid and they quickly lose vitamins.  They must be stored under cool dry conditions.  High temperature and high humidity hasten their deterioration.

If you must use dried dog foods, buy no more than a month’s supply, always purchase it from a place with a quick turnover and always check the ‘’uses by’’ date.

  • Some people find their dogs will not eat it.
  • My response is …. Great... sensible dog.

In summary, dry dog foods in Australia are cheap, moderately unpalatable dog foods that are low in nutritional value and cause numerous health problems in many dogs.  Although very popular because of their cheapness and convenience, they are in general the very worst form of processed food.


Soft Moist Foods

These are intermediate in water content between canned food and dry food, containing about 30% water.  They are probably the least popular of all the commercial dog foods.

They look a bit like fresh meat patties or mincemeat or rissoles, depending on how they are presented and packaged.  They do not require refrigeration, which certainly makes them convenient.  They cost about the same as canned foods.

They are usually very palatable and high in energy.  If fed free choice they will result in obesity.  Their high energy content and supposed greater palatability implies that they may be useful in feeding a thin reluctant-to-eat animal, a lactating animal, or one exposed to the cold or doing lots of hard work etc...

However, I would not recommend them.  They are high in energy because they contain large amounts of soluble carbohydrates including such things as corn syrup and a carbohydrate called propylene glycol.  None of these ‘’foods’’ have been part of a dog’s evolutionary history.

Apart from supplying energy and making the food more palatable, these soluble carbohydrates act as preservatives.  That is, because of their water retaining nature they prevent spoilage by bacteria and fungi.

The soft moist foods often contain acids such as hydrochloric, phosphoric or malic.  These acids keep the pH low, which also helps to reduce spoilage. 

Sometimes better quality ingredients, such as fresh animal tissues are used in their production.  However, because of costs this is not usual.  They are mostly made from much the same ingredients as dry dog foods which means they are able to produce similar problems, together with the added problems that a diet high in soluble carbohydrates brings.  This includes such problems as obesity, sugar Diabetes and dental problems.

These products can hardly be recommended!


Canned Dog Foods

Canned dog foods in Australia contain about 80% water.  This is an expensive way to buy water.  Due to clever marketing, they are the most popular form of commercial dog food.  This contrasts with America, where dry foods are the most popular.

It costs two to three times as much to feed canned food compared to dry dog food.

They are made from similar ingredients to dry dog foods, but usually contain less cereal and more animal tissue.

Dogs usually find them more palatable than dry dog foods.  This is because of their higher fat, protein and water content.

They are higher in energy content and are usually more digestible than dry dog food.  They have the longest shell life of all the commercial dog foods.

In common with all commercial dog foods, a major factor involved in their purchase is that they are CONVENIENT.

The majority of people find that canned dog food is pretty revolting when opened.  The ''freshly’’ opened can smells very similar to the residue which leaves the dog at the other end.

Canned dog food actively promotes tartar formation on the teeth.  That factor alone produces numerous health problems.

Canned dog foods produce a similar range of problems to dry dog foods.  Sometimes not as quickly.

Having observed over an 18 year period what happens to literally thousands of dogs that eat the stuff, I could not recommend any of it as promoting good health.

  • Invariably, by taking dogs off canned dog food and switching them to a properly formulated diet based on raw meaty bones, their health improves immensely.


Additives in Dog Foods

It is widely believed that it is the additives in commercial dog foods, the colourings, the flavourings and the preservatives which are responsible for most of the ill health these products produce.

If only it were that simple.  In some dogs, chemical additives do cause hypersensitivity reactions, allergies, skin problems, over activity etc.  In fact most dogs eating the commercial products appear to ‘’be overactive’’ to some degree.

  • However, the vast majority of problems, which result from feeding commercially produced foods are caused by other faults.


Modern Dog Foods Cause Dental Problems

Bone eating Aussie dogs of the mid 1970’s had very few dental problems.  When dogs eat bones, when they rip and tear and crunch bones, their teeth and gums are exercised, cleaned and massaged.  In addition, the stronger immune system of bone eating dogs adds to the health of the mouth.

Contrast that with today’s non-bone-eating dog in which dental disease is reaching epidemic proportions.  The foods eaten by dogs today, cooked and processed foods, are high in two substances; soluble carbohydrates and soluble calcium.  Those two unusual (for a dog) nutrients, attack a dog’s mouth at every meal.  In addition, processed foods have no chance of cleaning teeth the way raw meaty bones do.

Look in your dog’s mouth.  Smell it!  What you see and what you smell depend of your dog’s eating habits.  Dogs that regularly eat bones have healthy mouths.  The mouths of dogs that eat processed and cooked foods are definite ‘’no-go’’ zones.

Veterinary dentistry is an increasing source of income for Australian vets as more dogs spend their lives eating processed foods and no bones.  We even have a Veterinary Dentistry Association!

In the United States, where 91% of dogs eat processed foods, more than a third of the income of the veterinary profession is derived from dentistry in pet animals.

By the time many modern dogs are 5 years old, their teeth are covered with a thick crust of tartar.  The gums are bleeding, infected and painful.  Tartar is the mouth’s attempt to repair tooth enamel.  It is composed of calcium salts.  High concentrations of calcium in modern dog foods contribute to excessive tartar formation.

Tartar formation begins within twenty minutes of eating.  The tartar is home to millions of bacteria.

The bacteria in the tartar thrive on the soluble carbohydrates found in commercial dog food.  They invade the gums, the tooth roots and the tooth enamel causing severe gum infection (gingivitis) and generalised mouth infections accompanied by tooth root decay, pain, difficulty in eating, rotten breath and eventually loss of teeth.

Most people are aware that canned dog food actively promotes tartar formation without removing it, buy many think dry dog foods prevent tartar formation.  They do not.  The product is either gulped straight down, or it crumbles rapidly, or it quickly becomes wet.  In any event, the supposed abrasive effect of this food is quickly lost.  They also, like canned foods are high in both soluble carbohydrates and calcium…a perfect recipe for tartar formation.

Small breeds are more commonly affected.  Some people think Maltese terriers have a genetic predisposition to bad teeth.  They don’t.  It is just that the smaller breeds are more likely to be deprived of bones, particularly if they have long hair.  These dogs often share their smelly mouth infections with their owners.  This problem is easy to deal with in the dog, but I have never been game to tackle an owner about his or her problem!

Accompanying all of these dental problems in dogs is very poor health.  This is because the bacteria responsible for the mouth infection, spread themselves and the toxins they produce throughout the body.  These bacteria invade many organs and tissues, targeting most particularly the kidneys and the heart which can both become infected.  This eventually contributes to both kidney and heart disease.  However, any other organ can become infected by these blood borne bacteria, for example the lungs or the prostate in a male, or the lining of the womb in a female.

The bottom line is, the combination of no bones and commercial dog foods is devastating to the health of all pet dogs because of its effect on dental health.

Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story.


The All Purpose Dog Food is a Poor Product

Australian dog foods are mostly ‘’all-purpose products’’.  That is, they are supposed to be able to be fed to a dog at any stage of its life.  This contrasts with the situation in America, where there are three different types of dog food.

  • The first type is a MAINTENANCE food.

It is fed to sedentary non-growing and non-reproducing dogs.  That is, household pets.  Maintenance foods are designed to contain minimum amounts of all the essential nutrients.  They are not supposed to have sufficient nutrients to support growth, reproduction or activity.

  • The second type is a GROWTH food.

These foods are used to feed puppies and pregnant or nursing females.  They are supposed to contain extra calories, protein, vitamins and minerals in sufficient quantities to support growth.

  • The third type is a food designed for PERFORMANCE.

These are sold as food for dogs doing lots of hard work such as sled dogs, racing greyhounds, cattle dogs etc.  performance foods should contain extra energy to support the activities of these dogs.

  • In Australia there are very few specific-purpose dog foods.

Most are said to be all-purpose products which supposedly can be used in any situation from puppies to adults, including pregnant dogs and old-age pensioner dogs.

This is not possible given the nature of commercial dog food which is forced to contain ‘’a complete and balanced diet’’ in every can or bag.  It is not possible because each stage of life has different nutrient requirements, and while it is possible to vary the proportions of fresh whole foods to suit those varying needs, this is not possible with a supposedly ‘’scientifically balanced’’ food.

This is a major reason that they perform poorly in every one of those situations.  The most obvious problem with this approach is the excessive levels of many nutrients.  High levels of protein, minerals, and energy (calories) may be suitable for a young, growing and active dog, but hardly suitable for a sedentary, layabout house pet.

The net result is that many older pets suffer obesity, skin diseases and degenerative diseases associated with continual excesses of calories, salt, protein, phosphorus, and calcium.


Most Dog Foods Contain High Cereal Levels

Large amounts of cereals are completely unsuitable for dogs when fed as the bulk of their diet.  Cooked cereals have not figures in a dog’s evolutionary history.  The result is that dogs raised on predominantly cereal diets, and this includes most dog foods, develop numerous health problems including such things as obesity, Pancreatic Insufficiency, sugar Diabetes, arthritis, bladder stones, skin problems, dental problems, cancer and so on.

Because feeding cereals, particularly rice, is so popular both with the makers of processed foods and with people who devise ‘’home cooked diets’’ for dogs, I deal with this problem in more detail in Chapter 12.


When You Feed a Commercial Dog Food You Lose Control

Dog foods are like sausages.  Mystery bags.  This is dangerous!  You have very little idea of, or control over what your dog is being fed.

The label might say it contains meat and meat by-products.  What does that mean?  It could mean lots of meat, or more likely lots of by-products.  Which by-products?  They could be liver and hearts.  They could also be feathers and feet!  How would you know.  You have lost control.

Look at the protein levels.  Is that level good or bad?  How would you know?  Is it good quality protein?  Is it easily digested protein?  How would you know?  You have lost control.

Actually it is usually safe to assume the protein is low in quality and digestibility.

What about the fat.  Is there enough?  Is there too much.  Is it of the right sort with plenty of essential fatty acids?  You wouldn’t know.  You have lost control.  However, it would be safe to bet that it was of poor quality and low in essential fatty acids.

What about added vitamins.  Are there enough?  How would you know?  You wouldn’t.  You have lost control.  Most commercial dog foods contain just enough vitamins to prevent obvious deficiencies, but not nearly enough to cover stressful periods during a dog’s life.

Does this food contain toxins?  Such things as lead and pesticide residues.  You wouldn’t know.  You have lost control.  In the United States, analyses of dog foods including reputable brands have revealed the presence of these and other poisons as a cause of numerous health problems in dogs.  This has occurred on enough occasions to be a cause for concern.

Because our dog foods are manufactured in much the same way and from similar ingredients as the American products, can we believe ours are any different? You have lost control. 


Dog Foods are Made to Match a Scientific Formula

That sounds pretty impressive doesn’t it!  Unfortunately it isn’t.  This method of fixing the nutrients a dog food delivers to your dog is full of problems….. for your dog!

Most dog owners are persuaded that the only way to be sure their dog is getting everything it needs in a nutritional sense, is to feed it a ‘’complete’’ dog food.  One that has a label which implies that the product has everything a dog needs.

The questions is, are these foods nutritionally complete?

In a recent analysis of pet foods in Australia, it was found that some had less vitamin A than the very minimum levels expected of them.  Several had excessive levels.  Many dog foods, because of their high calcium levels produce deficiencies of other minerals such as zinc and copper.

An obvious problem is that we do not yet know the whole story about nutrition.  Much research has and is being done to find out what a dog needs for perfect health.  Unfortunately the research is not complete.  This means that nutrients about which pet food companies do not have food information could easily be missing from their products.

By law, a dog food which claims to be nutritionally complete only needs to contain certain minimum levels of each nutrient.  This is the level which prevents the appearance of obvious deficiency symptoms.  The foods are not required by law to contain optimum or best levels of each nutrient.  The law does not require that nutrient levels be kept below a safe maximum.

As a result most processed dog foods contain insufficient vitamins for stressful periods in a dog’s life such as growth, pregnancy, hard work, surgery, change of home etc.

Most also contain excesses of protein, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sodium.  The excess calcium can result in stunting, bloat, zinc deficiencies and bone deformities.  Excess protein can result in kidney disease, excess sodium can cause heart disease, excess magnesium causing bladder stones etc...

A lifetime of deficiencies and excesses results in an old age choc-a-bloc with failing organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys.

Apart from the effect of excesses such as calcium causing problems during growth, most of these problems are slow and insidious, and rarely if ever, by the time they have developed, liked to their true cause – that innocent looking commercial dog food.

Although a pet food may meet its legal obligations if submitted for analysis that says nothing about the suitability of that product as food which will promote the health of your dog.

It is possible to produce a pet food based on shoe leather, sump oil, coal and water which if analysed will be found to meet the legal requirements necessary for it to be sold as pet food!!!   Unfortunately, there are dog foods around which are not a whole lot better than such a product.  This brings us to the next problem with dog foods.


Most Dog Foods are Not Tested Properly

The fact that a dog food can be analysed and found to contain a given set of nutrients says absolutely nothing about whether it will keep your dog healthy, and yet, that analysis is all that the law requires of dog foods.

The law does not require that a dog food should be tested by being fed to dogs, despite the fact that such tests are the only valid way to properly assess a dog food.  I do not know of a single dog food on the market in Australia that has been tested by actually feeding it to dogs.  The tests I refer to are ones designed to find out if it can adequately support growth, reproduction, health, and longevity.

If such a product existed and the results were up to or better that standard, you can be sure the companies involved would sprout those facts far and wide.  Their advertisements would tell us all about it!

Instead, we are given advertising campaigns which are often misleading.

For example, because a product is able to be carved does not mean it has the ability to keep your dog healthy.

I have known breeders who were used in advertising campaigns for dog foods.  Their dogs had never eaten the products being endorsed.

No only that, if breeders recommend a product that is a good reason not to use it.  All the breeders I have known, keep the things that work for them an absolute and total secret.  Their strategy is to pass out poor advice to all and sundry in order to keep ahead of everybody else?

Independent tests carried out in the United States on seven of the leading dog foods advertised as suitable for growing dogs, showed that only two of them fulfilled that promise.  The worst two products of the seven resulted in stunted sick puppies, and these were the leading brands.  These were foods specifically designed to fill the needs of growing pups!

Although the pet food companies in Australia do not carry out such feeding trials, the people who buy their products do.  Often over the lifetime of a dog.  I have been observing the results of those feeding trials for years.

I have yet to find a commercial dog food that produces really healthy pups, or promotes dental health, or allows bitches to produce healthy litters, year after year, of allows a dog to become old and remain healthy.  They all fail miserably.  They look particularly poor when compared to a properly formulated diet based on the raw foods that dogs eat in their natural state.


All Processed Dog Foods are Cooked

This turns out to be a major reason that dog food fail so miserably.  As you real in Chapter 2, when food is cooked it turns into a product for which your dog is not actually designed.  The cooking process removes nutrients such as vitamins, enzymes and anti-oxidants and it changes nutrients into unsuitable forms.

The fats, the proteins, the carbohydrates, that is, all the major nutrients in the food are changed.  The greater the changes, the more indigestible that food becomes.  Also, the more the body regards such molecules as foreign.

These foreign chemicals can result in allergic reactions.  The result can be skin problems, bowel problems, even auto-immune diseases like arthritis, and worse than that, many of them are carcinogenic or cancer forming.

In other words, modern cooked and processed foods, not only lack many protective nutrients (vitamins, enzymes and anti-oxidants), but also are full of dangerous chemicals which actively promote cancer and other degenerative diseases.


Dog Foods Have Low Vitamin Levels

The minimum levels of vitamins the law requires in dog foods are much less than the amounts required to promote optimum health in dogs.  This is particularly so during times of increased needs such as stress, sickness, growth, pregnancy and lactation.

  • Let me give a few examples.

Low vitamin A contributes to skin problems, reproductive problems, immune system problems, growth problems and eye problems.

This is unlikely with canned products containing liver and/or kidney.  However, vitamin A levels in dry dog foods can be dangerously low.

These is no vitamin C in dog foods.  The reason for this is that dogs are capable of manufacturing vitamin C in their liver.  However, numerous trials have demonstrated the benefits from added vitamin C during periods of stress.  Dogs fed processed dog foods with no fresh foods will suffer a deficiency, particularly during growth, pregnancy and lactation.

Vitamin E plays a major role in preventing ageing and deterioration.  Most dog foods have insufficient, resulting in dogs which age rapidly and develop degenerative diseases much earlier than they should.

Dogs that eat only commercial dog food will receive insufficient B complex during periods of stress.  This result in nervy dogs that lack energy.

These are only a few examples.  I constantly observe amazing improvements in health when dogs are sensible supplemented with vitamins.

The point to remember about the vitamins in dog foods, is that poor quality products are likely to have major deficiencies.  The reputable brands are unlikely to have huge deficiencies.  What they are likely to have is marginal deficiencies.  Deficiencies which will not cause classical deficiency diseases, but will seriously undermine health during any stressful period.  For more information on vitamin supplementation, please refer to Chapter 5. 

Dog Foods are Low in Natural and Added Anti-oxidants

Anti-oxidants are nutrients that help prevent degeneration in both foods and living tissues.  They are found in abundance together with other anti-ageing and anti-degeneration factors in all fresh foods.

Cooking and processing foods destroys almost all the naturally occurring anti-oxidants and anti-ageing factors.  That is why, unless commercial dog foods have extra added, they contain very low levels.  This results, particularly in dry dog foods, in the fats going rancid.  Dogs eating rancid fats develop poor immune systems resulting in infectious disease, and eventually cancer.  Other problems that can result include skin problems and reproductive problems.

Many of these anti-ageing factors are only now being discovered, others are well known vitamins and minerals, for example the vitamins A, C, and E, and minerals selenium and zinc.

Vitamin E’s main function is your dog’s body is to act as an anti-oxidant or anti-degeneration factor.  Dog foods rarely contains sufficient for it to function adequately in this role.

Processed dog foods do not contain the important anti-oxidant, vitamin C.  Although dogs are capable of producing their own vitamin C, when fed processed dog foods, they make much less vitamin C than dogs fed a properly balanced, raw, wholefood diet.  The net effect is very low levels of this anti-oxidant available to dogs fed processed dog foods.

Vitamin A has vital anti-oxidant properties.  It is present at barely adequate levels in dry dog foods, and some canned products.

Selenium is an essential part of your dog’s natural anti-oxidant anti-ageing mechanism.  Dog food companies are required to guarantee its presence in their products.  However, we always recommend extra in the form of brewer’s yeast or tablets, because it’s availability in dog food is in question.  Excessive calcium and excessive phosphorus compounds called phytates bind many minerals, including selenium, making it unavailable.

Brewer’s yeast is high in other anti-oxidants, the B vitamins, which is yet another excellent reason for adding brewer’s yeast to your dog’s diet.

This lack of anti-oxidants and other similar nutrients in cooked and processed dog foods is a major reason why modern dogs suffer badly from infectious disease, have problems reproducing, and suffer the whole range of organ breakdown diseases such as cancer, kidney failure, heart disease, arthritis, sugar Diabetes and so on.


Processed Dog Food is Lacking in Food Enzymes

Processed dog foods have no food enzymes.  They are destroyed by heat.  Food enzymes are a major component of an animal’s anti-ageing, anti-degeneration mechanism.  Food enzymes are known to resist digestion and enter the blood stream.  From here they function in a number of ways to reduce ageing and deterioration throughout the body.

They help prevent and possibly reverse the effects of a destructive process called cross-linking.  This occurs in all tissues including the skin, the blood vessels, liver, heart, etc...  Cross-linking causes deterioration and reduction in function of all parts of the body.  It is part of the ageing process.

Enzymes help prevent and even reverse some aspects of joint disease or arthritis.  That is part of the reason fresh fruits and vegetables are important in alleviating arthritis in older dogs.

Food enzymes also help digestion.  They have a sparing effect on the pancreas.  Their absence plays a major role in the development of such problems as Pancreatitis and Pancreatic Insufficiency, both of which are caused in part by cooked ‘’enzymeless’’ foods.


Processed Foods are Low in Essential Fatty Acids

This has already been mentioned in connection with dry dog foods.  Essential fatty acids are nutrients commonly found in plant oils, and chicken and pork fat.  They are like vitamins in that they are essential for the proper functioning of your dog’s body.  A deficiency will cause your dog to develop a range of diseases, including problems with growth, reproduction and the most awful skin diseases.

Beef fat is commonly used in commercial dog food.  It is cheap and available.  Unfortunately if only has about three percent essential fatty acids.  That is why dogs fed commercial dog foods, particularly dry dog foods, often suffer the effects of an essential fatty acids deficiency.

A lack of essential fatty acids is the basic cause of what I call the ‘’dry dog food syndrome’’.

Dogs with this problem develop a range of symptoms.  These include skin problems which often involve the ears, and feet, but eventually the whole body.

These dogs smell, they itch, their skin is often moist, rancid and infected.  It flakes and crusts.  Their hair coat is sparse, broken, dry and lustreless.  Their demeanour is always unhappy.  This problem is common, common, common!  It is the basic skin disease, upon which ninety to ninety five percent of all skin diseases are based.

It sells a fortune in drugs and medications year after year, particularly during the warmer months when these pitiful skin conditions become rampant.

Unless the cause of ‘’dry dog food syndrome’’ is addressed by changing the diet, recovery is rare, despite hundreds of dollars spent on cortisone injections and tablets, antibiotics, creams, washes, etc. etc.…

This syndrome can take months or years to develop.  If a dog is being fed other foods, the form it takes may be shaped by those foods, as will the time taken to develop and the severity of the condition.  Individuals and breeds show varying levels of sensitivity to these nutritional atrocities.

In summary, the low levels of essential fatty acids in commercial dog foods, particularly the dry dog foods are a major cause of much ill health and misery in modern dogs.  The presence of essential fatty acids in bone based diets makes a major contribution to the excellent health enjoyed by dogs fed that way.


Most Commercial Dog Food Contain Nutrient Excesses

Dog foods are not required by law to provide OPTIMUM or ideal levels of nutrients.  So long as that product contains each nutrient in excess of a legal minimum, there is no limit to the amount it can contain.  Excesses of any nutrient are not illegal.

This is one of the most insidious and dangerous aspects of commercial dog foods.  Vets and dog owners often worry about nutrient deficiencies, but we rarely worry about nutrient excesses.  Unfortunately, too much of a nutrient can be just as harmful as too little, and it is the nutrient excesses in most of the presently available dog foods which cause a large number of the major health problems seen in dog today.

  • After cancer, kidney disease and heart disease are the leading causes of death in the modern artificially fed dog.  The excesses of salt, phosphorus and protein commonly present in dog foods, when consumed over a lifetime are a major cause of both kidney and heart disease.  In other words, commercial dog foods are known to be a direct cause of the leading killer diseases in older dogs!

The excessive levels of calcium produce growth problems, particularly skeletal problems, reproductive problems, immune system problems and skin problems.

An obvious question arises.


Why Provide Excesses of Nutrients?

Why would a dog food company increase costs this way?  There are a number of reasons.

  • Firstly, pet food companies may not be aware that excesses of nutrients can be just as harmful as deficiencies.
  • Secondly, although it is harmful, it is no illegal.
  • Thirdly, most Australian pet foods are multi-purpose

They are designed to feed all dogs including those which are pregnant, growing and lactating.  This means other dogs which are adult and desexed, automatically receive excessive levels of many nutrients for their whole lives.

  • Fourthly, pet foods are made from a wide variety of raw ingredients with different nutrient contents.

So that the final product always meets the minimum legal requirements, it is sager for the manufacturer to add more rather that less.

  • Finally, many of the raw materials, waste products of the human food industry, are excessive in certain nutrients.

For example, with lots of boneless chicken being produced for humans, there are masses of chicken carcases available.  These carcases consist largely of bones.  Once cooked and ground into bone meal, and added to pet food, they result in excessive calcium being present in that food.  This situation in very common.

The irony is, that raw chicken carcases are an excellent type of raw meaty bone.  They keep our dogs wonderfully healthy.

This is a perfect example of the dangers of food processing.


The Problem with Protein Excess in Commercial Dog Foods

Most dog foods contain more protein that is necessary for the average pet dog.

When a dog is fed too much protein, there is a waste product left over which has to be eliminated.  This makes the kidneys work harder.  Over a long period of time this damages the kidneys.

That means most pet animals eating commercial dog food are quietly having their kidneys destroyed.  A possible exception is where dogs are eating poor quality dry foods deficient in protein.  However, the generally low quality of these products hardly makes them something to recommend.

The kidney damaging effects of commercial dog foods are not well known.  This is because the damage takes so long to occur that it is rarely attributed to the true cause.  The food.

This problem is very much associated with pet foods being ‘’complete foods’’.  There is reason to believe that those same levels of protein, fed on an intermittent basis, as is the case with natural foods, do not cause the same damage.  The problem seems to be the constantly high levels of protein.


The problem with Phosphorus Excess in Commercial Dog Foods

Dog foods in both the United States and in Australia contain between 5 and 9 times more phosphorus than our dogs require.  This has a damaging effect on a number of organs, particularly the kidneys.

If a dog takes in excessive phosphorus, most of it is removed by the kidneys.  This does not cause a problem.

However, if the kidneys are damaged, for example by a diet containing too much protein, or by bacteria from badly infected teeth, those kidneys cannot get rid of that phosphorus.  The result is that both phosphorus and calcium are deposited in the kidney.  This causes further damage.  That damage results in even more phosphorus and calcium left in the kidneys.  A vicious cycle of progressive kidney damage is set in motion.

Because commercial dog food usually contains excessive protein and phosphorus it is the perfect kidney damaging food.  Excessive protein starts the damage, and excessive protein and phosphorus carries it on.

Once that kidney damage begins, other soft tissues become involved.  The lining of the stomach, the heart and the lungs receive deposits of calcium and phosphorus.  As a result they begin to function less and less efficiently.

However, when phosphorus intake is restricted to normal levels, even with damaged kidneys, no further damage to the kidneys occurs.

Dog foods should contain only the minimum amount of phosphorus.  Just enough to meet the animal’s requirements.  That is, about 0, 2%.

As I mentioned, they are currently running at levels of 5 to 9 times that amount.  This is very damaging to the health of our dogs.


The Problem with Salt Excess in Commercial Dog Foods

Dog foods in Australia contain anywhere from 10 to 20 times more salt that our dogs require.  It that bad for our dogs?  Unfortunately, yes it is.  That excessive intake of salt, or to be more precise, that excessive sodium intake increases the blood pressure in some animals just as it does in some people.  Our dogs become hypertensive.  This increase in blood pressure causes the same problems in dogs that is does in people.  KIDNEY and HEART disease.  In fact, studies have shown that this increased salt consumption will still cause kidney damage without an increase in blood pressure.


The Problem with Calcium Excess in Commercial Dog Foods

Most of the commercial dog foods in Australia not only contain excessive levels of salt phosphorus and protein, they are also grossly excessive in the amount of calcium they contain.

Our dog foods contain anywhere from 3 to 11 times more calcium than is necessary to meet the ordinary dog’s requirements, with the dry foods on average being more excessive than the canned dog foods.

Is that excessive calcium harmful?  In a word... YES.  This will surprise a lot of people.  Many people are absolutely frantic and relentless in their search for calcium supplements for growing puppies.  What they do not realise is that practically all our dog foods contain way too much calcium.  That extra calcium is already harming our dogs, including our growing pups.  There is certainly no need to add more!

When a dog takes in excessive calcium, the excess is not absorbed.  It passes out in the faeces.  However, while in the gut that excessive calcium binds to other minerals making them unavailable to be absorbed by the dog.  They pass straight through with the faeces.  That means a dog food may be shown by analysis to have adequate quantities of minerals, and yet the animal eating that product will obtain insufficient to meet its requirements.

Minerals commonly affected in this way include phosphorus, iron copper and zinc.

However, it can occur with iron, copper and zinc, and quite possibly with trace minerals such as selenium and chromium.

Doubtless many of our breeding problems relate in part to marginal iron and copper deficiencies resulting in anaemia.  This anaemia is a direct result of a combination of excessively high calcium in commercial dog foods together with calcium supplementation by eager owners.

However, by far the most common deficiency occurring as a result of excessive calcium intake, is a zinc deficiency.  This zinc deficiency can result in skin problems, growth problems, reproductive problems and reduced resistance to disease.

As you read on, keep in mind that what I am describing is very, very common in a wide range of dogs eating many different commercial dog foods.  They are usually the dry dog foods but they can be the ones in a can.  They can also be poorly formulated homemade diets.  The problems are always made worse when the owner ALSO supplements that diet with extra calcium, as is so common.

The first group of dogs most commonly affected by a calcium-induced zinc deficiency are the pups, and one of the first affects you will see in pups is a dramatic decrease in their growth rate, particularly pups of the Arctic Circle breeds.

  • Many skin problems in both adult and juvenile dogs are due in part to a calcium-induced zinc deficiency.  The following usually takes a few months to develop.

The first thing you might notice is a generalised thinning of the hair coat and a loss of colouration.  This loss of hair colouration may also be due to a calcium-induces copper deficiency.  A closer inspection of the skin reveals a dry, flaky dermatitis, which can progress to thickened, crusting, flaky skin.

Other effects caused by a zinc deficiency include delays in wound healing, loss of body protein, decreased nervous system function, decreased function of the thyroid gland, decrease immunity and resistance to infectious diseases, bone abnormalities in growing pups, and testicular degeneration in growing pups.  That is a pretty awful list if you stop and think about it.

  • Unfortunately there is more !

Excess calcium also predisposes to BLOAT in dogs.  When a dog, particularly one of the large deep-chested breeds takes in of a hormone called gastrin.  One of the effects of this increased gastrin secretion is that both ends of the stomach (the intake end and the exit end) thicken, making it difficult for gases to escape.  As a result, it becomes difficult for these dogs to either pass gases further down their digestive tract, or to belch them out, thus making it very easy to develop bloat when the conditions are right.

Another problem now being attributed to the excessive levels of calcium in commercial dog food is dental tartar and all the problems which stem from that!

The bottom line to all of this is that feeding processed dog foods with their excessive levels of calcium is not a terribly great idea, and adding extra calcium to these diets is an even worse idea!


The Problem of ‘’Complete and Balanced’’ … the ‘’Stew’’ Mentality

One of the problems with home cooked food, but more especially produced dog food is that it attempts to combine all the nutrients a dog needs to stay healthy in the one food…. all cooked up together.

This is an unusual approach to feeding anything, and causes innumerable health problems.

With the passage of time, this particular problem will be found to sit alongside cooking as one of the major reasons processed foods are so damaging to the health of dogs.

The most significant problem with this method of feeding, particularly when it is combined with cooking, is that it allows nutrients in the food to interact with one another.  This interaction between nutrients prevents many nutrients from being available for your dog.  The most common example is the interaction I have just described.  The one between the excessive levels of calcium in processed foods and other minerals such as zinc, chromium, selenium, iron etc.  These nutrients become unavailable and the health of your dog suffers.

Another related problem is the presence of those very same minerals in such a food.  Their presence, particularly when added as a supplement and combined with heat, inactivates a number of vitamins, particularly members of the B complex.

These types of problems do not occur when a wild dog or a modern dog fed in a primitive way receives its nutrition.  The food is not cooked and is not ‘’complete and balanced’’.  This promotes health because it minimises the chances of one type of nutrient interfering with other nutrients as I have just described.

The second type of problem involves the mixing together of starchy foods and protein rich foods in the same meal.

Some of the early work done by scientists trying to understand digestion involved dogs.  During the 1930’s an American doctor, examined this earlier work in dogs and as a result advocated the separation of starch rich meals and protein rich meals in his human patients in an attempt to improve digestion and therefore health.

The results were astounding.  Just this simple change in the way food was presented lead to seemingly miraculous improvements to health.  For examples, it promoted normal weight where previously there had been either under or over weight.  This principle is in accord with what happens in nature.

In other words, it seems highly likely that this food separation and food combining effect may be part of the reason that dog fed in a more natural manner are much healthier.  Conversely, it is a major reason that dogs which are fed processed foods, the supposedly ‘’complete and balanced’’ ones, are so unhealthy.

Chapter 6 is devoted to food separation and combination.


Processed Foods may Contain Chemical Toxins

We have no way of knowing the long term effects on our dogs, of the continual consumption of toxic chemicals potentially present in dog foods.  Particularly with regards to the production of tumours or cancer.  Unfortunately, the presence of toxic chemicals in commercial dog food is a distinct possibility because of the origins of the raw ingredients.

Processed foods are made from three types of ingredients.  Firstly there are the by-products of the human food processing industry.  These include plant wastes such as the outer coats of grains and other wastes from the milling industry.  On the animal side, the wastes include such things as hearts, spleens, lungs, guts, livers and bones etc...

The second type of ingredient used to make dog foods are the sheep, cattle, pigs, chooks etc. passed as not fit for human consumption.  That is, the four D’s, the Dead, the Dying, the Diseased, and the Disabled animals at the slaughter houses.

The third type, mainly plant products, are the grains and vegetables purchased or grown especially for manufacturing processed dog food.

It is possible for all of these to contain hazardous toxins.

Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing whether the particular batch of processed foods being fed to your dog contains chemical toxins or not.  To test each batch of dog food would be incredibly costly, and yet that would be the only way to ensure a trouble free product.

For example, the four D’s, the animals not fit for human consumption.  Why were they not fit?  Many of our farm animals suffer with the toxins and poisons from modern industry.  A common example are the cattle which graze by the roadside all their lives.  They suffer from chronic lead poisoning.  In America, cases of lead poisoning in dogs have been attributed to such cattle ending up in dog foods.  It is believed by some vets that much of the modern EPILEPSY seen in dogs can be attributed to such toxins, particularly chronic undetected lead poisoning.  Lead poisoning in dogs has also been attributed to solder used to seal the cans, leaking into the canned food.

The outer coats of grains which make up a large proportion of many dog foods should be treated with suspicion.  They harbour the residues of a host of chemicals which include such things as insecticides and herbicides and fungicides etc. etc...   Many dogs, like humans are quite susceptible to even minute traces of such chemicals.

  • This possibility of toxins in dog foods in another valid reason for dog owners having more control over what their dog eats rather than leaving it in the hands of a dog food company.  A company with no particular interest in the long term health of household pets.

All this talk of toxins in dog food may sound alarming.  However, it is a bit like death due to snake bite and death on the road.  There are far more deaths due to road accidents than snake bites, but we tend to fear snakes more than we do cars.  In this case, most of the other problems I have outlined are far more important to the health of your dog than the presence or otherwise of toxic chemicals in dog foods.

However, we do live in a very polluted world, so that the presence of such toxins in a lot of food, both canine and human is a very real possibility, and a probable cause of much chronic poor health.  For this reason it should not be ignored, and this is another valid reason to be wary of commercial dog food.


Some Dog Foods are Worse than Others

This is important.  Many people think all dog foods are much the same.  In fact they are not, some are much worse than others.

The problem is, knowing which are the better ones.  Which are the best of a bad lot.  In the long run, only time and experimentation (feeding the stuff to your dog) will tell you.  However, price is a guide.  You mostly get what you pay for.

In that respect, there are three groups into which we can lump the different brands of dog foods.

Firstly there are the ‘’no name’’ or generic brands.  These are usually the cheapest.

Secondly there are the middle of the range ‘’popular’’ brand.  The ones that advertise on national television at mealtime.  They have a middle of the range price.

Thirdly there are the ‘’vet only’’ brands.  That is, dog food available only from your vet on prescription.  These are expensive, and are used to treat specific disease conditions such as heart failure, obesity, kidney failure etc., particularly in the elderly dog.

Let me repeat that in general, price is a fair indicator of quality.


No Name Plain Label Generic Pet Foods

These ‘’el-cheapo’’ pet foods, have no particular brand names.  They are produced from the cheapest, poorest quality materials, with little or no quality control.  They are guaranteed to have low digestibility, low nutritional value and excesses or deficiencies of any or all of the nutrients.  There is no guarantee that the product will always be the same.  One week the product may be poor, but the next time you buy it, it may be terrible.

In the long term they become very expensive.  More has to be fed to meet an animal’s needs and the poor health they result in means added expense for the owner, and misery for the animal.


Popular Brands of Dog Foods

These are the brands which advertise at dog shows, on TV at mealtime, and in the national canine journals.

There are the brands most people buy.  People believe what they are told.  They believe that these foods are the best available.

Such is the power of advertising, dog owners continue to buy these products even when their dogs have numerous health problems.  Advertising fools a lot of people in all sorts of ways, not the least of these being sales of dog food.


Prescription Brands

Prescription brands are the most expensive brands of pet foods available.

This is because no matter what the cost, the same raw ingredients must always be used.  No substitutions are allowed as happens with ‘’normal’’ dog food.

Another reason is because they are mostly imported.  However, that is beginning to change as local manufacturers realise the potential for profit in this market.

Another cost factor is the amount of research required to enable the production of these products.

Finally, anything which can be tagged ‘’medical’’ or ‘’prescription’’ attracts a higher price tag.

These dog foods are designed to ‘’treat’’ animals with one or more of the degenerative diseases, including obesity.  They treat diseases produced in the main by a lifetime spent eating other processed dog food.  They achieve their effects by strictly controlling the levels of energy and certain nutrients such as minerals, protein, salt, phosphorus etc. which they deliver to the ‘’patient’’.

Each has a very strict formulation.  They are called prescription diets because the correct one must be selected for a particular disease condition.  This involves a vet correctly diagnosing which degenerative disease is involved.  It is also because in some cases their use in a normal animal may cause problems.

Kidney disease is a good example.

Most kidney disease in modern dogs is the result of a lifetime spent eating commercial dog foods.  Those foods damage the kidneys with their excesses of phosphorus, salt and protein and also because they produce dental problems.  The dental problems result in a diseased mouth acting as a focus of infection which eventually affects the kidneys.  Once the infection is cleared up with dentistry and antibiotics, the kidney degeneration is held in check by one of these prescription diets which has limited levels of phosphorus salt and protein.

Dogs which spend a lifetime eating bones and other more natural foods, rarely if ever require the services of these expensive processed prescription diets.


‘’Boutique’’ Brands of Dog Foods

Because of the marginal to poor results seen with so many of the ‘’been-around-a-long-time’’ commercial dog foods, there are now lots of ‘’new’’ dog food companies springing up all over the place.  Some small, some quite large, including brands selling worldwide.

Unfortunately, although these products may contain better quality ingredients, and therefore be somewhat better than you average commercial dog food, in my experience they are not all that much better.  Not so as you would recommend them anyway.

They are still cooked.  They still have various nutrient excesses and deficiencies, and in fact, are probably even more excessive in protein than ‘’ordinary’’ dog foods.  Not only that, they still cause massive dental problems, and most important of all, the results they produce are still poor. 

The results can be an improvement over those obtained with the better known or popular brands, but they are not all that encouraging compared to a properly formulated diet based on whole raw foods.

The bottom line with feeding is that it is the results that counts!


So far as commercial dog foods go, the best you can say of them is that they are useful as a stand by when other foods are not available.  The circumstance I am alluding to is where the only other alternative was death by starvation.

My general advice regarding most of the dog foods currently available is that if you run out of food for your dog, it would be far better to give your dog a healthy twelve or twenty four hour fast, rather than feed it commercial dog food.

Commercial dog foods should never be regarded as complete and adequate diets.  Always assume that they will contain both nutrient excesses and deficiencies and will not produce optimum health in your dog.

  • There are only two exceptions to that rule. 

The first is where you have scientific date which has demonstrated a product’s suitability when being fed for the purpose for which you require it.  That data will include dental health, and lifetime studies must have been carried out.

The second exception is where you are feeding your dog on a commercial dog food, and that dog is in tip top health, and you know that that particular food has been demonstrated in controlled trials to promote longevity, dental health and freedom from degenerative diseases.

  • If you have such a product, keep on feeding it.  You have found a rare treasure indeed.

However, never take the word of some company representative.  Similarly, do not believe advertising.  Demand the written proof of actual feeding trials performed by an independent laboratory.  Demand an actual analysis of the food, not the guaranteed one.  If they are not available, than you are far safer to assume that the commercial dog food on offer will not be suitable for your purpose, whatever it be.  Whether you have a pregnant mum, a growing pup, a lactating mum or an old-age pensioner dog … whatever.

The bottom line is, if the dog food you are currently feeding to your dog does not fulfill the criteria I have mentioned, then I suggest you think seriously about changing your dog to a more health-promoting diet based on raw meaty bones.  If you are still not sure, keep reading.  The next chapter looks at the problems inherent in, and caused by, home cooked and home produced dog food.