We have been struggling to find the right dog food for our own dogs and client dogs for years. Just when we've found the perfect food (dogs have firm poops and don't vomit immediately after eating), something goes awry and we have to start all over again. Our English bulldog Oscar is allergic to chicken (as are many bully breeds) and Stella is the queen of diahrrea. We know - it's awful but it's true. Some dogs need to stay away from lamb while others thrive on it. Some of the top tier foods are so packed with veggies our dogs would never get in the wild that they have constant diahrrea. We're not the only ones - our clients have trouble too.
We have tracked ingredients in nearly every brand of dog food, we've experimented with homemade soups for Great Danes and special rice and cottage cheese for those who can't handle much more. We've done fresh veggies and cooked meat, we've done frozen patties and kibble. We've done organic, holistic, vegan and not. We've done it all. Even if a program works for a few weeks or, if we're lucky, a few months, something invariably goes wrong. The food is recalled, one of our dogs starts getting sick, someone begins getting weird bumps, and we're back to square one.
So Marion Nestle's latest article in The Bark - The Future of Pet Food - was of great interest to us. While attending the Global Pet Expo in San Diego, Nestle noticed some interesting things about how pet food products are evolving (or not):
- Kiss the Melamine Mess Goodbye - More and more dog food companies are quick to point out that for them, all products from China are a no-no. Many are still doing it and are backing up their decisions by adding in more safety checks. We say: do your research and buy local if you can.
- Buzzword Bingo is Alive and Well & Misleading - Weight loss, joint health, heart health, anti-this and anti-that words and phrases are all over packaging for treats, kibble, patties, supplements, you name it. The problem is that many nutritional claims are either unfounded, unproven, erroneous or downright false.
- Treats Are on the Rise - We're an anti-treat household for the most part, preferring to have dogs resopnd correctly to requests because they want to behave, not because they want a treat. One of the saddest things to see are overweight dogs that have hip and joint problems when they can get to a healthy weight just by cutting out treats and increasing exercise. Instead, many owners place their dogs on diet foods and continue giving treats throughout the day.
- Greenwashing Gets Goofy - Large, commercial pet food companies are seeing the increasing interest in green, natural products that are good for Fido and good for the environment. Why is this in the "bad" section then? Because instead of actually bettering their products or reducing their effect on our planet, they're simply marketing the same old commercial products as green. Bad. Very bad.
- Doggie Bottled Water is The Next Big Thing - "For whom?", we'd ask, as we cannot imagine anyone - with all the research about the impact plastic bottles have on the earth as well as the harm that water in plastics over a period of time can do - buying cases of bottled water for their dogs. These doggie bottles of water contain herbs, vitamins, minerals and supplements. Think Smart Water for Fido. Would you buy them? Sounds like a stretch to us...
...but of course, we're still trying everything we can to get into a "solid" routine! So while none of this solves our immediate food crisis (Oscar is now on kibble and beef raw patties, Stella is on kibble with lamb raw medallions and fresh broccoli and carrots), it does remind us why we fret over dog food as much as we do. There's big money in it for the manufacturers and it's up to every owner to closely examine what they're feeding Fido.