Discussion: Dog Food Wonkery, Now With Added Science!
January 24, 2013
Talking about feeding starchy foods to dogs is one of those things that tends to stir up controversy. So let me state up front that this post is going to discuss feeding starchy foods (potatoes, grains, etc.) to dogs and I am neither encouraging nor discouraging anyone from changing whatever they choose to feed their own dog, assuming they are satisfied with the results.
My experience with feeding my own dogs (your mileage may vary) is that they do well with starchy foods. I like to take full advantage of this since it means less cost and less meat in their diet. My thinking has been that my dogs probably seem to do so well with starches because they have adapted to a diet of human table scraps over the millennia. I have never found any study suggesting this (until today!) but it seemed to make sense to me.
And now for a moment of science:
Fido may prefer steak, but his digestive system is also geared up for rice and potatoes. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that dogs have evolved to eat a more varied diet than their wolf ancestors.
The link gets into the harder science, for those who are fond of single-nucleotide polymorphisms and such. But suffice to say that this study suggests that as the domesticated dog evolved, he relied more on food humans threw away and less on live prey. Dogs whose digestive systems evolved to make better use of starches, a primary human food scrap, were at an advantage over those whose systems did not adapt to this change from the wolf model.
Which brings me to a favorite fun thing: sharing old dog food practices. If someone would write a 50,000 page book on this, I would retire to a deserted island with it. But for now, I am sharing a tidbit from Paddy Petch, author of The Complete Flatcoated Retriever (1988). In the book, she states that she feeds her adult dogs three meals a day. One meal is comprised of 1/3 meat (canned, fresh or dried), 2/3 biscuit or mixer meal (I believe this is basically a meat free type of kibble) and any scraps from the kitchen, including vegetables. The other two meals are made up of milk plus regular kibble (which would be primarily starch) or cereals (just starch). Her diet plan obviously involves a much lower amount of meat than many home prepared feeders give to their own dogs. Again, not trying to influence anyone in their feeding choices, just sharing info. Because it’s wonky and I like it. A quote from Paddy Petch:
To my mind there is far too much nonsense talked about scientific feeding these days, and many dogs would benefit by going back to the good old fashioned ways of going on.
If you have thoughts on the linked study, Paddy Petch’s feeding regimen, or want to share some old dog food recipes (especially that!), please join in.