Monday, February 13, 2017

The Science Dog Convinces Us to Change Foods

As a dog geek (and massive nerd in general), I am a huge fan of Linda P. Case and her blog, The Science Dog. She also wrote Dog Food Logic, which is currently one of my favorite books. I like science, a lot. There's a lot of crazy woo in the world of dog food, and most of it has the trappings of science with none of the substance.

Dog carrying orange plush angler fish
Photo by Erin Koski

My personal preference for choosing dog foods is largely colored by my dearly-departed Brisbane and his poultry allergies. All other things being equal, I would choose a red meat-based dog food over a fish-based food, and with my current dogs I would also choose a poultry-based dog food over a fish-based food. This is mostly because fish is stinky. There is absolutely no logical reason for this preference, but I didn't really think it mattered. 

The latest post over on The Science Dog is all about digestibility, how much actual nutrition your dog absorbs from the food they eat. Two studies measuring digestibility of different dog food ingredients are cited, comparing the digestibility of chicken, lamb, and fish, and also comparing fresh raw chicken versus chicken meal as an ingredient in kibble.

Fish Kibble for Everyone!

I highly recommend reading the entire Science Dog post, but I'll share what I took away from it. First, lamb isn't nearly as digestible as I had thought. I will be steering clear of lamb-based kibbles in the future, even if I think feeding them to my dogs is cute because we hang around with sheep all day. 

Second, foods that are advertising "real chicken is the first ingredient" are all hype. Meat meals actually provide better nutrition in kibble than fresh meat. I've always based my opinion of a given kibble on the meat meals it contains, because the cooking process means a much greater percentage of the meat meal ends up in the finished product. A food with "fresh beef" as the first ingredient and "chicken meal" as the second ingredient is a chicken-based food, no matter how many pictures of steaks are on the bag.

Third, fish meal is the highest-quality meat meal, with more available nutrients and greater digestibility. This changes my whole dog food outlook quite a bit. That's the amazing part of science, you get to change your mind based on new evidence. This information comes from peer-reviewed studies published in reputable and well-respected scientific journals, and that's enough evidence to make me look for a fish-based dog food when we reach the end of the current bag.

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