DEAR READERS: Please read the following article by Lauren Quinn of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It was originally published on the website for the university’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (aces.illinois.edu) and also appeared at science site phys.org.
ACES News: Feed Fido Fresh, Human-Grade Dog Food To Scoop Less Poop
For decades, kibble has been our go-to diet for dogs. But the dog food marketplace has exploded in recent years, with grain-free, fresh, and now human-grade offerings crowding the shelves. All commercial dog foods must meet standards for complete and balanced nutrition, so how do consumers know what to choose?
A new University of Illinois comparison study shows diets made with human-grade ingredients are not only highly palatable, they’re extremely digestible. And that means less poop to scoop. Up to 66% less.
“Based on past research we’ve conducted, I’m not surprised with the results when feeding human-grade compared to an extruded dry diet,” says Kelly Swanson, the Kraft Heinz Company Endowed Professor in Human Nutrition in the Department of Animal Sciences and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Illinois, and co-author on the Journal of Animal Science study. “However, I did not expect to see how well the human-grade fresh food performed, even compared to a fresh commercial processed brand.”
Swanson and his team fed beagles four commercially available diets: a standard extruded diet (kibble); a fresh, refrigerated diet; and two fresh diets made using only USDA-certified, human-grade ingredients. These fresh diets include minimally processed ingredients such as beef, chicken, rice, carrots, broccoli and others in small chunks or a sort of casserole. The dogs consumed each diet for four weeks.
The researchers found that dogs fed the extruded diet had to eat more to maintain their body weight, and produced 1.5 to 2.9 times as much poop as any of the fresh diets.
“This is consistent with a 2019 National Institute of Health study in humans that found people eating a fresh, whole-food diet consumed on average 500 less calories per day, and reported being more satisfied, than people eating a more processed diet,” Swanson says.
The researchers also found that the fresh diets uniquely influenced the gut microbial community.
“Because a healthy gut means a healthy mutt, fecal microbial and metabolite profiles are important readouts of diet assessment,” Swanson says. “As we have shown in previous studies, the fecal microbial communities of healthy dogs fed fresh diets were different than those fed kibble. These unique microbial profiles were likely due to differences in diet processing, ingredient source, and the concentration and type of dietary fibers, proteins and fats that are known to influence what is digested by the dog and what reaches the colon for fermentation.”
The article, ”Nutrient digestibility and fecal characteristics, microbiota and metabolites in dogs fed human-grade foods,” is published in the Journal of Animal Science. Authors include Sungho Do, Thunyaporn Phungviwatnikul, Maria de Godoy, and Kelly Swanson. Funding was provided by JustFoodForDogs LLC.
DEAR DR. FOX: As the president of a dog park in my rural town, I find there has been much debate on whether or not it is safe to allow intact male dogs to play with neutered male dogs and spayed female dogs. I have spent a great deal of time asking various professionals for guidance, and none can agree.
I hate to turn away intact males from an opportunity to socialize with other pups if they are well-behaved. I would greatly appreciate your professional opinion. -- M.M., Kinderhook, New York
DEAR M.M.: This question often comes up in my column, in which I have recently urged people to consider not neutering their dogs for various health reasons, as many holistic veterinarians are now also advocating.
In my experience, un-neutered male dogs may be more challenging when meeting other dogs for the first time. Such meetings may trigger mounting behavior by the un-neutered males, possibly because they find the other dogs’ pheromones attractive. This behavior must be appropriately controlled because the mounted dog will protest and a fight might ensue. But mounting can also be a playful action preceding play-fighting, wrestling and chasing, so some understanding of canine behavior is important.
Un-neutered large breeds like the Irish wolfhound and Saint Bernard are generally very easygoing, while terrier breeds are more feisty.
My main concern with dog parks and enclosed communal dog areas -- besides the potential buildup of fecal parasites like hookworms -- are people whose dogs, neutered or not, are bullies. These dogs enjoy body-slamming and playing too rough with smaller dogs, who may get injured. Large dogs play-chasing can also slam into people. In our local dog park enclosure, such dogs caused two people to have leg and arm fractures, and one woman fall onto a small dog and fractured the dog’s foreleg. So all must be alert and not just engage in chatting circles, oblivious to what all the dogs are doing!
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HEALTH PROBLEMS IN U.K. DOGS MIRROR THOSE IN U.S.
Dental disease is the most common health problem in dogs in the U.K., followed by ear infections and obesity, according to a study published in BMC Veterinary Research. Male dogs are at higher risk than female dogs for these and seven other common health problems. “Owners should work closely with their vet to plan appropriate dental and weight-care programs at each visit,” said veterinarian Dan O’Neill, the study’s lead author. (Full story: VetSurgeon U.K., Feb. 17)
What a pity this study did not determine what these dogs were being fed! There is mounting evidence that popular dog kibble, often recommended and sold by veterinarians, is a major contributing factor to many health issues. Such issues are often quickly resolved -- and can often be prevented in the first place -- by feeding dogs moist, whole-food diets.