There are pros and cons of every type of dog food. Let’s take a look at homemade versus commercial dog food.
The Beginnings of Commercial Dog Food
Commercial Dog food was first produced in 1860 by James Pratt. He modeled his original dog biscuits after the hard tack that was designed for sailors on long journeys. He then marketed his dog food towards English gentlemen and the growing middle class who kept dogs as pets versus the more common working farm dogs.
In 1953 standards were initiated and companies began to mass produce. Since then we have seen the pet food industry grow by leaps and bounds. Dog food companies advertise and market heavily to consumers, veterinarian students, and agricultural schools.
Pros of Commercial Dog Food
- Price – Varied price range from very cheap to extremely expensive does let consumers meet their budget needs
- Easy – commercial food is convenient to feed
- Labels – FDA laws do require pet food manufacturers to list ingredients and to give nutritional values
- Is regulated by FDA and has to meet certain health processes
Cons of Commercial Dog Food
- Labels – labels can be misleading or vague. What is “meat by-products” anyway?
- Slaughterhouse remnants – the pet food industry often uses the waste products of slaughterhouses
- Sterilization process – because they may use waste products the pet industry often cooks their foods or uses high heat processing. This may diminish the quality of vitamins and minerals.
Homemade Food Beginning’s
Homemade foods are not new per se. Before commercial food, the family dog was given the bones and unused organ meats while preparing foods or butchering livestock. They would have been given scraps or leftovers from cooking meals. Yes, dogs back in the day ate “people food”.
Pros of Homemade Dog Foods
- Meets your dog’s individual health needs
- Use of whole foods, organic and natural foods to enhance health
- Aligns with evolutionary diet
Cons of Homemade Dog Food
- Takes more time to make
- Can be expensive depending on what ingredients are used
- The owner needs to educate themselves and consult with a veterinarian or dog nutritionist to make sure they provide a balanced diet.
Let’s look at some key elements of our discussion.
Biological Value of Your Dog’s Food
Dr. Pitcairn, a leading vet and dog nutritionist feels that the biological value of the food is very important. The biological value of the protein used in dogs food is very important. This is based on the protein source and the amino acids or building blocks that it contains.
For example, eggs are considered a near perfect source of protein because they are in a form that is useful to the body. Fish and meats rate highly but grains rank lower. While soybeans are a good source of vegetable protein but the protein is not as readily digested in the dog’s body.
So the digestibility of the ingredients is also important. Can the dog’s gastrointestinal system readily absorb the nutrients available in the food? A dogs digestive tract is designed to predominantly eat meat proteins.
This is a fun simplified graphic of a dogs digestion by Photoprofedkisses
The dog’s digestive system is reflective of the evolution of the species. Herbivores have much longer digestive tracts then carnivores. It takes from six to eight hours for your dog’s food to go from eating to pooping (A human takes 24 – 30).
In The Natural Dog, Mary Brennan states that understanding the dog’s digestive system is important to feed your dog. Studies have linked deficits in protein and enzymes to diseases in dogs.
We know that natural foods are best for any animal but how do we choose between commercial and homemade. I think the question is – what do we need to feed to do what’s right?
If you follow this blog and my writings you know that I am very pro homemade dog foods. But I spent many years as a full-time teacher, raising two sons as a single parent and a vast array of critters! So I do understand what goes into making decisions on what to feed your dog.
The Answer – the Middle Ground?
For those of you that are considering switching from a commercial diet to a homemade diet know that there is a middle ground. I started out by buying a high-quality grain free dog food and then adding my homemade concoctions on top. I researched making a balanced diet and started feeding foods that would meet my dog’s needs. I saw tremendous improvements in my dog’s health which encouraged me to keep at it!