In early February, Scientific Reports published, The effect of puppyhood and adolescent diet on the incidence of chronic enteropathy in dogs later in life. The study concluded that dogs fed a mixture of real or non-processed food in a diet based on meat, raw bones, cartilage, berries, and table scraps were less likely to develop severe digestive issues later in life. "In contrast, feeding an ultra-processed carbohydrate-based diet, namely dry dog food or "kibble" during puppyhood and adolescence, and rawhides during puppyhood were significant risk factors for CE later in life." This research was based on 4,500 puppies and 4,000 dogs.
CE or chronic enteropathy is a gastrointestinal disorder present for 3-weeks or longer when parasitic disease or neoplastic disease has been ruled out. Symptoms of CE include diarrhea, vomiting, and weight loss.
The study also revealed that dogs fed fresh food had a more robust gastrointestinal microbiome with more bacteria associated with protein and fat utilization than those fed kibble. The gut microbiome is believed to play a vital role in our health, influencing the immune system and even behavior.
This study did not surprise those in the common-sense pet nutrition community who have been encouraging feeding our pets fresh or minimally processed food for years. If you consult a human dietician or nutritionist, you will be told to focus on eating fresh, minimally processed food while severely limiting your intake of processed food like that found in the center of a typical supermarket. You know, where you find the canned soup, boxes of macaroni and cheese, breakfast cereal, and dog kibble. Yet, in the veterinary community, general practice vets and even veterinary nutritionists often tell you that the best diet for your pet is dry kibble – a highly processed food. But, as demonstrated in this latest research, it makes no sense and is not supported by science. I am unaware of any peer-reviewed independent research supporting the hypothesis that kibble is the optimal pet diet.
If you wish to feed your dog fresh food like the dogs in the study, you must understand you cannot just start feeding whatever you have left in the fridge. Dogs have specific nutritional requirements; if you fail to meet them, your dog can become ill. You have two options.
You can purchase some of the many fresh food options available as frozen-raw, frozen lightly cooked, or freeze-dried options available at your local pet supply store. These commercial diets are made from whole fresh ingredients, with minimal processing, and meet your dog's nutritional requirements. I have been feeding and selling diets like these since 2001, and I believe that it is one of the reasons our Golden Retriever, Tikken, thrived for 16 years. I have also visited three companies that make these foods to see how the food is stored and processed. I only wish the food I eat was as carefully handled by the supermarket.
Alternatively, you can choose to make your dog's food from fresh, wholesome ingredients you raise, grow or purchase. However, as noted above, you cannot just put ingredients together willy-nilly. Instead, you will need to educate yourself. Fortunately, some excellent books can guide you through the process. One of the simplest to follow is Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats - The Ultimate Diet by Kymythy Schultze.
As you may recall, I recently wrote an article, The DCM and Grain-Free Pet Food Debacle–Was It Only Bad Science or Shameless Greed & Fraud?, for the February issue of Downeast Dog News. That story outlined what I believe was a shameless fiasco with no scientific data to support the claims made by the FDA and far too many in the veterinary community. It received the attention of the mass media, even making all national news channels for many months, only to die in a whimper in December of 2022 when the FDA essentially said, “We were wrong.”
I hope the news report about the benefits of fresh food gets equal attention as the DCM/Grain Free as it can benefit every dog. Please share this article far and wide. ease share this article far and wide.
You can find links to the article from Scientific Reports as well as links to mass media articles on my blog at https://forcefreepets.com/blog/.
Don Hanson lives in Bangor, Maine, where he isthe co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com) and the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. He is a Professional Canine Behavior Consultant (PCBC-A) accredited by the Pet Professional Accreditation Board (PPAB)and a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). Don is a member of thePet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee. He is also a founding director of Pet Advocacy International (PIAI). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts The Woof Meow Showpodcast,available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.