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What's Up With People Hating on Some Commercial Dog Foods?

Posted May 13 2010 5:16pm
Want to know what I do on my "off" hours? Sometimes I hang out on Dogster … checking out the forums, mostly. A few days ago, I noticed a thread on nutrition. It was entertaining. Then I noticed it referenced me. Extra-entertaining. (I always enjoy being dragged into a discussion.)

So it was that I responded. Here’s the exchange for your reading pleasure (bad grammar included)
Bear writes
“ohhhh I said it! What's everybody's problem with Science Diet? I mean I get its not the #1 dog food in the world, but by comparison to an overwhelming many its really not that bad. I had issues with raw and Bear is now on Blue Buffalo and I have no plans of feeding S/D but whats everybody's problem? I don't see very many vets on this site, I see a lot of people who think they know what there talking about and claim to be "knowledgeable" but not to many vets.

If S/D is so terrible why does practically every vets office in North America carry it and prescribe it?

how is it that a bunch of dog owners on a website got the memo but the PhD's know nothing?

Like I said, I personally would rather feed anything but S/D but if my vet who went to school for years and has the skill to cut my dog open and fix his insides tells me to feed S/D for a medical reason then you know what I'm probably gonna listen.

Feel free to rant away but I probably won't respond to the oblivious ignorance. Only good points.....or really stupid ones.

(again I repeat, I understand S/D is not a top food and that there are many other food choices. I'm not promoting S/D. just simply asking what the bandwagon hatred for it is all about)”

Slumdog (me) writes:

“Since I've been referenced in this thread, I guess I should lend a veterinarian's perspective to this interesting discussion. Here's my take
It's no surprise that Bear's family is having trouble understanding why the prescription food the vet recommends gets such a bad rap among a certain sector of the dog community. After all, this food is marketed as a high quality, veterinary-grade foodstuff. Thing is, we're in the midst of a sea change in how we treat our pets now that so many of us consider our pets family members. And that means that what we view as OK to put in our pets has changed too.

When the very same conversation is taking place with respect to higher quality human foods, it's no wonder foods like Science Diet (foods that have traditionally been viewed as the best of the bunch) no longer cut it compared to those that offer much more in the way of highly digestible animal protein and higher quality carbohydrate sources.

Though all evidence shows that Science Diet offers a well-balanced diet that's been shown to keep pets "healthy" for a lifetime, I personally don't recommend it over a nutritionist's consultation (for customized diets in the case of pets with specific health issues, as with bladder stones in the case of S/D) or a variety of other brands whose formulations better meet my standards (should the convenience of prepared foods be of great importance). But yes, I will recommend this and other prescription diets as long as my clients understand their options.

Many of us now want to see more biologically appropriate, recognizable ingredients, a variety of them, more animal protein than veggie protein, and an obvious commitment on the part of the manufacturer to the kinds of ingredients we'd be willing to serve our human families, too.

But are these foods healthier? Here's the key: They've not been proven to be. Neither fresh, home cooked foods made with high quality ingredients nor commercial pet foods made to higher quality standards have been proven any better than the others. It's this "no-evidence" argument that most veterinarians reference by way of explaining that Science Diet and others are good foods. But what we really mean when we defend these foods as "good" is that all evidence points to the fact that they're "good enough."

But is "good enough" best? Almost certainly not. But we can't *prove* that. What we know on the human side is that fresh has its benefits and variety is key. So why are we willing to buy into the fact that standard commercial fare is all they need? From my POV, that simply proves we have lower standards for our pets than for ourselves.

Hence, the pushback on Science Diet. Because few foods have claimed so much and offered so little, this brand gets more attention than Purina or Pedigree or a whole bunch of less impressive fare (Ol' Roy, anyone?). It's this disparity––along with the special attention from veterinarians––that's earned them more scrutiny than others.

I hope that answers your question. Feel free to follow up with more.

Dr. Patty Khuly”

I thought that was a great response. Problem was, someone didn’t agree. So here’s another call and response
Koda wrote
“That was one of the most confusing responses I have ever read... :-\”

Slumdog wrote back
Koda: At least I tried to explain it as best I could. Really. :-( Truth is, it's a tremendously confusing topic for most of us. So I'll try it again (because I really want you to get it)
Science Diet's S/D, like most other commercial diets out there, has been shown to meet pets' basic nutritional needs as we understand them. Problem is, those basic needs are 1) not as well understood as we'd like them to be, and 2) the requirements of pets who eat these foods only demand that they live lives that are as long, on average, as other pets do. In other words, it's not a very high bar we've set for our pet food companies.

Pets, like us, would likely benefit from fresh foods, high quality ingredients and a wide variety of ingredients that are appropriate to their individual species needs. Foods like S/D are not trying real hard to offer this. They're working hardest to guarantee that the basic nutrients they know pets need are included in their food. Nothing sinister about that, right?

Nonetheless, there are plenty of foods out there that can promise to meet pets' basic needs and offer high quality, biologically appropriate ingredients. Some brands will even deliver fresh versions of these diets. To my way of thinking, these are the foods I'd rather recommend.

No, S/D is not "bad," but there's definitely way better out there. And there's nothing wrong with pointing out that a pet food most people assume is top-of-the-line might not be so fantabulous.

In my opinion, the folks at Hill's have earned the scrutiny they receive based on their self-promotion on the basis of "quality." After all, "quality" should mean they strive for better. But when I compare their labels to other pet foods, it's clear they don't.”

OK, now it’s your turn: Where did I go wrong? Do you get it? If not, how can I clarify?
 

Dr. Patty Khuly
 
 
Art of the day: "Sniffing inside the dog food bag." by Annie Rudolph
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