Is Dog Food Inherently Different Than Human Food?

Dog in a BasketThis article came with a strong endorsement from Gina Spadafori, the dedicated writer behind the PetConnection blog’s coverage of Menu Foods deaths. Having worked together over the past few weeks, naturally, that means a lot to us. The article, written before the Menu Foods Tragedy by another PetConnection writer Christie Keith asks the question “Is dog food inherently different than human food?”

It’s something we have never asked ourselves. We had always assumed that our four-legger would eat dog food and we would eat uh… well, whatever people eat (you know, junk food, cheese dip, and the occasional feel-good salad). Christie’s question isn’t about better dog food. It’s about better food. Period.

We certainly don’t think it’s a requirement that pet parents cook their own food — we’ll still buy food from the store. But it’s an excellent resource for those thinking about cooking for our furkids.

Highlights after the jump.

We cheerfully accept that kibble is a wonderful way to feed our dogs, when we rarely choose to live on Ensure meal-replacement drinks ourselves. But is it possible that the same foods that make up a healthy diet for humans — things like eggs, meat, vegetables and dairy products — might form the basis of a healthy diet for dogs as well?

Feeding our dogs out of our own kitchens has become such a widespread practice there are even dozens of competing ideologies: Raw food, prey model, home cooking, breed-specific, vegetarian and more — pretty much every ideology found in human nutritional circles has its canine counterpart. Thousands of dog owners in the Bay Area feed their dogs diets wholly or partially based on fresh foods, and there are tens of thousands more nationwide.

The best results usually come when the dog owner is exposed to a variety of approaches and ideas, rather than blindly following one guru or feeding plan. There are many worthwhile books on canine diets, and it’s a good idea to read several of them.

One Response to “Is Dog Food Inherently Different Than Human Food?”

  1. Evy says:

    I don’t think the question is whether or not pet food is inherently different from human food vs. asking is a canines or felines nutritional needs different from a human?

    The canine and feline are so complexly different from each other!

    One illustration - L-lysine given at doses of 500 mg is flying around pet message boards for weepy eyes, herpes and a variety of maladies in cats.

    In talking with my nutritionist, he was explaining how the amino acid L-lysine will look for another sulphur bonded amino acid and in the average feline diet it won’t find it. The irony is that the excess amount of L-lysine will ultimately break down in the gut as a carbohydrate due to it’s molecular structure.

    Usually only 20 - 25 mg is necessary to help the feline’s body at a therapeutic level and the digestive tract is doing a lot of extra work in the meantime. While short term the owner may ’see results’ if the protocol remains as a daily practice the energy required for all of the extra digestion is draining other vital parts of the immune system from being able to do it’s work.

    Nutrition is a science. While I know thousands of dogs and cats are fed from kitchens, I hope they take a LOT of extra time to figure out how to balance the calcium/phosphorus, the Omega6 and Omega3. It’s not as simple as some think.

    And when it comes to nutrition and you look at the general human population, I don’t know that we even have a grasp (as a society) on many aspects of it ourselves. My primary care doctor doesn’t know nearly as much as a nutritionist does who can address trace element, etc.

    When dealing with books about raw (or online resources) she is right that reading several is important. And the only ‘guru’ I would follow is someone who can substantiate with scientific data all of the proteins/amino acids, fats, vitamins, carbs (for dogs) and of the micro/macro nutrients needed to thrive. Sadly, I’ve known people who didn’t take your author’s advice and had animals develop serious skin and intestinal issues. They also weren’t sourcing the products from dependable sources.

    The true raw diet would be one where a pet had the ability to roam fields and allow their body to chase the prey and eat the greens their body directs them to. But even there is fault since pets are not indigenous (sic) to their own area any more.

    Thanks for a great post and good info itchmo!! You make us smile (with those wonderful whacky posts) and you make us think :)

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