With Channel 5 releasing a documentary about pet food at the end of January, their PR machine seems to have gone in to overdrive with every man and their dog (excuse the pun) weighing in to the debate. Unfortunately, most of the people involved in the debate seem to either have a commercial agenda of their own, or be chosen for their looks more than their expertise.
The truth about pet food is that there is no truth. There is no one-size fits all diet that will be right for every dog, just as there is no one-size fits all diet that will work for every human.
The only truth is that the diet that is right for your dog is the diet that they do best on and which is the best that you can afford. If your dog has bright eyes, a wet nose, a high quality coat, solid stools and you can feel their ribs with just a small covering of fat then what you are feeding them is right. It doesn’t matter whether it’s prime rib or polystyrene, if your dog is healthy that is what matters most (although obviously dogs would most likely not meet the healthy criteria on a polystyrene diet, and you certainly should not try it!).
To make sense of the arguments I thought it was worth looking at what a few people are saying, and the people saying it:
Who are the ‘experts’
As there is no 100% right and 100% wrong when it comes to feeding your dog, other than whatever makes your dog the healthiest that it can be, it is difficult to find unbiased ‘experts’. An ‘expert’ at a raw feeding company will have a different opinion to an ‘expert’ at mass-produced commercial dog food. These people are certainly knowledgeable and they should be listened to, but what they say should be taken with a pinch of salt and their views should be balanced against each other. They are very well informed opinions, but they are still just opinions.
However there are many unqualified people who have weighed in to this debate. I don’t want to name names, but the channel 5 PR machine seem to have selected someone as the focus of their campaign, who may be good looking, and may have links to celebrities, but who in my opinion is not qualified to talk about nutrition. The reason that I say this is that she is quoted as saying, “‘If you feed a dog a food made from sugar, salt, meat derivitives and ash, it’s similar to you eating a highly processed ready meal. Not great”. At first glance what she is saying makes sense, but if you know how to read the label on a dog food bag you will know that ‘ash’ is not an ingredient in dog food. ‘Ash’ is one of the most commonly misunderstood terms in pet food. Contrary to the images it conjures, ash is simply a measure of the mineral content of a food. When calculating the food’s calorific content, it is incinerated and the energy released is measured. All of the carbohydrate, fat and protein burn off leaving only the minerals. This is known as the ash content.
Simply put, someone who does not know what ash refers to on a label is not an ‘expert’, and although their opinions may well be worth consideration, they should not, in my opinion, form the main PR drive for this debate.