—My vet recommended my brand to me! It must be good!—
Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. It’s a little-known, but unfortunately very true fact that most vets are not required to study dog nutrition, and the information on dog nutrition that they do have often comes straight from the dog food companies themselves in the form of sponsored seminars. Obviously, these companies are going to put their products in the best light possible, and since this is often the only information regarding dog nutrition the vet knows, they readily recommend these brands to people. Hill’s is one of the biggest sponsors of these seminars, which is why you have so many vets recommending Hill’s products (such as the low-quality Science Diet line of foods). They believe everything the Hill’s-employed vets told them, and who can blame them? If a teacher tells you something, you believe it, even if it’s self-serving and blatant misinformation. It’s unfortunate, but these vets turn around and pass this misinformation right to you and me, thinking they are giving good advice about which pet food to feed.
This is true of most vets, but certainly not all. So, I’m not saying, “Don’t trust what your vet says about dog food!” but I AM saying to not take your vet’s recommendation as indisputable proof that your dog food is nutritious and high-quality. Before you decide it’s a good food, take a few minutes to learn what to look for in a good food, and then look at the ingredients list yourself.
Here’s a bit more info on the sad state of nutritional education at vet schools: http://www.dolittler.com/index.cfm/2007/6/14/pet.vet.dog.cat.6.14.07
—I’ve been using the same brand of food for years, and my dog is fine! How can you say the food I feed is low-quality if that’s the case?—
This is something a lot of people ask, and if you’re asking this question too, then you sound just like I did a few years ago. This is a completely valid question, and one that would likely come to anyone’s mind upon learning that their brand of dog food might not be what they though it was. To answer it, I’ll tell you why I became such an advocate of high-quality dog food in the first place.
I had just brought home my first puppy in 15 years, and I asked my vet for a recommendation on what to feed her. He recommended IAMS, and I took his word for it. After all, he’s a vet! Plus, I had seen some great IAMS ads on TV that said it was a great food. “Complete” and “balanced,” and important-sounding studies on how it promotes longevity, and so on. So, I started feeding her IAMS. She didn’t seem to like the taste, but she was still a normal, happy, active puppy. Soon, she developed terrible dandruff, and she always seemed itchy, but I knew she didn’t have fleas. I went online to check out different reasons this might be happening (I even thought it might just be a “puppy thing,” since it had been so long since my last one), and one of the things I kept running across was that it could be the kind of food I was feeding her. Over the next few days, I began looking into different foods and what they were made up of. Over the next few weeks, I digested everything I could find about dog nutrition. I was still skeptical that something as simple as the food I was feeding could make so much of a difference, but I was willing to give the idea a chance. So, I went out to my local pet store armed with all I had learned, and chose a good food. And, low and behold, not long after, her dandruff disappeared, and her breath, which had always been awful, was suddenly completely bearable. These changes impressed me, so I soon tried another, better food and saw even more positive changes. By this time, I had another dog, and I was more interested in dog nutrition than ever, and amazed by what great things a healthy, high-quality food could do for a dog. I tried another, even better food, which yielded yet more positive results, and a few months later, an even BETTER food, and with this one, finally, I think I have arrived on one I will be happy to feed for a very long time.
So if you think your dog is doing fine on your current brand, you may be absolutely right, but that doesn’t mean that he or she couldn’t be doing even better on a higher-quality food. I personally saw improvements in my dogs every single time their food increased in quality. Before you convince yourself that a high-quality food won’t yield any positive changes, I urge you to try one for a few months! I did, and I have never looked back!
Part 5 has been posted, and is the last post in this series (but not my last post about dog food). In it I will talk about how to successfully switch your dog to a new food, and why your dog may experience some temporary side-effects from food switching, such as loose stools, and how to prevent that. I will also talk about how to find a healthy food, as well as list some links that will help you to do just that. Please join me for part 5 tomorrow!