As humans concerned with our health, we know that there is a connection between the food we eat and how we feel. We even know that too much poor food can create disease and illness in our bodies. But when it comes to our dogs, we tend to forget that food works the same way. Sadly, there are many canine diseases linked to dog food.
I used to buy dog food based on the price tag and the well-known name brand, not how it made my dogs feel and look. After doing my own research, though, I found out some staggering facts about the connection between canine disease and the food I was feeding my furry friends.
There are many different dog food diets available, and some owners even choose to make their own homemade dog food. One of the absolute best things you can do for your Fido is to feed him a quality diet that meets his specific dietary needs. Canine diseases linked to dog food can be prevented with proper nutrition.
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Common Canine Diseases Linked to Dog Food
1. Allergies and Skin Conditions due to Dog Food
There's a lot of talk about buying dog food that doesn't have “fillers” like corn, wheat, or soy. Most of the argument for this is that fillers in dog food just make your dog feel full without providing any nutritional value (more on this later).
But for many people, that's just not enough reason to buy the more expensive, “fancier” dog food brands that claim to not have fillers.
The real danger with these grain-filled foods is that they actually get contaminated with insects from harvest, mold spores from poor storage facilities, and even dust mites that settle in the storage and processing facilities.
Fillers used in dog food are some of the lowest quality to begin with – it's the grain and crops that aren't fit for human consumption.
These contaminants can be found in almost all dog food, and cause issues like:
- Itchy skin
- Red, watery eyes
- Scaly, patchy skin
- Balding or thinning of fur
- Ear redness or infections
Years of constant allergic reactions to food can cause blackened skin and necrotic wounds. This was how I found out about my dog’s supposed “food allergies,” which I treated by changing the food I fed him.
If your dog has been diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, allergies or has any of the above problems, you should look into the quality of the food your pooch consumes.
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2. Cancer and Dog Food
It is definitely one of the scariest canine diseases linked to dog food. Just like in humans, a cancer diagnosis is terrifying and we naturally assume the worst.
There hasn’t been as much research done on canine cancer as there has been on human cancer, but more understanding has developed over time.
It has been found that one of the biggest causes of canine cancer is in fact the food our beloved dogs consume. Foods that are not quality-controlled contain high levels of the following:
- Mold spores – High presence of mold spores in dog food creates aflatoxin, which generates a poisonous level of chemicals that encourage cancer growth. Researchers believe this is the cause of the majority of premature death and cancer in dogs.
- Pesticides – Since many of the grains and crops used in pet food are lower quality, they are often soaked in pesticides that don't just go away. Your dog might be consuming toxic pesticides, which have been connected to brain tumors and bone cancer in mice in a number of studies.
- Food dyes and additives – Food coloring like Blue 1 and 2 have been connected to tumor growth in mice, but still many dog food brands use them in their ingredients.
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – MSG has also been connected to severe reactions in humans, and findings show that the more MSG in canine food, the higher rates of cancer in the dogs who eat it.
While sometimes cancer has other causes, it is worth looking into the ingredients in your dog food, and understanding the brand and its factory procedures. Once a dog has cancer, it’s hard to treat. I know that for my dogs, an ounce of prevention has been worth a pound of cure.
3. Obesity because of Poor Pet Food Choices
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (yes, that’s really a thing), 58% of all dogs are overweight or obese. That’s crazy, right? While you’re probably thinking, “Oh, my dog is just a little chunky, but he’s still healthy,” the reality is that obesity creates so many problems for man’s best friend.
Obesity is one of the most common canine diseases linked to dog food, and it's also the easiest to prevent. Consider how many problems you would have if you were obese; many of the diseases in our world today are caused by weight problems. Obesity in dogs can lead to diseases like:
- Degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis
- Cardiac disease, including congestive heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease and failure
- Type 2 Diabetes and insulin resistance
That doesn’t sound like a full and happy life to me. While for some pets, the answer may lie in getting enough exercise, the reality is that the right food will not make a dog obese.
Next time you go dog food shopping, look for those filler ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy. Those are definitely huge culprits in the pet obesity epidemic, but also look at ingredients like:
- BHA/BHT – BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) preserve the fats found in dog food, but are so chemical-based that the food can’t break down, and the energy is stored as fat. Get dog food without these additives if you can.
- Carbohydrates – Many dog food brands use rice, sweet potato, “organic” corn or wheat, and other carbohydrates to fill up a dog without using high-cost meat. This means our dogs get carb-loaded, but receive little to no nutrition. Get dog food with lean meat protein instead. I personally have seen a huge difference in my dogs’ energy levels since finding a food that starts with meat as the first ingredient.
- Sugar – Many dog foods and dog treats have started introducing high levels of “natural” sugars into their ingredients list. This isn’t so surprising, because of course it makes the food taste even better. But dogs do not process high levels of sugar well (just like humans). Excess sugar gets stored as fat, and that makes us and our pooches fat as well. Make sure you’re checking the sugar content on the label! I was shocked to see how much sugar was in my “fancy” name brand dog food.
Always Be Proactive With Your Pet's Food
While all of my research made me more than a little upset and disappointed in the dog food industry, I realized that this was actually good news.
Although there are many canine diseases linked to dog food, I can change how I feed my beloved pups – and so can you! We don’t have to wonder why they’re suffering or why they developed diseases down the road.
While changing their dog food certainly doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing, it does mean that I can have some influence on their health and happiness. From now on, I will read the labels and do my research, and advocate for more standards and regulation. Our dogs are our best friends and our protectors, so let’s protect them, too!