When it comes to dog food and feeding dogs, there are far too many myths that dog owners believe. Most of them are thanks to a ton of misinformation being spread online through bad resources. The problem is that believing in these myths may be harmful to you and your dog.
Today I want to tackle 31 of these dog food myths and also dog feeding myths. I went ahead and did a ton of research for most of these myths to see what's true and what's a lie. Hopefully this will help you to become a better-informed pet owner and feed your dog based on some evidence rather than made up claims or old wife tales.
For the better of our canine's health, we always try to be responsible pet owners, and it's up to us to weed out the truth from the lies in the pet industry and particular when it applies to one of the most essential topics: dog food, nutrition and feeding.
You'll be surprised how many non-truths are being spread by poorly researched articles in the media and shady websites.
Sadly, some of these lies are also being spread by businesses in the pet industry too. That's what makes it so difficult for dog owners to decipher the truth from the lies. How do we know what to believe if companies won't tell us the truth about their dog foods?
The only thing we can take upon our selves is to research.
It's your responsibility to make the right choice of what to feed your dog. Talk to experts like your veterinarian or a local canine nutritionist. Scour the internet to find where companies are sourcing ingredients from and what is actually in their products. You can also look for dog food reviews from other pet owners who have tried the products.
Check out these dog food and feeding myths out and tell us how many of them you knew were untrue. Are you guilty of spreading misinformation?
31 Dog Food and Feeding Myths Debunked
You Need to Stop Believing These Right Now
1People food is bad for dogs
Not all human food is bad for dogs. There are certainly foods that are dangerous to dogs, but some people food can actually offer necessary diversity in your dog’s diet. This is why homemade dog food meals are becoming the new trend.
Dog-friendly human foods that are non-toxic to dogs are usually healthy for them. When the foods are very nutrient dense (vegetables and fruits, for example) and when they are cooked in a healthy way (e.g. steamed versus fried), it can be a great for your canine.
Some human foods are even considered superfoods for dogs. Take a look at some of these:
I've done science-based breakdown for the above (and many more) foods and took a look at how they can enhance your dog's diet and boost his health. Don't shy away from them!
2All grains are bad
Contrary to popular belief and the growing popularity of feeding your dog grain-free dog food, the truth is that not all grain products are that unhealthy for your dog.
In fact, many grain-based ingredients are quite nutritious and can serve as a very healthy addition to your dog's diet. The only thing to keep in mind that grains should not become the majority of your pet's nutrition, but a little is actually healthy for most dogs.
Take corn for example. Studies have shown (1) that dogs can benefit from having corn in their diet, while most say the opposite without any evidence to back this up. It can serve as an additional source of non-animal protein (2, 3).
What about allergies to corn? Again, the evidence shows that most dogs are more likely to be allergic to different meats, including beef, dairy, chicken products and wheat with corn, fish and soy being on the lower scaly of dog food allergies (4, 5).
Dogs are also more likely to be allergic to environmental factors such as pollen and mold rather than corn or even most foods in general (6, 7, 8, 9). I recommend reading this science-based article from NGD on more about corn for dogs.
3Dogs cannot process grains
Moving along with more on grains for dogs, another dog nutrition myth I hear and read about often is that dogs and their bodies are incapable of processing grains. Not true.
While a dog’s digestive tract is not optimized to process grains the way that, say, cows might be, several experiments clearly show that dogs can in fact process different grain starches (10, 11, 12). There are different degrees of digestibility, but they are digestible.
The most easily digestible grains for dogs are those that have been cooked, of course.
Furthermore, for owners who are deep in the belief that grains for dogs are dangerous (when in fact it's actually the opposite), I highly recommend you taking a look at this evidence-based meta-review of scientific literature called A Study of the Nutritional Effect of Grains in the Diet of a Dog (PDF) from Kristyn M. Souliere from University of Maine.
4Dogs should not be fed raw eggs
While feeding raw eggs may be a concern for dogs with compromised immune systems, most healthy dogs can eat raw eggs with no difficulty. The dog’s digestive tract is much shorter than the human tract, which has higher resistance to bacteria like salmonella.
Additionally, there is a concern for some that avidin found in raw egg whites destroys the biotin found in your dog’s body. However, there is no reason to worry about this since the yolk of the egg provides enough biotin to make up for the biotin lost (13). In fact, egg yolk has one of the highest amount of biotin of all foods that exist.
That said, it's still better to feed your dog boiled eggs rather than raw eggs. That is because the boiling process itself (heat treatment) doesn't remove the nutrition from the egg and it even increases digestibility of eggs (14).
5Premium dog food contains the same ingredients as standard dog food
It's true that there has been a lot of misleading information coming from dog food companies and manufacturers where they blatantly lie about their pet food products. However, it's not the case when comparing premium dog food vs cheap dog food.
Premium dog food is not just a standard dog food with a higher price tag. Premium dog foods carry higher price tags than cheap dog foods because they contain better quality ingredients. Some companies choose organic, human grade or humanely raised options and manufacturing processes, all of which cost more for the company to do.
That doesn't mean that premium dog food will always be better than cheaper dog food brands. There are specific cases, some of which I analyzed in my top dog food brands review, where cheaper dog food is actually healthier for a canine.
6Raw food gives dogs salmonella
Again, this one is partially true, but it has been slightly exaggerated.
Dogs with a healthy immune system can eat a raw food diet without becoming ill because of a shorter and more acidic digestive tract. Their bodies break down the raw food ingredients more quickly and reduce the time that this raw food is in the body.
This is especially true for raw dog food that is either commercially produced or produced for human consumption, such as dehydrated dog food brands. In these cases, raw dog food provides safety precautions to prevent the spread of illnesses like salmonella in dogs.
That said, there really is a risk of dogs getting sick with salmonella from eating raw diet. Several studies have evaluated feeding dogs raw food and found a theoretical nutritional risk for dogs (15, 16). These studies do not provide conclusive evidence that would clearly show how raw food causes salmonella in dogs, but more research is definitely needed.
7Dogs cannot process dairy
One more time – this is only partially true and does not apply to all canine population.
Just like humans, some dogs may be lactose intolerant while other dogs are not. This means that some dogs are capable of consuming and processing dairy products.
Additionally, not all dairy products have the same levels of lactose, thus some dairy products are more easily digested even by dogs with signs of lactose intolerance. But the higher the lactose content in the product, the more difficult it is to digest for dogs.
So it all comes down to your specific dog rather than to what dogs can and cannot eat. It usually is okay to feed foods low in lactose and sometimes even foods with moderate lactose content. Cheese, for example, is often a great natural treat for a dog.
In terms of dog allergy to dairy products, the same applies – some dogs may be allergic while others are not. But dairy is generally on the higher end of food allergies in dogs (5).
8Dogs are carnivores
With everything we've seen in terms of how dogs behave and what they eat, it's hard to believe that some people still consider dogs to be carnivores. There is a more specific term to this, called “obligate carnivores” which means animals that only eat meat.
All members of the cat family Falidae – lions, tigers and domesticated cats, just to name a few – are obligate carnivores that can only eat meat and cannot digest vegetation.
Surprisingly, while wolves, a very close cousin of dogs from whom canines have evolved (17), are strictly carnivores, dogs in fact are not strict carnivores. Many make the mistake of assuming that dogs are carnivores because they have the same teeth as wolves do, or base this opinion on false assumptions about the dog's digestion system.
Dogs are actually more like bears (a long lost relative of a dog from 50 million years ago with 92% similar DNA sequence) in that they are omnivores. They are not as omnivorous as many other animals in the nature, but they are omnivores nonetheless.
A carnivore by definition cannot digest vegetation, period. Dogs, on the other hand, can digest vegetation and even benefit from it as the above studies have shown.
Another false statement is that dogs like all carnivores do not have amylase, an anzyme that breaks down sugars. This is not true – dogs do have amylase (18). It's located slightly further in their digestive tract, but it's there, specifically to digest these foods.
9Prescription food is the only choice
Dogs with specific nutritional needs are often recommended prescription diets by veterinarians, but recently we've been uncovering some truths about these dog foods. However, these high priced pet foods are not always necessary.
While these big name prescription dog foods provide tailored nutrition for your dog, this “tailoring” can also be found in certain non-prescription foods as well for much cheaper.
All that a pet owner needs to do is some research and dig into what causes specific food allergies in the dog, and how to feed dogs with certain health conditions. Homemade dog food that's fed alongside commercial diet can also be extremely helpful.
10Grain free means carbohydrate free
All grains are carbohydrates, but not all carbohydrates are grains.
If you're worried about feeding your dog a carb free diet, picking grain free dog foods is not the only way to keep your dog away from carbohydrates because carbs are not only found in grains but in many other foods.
Fruits, vegetables and legumes are all sources of carbohydrates that are frequently included in commercial dog foods. In fact, just like with human foods, it's quite difficult to find dog food brands that have a 0% carbohydrate content in them.
11Dog food is manufactured and packaged by the brand name it is sold under
This is one of the pet food controversies we've been uncovering recently.
Many brand name dog foods are owned by parent companies which are huge multinational corporations (e.g. Mars, Nestle, and Procter and Gamble).
These companies use large production plants to make and package their pet foods. For example, Royal Canin dog food is manufactured by Mars Petcare production plants.
Whether this is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen, but many experts and vocal pet owners alike opposite corporations buying out smaller pet food companies and brands.
This is also why dog food recalls often affect more than one brand of dog food.
Humans have far more taste buds than dogs do and as such, dogs do not experience cravings or any need for variety in their diet the same way that we do.
The only variety that you as an owner must provide should always be gear toward a complete and balanced diet for your dog where he gets all the nutrients, vitamins and minerals from the consumed food on a weekly basis.
The variety of specific nutrients is the only reason why varying proteins from dog food and even human foods can be beneficial. It can also aid in preventing the development of food sensitivities, but don’t feel you have to switch foods to prevent “boredom”.
13Homemade dog food is as easy as cooking for yourself
Some people believe that most vets have sold their souls to multinational pet food corporations and it's the reason why they advise not to feed dogs homemade food.
In reality, vets oppose recommending homemade dog food diets because most people do them wrong and as a result provide poor nutrition for their canines.
Dogs have different nutritional needs than humans, thus simply cooking a meal you would eat and giving it to your dog does not provide a well-balanced canine diet.
What you usually cook – meats, veggies and some grains – is only the foundation of the whole meal. But your homemade dog food dish must also be supplemented and fortified with other additional vitamins, fatty acids and minerals for every dog’s individual needs.
14Dog foods marketed as “complete” and “balanced” are right for every dog
It's very important for every dog owner to understand dog food and its labels.
What it means when dog foods are advertised as “complete” and “balanced” is that they are nutritionally balanced for their target market.
For example, puppy food is balanced specifically for healthy puppy nutrition. No puppy food brands can meet the needs of senior dogs or even adult dogs that require fewer calories and less fat content. The same applies to puppies with specific health conditions.
15Bones are beneficial for dogs
Bones can be incredibly beneficial to dogs. However, cooked bones are not and never will be more beneficial than they are detrimental.
Raw marrow bones are a great source of stimulation, dental cleaning, and nutrition for a dog. As long as you don't give those that split easily (chicken bones) and may harm your dog, raw dog bones can be a great thing to give to your dog now and again.
Cooked bones for dogs, on the other hand, are bad – they easily break down, fragment and can cause tears in the esophagus, stomach or intestines and may also cause choking.
16Kibble cleans a dog’s teeth
One of the reasons many pet owners choose dry dog kibble is because they've been told that its consistency will clean the dog's teeth. That is not true.
Dogs gulp or crush and swallow their food, they do not chew it like we do. This means that there is little chance for kibble to “clean teeth” of your dog. The only edible that does that are dental dog treats like Greenies that force your canine to chew on them for a while.
The best way to ensure your dog has clean teeth is to embark on the most necessary adjustment to your dog care routine – daily teeth brushing. To accomplish that, all you need is a simple dog toothbrush and decent dog toothpaste, and a lot of dedication.
17Lamb is a hypoallergenic protein source
I have no idea how this myth is still alive, because it could not be further from the truth.
Lamb is often used in sensitive dog food formulas, but there is nothing about lamb that makes it hypoallergenic or why dogs would never be allergic to it.
I believe the reason that lamb is used as the main ingredient of foods for dogs with sensitive stomachs as well as many hypoallergenic dog foods is because at one time it was a less common protein source than, say, beef or chicken.
The fact that lamb was rare made it a “unique” protein and it seemed that it would be less likely that lamb cause allergic reactions. However, studies have shown (5) that lamb does cause allergies in some dogs although on the lower scale than beef or pork.
18Dog food can be hypoallergenic
Just like humans, dogs can be allergic to any range of ingredients in their food.
Where one dog may be allergic to chicken, another dog may be allergic to peas. It varies based on specific dog and no canine is the same.
What this means is that no dog food can ever be considered hypoallergenic for all dogs, because allergens are so far ranging for individual dogs. While some hypoallergenic dog foods may hit the mark, others will not.
Pet owners should instead research the area and find out what their dogs may be allergic to through a discussion with a vet and using the elimination diet (4). It takes time and effort, but once you know the cause, your and your dog's life will be much easier.
19All vets are a good source of nutritional advice
Vets understand specific canine nutritional needs (for example, lowered salt intake for dogs with heart disease), but not all vets are experienced in complete canine nutrition.
Just as not all doctors are nutritionists, most veterinarians are not specifically trained in canine nutrition. They do receive a good and well-rounded animal nutrition education as part of their degree; however, most do not stay up to date with the latest research.
For example, a vet may recommend a commercial dog food rich in fillers because it meets the need for low salt content. This recommendation does not mean that this is the best food for your dog, rather, it means that it meets their need for a low sodium diet.
When it comes to advice from veterinarians, it's best to take it from those who follow evidence-based approach, meaning they will not only tell you their opinion on why something is good or bad, but they will also dig up the facts and scientific evidence to prove that what they say is indeed correct and supported through clinical trials.
20A begging dog is a hungry dog
Begging is one of the most common dog behavior problems that we are all familiar with.
A hungry dog may beg, but that doesn’t mean that all begging dogs are hungry.
Often, our dogs beg for food because they have learned that by begging they are rewarded with tasty table scraps. This is one of the things they learn very quickly.
This has nothing to do with your dog being hungry and everything to do with wanting a tasty “prize”. Dogs understand very well the patterns that result in them getting food.
21The dog food bag tells me how much to feed my dog
Feeding guidelines on a bag of dog food are just that – guidelines. These guidelines are based on your dog’s weight and his life stage.
However, there are other factors that influence how much your dog will eat. For example, how active your dog is during the day and any health conditions he may have will be very important to take into consideration (which is where your research and a vet are handy).
The best thing you can do is discuss your dog's diet with a trained professional, whether it's a qualified veterinarian that understands dog nutrition or a special canine nutritionist.
Your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist will be able to guide you in selecting the right dog food diet for your pet, and measuring the proper portions based on that diet and your pup's individual nutritional needs, amounts and feeding patterns.
22Meat meal contains all kinds of things
Meal meals are often included in dog foods and it's true that meat meal is rendered from animal tissue. However, there are regulations that govern what it may contain.
Meat meal may not contain hair, blood, hoof, hide, horn, manure, trimmings, stomach, and rumen content except for unavoidable trace amounts.
That said, some parts of the animal included in meat meal may still be disgusting to humans (but they are not to dogs). Read this article to understand more on labels.
23Pork is unhealthy for dogs
That is not true because while pork may be a lesser quality meat than beef (mostly due to protein to calorie to fat ration), pork is still a great animal source protein.
While some dogs may be specifically allergic to pork, others are allergic to beef or fish, which is when pork can serve as a unique protein source for these dogs with allergies.
24Dogs should be fed all-meat
Dogs thrive on a carnivorous-based diet, and they are definitely not as omnivorous as some other animals (meaning they do prefer more meat in their diet than vegetation).
That said, dogs still require vitamins and minerals that are provided by other foodstuffs (like fruits and vegetables) and unavailable in meat. This is the reason that most dog foods are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, and contain fruits and veggies.
good, bad, good, bad, good for dogs
Garlic is one of those foods that all dog owners fear like fire. It can be toxic to dogs, but to cause toxicity, garlic must be fed in large quantities (based on your dog’s body weight).
However, recently, some homeopathic websites have been mentioning the “health benefits” of giving garlic to dogs in small amounts. They claim that when fed in correct (read: small) proportions garlic can be very beneficial to your dog’s health.
I've scoured for the evidence on how garlic can be beneficial to dogs to no avail. Most of the health claims made for feeding garlic to dogs are based on how it can benefit humans, but there's no evidence that it can actually be beneficial to dogs.
I will admit that I sometimes make claims that some people foods can be beneficial to dogs based on human trials (like here, here and here). However, I only do this for foods that are completely safe for dogs and always mention that we don't have any evidence.
26Raised feeders are best
Pet owners concerned with the risk of canine bloat frequently tout the benefits of raised feeders based on one small study.
In that study, it was shown that raised dog food bowls may prevent canine bloat. However, another study came out after that which has shown completely the opposite – elevated dog feeders are not always the best solution to feeding dogs and for more than on reason.
Patrick has taken a closer look at facts and myths of elevated dog food bowls in this article and expands further on the study I mentioned above, which I recommend you reading.
27Older dogs need a diet low in protein
Protein has earned a bad name among dogs with kidney problems and senior dogs.
However, the myth that old dogs cannot consume too much protein has no basis to it. Senior dogs do not require low protein dog foods simply because they are older yet are still relatively healthy.
With the exception of dogs with compromised renal function and other kidney related problems, senior dogs actually have higher protein needs than younger adult dogs.
There are many different senior dog food formulas developed by canine nutritionist, all of which contain plenty of protein and other essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.
28Holistic food is best
The term “holistic” has been making its way into many pet owners' hearts, making them believe that it's the best and most natural food to feed their dogs. Sometimes, it's true.
But not always, especially if businesses have a way to manipulate this.
In the pet food industry where labels are governed by AAFCO, there is no legal definition for criteria a dog food brand must meet in order to be labeled “holistic”.
This means that literally any dog food, even if it contains the worst ingredients for your dog, can be labeled as “holistic” even when it does not provide true holistic benefits.
29Organic dog food is 100% organic
This is related to the above mention on “holistic dog food,” which is where dog owners are often deliberately misled by pet food manufacturers.
Dog foods that are labeled as being “organic” only need to contain 85% organic content by weight not including salt or water content.
Dog foods may be labeled as “made with organic” ingredients if 70% or more of the food content is organic.
While this is still not a terrible deal, and many organic dog food brands do indeed seem to have better quality ingredients, it's important that dog owners are aware of the contents.
30Meat meal is a bad source of protein
Meat meal can actually be a very concentrated source of protein, since the water content found in meat has been removed. Studies have shown that meat meals are well digested by dogs and are a great and nutrient-dense addition to a canine diet (21).
In fact, meat meal can sometimes be a better source of protein for your dog if the origin and quality of the meat are better than the origin and quality of whole meat products.
31BARF and prey model raw diets are the same
As the trend of raw dog feeding continues, more subcategories are popping up.
The most well-known two are the BARF diet and the prey raw diet for dogs. But they are not the same.
BARF diets feed “biologically appropriate raw food for dogs” that include raw meats, offal, organs, bones, and fruits and vegetables. It's closer to the Paleo diet for humans.
Prey model diets for dogs, however, focus on feeding whole pieces of prey (whole chickens or rabbits, etc.) and do not incorporate fruits or vegetables, and rarely include large amounts of supplements. This is the most raw of raw diets.
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