is breed specific dog food worth the money?
Pet food is big business. Last year alone, Americans spent $36.9 BILLION dollars on pet food and treats. That’s a lot of kibble, and a lot of cash for pet food producers. It’s no wonder that companies strive to get your attention with new or innovative food concepts in such a blossoming industry, including the growing trend of breed-specific dog food.
Breed-specific dog foods
One such “new” way of feeding involves breed-specific foods. Maybe you’ve seen them in your pet food store — they are foods based solely on your dog or cat’s breed. The idea behind this food is that it’s formulated based on common nutritional needs or health risks for particular breeds or lifestyles. Other factors, like kibble shape or size, also play a role in breed-specific pet foods.
It all sounds…well, pretty specific. One can’t help but wonder if it’s the right thing to be feeding. After all, if it’s made for your pet’s specific breed, wouldn’t it be the very best thing to feed?
I don’t think so, and many veterinarians agree with me. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with feeding breed-specific diets, you don’t have to feed them to give your pet a great diet. The truth is, there is very little published research into the needs of individual breeds.
The difference in dogs
One exception to the “dogs are dogs” rule is that large and giant breed puppies should be fed differently than their smaller brothers. Large breed puppy foods are formulated to provide adequate nutrition while controlling the pace at which these big guys (and gals) grow. This limits undue stress on their growing bodies. Higher protein diets have been implicated as an underlying cause of panosteitis, a painful inflammation of the “long” bones of the skeleton, in young large and giant breed dogs.
Sadly, over half of the pet population is overweight or obese, so chances are, your pet could benefit from a diet specific for weight control. Some of the breed-specific diets address this need, especially those formulated for breeds who are more prone to becoming overweight (Labrador Retrievers, I’m looking at you). But you don’t have to buy a breed-specific food to achieve weight loss for your pet.
What to look for in pet food
Calorie count, kibble shape and size, nutritional value and palatability are all key things to consider when choosing a food for your pet. You want to feed a food that your pet can chew (no giant kibble for tiny guys) and one that he actually likes to eat. You should also look on the food bag for the AAFCO statement that says the food is complete and balanced for your pet’s stage of life based on feeding trials.
Related reading: How to read a pet food label
Finally, if your pet is doing well on his or her food, why change it? If you’ve found a food that your pet likes, doesn’t cost more than your own food and keeps your pet happy and healthy, you’re doing a lot better than some folks. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
When choosing a food for your pet, go with a trusted company and try to avoid getting talked into expensive or fad diets. Your veterinarian is the best person to be giving you advice about feeding your pet.