The conversation on types of dog food and their respective nutrition is a heated debate amongst many. On the right we have the dry dog food supporters that are, “backed by research, science, making recommendations based on informed studies and mountains of data.
” On the left side, we have the natural food companies, building their businesses and trying to make their way in the world, some small businesses and family-owned. With a belief that raw is best for their pets and they are doing their best to bring this type of food to your house.
The ‘David and Goliath’ of pet nutrition — dry meets raw. Oddly enough we are starting to see the dry pet food companies starting to introduce real meats, raw foods, and the same food that at one point they firmly stood against. I mean, I believe in capitalism, through and through … so of course this makes sense. Design targets exist for a reason, they are a segment of the market with demand and create a product opportunity for businesses.
“Design Target is a group of customers whom a company can serve better than anyone else can…”
To Science or Not to Science
I’m not a nutritionist, nor do I have a Ph.D. in Veterinary Medicine, but I do actually have a Doctorate in Business with a focus on Brand Strategy. So, while I cannot speak to the science that sits behind pet nutrition, I am interested in the intersection of ‘David and Goliath.’ Crunchy dog chow with amazing bits vs. real food — and how the brands of these organizations are shifting to align with general consumer needs. Walk into the pet store and you’re sure to see advertising for all-natural, grain-free, and all the buzz words that go along with how human food is advertised too. And when you step back to look at the market need, we know it’s a large market. But why would there not be, you buy healthy foods for your family: organic, eat natural, and think about the food you buy — so why would you not do that for fido.
For dry dog food companies, that crunchy chow is currently their bread and butter. A general search on the market cap for dry and wet pet food estimates it’s over a $100BB market. The difficulty of delivering raw food to the general population at scale is costly. It requires a great deal of regulation (or should) and mass consumerization will be dependent on the lower cost to entry. Today, it’s relatively affordable when you think about long-term pet care for your dog. But can be considered costly when you compare it to crunchy chow. However, you get what you pay for.
I’m not here saying that dry dog food is terrible for your dog, and you should stop now. In fact, the research that exists shows that the information that we have today (emphasis on ‘what exists today'), supports that a dog fed a balanced diet of dry dog food will be healthy and thrive. I may be flippant about calling the dry dog food ‘crunchy dog chow with amazing bits,’ but it's because I believe in visible outcomes. In god we trust, everyone else bring physical proof.
And what I can tell you is the evidence firsthand with the performance of Addison. She can run 20-miles with ease, her proprioception and agility are unmatched, and skin, coat, and health are outstanding. We have had numerous folks on the trail and out and about ask us what we feed our dog, and it's the same answer as above "Raw." Since food is the primary input variable, I'd say that outcomes speak for themselves.
Absent evidence-based testing which could take up to 10-years and extensive amounts of capital, all we can do is rationalize what we know about general nutrition and ground ourselves in experiences.
So Where is the Concern?
Most of the time it's related to health and completeness. I believe that we can rule that out. I see the health of Addison and her performance. So I look to academia and a quick search of Google Scholar with “Raw Pet Food Diet” surfaces an interesting mix of articles, but oddly, all peer-reviewed articles are based on human implications of raw diets.
One common issue that we forget about is human food is recalled for contamination, dry dog food is recalled for contamination, and so is raw pet food. The primary driver of the research is how raw food impacts the other individuals in your household. I could see that.
And if we really dig in on the recalls for salmonella and other bacteria, the absence of a generally published and marketed comparison between the number of recalls makes it difficult to say, if the raw pet food recalls have a higher or lower ratio of recalls. But at last, there is a risk for all the choices that we make on a day-to-day basis. We had to ask ourselves the question: if we have the choice to eat processed or real food, which do we believe is healthier? And NOT which do we believe tastes better … because we all know, if it tastes good, we should probably spit it out.
Dogs Digest Food Different than Humans
Let’s step back. I think it’s important to note that humans and dogs have different dietary tracts. If you research how animals’ digestive tracks work and the variation between humans, you will find that animals process foods differently than humans. You would also find that the enzymes that exist in their mouths are a different make-up than humans.
So, the research articles that talk about cross-contamination to humans make sense, however, some of the same implications are a little bit different for fido.
What Are You Saying?
My belief is that there is not enough data or research that has been conducted. Dry dog food is clearly ‘ok’ for your dog. There is a limited question about going with traditional pet food. It's the old adage, no one was ever fired for going with IBM or Microsoft. You know it, it's lasted the test of time.
One could argue there are studies that also support the health risks of dry food, but my wife frequently asks me, “how is it possible that this dog food made of meat can sit on a shelf for months on end and still be healthy for the dog. It just doesn’t seem right.” Again, not a vet or Ph.D. in veterinary science; I can't answer that. Preservatives?
But if you put a twinkie in front of me next to a carrot and ask which is healthier, I think there is credence to question that one is healthier or better for you than the other. And while Hostess may have sponsored research to state that the components of the twinkie are all-natural and all healthy, perhaps it might not be better than the carrot. And of course, in some cases, the twinkie might be healthier and in other cases, the carrot might. If carrots cause a visceral health issue, the twinkie is probably better. But apples to apples, I tend to think no preservatives and natural is better.
For your dog, the choice is ultimately yours. We feed ours Raw Paws Pet Food because it is balanced in 80/10/10 format (meat, organ, bone) with health supplements from Alpha Dog Nutrition and Buck Bone powder. You are the ultimate caretaker of your four-legged friend. Hopefully, this framed up raw vs. dry a little bit differently.
*Addison and Pixels and Pointers are Raw Paws Pet Food Affiliates. Should you be interested in checking out their product, click here.
ADDITIONAL DETAILS >>>
We found it helpful to think about the digestive system and Paw Castle has a great diagram that outlines the differences.