A 14-year study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Association has managed to bust several canine nutrition myths.
Forty-eight pairs of Labrador Retriever littermates were followed. Among other things, the results suggested that a 25% restriction of food intake—or maintaining an ideal body condition throughout a dog's life—increased the median lifespan of a dog by 1.8 years and delayed the onset of chronic disease symptoms. "Knowing what to feed and how much to feed are equally important," said Mike Grant, PA, the nutritional science director for SeniorPetProducts.com "Your veterinarian is always the best way to get the correct information. They are up to date on all the new science."
Several nutrition myths were disproved during the study:
1) A raw meat diet is the only one for canines: Today's domesticated dogs are not true carnivores. They need small amounts of grains, like rice, oatmeal, pasta, vegetables and fruits to round out their dietary needs.
2) Raw eggs are an absolute no-no for dogs: Dogs are far less susceptible to Salmonella poisoning and the occasional raw or boiled egg is a good source of protein for canines.
3) Dogs should never have any dairy products: Some dogs may be lactose intolerant, but cottage cheese and yogurt are two low-lactose options that are high in calcium.
4) Fat only gives dogs empty calories: Fats are the main source of energy for dogs. Fat is also necessary for the proper absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K, especially in low-saturated forms such as omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
5) A dog is unable to digest grains: This is partially true, but dogs can digest starch grains that have been converted by the cooking process. Rice is a better option than wheat or corn.
6) All commercial dog foods are bad: Research has shown that the quality of commercial dog foods is more than able to meet a dog's nutritional needs.
7) A diet must be specifically tailored to a dog's age or breed: In most cases, the same diet throughout a dog's life is sufficient. However, puppies need more food than seniors and older dogs may need nutritional supplements.