An article posted online by Reader’s Digest warned of “14 sneaky ways dog food labels lie to you.” The human food industry tells many of the same “lies,” as several of the dog food marketing claims in question migrated from trends first introduced for people’s plates.
Articles in Petfood Industry have also addressed the validity of some of these pet food labeling claims. Some of the “lies” Reader’s Digest pointed out included:
Grain-free dog food
Reader’s Digest pointed out the popularity of gluten-free diets for humans, and quoted a veterinarian who noted that grain-free dog foods only benefit animals with specific allergies.
As Petfood Industry has reported times, dogs can digest grain. In fact, dogs likely evolved to eat grain as they scavenged human refuse. In human food, the revolt against grain and other carbohydrates has been going on for more than a decade, since the Atkins Diet and similar nutritional trends appeared in the early 2000s.
Natural dog food
The Reader’s Digest article noted that there is no official definition for claiming a pet food is natural.
Likewise, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t have a final definition for labeling human food as natural. However, the American Association of Feed Control Officials does offer guidance on the use of the natural term for pet food, reported Petfood Industry. In the absence of federal regulation, state legislatures use the AAFCO definitions to guide policy.
Raw diet dog food
The veterinarian quoted by Reader’s Digest cautioned against raw diets.
The idea behind raw diets is that dogs should eat like their wolf ancestors, a corollary idea to the caveman diet popular among some Homo sapiens. However, genetic evidence suggests that dogs have evolved to digest carbohydrates. Just as humans can eat raw termites like their chimp ancestors, dogs can eat raw meat, but it may not be necessary or hygenic.
Recently, numerous pet food recalls have involved raw diets, reported Petfood Industry.
As the top omnivore on Earth spread, some wolves took advantage of a rich new food source humans left in their wake, namely garbage. That involved eating the cooked meat and starchy plant matter that people threw out, said Brian Hare, PhD, associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University and founder of Dognition. That may mean dog foods marketed as replicating wolves’ raw meat diets actually satisfy human fantasies more than dogs’ dietary needs.