All Calories are NOT Created Equal – Part 2
(Dog food data is vague, incomplete, and misleading)
Probably your biggest responsibility as a dog parent is determining which dog food provides the most nutrition and health benefits for your dog within your budget.
The dog food industry and AAFCO, it’s rule making arm, has admittedly not made your task very easy. If we’re honest we must admit that it’s actually almost impossible to know with any certainty which dog food is better, or the best, based on the information the industry provides – the Ingredient List and the Guaranteed Analysis – which is generally vague, incomplete, and misleading.
Examples of vague, incomplete, and misleading follow:
1) Vague – The protein content is listed as a percentage but you have no way of knowing how much of that protein is sourced from plants like beans, corn, potatoes, etc. and how much is sourced from animals – which is what your family carnivore was designed by Mother Nature to eat.
2) Incomplete – The percentage of protein listed in the Guaranteed Analysis on bags of dog food doesn’t differentiate between meat sourced from a rendering plant that reprocesses dead, dying, and diseased animals, including road kill, and meat from animals that are free range with no antibiotics or growth hormones and are human grade when they are added to the dog food. Important specific information about the protein is lacking or incomplete.
3- Misleading – Some dog foods add ProBiotics to their Ingredient List, and ProBiotics are extremely beneficial if they are viable when they get to the gut, but studies have shown that 99.8% of these normal ProBiotics are dead by the time they reach the gut. They are activated prematurely by the warmth and 10% moisture in the dog food as it is bagged and are dead long before you even buy the dog food.
To allow an ingredient on the List of Ingredients that will be 99.8% dead and completely useless by the time your dog eats it is, in my opinion, misleading.
There is, however, one highly effective (and very expensive) ProBiotic on the market that is protected from being activated prematurely by a special encapsulation process developed by a scientist with a Ph.D in MicroBiology, and only produced by his company. These are the ProBiotics that Brothers includes in their dog food and they are highly productive. Tests show 99.7% of the “Encapsulated ProBiotics” are delivered to the gut alive and active.
In “All Calories Are NOT Created Equal – Part 1” I gave another example of something that I thought was misleading that involves how the order of ingredients is determined for “Chicken” versus “Chicken Meal” on the List of Ingredients.
All Calories are NOT Created Equal – Part 2
(Calories are NOT a measure of nutritional value – but the Recommended Daily Feeding Guide can be)
Every mother knows there’s a big difference between protein and carbohydrates, and there can also be a big difference between different carbohydrates. For instance 400 calories of broccoli is quite different than 400 calories of chocolate chip cookies, though both are classified as carbohydrates.
However, few people realize that the quality of nutrition in dog food can vary far more than is possible in the human food chain due to regulations the FDA applies to the human food chain to ensure minimum levels of quality that it doesn’t apply to dog food.
When it comes to dog food there seems to be a widespread misconception that the nutritional values are generally the same across the various brands of dog food.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Things have been put in dog food that would result in criminal prosecution had they been put in human food. There can be a huge difference in the nutritional value of individual ingredients like the meat source, as discussed earlier in this article, or certain ingredients, like potatoes, that are OK for humans but eventually cause gut problems for carnivores. The difference in nutritional value between two different dog foods can be far greater than would ever be possible in human food.
Some ingredients can’t be compared to other ingredients because they are not in the same nutritional universe. For instance, how many sugar doughnuts does a dog need to eat to equal the nutrition in 2 eggs and 2 sausage links?
It’s a trick question because no amount of sugar doughnuts will ever equal the nutritional value that’s in two eggs and 2 sausage links. In fact the more doughnuts the dog eats the worse it will be for the dog nutritionally. Many dog foods have ingredients that negatively affect a dogs system in much the same way that sugar doughnuts do. They damage the gut which eventually leads to Leaky Gut, Systemic Candida, and other undesirable results including allergies.
Calorie Counting + the Daily Feeding Guide = Nutritional Insights
Think of calories more as a rough measure of the amount of energy in a given volume of food but NOT a measure of the nutritional value of that food.
The volume used to measure the calories in dog food is usually one cup (Kcal/cup) but that is useless information unless you know how many cups a day the dog is supposed to eat for its weight.
The recommended daily amount of food can vary considerably. For instance a 25 pound dog can have recommended daily portions that range from 1 cup per day to as much as 2 ½ cups a day depending on the particular brand of dog food.
When you calculate the calories you are feeding your dog you must take into account the recommended daily feeding amount in cups per day to get the total calories for the day. So if the dog food has 300 calories per cup and the recommended daily feeding amount is 1 ½ cups then you multiply 300 calories by 1.5 cups to get the total daily calories of 450.
This is very important if you are trying to get your dog to lose some weight because the “Low Fat” dog foods often require extra volume which adds to the calories you’re feeding your dog for the day.
Let’s examine an actual example of two dog foods listed on Chewy.com to compare the total calories.
Blue Buffalo Basics Healthy Weight Turkey and Potato has 20% protein and 337 calories per cup.
Brothers Complete Turkey & Egg Advanced Allergy Formula has 36% protein and 415 calories per cup.
For weight loss Blue suggests 1 ½ cups a day for a 25 lb dog. 1.5 cups x 337 calories = 505 calories per day for Blue Healthy Weight
Brothers suggests 1 cup a day for a 25 lb dog. 1 cup x 415 calories = 415 calories per day for Brothers Turkey & Egg.
The recommended daily feeding rate of 1 cup of Brothers for a 25 lb dog is 90 calories less than the recommended daily rate of 1 ½ cups of Blue
Brothers is a more effective weight loss food because there is more nutrition packed into fewer calories. It is nutrient dense, the nutrients are balanced to optimize their effectiveness, and there are additional special ingredients like enzymes, PreBiotics, and ProBiotics that optimize the nutritional value built into the dog food.
The recommended daily feeding rate can be an indicator of how nutritious a dog food is. If a 25 lb dog only needs 1 cup a day of dog food #1 but needs 2 cups a day of dog food #2, then it’s easy to see that dog food #2 is half as nutritious as dog food #1.
Next week I’ll explain in more detail how to use the daily feeding guide to figure the actual cost to feed your dog for a month so you can compare the real cost of feeding different dog foods. You may be quite surprised to find that it’s more expensive to feed Blue Basics Healthy Weight for maintenance which costs $47.99 a bag than it is to feed Brothers Complete Turkey & Egg which costs $79.99 a bag.
It’s not how much the bag of dog food costs but how much of the bag you must feed each day that determines the true cost to feed your dog a particular formula.