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Blog > The truth about your dogs food

The Channel 5 documentary, The Truth about Your Dog's Food is airing this evening and will be raising the question of whether commercial dog food is a major cause of health problems such as the obesity crisis in dogs. Here at Burns Pet Nutrition we are very pleased that pet food labelling, ingredients, colourants and preservatives are now firmly on the public's radar. Burns Head Nutritionist, Fiona Firth has been allowed to preview the show and makes the following observations on some of the issues raised:

Not all commercial dog foods are the same

During the programme it is claimed that all commercial pet food brands are the same. This is simply not true. Burns food was developed over 20 years ago when veterinary surgeon John Burns became concerned about the health issues he was seeing in dogs being fed on inferior quality commercial foods. There are many, many differences in commercial pet foods from different brands. Differences include the formulations, type of preservatives used, the addition of colourings or sugar and the quality of the ingredients used. Protein and fat levels also vary greatly from brand to brand as do feeding amounts and the digestibility of the food. There is no substance behind the claim that commercial pet foods are all the same.

Further to this I must point out that not all commercial foods use confusing and vague label terms like ‘cereals’ and ‘meat & animal derivatives’ as highlighted in the documentary. Burns has been specifically naming our ingredients with their correct names, such as chicken, brown rice and seaweed since the very start. We pioneered the use of natural preservatives, using Vitamin E and Rosemary Oil long before this was common place. These are great natural alternatives to chemical preservatives like propylene glycol which are mentioned in the documentary.

We do not use added food colourings or added sugars in any of our products.

Not all commercial dog foods cause obesity

The Channel 5 documentary blames commercial pet foods for the rise in pet obesity. This may certainly be true in the case of cheap, high fat, high calorie foods, whereas Burns diets are low in fat and calories compared with most other brands.

Customers often comment how their dogs have "slimmed down" after a change to Burns foods and that they have seen great results with our Weight Control+ diet, which has recently been voted ‘Best Specialist Food’ in the Your Dog Magazine Product Awards.

We have also gathered information on our Nutrition Helpline which has identified a much less documented problem which we feel is contributing significantly to the pet obesity crisis. We have found that many owners simply do not adhere strictly to recommended feeding guidelines on pet food packaging. When you take into account the table scraps and treats they are feeding along with the complete commercial foods they are considerably overfeeding their dogs every day. This is something we often hear from owners of rescue dogs who feel they need to 'spoil' their dog because it has had a ‘bad start in life’. Unfortunately what owners don't realise is they could well be killing them with kindness.

Dogs easily digest high quality grains

The documentary claims, with some degree of bias from RAW feeding advocates, that dogs cannot process/digest grains. This is NOT a fact.

This myth ignores scientific evidence that the dog has a highly sophisticated and sensitive system for digesting and absorbing carbohydrate. This is explained in minute detail in Strombeck’s textbook of Small Animal Gastroenterology (Saunders). Furthermore it was confirmed again in research carried out in 2012 which found that domestic dogs have many more copies of the 'gene for amylase' (a pancreatic enzyme which digests starch / carbohydrate) than wolves. This genetic evidence confirms scientific knowledge about the dog’s digestive system and that is that the modern dog has evolved (and is not the same as a wolf) to thrive on a diet rich in whole grains.*

Quality commercial dog foods promote good health

Many of the health issues mentioned in the documentary are things we are confident that our food can actually help with. For example in the programme two dogs (owned by different people) are fed on home cooked food. Both dogs have tear-staining. This is something we have discovered is frequently diet related. When fed on a good quality diet such as Burns, in the correct amounts, tear staining should not be an issue.

The programme also claims that dogs fed on commercial food have digestive problems and produce huge amounts of sloppy stools. We know that owners love the fact that their dog produces only small, firm stools when fed on Burns which means that they can see for themselves just how easily their dogs digest our foods.

Body odour is also mentioned and it may come as a surprise to many owners that a dog should not smell ‘doggy’. When fed on a 'premium quality' commercial food such as Burns this smell should go. Yet again this highlights the fact that there are vast differences in commercial pet foods made by different brands.

"When you put it in a bowl you’ll recognise everything in there"

This is a quote from the programme about one particular brand of premium moist food. If you've ever opened a pouch of our award winning Burns Penlan Farm moist food you’ll know the same is true! Our Penlan Farm Range has been voted ‘Best Wet Dog Food’ in the Your Dog Magazine Product Awards 2013/14 and this is just another example of how Burns has been leading the way in pet nutrition for many years.

And finally….

There are lots of issues raised in the documentary and we expect your customers will rightly turn to you for reassurance. My team and I are here to support you and will answer any queries or concerns you or they may have. Please give us a call on 0800 083 66 96 and we'll be happy to help.

Fiona Firth BSc (Hons) Zoology

Head Nutritionist - Burns Pet Nutrition