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Are Breed Specific Diets Really Necessary?

Whatever happened to just buying a bag of plain old dog food?

Long before the invention of commercial pet food, dogs and cats were raised and sustained on the scraps and waste of human food preparation, if they were given anything at all. Many pets, especially cats, were usually expected to hunt for themselves. In rural areas, many still are.

Then bagged commercial foods, the familiar "kibble," came along and sanitized and made convenient the nourishment of our pets, especially those of city dwellers, where hunting and onsite sustainability aren't feasible.

You can still buy bags of "plain old dog food" today, but is it the best nutrition for your dog (or cat)? For the most part, it may be life-sustaining, to a point, but it's usually not optimal.

Consider the Great Dane … not your average dog and certainly not a primal breed. In other words, they weren't wandering the wilds of ancient times in their current form. Today's Danes are more the result of selective breeding for the last few hundred years and not much like the "boar hounds" they came from, or the mastiff-like dogs of 3,000 years ago. See .

As often happens when humans tinker with genetics, certain traits may develop that require special consideration. For example, Danes have a narrower range of calcium requirements than other breeds – too little and their bone growth is hampered; too much and they get osteochondrosis. Huskies and Malamutes have a higher need for zinc than other breeds. And Bedlington Terriers are prone to copper storage disease if there is too much copper in their diet.

Thus, if one uses a "one size fits all" approach with an all-breed dog food, there can be toxicity or deficiency issues associated with some breeds. However, not all breeds have been studied to document their nutritional differences, so pet food companies usually try to stay within generally safe parameters to avoid obvious health problems.

Since the risk for many diseases and conditions is, in fact, related to different breeds, manipulating nutrient densities for specific breeds could be seen as a sensible way to control those factors and tendencies.

A recent trend has been "lifestage" nutrition, where foods are prepared with consideration for the age of the pet and the different nutrition needed at each stage. For example, puppies and kittens need more protein and calories than they will as seniors.

And then there are health conditions that require different ingredients. Obesity is as common with pets today as it is with humans, and this requires food with fewer calories, perhaps more vegetables. Cats with kidney disease are typically fed less protein to help manage that condition. Products that address such needs are referred to as "functional" foods.

Segmenting pet food manufacturing into the various categories – functional, lifestage, and breed – is a way to provide optimal nutrition for specific health requirements for the great variety of pets we own.

Source by Dr.

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