Evolution in dog food has come a long way and new dog food trends emerge every year. As knowledge about dog nutrition increases more and more specific dog foods hit the market place. Veterinary nutrition has become a mature science that strives at discovering the essential food nutrients and their optimum dosage.
It is believed that the life span of our beloved pets has increased due to the revolution in cat and dog food. Estimates are that the life expectancy of dogs has increased by 3 years in the last 15 years because of the developments in dog food. I haven't found a report that supports this claim though, still hoping to find that. So if you're reading this and you have relevant data, then please contact me.
Nowadays we have breed specific dog food, health stage specific dog food, prescription dog food and natural and holistic dog food. Dog food history shows us the evolution from table scraps to ultra-premium dog food based on the dog's personal DNA profile (the latest addition).
The very basic objective of dog food is to sustain and maintain your dog's body. Dog food should contain at least contain the minimum amounts of amino acids, minerals, vitamins and fats to comply with this objective. To also deliver energy to your dog so he can run and play there must be sufficient amounts of carbohydrates and fats present. The very first commercial dog food (beginning 19th century) did nothing more than that as it was high in sugar and starch.
In the nineties dog food was developed based on physiological differences between the different dog breeds. Also size, age and activity level was taken into account. In this century dog food has become more advanced. The dog genome has been sequenced and more knowledge is gained about the relation between food nutrients and disease or between calorie restriction and life span. More knowledge is gained about breed specific diseases and nutritional requirements. And as we also see in the human food business, health food is big business. Health and wellness is a dog food trend driver in itself. Nutraceuticals gain more attention and the development of these has not stopped.
On top of the basic objectives (sustain the body + deliver energy) we want dog food nowadays to help prevent certain diseases. Manufacturers enrich dog food with supplements such as anti oxidants, prebiotics for dogs, probiotics for dogs, glucosamine, omega-3 and omega-6.
As more and more different dog food products hit the market, competition grows and marketing becomes very important for a food manufacturer. Buzz words and health claims are printed on dog food bags, with beautiful pictures of healthy happy dogs running in the woods towards a bowl of dog food with fresh peas and risotto. Dog food has become big business. The millions of dollars are to be divided by the top dog food companies whereas niche players are trying to get a bite of this by delivering super premium dog food or specialized dog food for dogs with health problems.
The marketing department is greatly inspired by the trend of pet humanization or anthropomorphism. Dog owners start calling themselves pet parents and are treating their canine companion as little humans with fur. This is all fine of course as long as everybody's happy. Though there are risks involved. Amongst others: Dogs will be dogs and they have different nutritional needs than humans. That pizza that you love is certainly not the best meal for your furry friend. So ignore dog food names such as 'Chinese take out with vegetables and chicken' and turn around the bag to read the dog food label.
A recent step in dog food evolution is the approach to speed up recovery from specific illnesses. Certain nutrients are now added or removed from the dog food recipe. So with prescription dog food and curative dog food, the evolution of dog food has progressed one step further since we got from feeding to prevention.
While humans are usually the first to benefit from new insights, some other scientific developments are more targetted at animals (such as breed specific dog food).
Nutrigenomics is the study of how an individual's genetic makeup metabolizes and responds to nutrients.
Currently there seem to be two schools of thought in dog food (at the very least). One says the “every dog its own food” is a marketing trick, whereas the other school claims breed specific dog food, life stage specific dog food and even gene specific dog food is the best food for your canine companion. Of course every new development can be misused by marketeers. In that case… let's blame the messengers, not the product.
On a molecular level differences can be substantial and relevant. One breed may be more prone to certain diseases such as epilepsy, retinal degeneration, skeletal malformations and allergies than other breeds. The basis of this lies in their DNA. More than 350 inherited diseases have been described across the different dog breeds.
Another recent trend in commercial dog food is the development of natural dog food and holistic dog food. A lot of emphasis is displayed for the human-grade ingredients that are used. Holistic dog food is about looking after the well-being of the whole animal and not just the individual parts.
Perhaps the biggest competitor for commercial dog food is home made diets. In emerging markets most dogs are still fed table scraps as their main diet. However, in developed markets the food penetration levels are between 50 and 75% when one looks at the proportion of calories that are coming from commercial dog food.
This means that there is still growing potential for ready made dog food as convenience is also a big market driver. Home-cooked meals and leftovers will continue to compete against commercial dog food especially with the big recall of March 2007 in mind. A lot of concerned dog owners turned to the art of canine cuisine and even dog food cooking classes emerged.
Andrew Lewis wrote this survival guide that makes your dog live a longer, healthier life, so you'll enjoy each others happiness and companionship longer than statistically predicted.
And we will probably continue to see new dog food trends. Science continues, the market changes, new dog food ingredients are developed and dog food recalls and environmental awareness change the dog food landscape.
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The "Confidential Dog Food Report" is an e-book written by Andrew Lewis. Now for those of you who know him, you know that he doesn't think highly of commercial dog food. In fact he likes homemade dog food diets. But commercial dog food is not always bad of course.
You just need to find the best food for YOUR pet. Andrew has listed the top 9 dog food brands that are just better-than-good, which is a good starting place for you. After all homecooking can be nice on occasion, but commercial dog food is very convenient. Just find the right one!