Choosing a pet food to feed your beloved furry friends has become a completely overwhelming task. Pet stores are filled with aisle after aisle of different brands each one boasting that if you feed this food your pet will live a longer and healthier life. Some brands have even developed breed specific pet food that is said to address the health needs of your specific breed of dog or cat. One can see why pet owners gravitate to a pet food that claims to be tailor made to their own pet’s genetic makeup.
Unfortunately these breed specific foods are little more than a marketing gimmick and do not have sound nutritional science backing them. We do not yet have the research that pinpoints the difference in nutritional requirements between different specific breeds of dogs. A small breed dog’s metabolism is much different from a large breed dog but it is unlikely that a Yorkie’s dietary needs vary all that much from a Shih Tzu. That isn’t to say these pet foods are harmful, just somewhat redundant if you are already correctly assessing your pet’s dietary needs.
Is Breed Specific Pet Food Helpful?
It is very important to choose a food based on your pet’s life stage, size and specific health needs. For example a large breed puppy like a golden retriever can develop serious joint disease if fed a diet that is too high in calories or calcium. It is critical that these puppies grow up eating an appropriate diet so their bones develop properly. However, there is no benefit to feeding a golden retriever puppy diet over any high quality large breed puppy food. When comparing a golden retriever puppy food to a Labrador retriever puppy food there are no differences in the critical nutritional components of the diets.
A Dachshund’s elongated body structure predisposes them to back injuries that can results in paralysis. The Dachshund specific foods make claims that their diets contain ingredients to promote lean body mass that will help prevent back disease. There is nothing exceptional in these diets to accomplish this goal and as long as the Dachshund owners choose a high quality small breed diet and don’t let their dog get fat they will be just as effective at preventing back disease. That said, if the specific Dachshund does well on the Dachshund pet food, that is fine as long as the dog doesn’t have any other health issues that need to be addressed with diet.
There is much less breed variation between cats making the breed specific diets even less important. All cats can develop hairballs, Persian cats don’t have any greater tendency for this than an average domestic long hair cat. Extra fiber in the diet is helpful in preventing hairballs but so is brushing and proper grooming. Another example is that dental disease is a big concern for all types of cats. Regardless of kibble size or shape owners should be brushing their cat’s teeth and have regular dental cleanings at their veterinarian to keep their kitty’s mouth healthy.
These diets can become concerning to veterinarians when owners expect too much from them. If a poodle develops gastrointestinal issues on the poodle diet than the dog may need a new pet food, possibly a prescription diet to address a specific disease. Some owners may be reluctant to switch foods because they are under the impression that the poodle specific food contains special ingredients that will keep their poodle healthy for its entire life. It is important for pet owners to discuss their concerns with their veterinarian so that we can work together to ensure we address all the nutritional needs for the specific dog.
How Should I Choose a Pet Food?
When choosing a pet food owners should focus on selecting a high quality diet from a brand they trust that meets the life stage and health needs for their pet. If a specific genetic or heath concern needs to be addressed work with your veterinarian to come up with a plan so that we can give your dog or cat the long, happy and healthy life they deserve.
Ashley Gallagher, DVM