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The Truth About Your Dog's Food

Published: Friday, January 31, 2014

Following last night's documentary on Channel 5, "The Truth About Your Dog's Food", veterinary surgeon and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition John Burns shares his views on the programme.

The Channel Five programme was somewhat mis-named.  I imagine most pet owners were left without a clear idea about the truth of pet foods. I suppose that is inevitable when all shades of opinion are presented.  And that, bye and large, is what it was – opinion.  Everyone is entitled to have one but opinions have different value.  This is where expertise comes in. 

I loved Jonathon Self’s contribution.  He reinforced the well-worn principle that the less you know about a subject, the more certain you are that you are right and everyone else is wrong.

He was quoted (twice) thus, "Arguing that one particular processed food produced by one particular manufacturer is better than another is rubbish – they’re all the same. The truth is it’s all the same."

Or how about this gem from Jonathon? “The canine digestive system is identical to the wolf’s digestive system; exactly the same strength of stomach acids, exactly the same digestive enzymes, so what one finds is that the digestive system of the Chihuahua is exactly the same as the wolf so they should be getting the same diet.”

How does he KNOW?  He is a writer with a background in advertising and direct marketing and is the author of Honey’s Natural Feeding Handbook for Dogs about BARF feeding.  I don’t know about the wolf’s digestive system but the dog’s is superbly equipped to digest carbohydrate.

I’m not sure whether Jonathon has an interest in Honey’s Real Dog Food but Vicky Marshall, owner of Honey’s came up with her own pearls of wisdom; “Dogs cannot process grain effectively; that is why when you feed a diet that has grain in it there is an awful lot of poo because it is filling the dog up and the dog can’t utilise that.”  Here’s another; “The flavourings are so strong in these processed foods; that’s why other dogs eat poo of dogs on processed foods because it tastes like the kibble.”  Really!

I enjoyed watching Michael Bellingham of the PFMA (Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association) squirm as he attempted to justify the use of colourants in pet food.

There was some sanity from Daniel L Chan, Senior Lecturer & Clinical Nutritionist at the Royal Veterinary College.  He said that there is no real evidence that diet causes health problems in dogs but there is substantial evidence that prepared pet foods can play a significant role in managing disease in dogs.

The owners of Veggiepets summed it up nicely; “Suspicion about the integrity of the pet food industry is being shored up by people who also have a vested interest – they have a book or a product to sell.”  That brings to mind Ian Billinghurst, the Australian vet who made a career by dreaming up the BARF idea.  (I nearly called it the BARF philosophy but philosophy is the study of wisdom and knowledge and BARF certainly isn’t that.) 


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