Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
Will Expensive Foods Help Your Dog Live Longer?
I feel it important to address this issue because this is such a common belief among dog owners: if I buy an expensive premium diet, my dog is going to live longer. Unfortunately, there is no proof of this, and, as far as I know, there is not likely to be any in the foreseeable future.
Do Any Studies Show the Relationship Between Feeding and Longevity in Dogs?
The only type of evidence is a five-year study done by Lippert and Sapy in Belgium. The researchers only talked to the owners of dead dogs taking them to an incinerator. They were able to make a lot of observations about the age at the time of death and its relationship to sex, environment (city or country), and breed, and also showed that dogs fed on table scraps (homemade food as opposed to a commercial diet) lived significantly longer.
They were not able to figure out if being fed homemade food was a sign that the dog was better cared for, was the kind of dog not allowed to roam, or was originally going to live longer.
Will Premium Foods Make Your Dog Healthier?
If you are feeding your dog a good quality diet, she is more likely to take in all of the nutrients she needs. She will probably not have any vitamin deficiencies and may not suffer from some other diseases that are related to nutrition.
Unfortunately, we do not know if feeding your dog commercial dog food leads to other dietary-related illnesses. Since the veterinary medical associations are supported by the dog food industry, we are probably never going to know.
What Is the Best Diet for Good Health?
No one can answer this.
It is my feeling that the vitamins and other nutrients available in a raw diet are healthier for a dog. They have not been destroyed by high temperatures used in processing the premium diets.
Other veterinarians, especially those employed by the commercial dog food companies, will tell you that all food has to be 100% complete and balanced, at every meal. This is not the way you or I eat, of course, nor is it the way that anyone looking for the best and healthiest diet eats.
Why Don't the Dog Food Companies Study This?
The big dog food companies can afford to run long-term trials to determine if their food is really effective in keeping dogs alive longer. The problem is, they do not want to. Would Microsoft run a study that might show that Apple products were better? Even if the results were equivocal, another study would take years to complete and in the meantime, the company might lose some sales.
The only people who have looked into whether premium dog foods cause dogs to live longer are the dog owners and their veterinarians. The internet is full of anecdotal reports, like the woman with the 18-year-old dog on Purina, the owner whose dog´s ear inflammation cleared up on high-quality food, the breeder with long-living giants fed cheap food. How come we are trained to disregard anecdotal evidence?
Is Anecdotal Evidence Enough?
Anecdotes do not prove anything to me, not much more than asking a bunch of owners with dead dogs “what did you feed?”. The anecdotal evidence may just be because of a coincidence, the dogs that die young on cheap food (or expensive food for that matter) are never mentioned, and no one compares one anecdote to another. The only way to be sure would be to take a large number of puppies of the same breeding, maintain them in the same environment, and really evaluate which food is best for their health. Doing that type of experiment has its own negative points though and it is doubtful any of the companies would want to take the risk.
Any diet is a compromise between benefits and risks. Although I think that dogs are scavengers and can utilize a lot of the things that we humans throw away (chicken innards, beef entrails, etc) we know that logically dogs fed nutritionally complete foods have a better chance of being healthy and living longer.
You have to use common sense and read the information available, ignore or take the new information “with a grain of salt”, and benefit from your own experience.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 10, 2012:
I had my little guy on T/D (tartar diet) when he was young and it helped a little but Science Diet uses a lot of junk in their foods. I certainly never worried about the cost because he eats so little. Thanks for dropping by!
Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on June 10, 2012:
My latest attempt at good food for my dog (he has itchy skin) is one without poultry or grains. I'm hoping that will help. He doesn't eat much, so I can afford whatever is best for him. I just wish I knew what that was.
I enjoy your hubs about dogs, that's for sure!
wetnosedogs from Alabama on June 10, 2012:
My oldest female can't eat Pedigree. She was losing hair. Twice I've changed the diet and while she is the most effected by what she eats, all my dogs are faring well now.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 05, 2012:
Thanks Angela, I have noticed a lot of articles qouting other articles qouting other articles, etc. Scary!
Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 05, 2012:
I have wondered this thanks for checking it out! GREAT HUB!
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on June 02, 2012:
Thanks for the comment Kevin. With the HUGE price difference between the foods above, would it not be better for the dog, and improve his chance of longevity, to purchase supplemental vitamins and fatty acids? The vitamins may have been destroyed by the heat processing anyway, so it may actually be better for your dogs health to supplement.
Kevin J Timothy from Tampa Bay, FL on June 02, 2012:
I believe that the premium foods can indirectly cause them to live longer. Most of the premium foods seem to have less corn and more omega fatty acids in them. I say do research on not only dog foods but vitamins and minerals. Learn about their benefits.