Guest Contributor— Answers Chief Veterinarian, Dr. Doug Knueven, veteran among veterinarians, examines raw nutrition as a healing power of pets and works to ensure an all-encompassing true health (physical, mental and spiritual) regimen in veterinary medicine for animals. Apart of his work with Answers Executive Veterinary Program, he’s a consultant for Answers product and program development, lecturer, and participant on panel discussions.
Answers Raw Pet Foods are higher in fat than most other pet foods – there, I said it. They consist basically of 50% fat and 50% protein. A relatively high-fat diet sounds baaaad. Fat has been demonized as a food constituent since the 1950’s when it was theorized that dietary fat leads obesity (and associated problems) in people. The concept is simple, you eat fat and it goes directly to your beer belly. (Why is it called a beer belly? – there is no fat in beer). Since the start of the war on fat, obesity rates in the US have skyrocketed from 23% in 1962 to 39.6% in 2016. This low-fat thing does not seem to be working.
Fat is the better choice.
It turns out that, SURPRISE!, nutrition is complicated. There are 3 macronutrients in food that provide calories – fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Of these, it is actually excessive dietary carbohydrate that is linked to obesity (and inflammation for that matter). Eating fat leads to better satiety (the feeling of being satisfyingly full) in dogs. A satiated dog is one that does not over-eat. A canine eating empty calories (excessive carbs) is more likely to eat more food and put on weight. As for protein, while it can be used by the body for energy (calories) its ideal purpose in a diet is to build tissue. So, as far as sources of calories go, we have carbs or fat. Fat is the better choice, and dogs instinctively know this. Let’s look at the research.
An ideal macronutrient balance – a closer look.
The relative amounts of fat, carbohydrate, and protein in a diet is called its macronutrient balance. Dietary macronutrient balance in animals has been shown to affect growth rate and size,1,2 obesity,3 longevity,4 and disease resistance.5 It is also known that predators select food based on the macronutrient balance that best assures their survival.6,7
So how can we know the ideal macronutrient balance for dogs? One way is to look at the nutrient selection of our dogs’ closest relative, the wolf. This study8 summarized 50 studies of the diets of wild wolves with the expressed intention of discovering optimal dog nutrition. Wolves eat a diet consisting of a macronutrient balance of 54:45:1, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.*
These researchers go on to say, “The nutritive characteristics of commercial foods differ in several aspects from the dog’s closest free-living ancestor in terms of dietary nutrient profile and this may pose physiological and metabolic challenges.”
Now, another way to find the ideal macronutrient balance for dogs is let them pick it themselves. This study9 did just that. They used 5 diverse breeds: papillon, miniature schnauzer, cocker spaniel, Labrador retriever, and St Bernard. Dogs selected a macronutrient balance of 30:63:7, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.*
These researchers go on to say, “… the overriding conclusion is that the recent rapid divergence among dog breeds is not substantially reflected in their macronutrient priorities compared with other phenotypic features such as size, color, and temperament.”
Realizing that no study is perfect, let’s average the above 2 studies to get a macronutrient balance of 42:54:4, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.* At least that is an approximation of the ideal balance for dogs.
Just for fun, compare this to the AFFCO standards for dog food which is 19:12:69, Protein:Fat:Carbohydrate.*
Wow! Lots of yellow. That’s because carbs are a cheap source of calories.
The bottom line is that the Answers dietary formula is remarkably close to the ideal macronutrient balance for dogs as determined by their own, innate biology. My advice is to ignore conventional “wisdom” and embrace the healthy fat in Answers Raw Pet Foods.
* The level of macronutrients in these studies are expressed as the percentage of calories they provide in the food. This is different that the percentage as fed that is on the pet food label.
- Raubenheimer D, Simpson SJ. Integrative models of nutrient balancing: application to insects and vertebrates. Nutr Res Rev. 1997;10:151–179.
- Simpson SJ, Sibly RM, Lee KP, Behmer ST, Raubenheimer D. Optimal foraging when regulating intake of multiple nutrients. Anim Behav. 2004; 68:1299–1311.
- Simpson SJ, Raubenheimer D. Obesity: the protein leverage hypothesis. Obes Rev 2005; 6:133–142.
- Piper MDW, Partridge L, Raubenheimer D, Simpson SJ. Dietary restriction and aging: a unifying perspective. Cell Metab. 2011;14:154–160.
- Cotter SC, Simpson SJ, Raubenheimer D, Wilson K. Macronutrient balance mediates trade-offs between immune function and life history traits. Funct Ecol. 2010; 25:186–198.
- Mayntz D, Nielsen VH, Sørensen A, Toft S, Raubenheimer D, Hejlesen C, Simpson SJ. Balancing of protein and lipid by a mammalian carnivore, the mink (Mustela vison). Anim Behav 2009; 77:349–355.