Beliefs and assumptions

The internet is a vast source of information in every field, and veterinary medicine is no exception. Unfortunately, however, people can publish whatever enters their head and the information provided on many websites lacks any scientific basis. As a result, a number of misconceptions with regard to dog food have gained currency and need to be strongly refuted.

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True or false?

Dogs should fast once a week

This is false. Wild canids do fast, but this has nothing to do with “good habits”. There is no justification whatsoever for not feeding a dog every single day of the week.

Dogs work better when they haven’t eaten

This is false, but is a stubborn misconception in some fields. If the dog is expected to perform an activity that requires endurance, such as hunting or a sled race, it should preferably be given a light meal (a quarter to a third of its daily ration) around three hours before it starts. Putting a dog to work that has not eaten for a long time will not only result in it performing poorly, it will also put it at risk of physical suffering, which could have dangerous consequences.

If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for my dog

This is just as false as the opposite! Dogs are carnivores, though not exclusively so, whereas humans are omnivores, which means that their metabolism is different. Unlike humans, dogs have no real need of carbohydrate, although they can use it as a source of energy. They are also less able to tolerate high sugar foods. The regular ingestion of simple sugars will cause metabolic changes that can result in obesity or diabetes. Similarly, although a recognised anti-depressant in humans, chocolate is highly toxic to dogs. The two species also have very different requirements in terms of minerals and vitamins. Puppies, for example, require much less vitamin D than children, who require four times as much. All of this is clear evidence that dogs need food specially formulated for them if they are to live a long and healthy life.

Dogs are like us: they get bored of the same food day after day

This is false. This is anthropomorphism pure and simple. Dogs naturally have a very poorly developed sense of taste. Owners that introduce their dog to lots of different foods are creating difficulties. Food and feeding are key to the hierarchical status of the dog within the family, so behavioural problems are bound to follow. Regularly changing the food can also be detrimental to the dog’s health. The dog’s digestive system (enzymes, bacterial flora) needs about a week to adapt to a new food. Frequent or sudden changes of food in terms of the brand or the ingredients will result in impaired digestion, causing digestive problems (vomiting, flatulence, diarrhoea), which may require veterinary treatment.

Meat needs to be added to complete foods

This is false. As the name suggests, complete foods are formulated to fulfil all the dog’s nutritional needs. The proteins used in these foods come from the human food industry and are of a high quality. As a general rule, 10% of the dog’s energy requirement can be provided in the form of treats and rewards (dog biscuits, chews). Anything over and above this will result in an imbalanced diet, which presents health risks.

Too much protein will cause kidney failure

This is false. Studies on rats showing that a long-term high protein intake results in chronic kidney failure have long been improperly extrapolated to dogs. There have been many studies in France since 1975 (by Paquin and Pibot in association with the National Veterinary College Alfort and Royal Canin, published in 1979 and 1986) and in the United States over the past twenty years (e.g. Churchill, published in 1997) showing that this is completely wrong. The severe restriction of protein intake from an early age, as advocated in some quarters, actually harms the puppy’s immune system, undermining its health.

Calcium needs to be added to straighten the ears


This is false. The ears of breeds with prick ears, such as German Shepherds and Malinois, will often become less firm between four to six months around the time their milk teeth are replaced with permanent teeth. There is a stubborn misconception that calcium – often as part of a cocktail of vitamins – needs to be added to the diet to straighten the ears again. When the ears straighten after a couple of weeks, the owner concludes that this supplementation has had the desired effect. In fact, it is a physiological impossibility for calcium to straighten the ears in this way, given that ears are made up not of bone but of cartilage, which does not calcify.


The uncontrolled supplementation of minerals and vitamins in puppies, especially in large breeds, constitutes a great risk


The uncontrolled supplementation of minerals and vitamins in puppies, especially in large breeds, constitutes a great risk as explained above. There is no way of straightening the ears via dietary intake. The ears actually become less firm when the body is at peak growth and its nutritional requirement is at its greatest.

All nutrients have the potential to cause harm, which is why it is so important to always abide by the nutritional requirements, adapted to the size and breed of the dog in question. Nowadays, owners have access to many complete foods that are perfectly balanced and adapted to the requirements of their dog.

© Diffomédia/Royal Canin
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