Breed Specific Pet Food: Should You Fall For It?


Purina Beta™ Breed Specific Dog FoodPurina Beta™ Breed Specific Dog FoodPurina is the most recent pet food company to announce a line of breed-specific dog foods; Beta™. Although currently the line is available in Great Britain only, I suspect it's just a matter of time before it's available in the U.S,. as are Eucanuba and Nature's Recipe breed-specific dog foods currently.  Royal Canin produces breed specific foods for dogs and cats.  The question is: Should your Terrier be fed differently from a Shepherd?  Your Maine Coon from a Siamese?


Breeds Do Vary Individually

Various breeds are subject to certain weaknesses in their individual makeups, often based on their size, build, or body structure.  Dr. Karen Becker gives some examples in her column on breed-specific foods in Healthy Pet. Yorkshire Terriers, she writes, tend to experience "luxating patellas (floating kneecaps), tracheal collapse, liver shunts, and Intervertebral disc disease."  German Shepherds tend to get "elbow and hip dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy (a progressive disease of the spinal cord), and bloat."


Yorkshire Terrier and German Shepherd: Do they need different nutrition?Yorkshire Terrier and German Shepherd: Do they need different nutrition?


Does Breed Specific Food Address The Variety of Canine Needs?

Breed-specific foods don't address health variations adequately, nor could they practically address them by producing a different food for each malady or structural handicap. What they do is vary the type of meat used in the food using a chicken or turkey or lamb variety for each breed and vary the supplements in the food, some emphasizing muscle strength, others a smooth coat, etc.  The differences, though. in the quantities of these supplements are minimal, the meat used is largely from by-products, and the choice of meats by breed is largely without rationale.  In the Purina Beta food, the primary ingredient is 'cereals', and the majority of whatever meat is included is from animal by-products.

Do Dogs And Cats Need Specific Breed Food?

Our domesticated dogs and cats evolved from wolves and wild cats and, despite all the breeding and interbreeding that's been done to domesticated dogs and cats, if you put our terriers and shepherds into the enviroment of their ancesters, they would seek the same sources of nourishment as their ancestors did.  A cocker spaniel is not born to gravitate to 'cereals,' brown rice, corn meal, or even grass, unless he has to vomit; it's born to eat (sorry to put it like this but...) other animals.

The same is even more true of a domesticated cat.  Short-hair, long-hair, blue-eyed, green-eyed; that cat wants to eat meat, fish, chicken - basically, anything that moves... or once moved.

And it's not just what dogs and cats want to eat, it's what they need to maintain their health.

"The vast majority of dogs do best on a diet based on 75 percent human-grade animal muscle meat, organs and bones, and the other 25 percent veggies and fruits. This is a far cry from what is offered in most commercial pet food formulas," writes Dr. Becker.

By a landslide. Even the breed specific pet foods don't offer more than 25 - 28 percent protein and most of the protein sources are questionable.  And these specialty formulas do not tend to be qualitatively different from the companies' other lines of food in terms of traditional balance.

Are The Food Brands Themselves Offering The Best Available Ingredients For Your Pet?

Blue Buffalo is one of the higher-rated healthy cat foodsBlue Buffalo is one of the higher-rated healthy cat foodsLastly, the brands of pet food that are making breed-specific foods are not rated highly by independent dieticians or veterinarians. You can find better quality pet food easily, though you will have to pay more for it. 

If you are really ready to make a change in your pet's food, I would begin by finding the highest-rated pet foods by independent sources. If the food is fundamentally high-quality, offering your pet the appropriate nutritional balance of proteins to complex carbs, then you might want to look further into the company's line of age-specific and/or size specific specialties.  For example, a high quality food like Wellness offers puppy food and senior food, large breed food and small breed food, and a diet food that contains less fat than its other lines.  Personally, I prefer grain-free food, again mirroring as close as possible what my pets would eat in the wild.

I have prepared a few columns you can review to get started. (I will be updating the columns soon, but the brands named are still excellent choices.)

The Top 5 Cat Foods: Cat Food ReviewsThe Top 5 Dog Food ReviewsThe Top 5 Dog Food Reviews

The Top 5 Dog Foods: Dog Food Reviews

Definitely check out to find highest rated dogs foods based on considerations Dr. Becker and independent pet dieticians recommend. You can see how your current pet food rates compared to others. (You might check out Purina's 'Healthy Morsels' brand, which rates one star out of five.) 

While we're on the subject of bad food for your dogs and cats, you might as well read my 8 Worst Foods You Can Feed Your Dog and the 7 Worst Foods You Can Feed Your Cat.

One of my favorite pet food advocacy sites is run by Susan Thixton. She has a wealth of information on the site and an important newsletter for pet advocates. This column is particularly related to breed specific pet foods; you will get an idea of how much hype is in the marketing of the breed specific foods when you see what Royal Canin prepares for the Bulldog - that is, the Bulldog who lives in Great Britain, vs. the Bulldog who lives in Canada, vs. the Bulldog who lives in the U.S.  The British pet store owner who sent the formular to Thixton wondered if the Bulldogs were all part of the same breed!

Bulldog breed specific ingredients by country: image: breed specific ingredients by country: image:


Check out the Royal Canin ingredients for the Maine Coon Cat who lives in the U.S., versus one who lives in the U.K.


Royal Canin ingredients for Maine Coon Cat in U.S vs. U.K.: image: Canin ingredients for Maine Coon Cat in U.S vs. U.K.: image:


What About The Breed Specific Pet Food?

To put it bluntly, breed specific pet food is a gimmick, just hype to make consumers feel that they are buying the best food just for our unique and very special pets.  You can buy the best food for your very special pet if you stick with what nature intended and the pet brands that offer that - human grade food, organic, if you can, and the appropriate ratio of protein to complex carbs.  No fillers. 

Take time to learn what your pet really needs and don't fall for the hype.


That's the buzz for today!


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