Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Pet Expert: Does My Pet Need Breed-Specific Food?

The pet industry is a fast-paced entity, continually evolving and adapting. In one of the most competitive industries in the world, manufacturers and product developers are always looking for a unique, competitive edge. The race to be first to market with new, innovative ideas is a constant struggle in a saturated marketplace where it seems like everything already exists.

Over the last couple of decades, a popular trend among pet food manufacturers has been the development and marketing of size-specific foods for dogs. This includes formulations for small breed, medium breed, and large/giant breed dogs. There may be a few benefits to feeding size-specific pet foods; small dogs may benefit from a smaller kibble size to accommodate their tiny mouths, whereas the larger kibble that comes with a large-breed-specific food may encourage a big hungry pooch to chew more thoroughly for better digestion. The most popular of these size-specific dog foods are large-breed puppy formulas, where proper growth and development are essential for large dogs with genetic predispositions to joint and mobility issues.

However, decades of research has led most industry-leading pet food manufacturers to narrow their focus on ‘all life stages’ diets: complete and balanced diets meeting every dog’s core nutritional needs, no matter their age, size, or breed. All life stage pet foods not only make feeding cats and dogs less complicated, they are among the most nutritionally complete diets on the market.

Some pet food manufacturers have taken this a step further by creating a market for breed-specific pet foods. These diets include special formulations for dogs: chihuahuas, German shepherds, poodles, Labrador retrievers, and a number of other popular dog breeds. The same applies to breed-specific cat foods; there are formulas unique to Persians, Himalayans, Siamese, and more.

With the sheer number of breed-specific diets on the market, it puts pressure on pet food retailers to carry the entire product line, which is a substantial financial commitment, and takes up lots of prime retail shelving space. For quite some time, this was a winning marketing strategy for a few reasons: it further personalized pet food to the consumer, forced out non-breed-specific competition, and helped increase manufacturer profits.

But are there any health benefits to breed-specific pet foods?

The short answer is no. In fact, if you compare the ingredients in similar breed-specific foods, such as comparing a golden retriever-specific formula to a Labrador retriever-specific formula, you may be shocked to learn they are virtually the same food, however they are advertised as completely unique and different products. The most notable distinctions between these formulas are: these products are simply put into different bags, and may have a slightly different kibble shape or size. While certain formulas in the same line may vary slightly in ingredients, the differences are usually negligible. There is no sound science to back manufacturer claims that breed-specific pet foods make for healthier pets. Here’s the catch: pet owners will pay more for a food if they believe it offers exceptional nutrition for their specific pet. This is why breed-specific pet foods are among the most expensive foods on the market. Sometimes you don’t always get what you pay for.

Breed-specific pet foods also create confusion for pet parents, who only want to do what’s best for their beloved pet. With so many pet food brands to choose from, it can be difficult to feel confident that you’re feeding a complete and balanced diet. This explains why breed-specific foods have been so popular; they take the guesswork out of choosing a food. However, this marketing gimmick is just that, a gimmick. In fact, breed-specific foods tend to be sub-par quality when compared to alternative super premium pet food brands, at an elevated price.

This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with breed-specific diets. They do meet basic nutritional requirements set by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), but then again, that quality bar in the pet industry is set very low. After all, the lowest-quality grocery store pet food brands also meet AAFCO standards. While breed-specific pet foods will not cause any harm to pets, they do not offer any unique nutrition benefits compared to the many healthy, non-breed-specific pet foods on the market.

The message here is the importance of pet owners informing themselves as to what actually makes for a high-quality pet food, rather than making purchasing decisions based on flashy, clever packaging and marketing.

If you’re curious to learn more about quality pet food and nutrition, or simply want to learn more about which healthy pet food brands are available in Canada, speak to a qualified pet nutrition expert. At Canadian Pet Connection, we offer free pet health and nutrition advice, and education is the foundation of everything we do. We would love to have a chat with you about your pet’s health.

Brandon Forder – also known as The Pet Expert – is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, a family-owned and -operated business located in Meaford. He has over twenty-five years of experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. Canadian Pet Connection is an industry leader committed to providing their clients with the highest levels of personal, attentive service. Learn more at

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