With all of the hundreds of dog foods on the market some of you must be wondering, "Why make another dog food?" That is a fair question, at least before examining it in further detail. Most breeders, trainers, kennel operators and even the average pet owner would admit to going from one dog food to another, trying this diet and then that diet, never completely happy with any of them. One food may give good results for a while but then the condition of the dogs fades to mediocrity or worse after only several months. Also, pets fed most "natural" foods produce large stool volume, do not maintain weight, have poor coat quality, yet have a shiny coat and usually display less allergy symptoms. Dogs fed well known commercial super premium foods seem to produce good coat growth, maintain weight, produce little stool volume etc., and yet have a little less shine to their coats. However, they seem to display more dermatologic distress and the foods have less expensive ingredients and are not naturally preserved. Below, we shall try to examine why this may be.
If one were to talk to one hundred people and ask them what is the best way to make a dog food, they would probably get one hundred different answers. My own experience with selling and using dog food showed me that certain combinations seemed to work better than others. For example, when I first started in this business, I started off selling a well known natural dog food that used millet (I liked the idea of using multiple carb sources versus one or two and the use of flax and fish for the omega-3s). However, many complaints were lodged of dogs losing weight on this food. Many quickly realized that by putting their dogs on this company's puppy food, their dogs looked much better.
I also noticed that years ago, more breeders used the original formula of a dog food with a hard to pronounce name (at least until they were bought out by a large multinational company) for their puppies than anything else. There were some rumors of it causing a red tinge to the coat, but a lot of breeders swore by it. It was one of the first companies to market a super premium pet food and included high levels of chicken by-product meal and fish meal in its formula. The breeders then switched back to whatever food they liked because they thought it was too high in protein, but they swore by it for their puppies.
I was then interested in a company and its theories that made carnivore specific pet foods in a granular form. Their food was made with a high amount of animal based protein that receives a lot of praise from a loyal customer base. But, here again, they used corn (not that there is anything wrong with corn but a lot of consumers do not like it) and their prices were about four dollars per pound, out of range for most consumers.
I also raw fed and had my butcher mix beef, heart, thymus, pancreas, tripe, bone dust and liver. I would mix this with oatmeal, kelp, wheat germ, herbs, romaine and red leaf lettuce, blackberries and such. I had good results with this but wanted to create a formula as close to this ideal as possible but without the problems (parasites, salmonella, missing vitamins or minerals, etc).
The common denominator was that foods that contained a lot of animal based protein, or performance or puppy versions of some dog foods, seemed to get better results than maintenance or "lite" versions, or most commercial grain based foods.
Let us investigate this further. Most commercial dog foods, because of cost considerations, are made predominantly from wheat flour, corn meal or white rice. Another reason for this is that refined flours are high in starch. In the extrusion process, the starches are gelatinized so that they may be digested. The greater the gelatinization, the greater the digestibility. All things being equal, the more starch, the greater the overall digestibility of the kibble. As with most things in this world, that depends. This only applies to the grains or flours in a formula. We have made our food a little differently. We use high levels of a high quality low ash chicken meal that is already very digestible, as are the fats and oils. A high level of starch in a formula does bind the kibble together nicely, but contributes little in the way of nutrition.
With that said, what refined flours contribute to a formula nutritionally are mostly just carbohydrates. They are lacking in vitamins and minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids. Whole grains have many times the vitamins and minerals but are still not as concentrated as animal based foods. An herbivore, with its multiple compartment stomach specially designed to extract nutrients from plant matter, eats grasses, grains and seeds. The vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are then concentrated in its flesh and organs.
Chicken meal, fish meal, lamb meal etc., are high in amino acids, essential fatty acids, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese and vitamins. In fact, we add no extra calcium to our formulas as our ingredients supply enough necessary. Fats and oils supply essential fatty acids as well as some vitamins. Refined flours supply only carbohydrates.
We use only a small amount of multiple sources of carbs and we use only whole root vegetables, beans, seeds or grains, which include the skin, germ, bran and other parts where the vitamins/minerals are most concentrated and are run twice through a high speed hammer mill right before going into the extruder for freshness. Storing and shipping flours can cause them to go rancid, unless the fat has been removed.
Some other "natural" foods use "Potatoes" or "Grain Free" spend a lot to advertise that fact. The problem is that their formulas are comprised of a high percentage of flours just as most commercial foods have a high percentage of flours. However, the WHOLE grain, tuber, or legume contain a high level of fiber and other components that are hard to digest, thereby causing large stool volume, making it hard for dogs to maintain weight, making the dog's coat growth mediocre and other problems. We feel that by using SMALL amounts of freshly ground whole grains, tubers, or legumes, we are providing salubrious benefits to your pet, yet because they comprise a smaller percentage of the total formula, you avoid the above mentioned problems as well.
Not only must there be enough vitamins and minerals, but the amount of balanced nutrients must be correct. For example, the higher the level of omega-6 essential fatty acids, the higher the level of vitamin E. The higher the fat, the higher the protein. Copper and manganese, copper and zinc, zinc and magnesium, zinc and vitamin E, as well as other nutrients, must all be present in the correct ratios.
The other part of the equation is the packaging, the use of quality expensive ingredients and/or probiotics and digestive enzymes, and the use herbs, seeds and unrefined oils.
There are a number of unique foods on the market which use high levels of animal based protein or use foil barrier packaging, or have innovative ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, probiotics or seeds, but which also seem to be lacking in some manner. No one has brought everything together. Why not combine all of the best properties and eliminate the weaknesses? Why not make a formula that is carnivore specific with high levels of animal based amino acids, but also include multiple grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds and herbs? Why not have probiotics and barrier bags but eliminate corn, soy and refined flours? Why not make a food with expensive high quality ingredients but that goes against the grain (no pun intended) of the industry in the way it is made? Finally, why not make a formula with all of these traits included, but make it concentrated and nutrient dense so that you feed less? We feel that with the Timberwolf Organics formulas, that has been accomplished.
Think of Timberwolf Organics foods as carnivore specific, ultra concentrated performance formulas, but with herbs, seaweeds, seeds and gourmet unrefined oils, and packaged in barrier bags.