Why do we demand that you feed Iams as your puppy food?
This year we had to make some changes to our puppy manual and contracts -- this was due to some experiences we have had.
It is now in our contract that if you elect to feed your puppy kibble it must be Iams Large Breed Puppy. Is this because we get kicks back? Nope. In fact, even the Iams upc program they have does not benefit us - they don't have coupons in Canada for Iams, they send us Eukanuba ones that we throw out or give away. Is it because it is cheap? Nope, but that doesn't hurt.
So why are we so adamant?
We are adamant as we have experience and knowledge of what happens when our puppies are fed a variety of different, "better", foods. Don't like Iams? Honestly, we don't care. Won't feed Iams? Then you are not having a puppy from us.
Over the years we have seen what happens to Pyrenees fed inappropriate or inadequate diets. Osteosarcoma at 4 years old, patellar luxation at 10 months, hip dysplasia, and obesity to name the ones off the top of my head. Why does this happen? Too high levels of minerals (especially phosphorous and calcium), calories, and protein.
While not directly responsible for skeletal disease in the growing dog, protein provided in excess of metabolic requirements is broken down by the liver and used for energy, resulting in increased plasma levels of insulin-like growth factors, and contributes to an increased rate of growth (1). With an increased rate of growth the overall demands of the body increase to match it, but the growth is done improperly and often incompletely (with errors).
A puppy's body cannot control how much Calcium it absorbs (2). When too much Calcium is offered via the diet, the bone growth answers accordingly. When bones grow too fast they do not develop properly - the cells cannot accommodate the a high rate of growth. Lesions, incomplete bone maturation, abnormal development (3) and potential for cancers can result in both skeleton (particularly long bones) and joints. High levels of Calcium can also result in deficiencies of linked minerals, such as Zinc (3).
"Young, giant-breed dogs fed a diet containing 3.3% calcium (dry matter basis) and 0.9% or 3% phosphorus have significantly increased incidence of developmental bone disease. These dogs seem to be unable to protect themselves against the negative effects of chronic excess levels of calcium. Calcium levels for a growth diet should be between 1% and 1.6% (dry matter basis)" (1).
"The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be approximately 1:1 to 1.5; however, absolute amounts of each nutrient appear to be more important than the ratio" (3). What this translates to is that it is perhaps not so much the ratio itself that matters, but the actual values provided - which, to my research and experience, while a puppy is growing, lower is better (provided still within AAFCO regulations).
Our goal when our puppies are growing is for them to grow SLOW.
We are often asked when to expect our dogs to mature - well, our lines BEGIN to mature at 3 and are fully mature at 5. We also prefer our dogs to be LEAN, which many people have a hard time with as they want to be able to brag about how HEAVY their BIG dog is (and how quickly it got that big!). Our dogs SHOULD NOT be heavier than 120lbs -- if that. 120lbs would be if you have a large male (over 30" at the shoulder). Most of our dogs range between 75-95lbs for the females, and 95-115lbs for the males.
When your puppy is overweight (this means "baby fat"), there is a lot of stress and impact on joints and bones that have a LONG ways to go before they are mature enough to actually handle said weight and stress. With our guys, it is actally better to have a lean puppy (if you use the 5 stage body condition score, a 2.5 is ideal; if you use the AHA 9 stage score, a 4 is best).
So what does all this ACTUALLY mean?
It means... we know what we are talking about, and you need to trust us. It means, I want you to realize that there is no governing body for pet food marketing, they can put whatever they want on their bag (regardless of truth), and that NO the salesperson at the pet food store DOES NOT know best. I have a degree in animal science from the University of Guelph (having taken a number of courses on animal nutrition) - what are their credentials? I have also worked for 10 years in the veterinary industry, with all the continuing education that goes along with that. All this means that as your breeder, I need to be the first person you come to for dietary advice or questions.
Katherine Goliboski, B.Sc. (Agr.)
1. Richardson, Daniel C. D.V.M. "Skeletal Diseases of the Growing Dog: Nutritional Influences and the Role of Diet". https://msu.edu/~silvar/hips.htm. 1995. Accessed June 24, 2017.
2. Becker, Karen. D.V.M. "Why "Overgrowing" Your Large Breed Puppy is Dangerous". http://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2012/04/09/slow-growth-diets-for-giant-breed-puppy.aspx. 2012. Accessed June 24, 2017.
3. Larsen, Jennifer. D.V.M. "Focus On Nutrition — Feeding Large-Breed Puppies". http://www.vetfolio.com/life-stages-management/focus-on-nutrition-feeding-large-breed-puppies. 2010. Accessed June 24, 2017.