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Dog Food Trials on Palatability of Meat v Veg – what the results mean.


Aussie-Border-Puppy What FLAVOURS does your dog like?

What SPECIFIC type of FOOD does your dog love? Meat or Vegetable? Is there a reason?

Did you know that dog food companies have been working at turning grain into the most tasty food on earth, but mostly failing miserably (without excess oil, salt and sugar)? They have even worked out how to get around a dog’s natural instinct to stop eating when it’s full. A great way of causing obesity.

This artificial food (grain or vegetable based) only succeeds with our dogs, because we keep feeding them this food.  Let me explain how this process works.

I have clients who are vegans and vegetarians.  I have people who feed BARF diets and have shown me how obsessed their dogs are at getting a carrot as a reward. Yes, its lovely and crunchy, has vitamins and tastes sweet (full of carbs) … but NO that is not a natural food for a dog.

That is something that sponsored blogs or vets selling grain-based food will tell you to feed your dog, so you get comfortable with feeding your dogs unnatural grain based food. But now there has been at least a minimal experiment to test the Meat V vegetable preferences of dogs.  And a few accidental tips on how to transition a dog over to eating either raw meat or healthy meat based dog treats

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence around and I hear people in the dog park, telling me how their dogs love their fruit or vegetables in their back yard.  But I can tell you, these people also mainly feed their dogs grain-based foods, NOT Raw meat diets. This means that their dogs are after variety and sugar NOT the protein they so desperately need. Because prey does not regularly present itself in their backyards.

I have plenty of stories about my own dog’s food journey (for later in this article) but first, what about an actual RARE study into seeing what dogs ACTUALLY WANT in food. Sort of.

And that is exactly the focus of this article and based on the research article “Canine Food Preference Assessment of Animal and Vegetable Ingredient-Based Diets Using Single-Pan Tests and Behavioural Observation. “

“The objectives of this study were to:

(1) determine whether dogs display a preference for animal ingredient-based diets when compared with vegetable ingredient-based diets and

(2) examine whether dogs experience neophobia to animal ingredient- or vegetable ingredient-based diets. “ Ref 1

If it is true that dogs naturally LOVE eating vegetables in preference to meat, then this extensive experiment should show that right?  Unfortunately by their own admission, this ‘trial’ was really a sponsored ad by the dog food companies to find out how to sell more cheap vegetable matter.

Given that this study was done with an eye to helping pet food companies create even more ‘irresistible’ (artificial) dog foods they say “The study of canine food selection is crucial for both the pet food industry and dog owners.” Ref 1

The article says that: “Pet owners want quality dog foods that fulfil their pet’s nutritional requirements, as well as being palatable and multiple approaches to assessing this have been reviewed. It is generally accepted by the industry that the top reasons for dog owners to switch food is:

  • their dog disliked the previous food
  • price
  • addressing a certain health outcome (i.e., skin and coat).

“The likelihood of consumption of a food source comes down to palatability or the subjective preference of a food based on odour, texture, appearance, and taste” Ref 1

Dog food companies have run experiments on how to make a lump of unattractive grain preference by dogs for decades. It’s called “perceived palatability” (or perhaps artificial palatability)

The dog food preference experiment method

“The two most common methods to assess food preference in dogs are the two-pan test and one-pan test. The two-pan, or split plate, test consists of presenting two different food sources to the animal and recording the amount consumed of each. The one-pan test often involves free-feeding one food source at a time, recording the amount of food consumed over a specified period, and then comparing that to one or more other feed types.“ Ref 1

Why dogs might not take to new meat:

Another key concept that influences canine feeding behaviour is that of neophobia. This is “the avoidance of an object or other aspects of the environment solely because it has never been experienced and is dissimilar from what has been experienced in the individual’s past.” Ref 1

That said, the authors say that “dogs are considered to be naturally neophilic, which is a preference for novelty, (and that) neophobia has been frequently encountered with respect to novel food sources.”

Why dog food companies try to FORCE owners to use the SAME puppy food for the WHOLE first year is purely about addiction and profit.

They will tell you that is about nutrition, not creating loose stools or any number of smoke screens. The real reason is “In the wild, finding and eating nutritionally balanced foods are crucial, and this includes avoiding the potential hazards of consuming unfamiliar food sources.  HOWEVER, Kuo demonstrated that when puppies eat the same food sources for their first 6 months of life they later rejected any novel food source.”    

THAT IS EXACTLY How you create a fussy eater, that will appear to not like meat or raw meat products!   The evil genius of corporations …


“Cheney and Miller also discovered that it often takes several days for an animal to overcome hesitation toward a novel food. Reluctance to consume a new food source is often encountered in the home environment, where owners may find their dog is hesitant when offered a new food type” Ref 1

They also say that “The use of vegetable-based protein may become more prominent in companion animal food for economic and sustainability reasons, increasing the need for a complete understanding of its food preference.”

Economic and sustainability reasons is code for MORE PROFIT FOR DOG FOOD COMPANIES and SHAREHOLDERS.  NOTHING about being best for your dog.

Tora-big-dog-eating-stick The dog food preference test RESULTS

The author’s feed trials looked at several eating factors these were the overall results:

Rate of Consumption, Hesitation, Distraction, Level of Anticipation Pre-Consumption

The only statistically different result was found for “Level of Interest after Consumption”

They say “Level of interest after consumption was greater when dogs were fed the animal diet when compared with the vegetable diet (0.24 ± 0.09, t = 2.89, p = 0.02). Dogs tended to show higher interest (after consumption) when given the animal diet than the vegetable diet on day 8 (0.28 ± 0.14, t = 2.02, p = 0.06) and had significantly higher interest when given the animal diet than the vegetable diet on day 9 (0.48 ± 0.15, t = 3.19, p = 0.007). Dogs showed greater interest in the animal diet on day 9 compared with the vegetable diet on day 8 (0.35 ± 0.14, t = 2.46, p = 0.027). Dogs also showed higher interest in the animal diet on day 8 compared with the vegetable diet on day 9 (0.41 ± 0.15, t = 2.79, p = 0.015). On day 0, there was no detected difference in level of interest between dogs fed the animal diets and vegetable diets (−0.04 ± 0.14, t = −0.30, p = 0.77). Finally, on day 0, dogs showed more interest in the vegetable diet compared with day 9 (0.31 ± 0.15, t = 2.15, p = 0.049). Time of day also did not alter level of interest after consumption (−0.09 ± 0.08, t = −1.07, p = 0.32).”

NOTE while this experience appears to be just about science.  It was actually to “provide a good starting point to develop alternative food preference assessments. These types of behavioral observations are more applicable to the home environment and more accurately represent what consumers/pet owners might encounter when presenting their dogs with a novel food.” Ref 1

Interestingly a NOVEL FOOD for a dog with an allergy means any protein that the dog is unlikely to have been exposed to before.  They are then feeding this strict diet such as kangaroo and sweet potation on an exclusion diet for 8 weeks to see if the allergies subside. For a genuine raw feeder (meat) NOVEL means a meat food source their dogs have not tried (like buffalo or salmon or crocodile etc)

For a dog food manufacturer, ‘novel food very rarely means any increase in meat amounts (because of profit concerns). It does however often mean them experimenting with NON MEAT diets like vegan or vegetarian, that we are COMPLETELY OPPOSED TO, because of the many dog health concerns we have previously highlighted.

They say that “Indicators of neophobia include longer periods of hesitation, reduced interest in the food pre- and post-consumption, and feeding at a slower rate with distraction when first introduced to a new diet.”  This is exactly the point that dog food companies use to scare people away from raw feeding their dogs.  However, the reality is these kinds of experiments are actually the precursor to the companies finding the best way to best trick dogs into eating more grain of cheap fodder. Making the unpalatable palatable, then an established part of a dog’s artificial diet. While convincing the public that they are doing the best thing they can for their dog.

Dogs are considered as primarily meat-eaters

This was a rare but pleasant admission by the authors:

Since dogs are often considered as primarily meat-eaters, it was expected that they would demonstrate a preference for the diets with animal-based protein, despite more fat being applied to the outside of the vegetable-based kibble” Ref 1 .

“Houpt et al.  found that meat-based diets were preferred over a diet composed of maize and soybean meal, suggesting that dogs prefer meat protein to high protein diets composed of non-meat products. Bhadra and Bhadra  found that adult Indian free-ranging dogs demonstrated a preference for meat when scavenging. It has also been suggested that dogs will likely find diets lacking any animal-based ingredients less palatable .”  Ref 1

A side note here is our analysis of the trending vegan diets. Mars where a major sponsor of an Australian study a few years ago into making VEGAN diets palatable enough that vegan owners would unwittingly force this cheap meat substitute onto dogs.  The original VEGAN trials actually used horse feed with condensed of maize and soybean meal because of their exceptionally high condensed and massively PROCESSED VEGETABLE protein values. But again, they are no where near as bio available (useable by your dog) or remotely palatable until they are coated in oils and salt and sugar.

I wouldn’t fool a friend into eating inappropriate food, and DEFINITELY would not force it a upon my dog who has no choice in the matter. Regardless of what the highly paid celebrity vet repeats.

“There may also be benefits to feeding animal-based protein diets. Based on the results for interest post-consumption, our results suggest that the dogs had a greater preference for the diet containing greater animal-based ingredients, even when there was more fat applied to the outside vs. inside of the vegetable-based kibble. This could be important when developing diets for dogs with more discriminating palates or greater energy requirements. Animal-based protein in the diet also prevents sports anaemia in dogs Furthermore, animal-based proteins may allow for higher digestibility of nutrients from the ingredients present, as ingredients in vegetable-based diets may be of poorer protein quality due to binding with other compounds, such as phytate, found in plants and legumes or a poor amino acid balance.“  REF 1


Why not use the Conclusions of this experiment for the creation of healthier meat based diets?  To find a way of introducing meat (species appropriate food) into your dog’s diet?

The authors concluded that “The results of this study suggest that consumers should allow their dog a period of at least 9 days to test out a new diet, before determining whether or not their dog finds it acceptable.”

While this is how grain dog food makers get owners to switch to new dog food, it also works for REAL meat-based food or dog treats too. That is, we sometimes encounter clients who say that their dogs are really struggling to consume a new all meat-based dog treats.

If their dog eats beef or chicken in their dog food, and the dog is NOT allergic to these meats, then the main reason that they might have loose stools or flatulence when eating the same protein in a 100% meat, is just because it is a naturally concentrated form.  NOT reconstituted, just dehydrated during mid-level oven drying.

A dog’s body has gotten so used to NOT eating real food (meat) that its whole biome (type and concentration of bacteria and digestion enzymes in its stomach and intestine) are skewed to being more herbivore like. 

It has been shown that eating too much vegetable matter (long term) even effects reducing the acid level in the dog’s stomach so not only is it harder to digest meat properly But higher pH levels may increase the risk of disease as high pH levels (weak acid) do not kill bad bacteria that can be present in some foods, as well as LOW pH (naturally high dog stomach acid levels).

This is why some dogs might take a while to adjust to actual meat in their diet (whether via raw feeding, higher percentages in commercial kibble or our natural healthy dog treats).

The devil is concealed in the details:

“These results also suggest that dogs do not have an innate preference for animal or vegetable ingredient-based diets that mimic commercial formulas and that any difference in level of interest may be due to other factors, such as acute satiety, individual ingredients, or processing techniques employed to promote food intake”

This suggests that even this experiment, that had the appearance of honestly reviewing dog’s preferences for animal or vegetable foods, was in fact set up to test foods SIMILAR to commercial foods, and just as cheap (NOT MEAT).

Here is my promised anecdotal evidence on my own dog.

When Archie was a puppy we were inexperienced owners and fell for the commercial dog food lie about not changing brand or type of kibble diet for the first year.  By the second year, we introduced substantial amounts of cooked chicken to his diet, but we didn’t fully understand how to balance a completely raw diet (ie the nutrients of offal and bones).

It was only by about year 4 that we were able to feed him at least an 80% meat/ offal and bones diet. The 20% is a HIGH fibre kibble, to ensure firmer stools.

So even with an almost exclusive kibble start to life, we were able to convert his body and happiness over to a meat-based diet. Yes he had major flatulence and stomach gurgling for a week as we transitioned, but of course it was clearly worth it.

And even after all that impropriate all kibble diet for the first year of his life, and all those vegetables and fruit trees in our garden he DOESENT EAT VEGETABLES AT ALL (except occasional grass).  When we feed him leftover roast meat, that accidentally includes a few peas and carrots.  He eats around ALL VEGETABLES and leaves them permanently in his bowl until we throw them out.

At night, he always eats his kibble last, and only if we don’t top him up with any meat-based treats hours after his main meal.

Yes we know that dogs are scavengers (the survival instinct) and that they can eat grass – to be sick or to gain nutrients. And Archie does on occasion refuse meat treats (even though he is part cocker spaniel). But I am amazed at how well we were able to rehabilitate his diet and daily witness his remarkable energy even at eleven years old.

No, we never purposely fed him raw carrots or greens, but when given the choice in his bowl, he still rejects any NON MEAT food. No matter how hungry he is. For all the stories we read about not being an obligate carnivore, and scavenger, our dog is very meat focussed, and we are happy to oblige!


This here’s a tail for all the fellas (and ladies)
Tryin; to do what those companies tell us
Get shot down cause ya over-zealous
Play hard to get dogs fed rebellious (ie meat)  (channelling: Bust a Move Young MC)


Canine Food Preference Assessment of Animal and Vegetable Ingredient-Based Diets Using Single-Pan Tests and Behavioral Observation
Meghan C. Callon,1,* Cara Cargo-Froom,1,* Trevor J. DeVries,1,* and Anna K. Shoveller1,* 2017

Dog Nutrition
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