Nutrition is one of the BIGGEST factors that contributes to a pet’s overall health and well-being. Nutrition (or lack there of) is directly related to many medical conditions and diseases.
Minimum requirements in a commercial dog food are just that…minimum requirements to survive – not optimum levels and quality of ingredients in order to thrive.
Your pet is not responsible for his health and nutrition – you are!! With a poor diet, (one that does not meet nutritional needs) we may live, but we will not live as long or as well.
Pet food comes in all shapes and sizes – from very low quality – very cheap foods (such as Sprout) to average commercial pet food (such as Iams & Purina) to high-end, or natural pet foods.
Not all pet food is created equal and you generally get what you pay for – if the food is inexpensive it is generally because low cost-low quality ingredients were used to manufacture it.
We recommend all pets be fed natural, high quality pet food (or a raw or homemade diet). The higher cost of high quality pet food is easily outweighed by healthier pets with less medical problems.
“Natural” pet food is defined as pet food that does not use artificial colors, additives or preservatives.
Yet, “Natural” pet food should also include a diet that pets would have naturally eaten…foods that have higher quality protein (and human grade) ingredients.
Unfortunately many manufacturers use the word “natural” as an advertising tool when their product contains low quality ingredients such as ‘by-product meal’, and grain fillers such as corn gluten. (Iams Healthy Naturals Dog Food is a prime example.)
Natural pet food is not really more expensive than “premium” commercial pet foods but they have the highest quality of ingredients and do not have added chemicals. Natural pet foods are not generally found in pet stores or supermarkets because they do not have a long shelf life and are not produced in mass quantities.
Cats and dogs did not evolve to eat processed cereal grains (such as corn and wheat). They are carnivores (meat eaters) with a relatively short digestive system which lack the enzymes needed to efficiently digest carbohydrates.
Grains in pet food allow manufacturers to reduce costs because grains cost less and are readily available and have a long shelf life. The problem is that the high carbohydrate content of these foods contributes to obesity, diabetes, kidney stones/crystals, behavior problems, allergies, skin problems and a host of other problems in our pets. Also, corn and wheat are the most common food allergies in pets.
Grain free foods not only promote proper weight but they help their overall health.
There are many myths and controversies about pet nutrition. The subject is very complex and many articles and books have been written about the subject. Below is strictly a summary of some of the basic points.
First of all, There is not one perfect dog/cat food for every pet! Every animal is an individual and has specific needs and requirements. There are differences in breed and lifestyle and medical conditions.
No one food OR brand or type of food is BEST for everyone.
The commercial pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar market created by our need for convenience (i.e. scoop it out of a bag or can) and the ability to recycle all of the leftovers that are not ‘fit for human consumption’. There are two big concerns with commercial pet food. The first issue is the lack of quality ingredients. The other problem involves the use of potentially harmful chemicals in the food.
Many commercial pet food are deficient in key nutrients. Labeling laws only require that the manufacturer show the protein, carbohydrate and fat content, not a breakdown of the QUALITY of the ingredients used. Advertising claims of “complete and balanced” nutrition are based on minimum requirements by the government not optimum ingredients for health. You can make a food that passes NRC (National Research Council) standards with a gallon of oil, a bucket of coal and a pair of used work boots…not very digestible or usable sources to qualify as nutritious.
Commercial pet food companies use mostly grains instead of meats because grains are cheaper ingredients. Dogs and cats are carnivores (meat-eaters). The grain ingredients in commercial pet food are often the leftovers/by-products after processing the grains for humans. They have nice names like ‘corn gluten meal’ (the dried residue after removal of the bran, germ and starch). Although they make good fillers, they do not qualify as high-quality or complete nutrients. The quality of ‘meat’ ingredients are often inferior also. They are the by-products. For example, ‘meat-by-product’ equals the parts of the carcass except for the meat/muscle, i.e. organs such as brain, kidney, intestinal contents, hooves, blood, fatty tissue, bone, etc. Read the ingredient list on your pet food label.
The meat ingredients in commercial pet food are generally purchased from rendering plants. The meat sources are known as the “4-D’s”: “Diseased, Disabled, Dead and Dying” (the 5th ‘D” is “Drugged’ – hormones, pesticides, antibiotic residues, etc.). This includes road kill, euthanized animals, ‘recycled’ animals that were condemned because they were full of cancer or disease.
They will argue that these chemicals and diseases are inactivated during processing and therefore do not pose a risk when used in pet food. If these ingredients are so safe, then why are they still considered unfit for human consumption? And remember that your pet eats these same inferior and contaminated ingredients day after day, month after month, year after year…”insignificant contaminants’ build up in the body over time to affect health.
The purpose of food additives is to provide or maintain desirable attributes to food, such as color, flavor, texture, stability and resistance to spoilage (and allows food to last on the supermarket shelf for years).
The most common synthetic preservatives used to prevent spoilage in commercial pet food are BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin. BHA and BHT are suspected of causing cancer and may cause liver and kidney dysfunction. Pet food manufacturers must list preservatives that they added during processing, but do not have to list it if it was already part of the ‘original by-product’ added during previous steps of processing. Currently, there is research on lab animals linking artificial flavors to nervousness, allergic reactions and behavioral problems. Artificial colors may be linked to cancer, epilepsy and birth defects.
As veterinarians, our main goal is to promote the health and well-being of animals. We are frustrated with the high incidence of chronic conditions and diseases today. Our pets should be healthier and living longer these days, not shorter life spans than 20 years ago.
If you are currently feeding commercial pet food to your dog or cat, we hope that you reconsider. There are many articles and books available if you would like more detailed information than what we could address here.
Research shows that nutrition (or lack thereof) is directly related to many medical conditions and diseases such as thyroid dysfunction, diabetes mellitus and arthritis. Other problems include allergies, chronic ear and skin infections, recurring urinary infections, chronic diarrhea and gas, dental disease, excessive shedding and dull hair coat, behavioral problems, poor immune systems, epilepsy and cancer.
Mounting evidence indicates that the best food for your dog or cat is a raw food diet. If you are interested in feeding this type of diet, check out our Bravo food line and raw diet section.
In the kibble world there are several small companies who make natural, human-grade dog and cat food that you can still ‘scoop out of a bag or can’ but provide much higher level of nutrition and health.
Beware, many companies like to use the word “natural” on their packaging, but the ingredient list will tell you otherwise. Below are our grain free kibble foods.
B.A.R.F. stands for Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. It is about supplying a natural diet appropriate for carnivores – dogs and cats.
It involves feeding whole raw healthy foods – meat, bones, vegetables and organ meats – that mimic the diet of a carnivore’s natural environment.
Simply stated, feeding a raw diet promotes wellness. Nutrition is one of the most important factors that determines your pet’s health and quality of life. Yes, your pet may survive on poor quality nutrition but they will not thrive. The column to the right lists common benefits of switching to a raw diet.
One of the hardest parts of preparing a BARF type diet on your own is the time that it takes to gather all of the ingredients and prepare the food. It can be a very daunting and time-consuming task. With the use of a prepackaged BARF product, you can still have the benefits of a BARF diet without losing the convenience.
Prepackaged BARF is already in the correct proportions of meat, bone, organ and vegetables so that you do not have to worry about feeding an unbalanced diet.
Concern over swallowing large chunks of bone is eliminated with a prepackaged formula – the bones are ground up into the mix for you. Large chewing knuckle bones can be supplemented to help keep their teeth clean.
We are proud to provide the PRIMAL family of raw diets – they provide a combination of a top quality raw food at a reasonable price. For more information about Primal visit www.primalpetfoods.com
There is no doubt that a holistic food and BARF diets are more expensive than a generic brand of dog/cat food. Let’s take into consideration what the nutrition gives your pet over their lifetime.
There is nothing wrong with an occasional treat. They can be used to reward positive behavior, for training, enjoyment and fun.
Overindulgence of treats can create a pet who is overweight. Sometimes we don’ t realize how all those treats add up every day. Be careful about the size of the treat as well as the ingredients. Some commercial treats are very high in calories and fat.
Leftover, high fat, high calorie table food should be avoided. Not only does it contribute to weight gain, but may cause pancreatitis or upset stomach and diarrhea. If you do feed human food-put it in their dog bowl to discourage begging.
Keep track of what you give in an average day and make sure treats do not make up more than 10% of your pet’s daily diet. Otherwise they are not getting the appropriate ratio of vitamins & minerals.
Guess how many treats your pet gets in one day, then actually count them & see how far off you were…you might be surprised!!