Pet Food: The Good, the Bad, and the Healthy
Pet Food: The Good, the Bad, and the Healthy
Pet Food: The Good, the Bad, and the Healthy
Most dogs and cats in the U.S. eat food and treats manufactured specifically for their particular species. Holistic veterinarians focus on the quality of nutrients entering pets' bodies and strive to get them on whole-food-based diets with the same grade of nutrients consumed by humans. By providing their pets with commercially available dry and moist foods and treats – and under a barrage of buzzwords highlighting their supposedly nutritious nature -- pet parents are lulled into a false sense that their pet's best health is being served. That is not always the case. In fact, pet parents can inadvertently poison their furry family members.
Let's consider why pet food may be a good or bad choice for your pet, starting with 'the good.'
Automatic feeders can make feeding your pets even more convenient. Even with a busy schedule, you won't have to worry if your pet has had their breakfast or dinner.
When feeding most commercial foods, pet owners benefit from the convenience of opening a bag of dry food or a can of wet food, or defrosting and serving frozen pet food. As our society has become more focused on convenience instead of health, processed foods requiring little to no preparation have become popular among pet owners.
Nutritionally Complete and Balanced
Commercially available pet food is required to be nutritionally complete and balanced for all life stages, which gives the pet owner a degree of certainty that their companion animal will consume a combination of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to meet their nutritional needs.
Labeled List of Ingredients and Recommended Feeding Guidelines
Commercial diets and treats are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the product's label is legally required to include "proper listing of all the ingredients in the product in order from most to least, based on weight" along with Guaranteed Analysis (percentages of crude protein, fat, fiber, and moisture).There is also a guideline for the daily quantity of food recommended to be fed based on pet body weight. Now let's move onto 'the bad.'
Feed-Grade Ingredients Cooked at Nutrient-Destroying Temperatures
Unfortunately for our pets, nearly all commercially available dog and cat food is made with ingredients considered to be feed-grade instead of human-grade. Feed-grade ingredients are lower quality than human-grade.
Additionally, feed-grade ingredients have allowances for toxins, such as mold-produced mycotoxins, that are acceptable in significantly reduced quantities in human-grade foods. Meat 'meals' such as 'meat and bone meal' and 'by-products' come from the rendering process and can contain "dead animals from farms, ranches, feedlots, marketing barns, animal shelters, and other facilities; and fats, grease, and other food waste from restaurants and stores." (according to the National Agricultural Law Center).
Another contaminant that can come along with these dead animals is pentobarbital, an anesthetic used to euthanize animals (confirmed through FDA testing of dog foods). Even the less questionable ingredients may not be as nutritious as you think. Dry (kibble) and canned foods are cooked at high temperatures to kill bacteria, but which also deactivates beneficial enzymes and denatures protein's more bioavailable form. Similar to microwaving or "nuking" your food, this reduces the nutrients in your pet's food.
Chemicals & Preservatives
Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin are 3 nasty chemical preservatives. BHA and BHT are chemicals added to oils (fats) as preservatives that can be found in pet foods and treats. According to California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, BHA is on the list of Known Carcinogens and Reproductive Toxicants. BHT is also a carcinogen and causes kidney and liver damage in rats.
Ethoxyquin is another chemical preservative which is illegal to use in human foods in the United States, yet can still legally be added to pet foods. Human safety data reports Ethoxyquin to be harmful if it is swallowed or directly contacts skin. Ethoxyquin often enters through 'fish meal' and may not even appear on a label. It's best that your pet's food and treats have no preservatives, but natural options like Vitamins C and E are safer choices.
Propylene Glycol (PG) is a humectant (moistening agent) found in some soft dog foods and treats. It is chemically derived from ethylene glycol (EG), also known as antifreeze, which is extremely toxic to animals.PG is touted as non-toxic and non-absorbent for your pet, but consuming 'pet-safe' antifreeze' will not improve your pet's health. We also provide many other pet products.
Why some dry dog foods could be hazardous for your pet's health
There's very little oversight into what goes into pet feed, the authors write. A bag of dry dog food needs to contain only 25 percent of the meat listed, so long as the packaging contains a descriptor such as "dinner," "formula," or "platter." If one of these descriptors is used and water is added for processing, as is the case with canned food, the food must only contain 10 percent of the specified protein. And, the authors write, diseased, or disabled animals — is allowable, as are additives like melamine, peanut shells and dehydrated chicken feces.
"We're using our four-legged family members .?.?. as walking recycling machines," Chavez, an adjunct professor of veterinary clinical nutrition at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, told The Post. "Everyone has this illusion that [the pet-food industry is] super tightly regulated and controlled. And that's just not the case."
Veterinary nutrition is a relatively new field. Cornell University, with one of the top vet schools in the country, does not require students to take a course in animal nutrition to graduate. Plus, large pet-food companies actively court veterinarians and their loyalty, donating huge sums to schools and providing discounts to students.
Wet vs. Dry Cat Food: Which is Better?
If you've wondered which is better when it comes to wet vs. dry cat food, they're both excellent choices. Just make sure the food you select is 100 percent complete and balanced for your cat's age and life stage. While some cats (and cat owners) prefer one over the other, the best option may be to feed your cat both.
Wet Cat Food
You're probably familiar with the wet food in cans, but you may also find it in pouches. Both "come in small sizes, making it easy to provide a variety of different flavors, and for some, smaller sizes may make portion control easier," says Purina Veterinary Nutritionist Dr. Dorothy Laflamme.
Wet cat food has at least 65 percent or more moisture content. As a result, "wet food should not be left out for more than 30 to 60 minutes at a time to prevent bacterial growth," according to Laflamme.
Wet cat food offers many benefits, though, including:
Textures and ingredients cats love
Easier for cats to chew
More variety in diet
Helps increase total water intake
Although feeding wet food to your cat seems special or indulgent, it's more than a snack or treat. Wet cat food is 100 percent complete and balanced and can be an essential part of any cat's diet.
Dry Cat Food
Dry kibble is popular among many cat owners because it's convenient. It comes in larger bags and because its moisture content is less than 20 percent, it has a longer shelf life, even after opening. This makes it more cost effective.
There's less risk of bacterial growth with dry food, so you can leave it out all day for your cat to graze on while you're at work. Crunchy kibble also helps reduce plaque and tartar buildup on cats' teeth. Dry cat food may be more difficult for older cats to chew, however.
Is Wet or Dry Food Better for Cats?
Ultimately, your cat will decide whether she prefers dry or wet cat food. Purina nutritionists recommend feeding a combination of wet and dry food, though. This helps ensure she gets plenty of moisture in her diet, plus the dental benefits of dry food, all while adding variety to keep her interested.
Cats are neophiliacs, meaning they appreciate trying new things. They may get bored eating the same food the same way day in and day out. Mixing wet and dry cat food for a meal or feeding them at separate meals is a good way to give your cat the variety she not only wants, but also needs.
Catering to your cat's needs and desires also strengthens your emotional connection. One reviewer wrote: "My kitties love Fancy Feast already and they quickly gobbled up the Creamy Delights! Received extra kitty lovin' after this awesome treat!"
Shop Wet Cat Food
If you've never tried feeding wet cat food, explore the wide variety of options Purina offers. You may need to try several brands until you find a couple your cat likes. Fortunately, Laflamme reminds, "there are hundreds—if not thousands—of good quality cat foods available at grocery stores, pet specialty stores, online and through veterinarians."
It's also a good idea to try a few different serving methods. Some cats prefer their wet food "fluffed" and served on a flat plate or wide, low-edged bowl. Others will eat straight out of the can. Once you find a food and serving method your cat loves, she'll enjoy eating a mix of wet and dry cat food on a regular basis.
Litter Matters Because of Texture
A big issue for cats is the texture of the litter. If a cat litter is too rough or the granules are too big, a cat will reject it because it doesn't feel good under their paws. Remember, they love to dig around in their litter before and after they go, and if the litter is too harsh, they'll reject it in favor of something else… like your favorite blanket.
Litter Matters Because of Smell
If you've ever walked into a bathroom and made a swift exit because of the smell, your cat can relate. A cat will avoid the litter box if it's too full of waste, so make sure that it's cleaned every day, especially if you have multiple cats. Alternatively, cats will reject the box if the litter is perfumed too heavily. It's a delicate balance!
Litter Matters Because of Dust
Dust from clay litter is a big issue for cats and humans alike because both species can suffer from asthma. If you know your cat suffers from asthma, definitely stop using dusty cat litter as it can exacerbate the issue. It can also cause asthma, not just make it worse. Similarly, if you or anyone in your home suffers from asthma, COPD, allergies or other respiratory problems, avoid clay litter and use something else.