Let’s be honest. Most times we don’t put much thought into what we feed to our pets. We may see an ad on TV or hear one on the radio and we take for granted what we hear. By now most of us are smart enough to figure out that what they tell us usually isn’t the entire truth. So what do we do? Who can we trust? It’s not like we can ask our furry friends their opinion. I mean when was the last time you saw a dog or cat in the store perusing pet food labels in the local supermarket? That said…to the internet we go because everything on the internet is true right? Hours of research later you are still confused. Let me take care of that for you because hey, I have no life. So… I might as well help out the people that do have a life and are too busy to visit countless websites looking for something to keep your fur buddies healthy.
Truth be told the best and most healthy way to feed is to feed raw. Raw? WTH is that? Feeding raw is the practice of feeding dogs and cats a diet primarily of organ meat, raw meat and edible bones. It’s how out pets ancestors ate. Sometimes called the BARF diet. BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food. Think of it as The Paleo Diet for pets. So why doesn’t everyone feed raw? Well, it’s expensive, time consuming and in all truth, it stinks. Tripe is the absolute best thing you can feed your pets according to the raw crowd. It’s hard to find, expensive and MAN does it reek! See the pattern here? Expensive, time consuming, stinks. Yippee!! Let’s all feed raw. If you have the money, time and the nose I highly recommend at least trying raw feeding.
Next up freeze dried or cold processed food. Similar to feeding raw only more convenient. It available in patty form or loose mix. Freeze drying is a different process than simply dehydrating. Freeze dried food is (obviously) frozen, then a process removes the moisture from the frozen material. Freezing the food before removing the moisture preserves more vitamins and minerals than a dehydrating process. Heat destroys many nutrients, so from a pet nutrition standpoint, reconstituted freeze dried food is as close to fresh as possible. There are several advantages to this type of food:
1. More bio-available nutrients, amino acids, and enzymes than commercial dry foods
2. Light weight – excellent for camping trips
3. Easy to store; takes up less room
4. Long shelf life
5. Highly palatable
6. Not subject to mold and spoilage
As I said earlier A true BARF diet – raw meat and bones – is simply beyond the scope of daily dog or cat feeding for many people. Freeze dried products that contain ground raw muscle meat, organ meats, and ground bones provide a similar nutrition as raw feeding without the mess. Freeze dried foods mimic the healthy diet of your dog’s or cat’s wild ancestors, and it fits neatly into your kitchen cabinet.
Finally Kibble and canned foods. There are many healthy options available in the kibble and canned food arena. However there are many, many more unhealthy to downright deadly choices. Here are a couple of links to earlier blogs in which I cover the subject.
Jean Hofve, DVM, co-author of Paleo Dog says:
“You may not realize it, but pet food is made primarily from leftovers from human food production, such as animal products that are unwanted or are condemned for human consumption. The type and quality of pet food ingredients can vary widely.
While it’s true that, in many cases, you get what you pay for—the cheapest pet food is most likely to contain the lowest-quality ingredients—in some cases you may actually be paying a premium price for mediocre foods from makers who spend a bundle on advertising and promotion.
That said, there are a few ingredients to look for on a pet food label that give a good indication of the food’s overall quality.
Animal fat, also called tallow, is a product of rendering. In the rendering process, pieces, parts, and even whole animals are put through a gigantic grinder, then boiled in vats for 30 minutes to several hours. High heat is necessary to kill bacteria, viruses, molds, and other pathogens. The boiling process also allows the fat to separate and float to the top, where it is skimmed off for use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, industrial lubricants, and, of course, pet food.
When a pet food company is using fat from a single species, it will say so, but when the ingredient is an inexpensive amalgam of whatever came through the door, the general term “animal fat” must be used. It’s not something you want your pet to be eating!
Meat and Bone Meal
Meat and bone meal, or MBM, is another product of rendering. It’s a single ingredient, and the term doesn’t infer a combination of “meat meal” (which is defined separately) plus bone meal. At the renderer, once the fat is removed from the cooking vat, the remaining material is pressed and dried to yield a fluffy brown powder—that’s MBM. It is a high-protein powder commonly used in lower-cost dog and cat foods. MBM is a generic term that can include any one species or a variety.
Both animal fat and MBM may come from any species of animal or from a wide variety of sources, including outdated supermarket meat, livestock that died on the farm, and restaurant waste, such as used grease from deep-fat fryers.
For many years, it’s been rumored that euthanized dogs and cats were being processed into pet food, although the pet food industry has always adamantly denied it. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found no dog or cat DNA in the foods it tested. However, it did conclude that animal fat and meat and bone meal were the ingredients most likely to be associated with the presence of sodium pentobarbital—the drug used by veterinarians and shelters for euthanasia—in the food.
This ingredient is a flavoring agent commonly sprayed on dry kibbles to make them enticing to dogs and cats. It’s made from a stew of animal parts broken down with the use of enzymes or chemicals. Again, the use of the term “animal” means that it may be derived from any one or from many species. This can be a problem if your pet is allergic to a particular animal protein.
Many forms of corn are found in pet foods, including whole grain corn, ground yellow corn (also called corn meal), corn grits, corn bran, corn flour, and corn gluten meal. It’s used primarily as a source of “energy,” which is simply another word for calories. The vast majority (85 percent) of corn in the U.S. is genetically modified (GMO). Moreover, most poultry and livestock in the U.S. are themselves fed GMO corn, so the chicken, beef, and other meat products in pet food are giving our pets double trouble. Corn gluten meal is especially problematic because it is used primarily as a cheap substitute for meat. Cats and dogs are by nature carnivores and do best with a meat-based diet.
Many pet foods still contain synthetic preservatives, such as BHA, BHT, propyl gallate, and ethoxyquin. Such chemical preservatives have been linked to a variety of health conditions, including cancer. Opt for foods that use only natural preservatives, such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols (vitamin E), and rosemary oil.
It definitely pays to be a label reader and to choose foods made from good-quality ingredients. It’s worth noting that dry foods are more likely to contain rendered ingredients and corn products, and cats in particular are better off with high-moisture foods such as canned, frozen, or homemade. By paying attention to what’s in your pet’s food, you’ll be ensuring your pet a long and healthy life.”
As I alluded to earlier Dogs and cats are a captive audience. They have no choice but to eat what we put in front of them. The same food, consumed day after day, week after week, year after year for a lifetime. It’s that cumulative exposure, that additive effect of using any artificial preservative relentlessly — especially when it’s suspected of causing cancer. So, avoid dog foods made with artificial preservatives.
Here is a link to a short video that touches on preservatives in pet food. https://youtu.be/HPsB0lRv8t0
The choice is up to you to give your pet the longest healthiest life you can. As Francis Bacon so profoundly stated “Knowledge is power.” I have given you a basic starting point to gain that powerful knowledge. The rest is up to you. Until next time!