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Bad for You OK for Your Pets?

Posted Nov 02 2009 12:00am

 Anyone that has a pet, 9 times out of 10 will admit they love their pet more than they do most humans, and in some cases, all humans.

Some people feed their pets BETTER than they feed themselves. Others feed them MORE than they should probably eat (treat after treat and a with extra table scraps in the food bowl), because they know it makes them happy. I think most people can relate ;-)

Most people don't take a second thought to what the actual "quality" of their pets food is. I have had pets my whole life, and I never gave a second thought to what my mom bought for our dog and cats. In general,  most people don't pay much attention to their own diet and nutritional needs, so how can we expect them to go over the pet food ingredient list with a magnifying glass and Wikipedia?

 Since that terrible pet food recall in 2007, which devastated thousands of pet owners of whom learned their dogs or cats became so ill because of the poison in their "trusted brand" of pet food. The culprit of the contaminated food was wheat gluten poisoned with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers.
Since then, cooking for our pets has become more popular... and I think  a lot of consumers have become  more aware of pet food safety in general.


I am not a Vet, a pet nutritionist, or a pet food expert...just an animal owner and lover! I am however,  an educated professional of health and fitness in humans, which makes me want to take a moment to have us all think about what's going into our pets bodies. If you are someone that actually takes pride in your own body, paying attention to the quality of food you are eating, exercising regularly, staying healthy....do you think we should have that same standard for our pets?

Animals get the same diseases and health issues that humans do-- heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, allergies, chronic digestive problems, kidney disease, dental problems... all nutrition-related diseases, which have become are epidemic in humans as well as our pets. Health problems that will break any pet owners heart, and cost you more in the long run when you get Veterinary bills for hundreds of dollars or even thousands! So, if the cheap pet food and improper nutrition may cause some of these health problems, is it really worth the money you are saving? Or are you costing yourself more (and not just money) by the lack of awareness.



Are Some Brand-Named Pet Foods a Far Cry from What is Needed?

Humans need a certain percentage of proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins and minerals to maintain life.  The quality of those macro and micro-nutrients are essential for maintaining our health, warding off disease, and staying fit. Something that I always preach is "Clean" eating, eliminating as many processed foods as possibly. Sticking with whole foods, short ingredient lists, less garbage. So, if we're not supposed to eat out of boxes and cartons of processed, pre-packaged foods on a daily basis, do you think it's healthy for our beloved pets to do so?




Whats in Our Pets Food?

Look at the ingredient list. The list is descending by weight, just like in our food labels. Would you feed your children a bag of vegetables that read the first 3 ingredients as "imitation broccoli-by product, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial coloring??" That does not sound like a vegetables to me.  Most people have enough sense to not give their kids soda and fast food for breakfast lunch and dinner. Even if some  french fries may slip in every now and then, overall we know the importance of nutrient-rich foods. (FYI--Record number of children ARE developing nutrition-related health problems like Type II Diabetes & Obesity, so poor nutrition in kids is not unheard of- another day, another topic)

So, when you look at the bag of dog food, or cat food, does it read "Chicken-by Product" (which are the cleaned unused head, intestines, and internal organs of poultry) as the first ingredient? Followed by Corn Meal, or Corn Gluten Meal, or Ground Corn, Brewers Rice, or Animal Fats among the first 6 ingredients? While all the vitamins and minerals are trailing at the end of the ingredient list? Did you know the #1 dog and cat food allergen is wheat? Yet, it is added to almost every bag of pet food...at the top of the list.

Companies that make cheap pet food uses fillers, and by-products in the bulk of their products ....how nutritious, and healthy are these to feed to your pet? Cats are carnivores, and dogs are omnivores by nature, so the bulk of their diet should be meat...which means they especially, can not handle a lot of Gluten (which has the same affect in cats and dogs as it does in humans w/ Celiac Disease!).

Interesting Must-Read Article on Gluten Intolerance in Dogs & Cats

Professionals

The other question I have is, how reliable of a source is your Vet for nutritional advice? I have no doubt that my Vet would be the best person to give my kitty the care he needs, knowing the signs, and red flags for certain illnesses, if he were to get sick. And, overall, he probably knows generally the standards for pet nutrition, but how much training do they get in actual pet nutrition? I am sure there is continuing education available (provided by Purina?)  for Vets on Nutrition. But from what I hear, a lot of big pet food manufacturers provide a lot of "perks" like vacations and educational seminars for Vets, just like doctors get from the Pharmaceutical Companies...which makes you wonder why a Vet would push a certain "brand" of food. Just makes you want to be a little more aware. There are a lot of Vets that are fully educated on nutrition, and fully support getting the safest, healthiest diet for your pet, and not supporting the certain  "brand" of pet food.


Treats

We love to throw our pets scraps under the table. Something as a kid may of got you in trouble with mom because she was training  Sparky NOT to beg her dinner guests or steal casserole off the table. My husband LOVES to give Oscar some turkey lunch meat. Something I don't even want my hubby to eat too regularly (even though he buys the Gourmet Light by Dietz & Watson nitrate-free and lower in sodium) But, aside from the general knowledge that chocolate is considered poison for dogs and very bad for cats--there is a long list of human foods that have very damaging effects on certain animals. For instance, if I poured some beef broth over my cats food, or let him lick a piece of chicken that had some tomato sauce on it I would be poisoning him pretty much because Onions are used in broth and tomato sauce. There's a substance in onions which destroy red blood cells in Cats, causing anemia. Garlic and other Alliums  have harmful effects as well. So educate yourself on these poisonous foods and plants before your pet gets exposed to them or consumes them (for example Easter Lillies are considered poisonous)



Pet Nutrition- Not That Simple

 If you have the time, money, and resources to cook for your pet daily, it's great, but not so simple. Cats in particular need a specific diet of mostly protein, with a balance of certain vitamins and nutrients. Something I do not feel qualified, or educated enough to provide for my little guy.

From what I read there's no "best" brand of pet food, but there are certainly brands who's labels descend way better in nutrition and quality. Tail Waggers seems to be pretty good with providing detailed information on the better quality brands of pet food, and ingredients. Knowing what you are looking at when reading the label is a good start. Here are the guidelines I follow from what I have learned
  • Healthy cat & dog food should not contain soy, wheat or corn. These are common ingredients in pet foods and are the source of many allergies
  • First Ingredient is KEY--make sure its MEAT not By-Products! "Chicken" "Beef" "Lamb", or "Fish" and not  "Meat by-Product"or Soy, Wheat, or Corn.
  • Know the toxic preservatives & additives--ingredients that are known to cause health problems like ethoxyquin, a controversial additive found in dog foods that may affect their liver! Other harmful additives include BHA, BHT or Propyl Gallate. The safest preservative found in the natural pet food are mixed  Tocopherols (Vitamin E)
  •  Know the nutrition requirements of your cat or dog, as well as all the poisonous  foods and plants to keep your pet safe!
  • Stay away from pet foods with food coloring--if your cat tends to throw up sometimes, and you find little red stains on the carpet, it means there is red food dye, which animals and humans both are very sensitive to.

One thing I started to do was buy portioned off organic chicken breast or thighs and freezing them, boiling in water with a little olive oil, parsley and rosemary, and shredding it for a treat along with the kibble for 2x a day, cutting the dinner portion slightly when I give him chicken. I am still learning, and trying to figure out the safest, healthiest approach. Hopefully sharing my thoughts raised some questions for your own pets, or could help me with mine if you have some experience in the field!

Nutrient-Rich Kibble and boiled grass-fed chicken until we can afford our very own full-time pet-food chef ;-)



Understanding Pet Food Labels



They deserve It!!!

Your dog or cat doesn't care if you have a "perfect" body, how much money you have, or what kind of car you drive.  They will not judge you're not married by the time you're 35, nor do they care what your job title is. Give them your heart (along with a warm place to sleep and regular meals) and they will show you more love than any one human is capable of giving. Which is why they deserve to be treated with lots of love, attention and care! Know what you are feeding them, is it good enough for your pet???









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