"Although we have come to accept commercial foods as being normal or natural ways to feed animals (and indeed ourselves), in fact they are not. They are simply what we've gotten used to in the last few decades. But nothing we can produce commercially ever can rival those mysteriously complex foods manufactured for eons by nature itself." —Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M.
The aftermath of the recent pet food recall has caused many pet owners to question what we feed our pets. The Menu Foods recall affected over 40 companies and included brands like Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba. Consequently many owners have abandoned the convenient “food in a can” and are choosing homemade, natural, and organic pet foods instead.
We know eating fresh, natural foods, and avoiding processed foods, is healthier for us. Why would it be any different for our pets? The relationship between the pet food industry and veterinarians is similar to that of pharmaceutical companies and medical doctors. Pet food manufacturers finance veterinarian training programs and subsidize the schools. Many veterinarians, as well as doctors, are not trained in nutrition. Vets learn only what pet food makers teach them. As a result, pet owners are discouraged from feeding their animals natural, home-prepared foods. This is great for the $11 billion per year U.S. pet food industry, but not so great for animals which don’t have a choice in the matter.
The maximum life span for cats and dogs is estimated at 25 to 30 years. However, the average pet lives approximately 13 to 14 years due, in part, to low quality foods. Today even the best intentioned pet owners can unknowingly find themselves feeding their dogs and cats toxic residues from factory-farmed, antibiotic-fed, hormone-laced animal parts that are blended with indigestible allergenic grains, toxic preservatives, and addictive flavourings.
Although you may want to believe all pet food manufacturers have your pet’s best interests in mind, this is not always the case. Current pet food regulations allow manufacturers to use ingredients you would never knowingly give to your pet. In fact, you may be shocked to learn what some brands of pet food really contain. For example, by-products (feet, bones, intestines, etc.) with chemical preservatives (BHA and BHT) and grains that are difficult to digest (corn, wheat, gluten and soy) are often used as a protein source instead of meat. In addition, there is no legal definition for the term “all natural.” So, rather than judging the quality of pet food by the packaging, take a look at the label.
Ingredients in pet food products are listed on the product label in descending order by weight. The first five ingredients listed provide significant information about the nutritional value of that food. The primary protein sources should be derived from quality animal protein (not grain or vegetable protein). Foods that list two or more grains in the first five ingredients may contain more vegetable protein than animal protein. Grains such as soy, corn, corn gluten and wheat gluten can be difficult for your animal to digest. Look for an identifiable and specific animal protein such as "chicken meal" rather a generic term; such as, "poultry meal," which can contain any fowl (turkey, chicken, geese, etc.). Other health-promoting ingredients may be added to the pet food as well. Fibre, such as "beet pulp" improves the rate of digestion, helps maintain a healthy digestive tract and promotes normal stools. Other supplemental ingredients may include essential fatty acids, probiotics, digestive aids, "green" powders (barley green, wheat grass), and antioxidants.
For a list of recalled pet foods and other useful information, visit the FDA's website or call 1-866-895-2708.
Many books, videos, and magazines are devoted to holistic pet care and the preparation of healthy homemade diets. Here is a list of resources to get you started:
Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats by Kymythy Schultze
Dr. Pitcairn's New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn
Raw Dog Food: Make It Easy for You and Your Dog by Carina Beth Macdonal
Veterinarians Guide to Natural Remedies for Dogs: Safe and Effective Alternative Treatments and Healing Techniques from the Nations Top Holistic Veterinarians by Martin Zucker
Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food by Ann N. Martin
Holistic Animal Handbook: A Guidebook to Nutrition, Health and Communication by Kate Solisti-Mattelon and Patrice Mattelon
The Nature of Animal Healing: The Definitive Holistic Medicine Guide to Caring for Your Dog and Cat by Martin Goldstein
Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats : Your A-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements by Shawn Messonnier
Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs: Small Doses for Small Animals by Don Hamilton
Four Paws Five Directions: A Guide to Chinese Medicine for Cats and Dogs by Cheryl Schwartz
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