People are becoming increasingly aware that certain dietary preservatives and synthetic chemicals pose significant health hazards and can negatively affect overall well-being. We have all heard anecdotes about the elimination of disease and improvement in energy by the adoption of a healthful natural diet. These same principles apply to your pet as well.
Unfortunately, too commonly, our four-legged friends are fed over-processed, by-product-riddled and chemically altered foods that don’t resemble any identifiable meat or vegetable.
While these foods do meet basic requirements for sustaining life, this is not the kind of nutrition that helps pets achieve optimal health. Your pet doesn’t question the quality of what they are eating—so you must.
While people vary what they eat from meal to meal, most pet owners feed their pets the same exact food meal after meal and day after day. While healthy people may make the occasional decision to eat highly processed or poor quality foods, this isn’t a real issue for their overall health due to the variety of ingredients in their diet. Unfortunately, if a pet is being fed a poor quality diet, they will be exposed to those ingredients, chemicals and additives every single day. Increasingly, pets are experiencing higher incidences of hormonal disorders, cancer and other disease conditions. It raises the question whether the quality of nutrients they are exposed to day after day may be contributing? Although not proven…it is concerning.
What can you do?
With more people understanding the importance of our pets’ nutrition, the natural pet food market is growing rapidly and high quality foods are increasingly available. Being natural and free of additives is not enough these days. You must learn to critically evaluate labels to ensure you select the highest quality food for your pet.
Read the ingredient list
Ingredients on a pet food must be listed in descending order (by weight) on the package. Although not always, most often this means the first five to seven ingredients are the major ingredients in the food. These ingredients should be real named meat, whole grains and vegetables to ensure a pet is getting excellent nutrition from the best natural ingredients. Avoid foods that list by-products, unnamed meat meals or partial grains (for example “poultry by-product meal”, “meat meal”, or “corn-gluten meal”, etc.) in the top ingredients, as these are sub-standard sources of protein used instead of real meat (which holds more nutritional value). Although “meat meal” sounds like something you might serve your own family, this ingredient may contain a variety of animal parts (other than meat) from any source, including 4-D animals (dead, diseased, disabled or dying prior to slaughter). These ingredients are always considered unfit for human consumption due to their questionable quality and safety.
Avoid potentially harmful ingredients
Many artificial preservatives are known to be capable of, or suspected of, causing cancer (aka carcinogens) in humans. When used in the production of pet food, artificial preservatives limit the growth of bacteria or inhibit oxidation of food. Examples of preservatives that should be avoided include BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, sodium nitrite and nitrate. Pets are smaller than humans and many of their foods have the same amount of preservatives as ours—studies are inadequate to understand the consequences of chronic intake of these preservatives—but they are best avoided. There are many options for natural preservation of pet food and more responsible pet food companies are using these.
Artificial flavors (e.g. corn syrup, propylene glycol, molasses and MSG) are frequently used in pet food manufacturing to disguise inferior food quality and some of these additives give dampness and flexibility to semi-moist foods and treats. Artificial colorings/dyes are used in many pet products to entice owners into a purchase; however, they have no nutritional value and may be responsible for adverse or allergic reactions. Besides, your pet doesn’t care what food looks like— just how it tastes.
Avoid unnecessary fillers
A filler is an ingredient added to a pet food that provides dietary fiber (bulk) and has no particular nutritional value. These ingredients are often used to “fill up” the bag of pet food cheaply (especially true of many weight loss foods). While pets do require a source of fiber in their diet, it is best that this fiber is provided by whole grains and vegetables. Ingredients such as wheat mill run, rice bran, corn brain, hulls and certain pulps are examples of fillers that should be avoided or at least not be present in the main ingredient list.
The other type of filler is actually more correctly called a plant-based protein booster. Many pet food companies use cheap grains as the base of their pet foods because they are an inexpensive way to meet nutritional requirements for protein and fat. With their biology, cats and dogs should be getting the majority of their protein from real meat and high quality named meat meals, instead of plants, to best address their nutritional requirements. These protein fillers are main ingredients such as corn, corn gluten or corn germ meal, and soybean meal and should be avoided.
Find a top quality pet food for your dog or cat with our list of Pet Foods as determined by our pet food experts.