The Pet Nutrition Talk
How to read the ingredients in your pet food, and why you should
Nutrition is the single most important building block for your pet’s good health
- The first thing to remember is that most pet food manufacturers are large corporations that sell many products. Your pet’s health is not their main concern. Their bottom line is.
- Rules and regulations monitoring the pet food industry are astonishingly lax.
- The ingredients in a can or in a bag of food must legally be listed in descending order by weight. The heaviest ingredient first. This is why we like to see meat first.
- The feeding recommendations on any bag, even the premium brands, are generally too much for most pets, even “good” pet food producers want to sell you their product. Talk to your veterinarian about the appropriate amount of food for your pet.
- Meat: should be named, ie: chicken, pork, venison
- By-products: these are the remnants and poor quality leftovers that do not make it into the human food market. Your pet shouldn’t eat them either.
- Rendered meats: these are animal parts that are not used by the human food market due to their indigestible nature, such as hair, hooves, beaks, feathers, tendons.
- Animal Digest is sometimes added to improve digestibility of these rendered meats. This involves synthetic chemicals to partially digest the “meat” because your pet can’t.
- Meat “Meal” (ie chicken meal) is cooked ground meat processed with water, a pretty good source of protein.
- Watch for “filler” ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy.
- Corn is nearly indigestible to dogs and cats. If it wasn’t ground it would be completely identifiable in your yard or litter box.
- Wheat is not tolerated well by cats and dogs, in fact a very high percentage are allergic to it.
- Soy protein is lacking in many of the amino acids essential to canine and feline health but is a cheap way for companies to boost overall protein content.
- Ethoxiquin, and BHA/BHT preservatives. These have been linked to cancer and are generally not used in human food production yet are very common in pet foods. Look for foods preserved with natural vitamin E, called “mixed tocopherols”.
- Propylene glycol: another preservative, essentially a less toxic cousin of antifreeze. Good one to AVOID.
- Corn Gluten Meal: Inexpensive vegetable based protein source created from the dried residue from corn after the removal of the starch and germ and separation of the bran. Not a high quality, complete protein.
Cats are Carnivores
- Real meat should always be the first ingredient listed.
- Carnivores do need vegetable matter, wild and feral cats get their vegetables by eating the partially digested stomach contents of their prey.
- A grain free diet is best.
- Wild and feral cats do not eat the same protein sources every day and neither should your pet cat, rotate foods for optimal nutrition.
Dogs are Omnivores
- Real meat should be the first ingredient listed.
- Dogs should eat very similarly to us. Wild dogs eat prey, grasses, vegetables, berries, and other plant materials.
- Healthy, digestible grain like rice or oatmeal promote digestive health.
- Rotate proteins for optimal health, Wild dogs do not eat the same prey animals every day, neither should your pet dog live on chicken alone.
Pet food companies have sold the public on the myth that our pets need to eat one thing everyday, forever, to maintain good health. We need to keep in mind that most pet foods are owned by global corperations like Nestle-Purina, Mars, and Proctor & Gamble. The goal of these companies is to sell their products, and they have gazillions of dollars to put into marketing and advertising these products. They can make almost any claims they want “veterinarian recommended” “made with real beef”, ”proven to reduce hairballs”…and they flood the grocery store market with multicolored bags of essentially the same product. This mono-diet myth has been easily believed because when an animal has been fed only one food for years, its body forgets how to digest other foods and the animal will likely get diarrhea or even vomit when fed something different. While it would appear that switching the food made the pet “sick”, the truth is that the nutritional monotony has made them unhealthy. The good bacteria needed to digest ther nutrients have died off and need to be given some time to grow back. This problem can be avoided entirely by always offering a variety of foods. Nutritional rotation also greatly reduces the chance of food allergy which is caused by repeat exposure to any one protein source.
Two Popular Dry Cat Foods
- Chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, poultry-by-product meal, wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols (form of vitamin E), whole grain corn, fish meal, soy protein isolate, animal liver flavor.
- Whole grain ground corn, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, wheat middlings, digest of liver and poultry, poultry fat (preserved with BHA and citric acid), brewers yeast, yeast culture, salt.
Two Really Good Dry Cat Food
- Chicken, chicken meal, pearled barley, white rice, chicken broth, sweet potato, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), whole dried egg, potato, pea protein.
- Chicken meal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), tapioca, pumpkin seeds, salmon meal, alfalfa meal, montmorillonite clay, chicken liver flavor, chicken liver, dried kelp
Two Popular Dry Dog Foods
- Chicken(natural source of glucosamine), brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), whole grain wheat, animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols(form of vitamin E), animal digest, calcium phosphate, salt.
- Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols (form of vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, sugar, propylene glycol.
Two Really Good Dry Dog Foods
- Chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid) montmorillonite clay, ground flaxseeds, natural chicken flavor, alfalfa meal, menhaden fish meal.
- Chicken, chicken meal, pearled barley, oatmeal, sweet potato, brown rice, white rice, whole dried egg, menhaden fish meal, millet.
No Corn, Wheat, or Soy! No meat by-products!
- Prescription Diets
- Breed Specific Diets
- Weight Control Formulas
- Indoor Formulas
- Hairball Formulas
- Joint Health Formulas
- Active or Inactive Formulas
Most of these diets are unneccessary and make grandiose claims that are simply not true. The vast majority of pet health concerns can be controlled with a high quality rotated diet. In truth there is not any one food you should feed your pet forever, this is like deciding to feed your children spaghetti and meatballs every day for the rest of their lives. While certainly adequate in covering the nutritional bases, it will hardly be the most interesting or complete diet plan out there and will lack many essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other nutrients needed for optimal health.
- Colgate Palmolive owns the Hills Science Diet product line
- Mars Corporation owns Pedigree, Cesar, The Goodlife Recipe, and Whole Meals dog foods; as well as Whiskas, Sheba, Temptations, and The Goodlife Recipe cat foods
- Nestle-Purina owns the vast majority of ‘grocery store’ brands of pet foods