Pet Foods. Should you get it from your Vet’s office or the grocery story? Should it come in a bag or a can? How often should your pet have one or the other? What about ‘people food’? Of course, there is also price and availability to consider.
Those bags in your vet’s office marked with “premium” can be expensive and, to a degree, misleading. A look at the ingredients shows formulas made with primarily grains, by-products such as corn gluten meal, brewer’s rice, and wheat rather than meat sources. These and many of the grocery store available foods also use meat byproducts rather than “clean meat” The cheap low-quality by-products can include the parts that are unfit for human consumption like feet, beaks, undeveloped eggs, and intestines. Not that animals are against eating these by-products, but they are less digestible than the “clean” meat that humans would eat or the meal that can be made from that kind of meat. That can affect your pet if they have digestive issues because of age or other ailments. The foods at the veterinarian’s office also may contain specialty ingredients that can help treat health conditions, such as urinary tract health, and joint support but these conditions may also be alleviated with other foods and supplements.
It should be noted that no scientific studies have produced evidence that have demonstrated that feeding grain free, organic or raw diets to basically healthy pets, when compared to the meat diets leads to better health for a pet with no health issues. Also “Grain Free” might have other ingredients like legumes, or potatoes that have been linked in some studies to heart diseases in dogs. To test this one can look at a random sampling of healthy pets and guess what they are fed before asking the owner. Sometimes the answers can be surprising.
The conflicting information from a variety of sources regarding protein sources in pet foods can be overwhelming to most consumers. Many sources would lead pet owners to believe that whole meat is better than the meat-meal that can be made from it, solely based on the name but most studies find that if the quality of the meat that the meat-meal was made from was good, than the met-meal will also be a good source of nutrition. Meal from meats is a more concentrated source of protein as it doesn’t have the water that non-concentrated product do. This makes dry foods able to have a higher concentration of protein – even if they do not promote the hydration that canned foods might help with. It makes the greater nutritional concentration easier to store and manufacture. Though it may not have the smell and taste your pet would prefer, it is often a more economical source of high-quality protein.
Although many sources are quick to point out that, in the wild, most pets would be eating raw meat, and that the addition of corn to pet foods has been implicated as the culprit in pets with food allergies. Corn, however, can provide a nutritious, affordable source of carbohydrates, amino and fatty acids and a variety of other nutrients. Many vets are more likely to point to other common ingredients, like wheat, dairy, soy, and beef, as associated with food allergies. We also have to keep in mind that the issue with food allergies is an individual problem with the immune system and does not necessarily apply to pets with healthy immune systems. A process of elimination can show what should be avoided and what your individual pet can handle if they seem to be having any issues with digestion.
Like Human foods there are many myths surrounding pet foods. Here are a few:
– Do dry foods clean your pets teeth? No, not really. Cat and dog teeth are pointed and made for ripping and tearing raw meat, so when a pet eats kibble they shatter it, or swallow it whole. Kibble pieces don’t scrape down onto the lower part of the teeth and if these pieces gets stuck between teeth or down by the gum line, they can cause bacteria growth as the carbohydrates break down into sugar. Dental health is very important as tooth problems can lead to other health problem – so no matter what you feed your pet, keep up on their dental health.
– Do pets need special formulas for different stages of life? No, not really. They need more nutritious food as babies and if they are fed low nutrition food they may develop problems in accordance to the nutrients they are missing (or may chew on things to try and supplement what they can feel they aren’t getting) so some store brand pet foods make sure their puppy and kitten foods are more nutritious, but if the adult pet food you choose is nutritious with high quality ingredients to start out with – then a kitten or puppy will simply need more until they are done growing. Older pets need that nutrition too except less of it. So, once again, if you are already feeding your pet a nutritious food – there should be no reason to change – just cut down a little. Obesity in older pets can cause other serious medical problems, so it is important to keep this in mind.
– Are “people foods” bad for your pet? Maybe, depends on the food. Certain things that humans love can be bad or even deadly to pets. Things like meats, steamed and finely chopped veggies & fruits, baked sweet potato, rice, or oatmeal would be okay but remember to give less regular pet food if you’re going to feed them more of your own.
– Is raw food dangerous because of Salmonella and E. Coli? Well, no. The human digestive tract is approximately 25 to 28 feet long, with a stomach acidity between 1.5 and 2.5, whereas dogs and cats have a much shorter digestive system at an average of 10 to 13 feet for dogs (shorter for cats) with an acidity of less than 1. This means that food moves through your pet at a much faster rate than it does through you. It is the same reason that some birds can eat poison berries that would kill a human. Certain substances won’t have time to react inside the animal. That doesn’t mean they are home-free. The same food handling procedures should apply as with human foods. Keep meats frozen if feeding your pet raw foods or cook it and throw out anything you wouldn’t eat yourself.
– Can you feed your dog or cat each other’s food? While there are a few commercial foods that incorporate enough nutrition to meet the needs of both cats and dogs, most foods are designed for one or the other. Cats need a higher percentage of protein and fats than dogs do and have an additional need for taurine. Dogs that eat too much cat food will, most likely gain weight and are at risk for Pancreatitis, while cats that eat too much dog food will also gain weight as it’s higher in carbohydrates. It could also lead to deficiencies in important amino acids. Cat food was blamed in the 70s and 80s for higher instances of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease due to ash content, but it was found that it wasn’t ash that was causing the problem – it was due to a higher PH level that led to an increase in struvite crystals. Foods with a higher protein levels with more meats have a lower PH level and is better for cats – most commercial food producers changed their ingredients to reflect this.
The dearth of theories about what is healthiest for pets can be found all over the internet. Natural foods get a lot of supporters advising this is what pets would eat if they were out in the wild but raw meats are not economical and hard to keep fresh. Kibble is the easiest and cheapest way to go, but doesn’t always contain all the nutrients pets need and lacks the hydration some pets just don’t get. Canned foods can provide the hydration and nutrition but isn’t the most economical way to go. Each pet has their own needs and each pet owner has their own limitations to decide what is best for them and their pet. Hopefully this will provide some guidance.