If Our Pets Could Talk

By Jackie Kellum

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What food your pet eats is important to their well being. There are a whole variety of brands and kinds of pet food. It is important to be an educated consumer for your pet’s food, as you are about your own food. The FDA regulates U.S.A made pet food and it’s labeling. The most important thing you can do is read the food label. When deciding on a food, you need to keep in mind: your pet’s age, breed, weight, and health status before choosing a brand and/or diet.

Ingredient percentages are usually given, but you also have to consider the sources of them. The list of ingredients is presented in order of weight. For example, if you see ‘real’ meat, poultry or fish as the first ingredient; it means that meat is the most abundant ingredient by weight in the total volume.

Being aware of new information about pet food in the news is also helpful. There has been a push by many pet food companies to sell their newest fad diet - grain free dog food. Human and pet food companies alike are in the business of selling their products, and thrive on fads. There have been several relatively new official nutritional studies surrounding grain free dog food and an association relationship to Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Talk with your Vet, and do some research yourself.

Reading the pet food labeling helps you to know what some of the ingredients they have listed are, and what they really mean. Some examples: By-products: (chicken / beef) is clean non-rendered “parts”, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals, may include lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, fatty tissue, stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. By-product meal: made of waste material left over after the parts for human consumption have been removed. They can contain things like feet, bones, heads, feathers, beaks, etc.! Chicken meal: only chicken muscle tissue, but the chicken source can be questionable. Generic  by-product meals do not identify the source of the ‘meat’ – AKA: Meat meal, Meat and bone meal, Meat by-product meal, or animal by-product meal. This generic title can contain: road kill, dead zoo animals, diseased and dying livestock, slaughter house waste, and euthanized pets from animal shelters.

Preservatives help keep your dog food fresh. Some preservatives such as tocopherols and ascorbic acid come from natural sources. But, avoid BHA and BHT as these preservatives have been banned in human foods in many countries due to increased cancer risks.

In researching and writing this article about pet food, I came across a very informative book on the subject. The book is titled: “Feed Your Pet Right”. It has two authors - Marion Nestle, a human nutrition expert who has a doctorate in molecular biology and a Master’s degree in public nutrition. The other author is Dr. Malden Neshein, an animal nutrition expert, a professor of nutrition emeritus at Cornell University who has a Doctorate in Nutrition and a Master’s in animal nutrition. They became interested in the pet food industry as a whole, the nutritional value of commercial pet food, it’s ingredients and their sources, and pet food company marketing,

Their particular interest involved what dogs and cats eat and should eat to keep them at peak health for as long as they live, and what is and is not known about the best ways to feed our pets. I have no vested interest in mentioning this book, but think it offers a lot of helpful information on the subject of pet food, which is a big business and a big expense for pet owners.

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