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Pet Foods, What Are You Buying?

The following are just a few facts (of many) about pet food labels, ingredients and production thereof. We are not going to discuss specific brands but this is to make you think critically and investigate your pet’s diet, not go by hearsay, the “opinion net” or a new hot food gimmick.

Nutrition is the basis for good health. Genetics we cannot influence in our pet and environment has a minimal impact compared to nutrition. ln the middle ages, humans lived an average of 30 years. Today the average life span is 75-85 years. Why? It is proven that genetics haven’t changed. The answer is better nutrition and medical care. This is also true for our pets. Wild k9’s of various types and small felines only live 6 to 8 years, while our domestic pets live 2 to 3 times this due to better nutrition and medical care. This is also seen in wildlife such as possums living 2 years in the wild and 5 to 7 in our care. Skunks, Racoons and Ferrets often live to 10+ years but in the wild 4 to 6 is average.

Fact-Dogs are not carnivores (most people already know this). They cannot synthesize all of their required nutrients from protein as felines can who are true carnivores. Dogs are omnivores and if you observe them at the kill they always consume some of the intestinal contents of the herbivore (ie forage) to ensure their vitamin/mineral balance. There are other points like longer small intestinal length, 23% compared to 15% for a carnivore as well as flatter molars for grinding and chemical reactions in the carnivore that do not occur in the k9.

Fact-To create a “kibble” there must be at least 55% carbohydrate for it to even hold together. Food companies by law do not have to list all raw ingredients supplied by someone else. They only have to list their final product and this can be deceiving.

Fact-Read your label. It will either say “food has undergone feeding trials,” where at least a 6 month trial was done where urine, fecals, blood, body condition, x-rays etc. were done to access that the formula is supplying proper nutrition (this costs about $1,000,000 to do professionally) or it will say this food is formulated or calculated to meet AFFCIO standards. This food is computer or “paper” formulated but never tested on any living animal. It may be ok or maybe not.

Fact-Is the food fixed formulated? This means that you get the same list of ingredients in the same order in every bag. Most companies do not do this which means by law they can change to cheaper products to improve their bottom line and do not have to change the label for 6 months. They just change to original formula before deadline and avoid label changes. What are you really getting? It may vary.

Fact-As you know, urinary tract issues (infections, stones, inflammatory disease) are common. Many companies do not balance their food to control or prevent these issues. Call the company and ask what the animal’s urine PH should be on their food? If they cannot answer beware the food may or may not agree with your pet no matter how expensive it is. If you’re not sure have a urinalysis run. Prevention is less costly and better than treatment.

Fact-Foods that are labeled “good for all life stages” often have nutrient excesses, as by definition they must meet the most demanding life stage first which is puppy/kitten or nursing mothers. This is not the optimal diet for an adult or senior.

Fact-All kibble food has to have some antioxidant preservative or the fats in the food will go rancid in 1 to 2 weeks. Typically Vitamin E is used so if it says no preservatives it is deceiving. Again if The Vitamin E is supplied by another company as a raw ingredient it does not have to be listed by the final company. Canned food is heat pasteurized and may not have any preservatives but once open its only good for 3 to 4 days.

Be careful reading web sites. Some claim to be “analysts” but are only comparing labels and as you see this is hard to judge. Are they actually running tests on these foods. Probably not, as this is a very expensive process. Only universities or large companies can afford this. If a company isn’t putting much effort into its food and cannot answer your questions or is evasive you may not want to use it. Watch out for companies with agendas that spend most of their time bashing other foods and how bad they are or the toxic ingredients in them etc. Or ones that quote web sites that again cannot provide any scientific references, pathology reports or university reports to back up their bashing. There is no master list of all the foods and how good they are. (My favorite K9 diet is one I don’t even carry.) Your pet is not interested in the fancy name or new gimmick used to attract your attention. Your pet is counting on you for it’s health and longevity so be critical and do your due diligence! Compliments of Dr. Jack Landess Nokomis Veterinary Clinc & Exotic Services, (941) 484-2485.


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