I wrote the following short article about diet and nutrition for dogs and cats, for our Tripawds.com website.
It’s estimated that thousands of cats and dogs died from the recent outbreak of contaminated pet food. How could so many animal lovers let this happen to their beloved pets? The sad truth is, they just didn’t know any better. Until my own dog got sick from a diet of cheap food, I didn’t know either.
Like most people, at one time I put a lot of faith in the big brand pet foods. I believed the claims about how nutritious their food would be for my dog. In the first years of Jerry Dog’s life, I chose his food by buying whatever seemed better than the generic bulk stuff at Winco. Jerry ate it up, and grew into what I thought was a healthy adult dog. But when he got to be about 5, his teeth started yellowing, and his skin turned flaky. Then he started having seizures. After some expensive trips to his vet, I started doing my own research. All I had to do was Google “commercial pet food ingredients.” What I found, horrified me, and it should scare you too.
There is No Real Meat in Kibble
Why be afraid? Because if you’re not careful, you can end up feeding your pet road kill, moldy grains, pesticides, and ev cancerous flesh cut from slaughterhouse leftovers. If the pet food industry told the truth about what’s really in their food, the ingredients would read like something out of a horror movie. For example;
Do you think your pet is getting real meat in that bag of kibble? Think again. It’s nothing like the meat you would put on the table for dinner. The biggest source of animal protein in ordinary store bought pet food comes from what the industry refers to as “4-D Animals”. What are the four Ds? They are: Dead, diseased, dying or disabled animals. The meat from these 4-D animals comes from dead stock removal companies that supply rendering plants. Whatever can’t get sold as human grade animal protein in food operations, gets sold as pet food. What’s even more alarming, is the American Veterienary Medical Association and the FDA have confirmed that some of these 4-D processors have supplied euthanized cats and dogs to the plants. And although that practice isn’t encouraged, it’s not against the law.
There is no such thing as FDA oversight when it comes to pet food processing inspections; the federal government leaves it up to the states, which are doing a lousy job so far.
Commercial pet food manufacturers are allowed to put a slew of preservatives into their food, including known carcinogens like BHA, BHT and even an insecticide that’s been linked to liver cancer. In fact, the average dog can consume as much as 26 pounds of these “preservatives” every year from eating commercial dog foods.
There are other ingredients in pet food that might not be as shocking, but they can be just as bad for your pet’s health. In fact, the primary ingredient in these foods are fillers comprised of nothing more than the leftovers of cereals and grains produced for humans. These wheat byproducts have little or no nutritional value, and are the cause of many pet allergies and skin conditions, like the flaky skin that bothered my dog Jerry.
The Rise of Cheap Commercial Pet Food Correlates to Poor Animal Health
We all know someone who has a dog or cat in poor health, with some kind of hard to treat ailment. But it hasn’t always been this way. Studies proove that until just a few decades ago, animals rarely went to the vet, and they lived longer and healthier lives. So, what’s changed?
Well, mass produced pet food hasn’t always been around. Before the 1950s, pets used to eat table scraps every night. But by the 1960s, food manufacturers saw how cheap it was to repackage waste ingredients and call it “pet food.” They sold the public on the convenience of a dry kibble diet for Rover, and it wasn’t long before the pet food industry took off, and people forgot what animals used to eat in the old days.
It’s taken a few decades, but the rise in pet health problems has a direct correlation to we’ve been feeding them. The saying “You are what you eat” holds true for people, and studies prove that it holds true for our pets too.
When a pet is growing, it’s not easy to see the effects of this poor quality food right away. The symptoms are gradual, and might start with high strung behaviour caused by high salt content found in many pet foods. My own dog started out healthy and seemed to be growing fine by eating Purina dog food. But it finally caught up with him by age 5.
For Better Health, Feed Your Pet a Healthier Diet
Like many people, I waited until he was obviously sick to make a change. After drawing the connection between his food and his health, I completely changed his diet and opted to follow what’s known as a “BARF,” or “Bones and Raw Food” diet. This diet is one of the healthiest diets a pet can eat, and is what I highly recommend for anyone who cares about their pet’s health.
The BARF diet means that instead of “mystery meat” from a can, our dog now eats raw chicken, beef and turkey. Raw you say? Yes, Raw. It makes sense if you consider what animals ate before they became domesticated. In the wild, they hunted, killed, tore apart and devoured every bit of their prey. Sure, our pets are far from the killer hunters they used to be, but their digestive systems have not changed. Now, I don’t have a lot of time to get into this, but my handout has some great websites you can visit to learn more about this and other high quality diets that will change your pet’s health for the better.
Once I switched to the BARF diet, Jerry’s seizures stopped. And, I thought we were safe, until last year, when he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Honestly, I really can’t help but think that the poor quality food we fed him in his puppy years had something do do with it. He’s successfully beating the cancer despite the loss of a leg, and he has outlived the vet’s prognosis. I know that his ultra healthy diet is helping him win the battle.
I really hope that you and your pet never have to go through what we’ve gone through with Jerry. The best way to avoid this, is to start feeding your pet a better quality diet from day one. The best type of food you can feed your pet is food you make yourself. It’s really easy to do, and only takes minutes a day. By feeding your pet a combination of certain raw meats and vegetables, and being aware of a few nutrition guidelines, you’re giving your pet the best diet possible.
But if you’re hesitant about trying out a homemade diet, look for your closest premium/natural pet food resource that can help you make a switch to a premium, store bought pet food diet. These stores only carry premium and “human grade” foods that don’t contain wheat by products or fillers. You won’t see this stuff at Safeway. They even carry frozen raw foods for your pet.
Sure, premium food costs more, but pound for pound, you get more out of it in the end. As the saying goes, you’ll either pay now or pay later; by investing in your pet’s diet now, you’ll avoid costly trips to the vet in the future.
So, if you truly care about your pets health, don’t fall for the heartwarming commercials with talking kittens and puppies. Know what you’re putting in their mouths.