Most of us feed our pets’ processed pet food, whether it is from a bag or from a can. In fact 95% of pet owners in the United States rely on pet food manufactures to safely and properly provide our pets with their daily nutritional needs. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. It is their business and specialty after all. You may want to look a little more carefully at the label of your pet food or ask a veterinarian for advice. There are standards set by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) through the Center of Veterinary Medicine. However, it seems that even “premium” pet food brands are slipping condemnable food into our pets’ food bowls. One guideline set by the FDA is for all pet food producers to list all of their ingredients in descending order by weight of the ingredient. This may fool you into believing that a high protein value is being offered, when in fact the protein product is simply heavier than the cereal or grain fillers. The FDA also does not seem to have restrictions on “acceptable” ingredients or enforce them. Would you willingly feed your dog or cat hormone-infused or disease-ridden byproducts? Slaughter house rejects, whether it is a dead or dying animal, or parts of the animal that are seen unsafe for human consumption are ending up in the stomachs of our pets. Not to mention the hair, beaks, and fecal matter that is sent through the industrial grinder. Many people feel like it is not a coincidence that many pet food brands are owned by national human food companies. This enables the company to utilize all of their scraps for a profit, leaving no waste behind.
In the last couple of years we have seen many pet foods and treats recalled. To date, approximately 5,600 products have been recalled. These recalls include supermarket brands, good quality higher priced brands, and even veterinarian prescribed products. There have been over 39,000 reported cases of illness or death in animals due to contaminated food. These numbers are staggering and alarming, especially when we are trying to provide our pets with the best nutrition they can have. More recently, in the last couple of months, we have seen voluntary recalls of products containing peanut butter. The peanut butter is thought to be infected with Salmonella. Because peanut butter is a household staple, pet parents are left wondering if their little furry friends could be exposed. The symptoms of Salmonella poisoning are similar to a stomach bug, however a normal stomach related issue should last no longer than 24 hours. Salmonella poisoning can produce vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, refusal of food or water, fever, and a gurgling stomach. Your pet may also become vocal with whining or crying. If you suspect that you dog or cat has been contaminated with Salmonella, take him immediately to your veterinarian. Salmonella must be diagnosed through a laboratory tested stool sample. Most treated animals will recover quickly with antibiotics and IV fluids, but cases left untreated could result in permanent damage or death. Keep in mind that Salmonella is one of the few illnesses that can be transmitted from humans to animals and vice versa. So, it is important to prevent cross contamination.
Many veterinarians are associating the low-nutrient foods with the rise they are seeing in diseases, among dogs and cats alike. For starters, a lot of these foods are high in fat and calories, which promotes excess weight to build onto our pet’s frame. Excess weight can take years off of your pet’s life and can lead to multiple health risks, including Arthritis. The extra weight places an additional load of stress on the weight bearing joints. The chemicals and fats in the food can also cause inflammation of the joints. Vets have noticed not only premature signs of Arthritis in young dogs, but also Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes, Gastrointestinal complications, altered Immune Systems, and premature death.
Many veterinarians and holistic healers believe that homemade meals are best for your animals. That may very well be true. In that case, you can provide them with a well balanced diet. However, many of us barely have time to make a healthy meal for ourselves, let alone our pets. Also, we are unsure of the balance that would be appropriate for them. You can find high quality pet food. You may want to pick a brand that has been approved by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). You also want the first ingredient to be an animal protein, not grain, cereal, or animal by-products. The second ingredient should be a carbohydrate, such as barley or brown rice. You also want to limit the preservatives. There will be preservatives to ensure freshness but try to find foods that use a natural preservative like Vitamin C. Also, check for an expiration date. In general, generic or bulk food is not of the utmost quality, so avoid them unless you are sure of the source. Many pets can not handle wheat products, and most brands offer food and treats that are “wheat-free.” Consult with your veterinarian as well. They often can suggest brands that have been well researched with your pet’s best interests at heart.