Steps to Choosing a Good Pet Food
The pet food industry has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar a year industry. In some ways this is good, as consumers have more choices in pet foods. However, it also makes it hard to know what food is the best for your pet. It can quickly get overwhelming when we start to research pet food options.
Let’s start by looking at the most important parameters to evaluate when choosing a pet food:
1. Properly sourced.
a. What does this mean? It means the food that is in the pet food you are buying, needs to come from properly raised meats sources and properly raised veggie sources. We do not want to eat commercially farmed meats or veggies for ourselves and neither should our pets. Look for words like grass-fed beef or bison, free-range chickens, and organic raised vegetables on your pet food labels.
2. Quality food ingredients
a. What does this mean? Over 90% of pet food products out there are Pet Grade food ingredients. This literally means “food NO LONGER fit for human consumption.” Let this sink in for a moment. If it isn’t fit for humans to eat, why do we think it is OK for our pets to eat? And yet, this has been a practice that is completely accepted since the beginning of pet food manufacturing.
3. Words to Avoid on Ingredients Labels
a. By Products, Animal Meal, Meat Meal, BHA BHT, Yellow or Red Dye, Grain
b. Be sure the first word on the ingredient list is a MEAT
c. If your pet is consuming a canned food product, look for the words PBA free and watch for agents like carrageen or guar gum or xanthan gum. Try to avoid these if at all possible.
4. Ratio of Protein:Fats:Carb.
a. If we honor the fact that cats and dogs are carnivorous, we need to make sure we feed them a high protein/fat and low carb diet for their overall health and wellbeing. Sadly, most pet foods on the market are way too high in carb (sugar). This results in poor haircoat, obesity and dental illness, to say the least.
5. Grain and Other Fillers.
a. We do want to mimic a pet’s natural diet. Let’s think about the composition of a rodent. They are mostly made out of water, protein, fat and very low carb. Notice how I didn’t mention grain? While the rodent may have eaten grain itself before your cat/dog ate the rodent, the amount of grain in their tiny GI tract is quite negligible. In addition, inside that rodent’s GI tract are the proper enzymes and bacteria to digest that grain. Our pets simply cannot digest grain without that assistance. Therefore, grain is not a natural or necessary part of a cat or dog’s diet. If you just think about it for a moment, your cat or dog doesn’t go out into a grain field and see this field as a buffet. They actually don’t see it as food at all.
So, why would we feel that we need to add it into diet? Well, pet’s food manufacturers are always looking to find a way to get a cheaper product to you, the consumer. So, by adding grain (a classic filler), it extends the product and makes it cheaper. It has NOTHING to do with nutrition.
-What is a grain? Corn, Soy, Wheat, Millet, Oats, Rye, Barley and Rice
-What’s this I hear about Grain Free foods causing heart disease, because they are taurine deficient? As usual, the full truth of this statement has been shortened and ends up being misleading. There is a taurine deficiency concern in pet foods. This has been going on since the 1980’s. Taurine is a critical amino acid that pets need in their food for heart health. It comes from MEAT, not grain. Sadly, grain free has become popular now, and there are companies out there jumping on the band wagon and making an imbalanced food product. Fillers that are added to these cheap grain free foods are tying up the taurine and causing illness. So, to clarify, we DO want a grain free food. But, we DON’T want a cheap grain free food. Pet food is just not a place to look for a discount. Real food costs money, and there is no way around that. Cutting corners in nutrition will always result in poor health, and cost money (and pain) in the long run.
a. We hear this all the time for human health. Stop eating processed foods.
b. What is a processed pet food?
Any food that is altered from its original state. If you cannot look at the food item, and be able to identify what it is, it’s been processed.
c. What does this really mean?
-Processed means to alter a food from its original state. This may be milling it, cooking it, or canning it, or dehydrating it or even freezing it. Now, some processing is harder on the food than others. For example, cooking is much harsher than freezing it.
-Dry Kibble is the most HIGHLY processed way to feed your dog. For many reasons, dry kibble should never be fed to a cat. It is convenient to pet owners, but really has no health benefits for our dogs.
-Canned food is a step better than dry, in that you can still recognize some of the ingredients.
-Dehydrated or Freeze Dried it another step better but lacks moisture
-Raw food is the closest to natural as you can get. The only processing that has been done is freezing, which only minimally alters the ingredients, when compared to other methods of processing food.
d. Why is it bad?
-Processing a food alters the components that make up the food. For example, cooking a meat product denatures the protein and makes it harder for the body to use the protein as a building block in your pet body. In some cases, it completely destroys the nutrient all together so that the body cannot use it.
In summary, we want a human grade food that was raised properly. We want a company that doesn’t put fillers/grains into their product. We want there to be very little carbohydrate in the product, to prevent obesity. And lastly, ideally, we want a product that is not processed. Sadly, meeting all these criteria is hard to do. We are happy to help you sort out what the best product is for your pet’s needs.