The Fight Over Pet Food vs Pet Food Safety

by Mary Haight on May 5, 2010

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Blogs out there are talking, arguing, even fighting about pet food:  What’s the “best”, the most “natural”, the most “nutritious”.  I know my head has been spinning lately with some good, and some downright bizarre posts, so I thought I’d list the main points of interest.  I have recent info from an international study to add, I’ll pose a question for you, and then you can chime in with your educated opinions and experience, and share some of the things that still have you confused.  Here are the choices we have to consider:

1.  Raw Food and Meaty Bones:  Dogs in the wild forage and take up plant materials (and minerals) from the ground, and as human companions were omnivores. While dogs are built as carnivores, they do require vegetables to help balance their nutrition, and sufficient fats not only for energy, but so the body can absorb essential vitamins. The FDA recently released their statement against bones of any kind. (Unfortunate in its complete abdication of “authority”, taking the easy way out.)

2. Home Cooking: The one problem with home cooking is ensuring the right balance of vitamins and micro-nutrients.  There are several good supplements on the market . You can check with your local holistic pet food supplier.  Don’t forget the essential fatty acids.( Here’s some recipes your dog might enjoy – check with your vet first.)

3. Dehydrated and Raw:  I use some of these products, and stick with salmon treats on the one end and dehydrated vegetables and fruits at the other.  You have to plan ahead with main meal foods that required rehydration, and you also have to add your meat portion so it’s more like home cooking without having to buy and prepare all the vegetables/fruits and digestible grains.

4. Commercial Dog Food: It’s not all filled with the 4Ds (dead, diseased, dying and downed) you hear about.  And yes, pentobarbital, a euthanasia drug, was tested for and found in pet food.  Obviously, you do need to know how to shop to navigate these issues.  Vets will often say that any of these products are just fine and serve their purpose, which may be true in the most scientific definition of “fine.” Adequate to nutrition.  It also reflects a way of looking at things, as an aerial view, one shared by many vets.  Consumers are expecting more.  When they find out what it means to have just “adequate” nutrition (see the 4Ds mentioned above), they want human-quality in their pet’s food, just as they have with their pet’s health care.  The “pets as part of the family” concept has changed the way pet people look at everything to do with their furry housemates.  Adequate is not enough—people  want their pets to live beyond the age of 12 as a matter of course, not as a newsworthy factoid.  Check out Consumer Search, a site that reviews the dog food reviewers and looks at several worthy sites summaries and how they rate foods.

5. Vegetarian Pets:  I know some vets say it doesn’t matter where the protein comes from as long as pets have a sufficient amount of proteins, fats, and carbs to maintain all bodily functions.  But there’s not a lot of testing to support this theory that vegetarian feeding is healthy for dogs, is there? Are there twenty years of data somewhere to let us know long term effects and contraindications? Perhaps they don’t need that long to extrapolate results, but this is a serious change.  I wonder what the thought process was when agribiz changed how cows fed from grasses to grain.  And this gives us a good segway into a recent study about corn, since corn is everywhere in pet food.

6. Ingredients in pet food are important, and it’s helpful not to get entangled in misinformation. A twitter pal, dog trainer Hilary of @fangshuicanines, sent a tweet with a link she had objected to.  My jaw dropped. Hill’s website  has a page on how great and nutritious corn is. 

The International Journal of Biological Sciences reported findings earlier this year on the effects on mammalian health of 3 of Monsanto’s genetically modified varieties of corn, now linked by this study to organ damage in rats. All had been approved for consumption in the US, Europe and by several other national food safety authorities.

Monsanto refuted, but industry has governments over a barrel.  Monsanto reported to the FDA that their Genetically Modified crops were safe for human consumption.  This was based on a 90-day study. No, not kidding. Also, because their procedures and processes are protected as proprietary information, no independent scientists are allowed to test or retest any data produced by Monsanto paid scientists. Still not kidding.  They are a power unto themselves.  One of the scientists in charge of the study speaks in less formal language here.

Instead of proponents of this or that food fighting amongst themselves about what’s the best choice to make in feeding our pets, why not try working together to push major change in the meat industry, how animals are kept and slaughtered, and define (and legislate) what should never be included in our dog or cat food?  We can write letters and sign petitions of course, and we can also vote with our dollars. But if we do it together we might be able to chip away at it.  What do you think?

Often in our culture it seems that the fact we have so many choices completely blinds us to what we might be doing to make things better from the ground up.

Related posts: What’s In Your Dog Food an Why?

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21 comments
greta
greta

I agree that home cooked meals are the best (because you are able to controll more the quality of the food) but you need to have a good knowledge about nutrition because your have to find the right balance between proteins, carbs, vitamines, minerals, etc. I really try to cook for my dogs as much as I can, but there is the time factor as well. When I get from work, in the evening, somtimes it's just good to have a prepared meal at hand. You just need to make sure the quality is high!

JenKrebs
JenKrebs

Uh oh, thanks for the heads up on that, Mary! Dog food companies changing hands is rarely a good thing. :-(

ecodogboutique
ecodogboutique

I agree with Rod@GoPetFriendly, checking the ingredients that we feed our dogs is extremely important. Some dog food can be extremely harmful to our dogs. While some may believe that it doesn't matter what you feed your dog, we have to consider the fact that us as humans don't just eat "anything" so why should our dogs? As a proud dog owner, having a dog is a choice, not an obligation so why would you not want to have a dog that is as healthy as possible. In my opinion, that's feeding my dog the healthiest foods that I can possibly provide. There are so many different dog foods being pushed in our society today. I prefer dog foods that contain a high amount of protein and fats and does contain grains or fillers (grain free) and very small amount of carbohydrates. Another important thing to consider when buying food, bones or treats are highly digestible foods that gives your dog maximum nutrient absorption.

Edie
Edie

A lot to process here, as it were, Mary! Your final point is well taken: It's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, the way food animals are treated and the really awful-- and that includes Franken corn -- things that go into many pet (and human) foods. Thanks for laying out the case in such detail.

Jen Krebs
Jen Krebs

I have foundwww.dogfoodanalysis.com to be a good site to check in with. For my own dogs and cats, I avoid corn and soy completely, avoid wheat in their main food sources, and only allow a small exposure to wheat in the dogs' treats, infrequently. I feed premium grain-free kibble mixed with grain-free canned food to my dogs, and my cat eats grain-free canned food exclusively. My favorite grain-free foods (dry and/or canned) are Innova EVO, Wellness CORE, Orijen, Acana and Horizon Legacy.

Jen Krebs
Jen Krebs

I do not believe in vegetarian diets for either dogs or cats. Regarding budget, you should feed less of a higher protein, grain-free kibble than a standard grain kibble (generally it will also have higher levels of fat and calories), so that makes up a bit of the cost difference. When I switched from feeding Nutro (for years) to feeding premium grain-free foods, the difference in my dogs’ coats was remarkable - in just a few weeks. The jury is still out for me on raw feeding 100% - I do periodically supplement my dogs’ kibble with prepared raw diet (Nature’s Variety), and treat with raw turkey necks once in a while. That’s as far as I’ve gotten on that. :-)

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

It is a big big topic where one answer leads to another question. That's why I love review sites - they really help people see how to make choices, how many brands follow that choice. They can check out the prices and see which fits their budgets. Thanks, Edie!

Edie
Edie

A lot to process here, as it were, Mary! Your final point is well taken: It's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, the way food animals are treated and the really awful-- and that includes Franken corn -- things that go into many pet (and human) foods. Thanks for laying out the case in such detail.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

It is a big big topic where one answer leads to another question. That's why I love review sites - they really help people see how to make choices, how many brands follow that choice. They can check out the prices and see which fits their budgets. Thanks, Edie!

Jana
Jana

The thing that actually bothers me the most is that while experts are having a great old time arguing, regular folk is left confused and lost in the maze of opinions. Sadly FDA's opinion means very little to me. I would not disagree with the AAFCO feeding guidelines, they seem to make sense. In order to navigate through all this, I decided to rely on common sense. Over-processed foods are not good for dogs as they are not good for people. That is my starting ground. Today it is possible to create complete and balanced home-cooked meals for our dogs. And that's what I do. It makes sense to me that protein source for dogs should be meat. And that's what I do. It makes sense that quality organic human-grade ingredients are the best to use, and that's what I use. I have a recipe formulated by a nutritionist, calculated the same way the commercial food is calculated, but I make it from REAL food ingredients. I believe that the closer the food I feed my dogs is to an actual food, the better it is for my dogs. That is what makes sense to me.

Rod@GoPetFriendly
Rod@GoPetFriendly

I have a hard time believing that any commercially processed food you buy today for human or pet consumption can be good for either. The fewer ingredients you need to look up on any website so you can understand what they are, the better. And one day, the truth about GMO foods will emerge from the notes and internal memoranda of the food scientists just like it did in the tobacco industry.

egoebelbecker
egoebelbecker

While I am still a little ambivalent about the FDA's warning regarding bones, I really like point #1. I am supposed to believe that as dog was domesticated, either via "adoption" or as an opportunistic scavenger, that he maintained a diet consisting of raw meat and bones? Did Paleolithic man starve his kids so his dog ate well? Why is it that the truly wild dogs we see today still live from scavenging around villages (Africa) and hanging around in garbage dumps? Why are they *thriving* if dogs should only be fed meat and bones? I need to get this into my editorial calendar. :-)

Keeping Awake
Keeping Awake

A good site for a better understanding of dog food ingredients:http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=main AAFCO definitions, how to compare one food against another, how to read labels, dangerous ingredients, etc., but no recommendations of specific foods or any quick 'formulas' for assessing food quality. It's good as an educational resource, but could be better organized in its presentation of information. It's also good to note that many vegetable products that would be consumed by a wild dog are consumed in the stomachs of their prey, when the cellulose has already been broken down.

egoebelbecker
egoebelbecker

While I am still a little ambivalent about the FDA's warning regarding bones, I really like point #1. I am supposed to believe that as dog was domesticated, either via "adoption" or as an opportunistic scavenger, that he maintained a diet consisting of raw meat and bones? Did Paleolithic man starve his kids so his dog ate well? Why is it that the truly wild dogs we see today still live from scavenging around villages (Africa) and hanging around in garbage dumps? Why are they *thriving* if dogs should only be fed meat and bones? I need to get this into my editorial calendar. :-)

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  1. […] Read the original here: Pet Food Fight vs Pet Food Safety | Dancing Dog Blog […]

  2. […] welfare advocate Mary Haight, who brought up this topic recently on her comprehensive The Fight Over Pet Food vs Pet Food Safety post on DancingDogBlog.com, provides a relevant counter link, citing the FDA’s recent […]

  3. […] food this week in the form of  bringing to the forefront arguments as in the article here “The Fight Over Pet Food vs Pet Food Safety “about the different choices of diet, what’s in pet food and what shouldn’t be […]

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