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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