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The Importance of Pet Food in Your Pets Health
People across the globe are striving to improve their health - through exercise and proper nutrition. Every day we make informed decisions about the foods we eat. Companies have recognized this trend and have begun marketing low-fat, low-calorie, or low-carb versions of our favorite foods. But with all of this attention to our own health, we may be forgetting the nutrition of our loyal companion pets. Sure, pet food companies have created special formulas for overweight, older, or active dogs; but even these blends do not meet the necessary requirements for your pet's health. In fact, studies have shown that your dog's food may cause illnesses such as skin allergies, stomach problems, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
A Business First Philosophy
Pet food companies are run in the interest of business first, while disregarding the interests of those who consume their products - your pet.
Pet food is produced and marketed with the owner - not the pet - in mind. Cute shapes, different colors, exotic flavors-these are characteristics that people have come to expect in their food. Think about colored ketchup, the staggering array of flavor choices for potato chips, and even pasta shaped like cartoon characters. Pepperidge Farm Goldfish(r) crackers, as an example, are shaped like fishes, complete with eye and smiling mouth. You can buy the regular cheddar ones or get the colored ones that come in purple, red orange, and green. The flavor-blasted crackers come in cheddar, nacho, BBQ, and even a flavor called "Xplosive Pizza."
Kids love foods with different shapes, colors, and flavors. But what about your dog? The only characteristic that your dog is seeking in food is taste. Colored and shaped morsels are for your benefit, not your dog's.
The whole point of marketing is to convince the consumer to purchase one product among a sea of similar products. Yet the image depicted by a company for their product is not always accurate. We are led to believe that our dogs are eating moist whole chicken, choice cuts of beef, fresh-picked grains, even chunks of real vegetables. Unfortunately, this is just an image.
The pet food industry only uses ingredients that are unfit for human consumption. They make a profit from waste that would otherwise be worthless to them. Pet food companies owned by multinational companies include:
- Nestlé - Alpo, Come 'N Get It, Mighty Dog, Chef's Blend, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Kit 'N Kaboodle, Deli-Cat, and Nestlé Purina products such as Dog Chow, Pro Plan, Beneful and Purina One
- Colgate-Palmolive - Hill's Science Diet Pet Food
- Del Monte - 9-Lives, Kibbles `n Bits, Cycle, Gravy Train, Nature's Recipe, and Reward
- Procter & Gamble - Eukanuba and Iams
- Mars - Pedigree, Advance, Cesar, Whiskas and Sheba
Another leading pet food, Nutro, is not a multinational company.
Multinational companies who own dog food manufacturing companies are in the perfect relationship as far as business is concerned. According to the Animal Protection Institute, the benefits of being a multinational company include:
- Greater buying power
- Existing customer base
- Readily available funds
- Accessibility to cheap ingredients
Pet Food Standards
Not all pet foods contain poor quality ingredients, but you have to read and understand the labels in order to make an informed decision. Unfortunately, pet food companies use obscure terms to describe the ingredients that go into their products.
One pet food company claims on its web site that "pet foods identified as 100% complete and balanced contain all... required nutrients... in the proper proportions."
While it is true that pet foods must meet certain standards set by AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) in order to be labeled as "complete and balanced," there are problems with the quality of the standards themselves.
In "What's Really in Pet Food," the Animal Protection Institute describes how up until the late 1980's, the pet food standards were set by the NRC (National Research Council of the Academy of Science). Their standards, however, required feeding trials for a pet food to be labeled "complete" and "balanced." The pet food industry rejected the feeding methods, claiming that they were "too restrictive and expensive."
AAFCO created the "Nutrient Profiles" testing method as an alternative to feeding trials. Some larger companies still use feeding trials, because they are more reliable at determining the nutritional value of a pet food. Most companies, however, perform a chemical analysis of the food to test if it conforms to the "Nutrient Profiles." The Animal Protection Institute explains that testing does not take into account factors such as "palatability, digestibility, or biological availability of nutrients in pet food."
To compensate for the test's faults, AAFCO created a "safety factor," whereby companies add extra nutrients as a guarantee of achieving the requirements. Many nutrients are lost during manufacturing, especially for extruded (puffed and shaped) foods. Companies add additional vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in order to meet the standards for "complete and balanced" labeling. In her book Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food, Ann Martin notes that in some cases the minerals added are unchelated, meaning they do not readily combine with proteins, so they pass through the body practically unused. In other cases, the excessive amounts are absorbed, which can be dangerous and even deadly.
Another issue with AAFCO standards is the designation of one standard feeding profile for all types and breeds of dogs. William D. Cusick - researcher, author, and self-proclaimed "Animal Advocate" - points out that some dogs shed their coats while others don't. Each type of dog requires different nutrients for their fur, not a diet that is designed for an imaginary "average" dog. Some dogs excrete oils from their skin. These dogs do not require the same amounts of fatty acids as other dogs. Activity levels vary between breeds and even among dogs within a breed. Certainly these pets require different nutrients that cannot be met with one standard nutrient profile.