Pet Nutrition and Health – Be Cautious!

If you are squeamish this article may be uncomfortable. This was a difficult article to write, because of the close relationship we have to our pets. My purpose is to inform and educate “Pet Parents” as to what can be done to extend the life and improve the health of their beloved friends.

I was brought up on a livestock and grain farm where there was never a problem feeding the pets as well as the other animals. With the declining farm population and people now living in cities and small towns, less and less people have access to the feeds that are so prevalent on farms. Consequently we purchase processed and prepared foods at supermarkets and pet stores and the like.

What we do not know is where the foods are prepared and more importantly from where the raw feedstuffs come. The following paragraphs expose facts generally unknown to the public. Hopefully you will read to the end of this article to find out what you can do to improve your pets nutrition and health.

Most of us have heard of a rendering plant, but don’t have much information as to what they do or how they do it! Rendering plants dispose of over 12 million tons of dead animals, fat and meat wastes. These dead animal processors gather dead, diseased, dying or disabled (known as 4-D animals). The processing consists of grinding carcases into small pieces and “cooking” them just long enough to facilitate separating of the “meat” and offal from the bones, hides, etc.

An important point: Most pharmaceuticals and chemicals are not broken down in the short heated processing period!

What is not well known is the animals may have had charcoal or preservatives to slow the decay prior to processing. Another distressing fact is the animals may have been sick and previously treated with pharmaceuticals and other chemicals. Larger road kill animals may also be included in the mix. The most upsetting fact is: Euthanized pets from pounds are many times included.

With those words, I am going to add that the plastic bags used by pounds, veterinarians and labs are not removed, because of time and labor costs. Collars, ID tags, flea collars and the like also are not removed. The hair and feathers are processed with everything else.

This is what constitutes animal protein used in pet foods. Vegetable proteins are ground corn, wheat middlings and sweepings, soybean meal, rice hulls, peanut meal and shells and many other products.
Other ingredients can be cooking oils from fast food restaurants, tallow and other vegetable and animal sources.

The American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA) has oversight, but they are understaffed and very little pressure is available to require monitoring.

There is help: A very limited number of companies avail themselves of the use of proper feedstuffs to produce a healthful, nutritional pet food. This requires third party verification of products used to process a nutritious pet food. The cost, of course, is greater, but to help extend your pets natural life it is a choice that many owners are now making with satisfaction.

Pet Nutrition Has Come a Long Way

Before commercially processed pet food, pet owners fed their pets table scraps and leftovers. Some bought meat scraps from the butcher. It was also more common for pets to roam outside and supplement their meals with whatever they could catch.

In 1860, James Spratt produced the first commercial pet food for dogs, which was called a dog cake. In the 1950s, his company became part of a major food manufacture. Dog biscuits came along in 1907 and were originally intended to be a meal, not just a treat. In the 1920s, canned food was produced and became popular. During World War 2, tin used for the cans became important for manufacturing things needed for the war effort. Less canned pet food was produced and dry food, or kibble, became more popular. The first kibble was Dog Chow and Cat Chow.

Dry pet food is made of dry meal and meat as well as added vitamins and minerals. A hammer mill is used to grind the dry ingredients to a specific particle size. The result is what looks like flour. This flour is mixed with the wet ingredients, the meat and fat, and steamed to begin cooking. High temperatures are needed in order to destroy toxins.

Studies have shown that for puppies, an enhanced diet with specific ingredients is important. This is especially true for large breed puppies, which are considered to be puppies that will be at least 50 pounds when full grown. Large breed puppies, with not enough calcium and Vitamin D, which helps absorb the calcium, are prone to hip dysplasia and arthritis as they get older. Large breed puppies that grow at a slower rate have been shown to have less chance of developing hip dysplasia. In response to this finding, pet food manufacturers now produce special “large breed” formulas. Older dogs that already have hip pain and arthritis can be helped with supplements of glucosamine and chondroitin.

Raw hides are popular dog treats and are not expensive, but have no nutritional value. The artificial preservatives and coloring can cause allergic reactions as well as rashes and irritation in the mouth. They also can have harmful bacteria that can cause intestinal upset. Another problem is the fact that raw hides are not digestible and can cause a blockage which could be life threatening and require surgery. Raw fruits and vegetable such as apples, bananas and carrots are good treats, but grapes and raisins are toxic to dogs.

An ingredient shown to be beneficial for pet nutrition is DHA which is from the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil. Studies have shown that puppies learn faster when their mothers have been given DHA during their pregnancy and also when the pups have been given the supplement. There are other health benefits contributed to DHA, for example, support of the retina, which is important for older dogs.

DHA combined with an amino acid known as arginine is thought to prolong remission and the lifespan of dogs with lymphosarcoma while they are receiving treatment.

Animals have to acquire all the vitamins and minerals they receive from their diets because unlike humans, their bodies do not produce the vitamins they need. For this reason, a high quality pet food is very important and a quality, all natural pet vitamin is essential.

Pet Nutrition and Health – Cats Have Special Needs!

Cats have always been independent and privately opinionated. Their attitude and instincts come from generations of being scavengers and predators. For their size cats have very muscular leg muscles giving them the opportunity to pounce on prey from a crouching position. In the wild their food was/is composed mostly of birds and rodents giving them needed protein and other nutrition.

Many domesticated cats live much of their lives in homes where food and litter boxes are provided to their satisfaction. Couches, chairs, low tables and other hiding places give them the private shelter they require and enjoy. Most will ask for attention on their terms and make themselves available when they want it. Many of these four footed creatures are dedicated to one person’s attention and will hide when children and others attempt to pet them.

Domesticated cats that live in homes do not have an opportunity to spend much time outside. Pet Parents provide the necessary amenities for the cats such as: Litter box, exercise areas, toys and food. A common problem that cats have is urinary infections. These seem to result from less outdoor exercise and less captured prey. We supply dry cat food that provides good nutrition, but all this leads to less moisture intake. A simple help would be to provide canned cat food. Canned food usually contains a higher quantity of water and other liquids forcing a greater intake of necessary moisture to flush the urinary system.

Read the labels on cat food packaging and take into consideration a few things: Meat and protein sources, grains, vegetable sources and green food (phytonutrients), mineral content, vitamins, etc. One very, very important ingredient to AVOID is any form of chemical preservatives. These preservatives (BHA and BHT) are included to keep the food “preserved” or artificially “fresh”! Do not buy food that does not have an expiration date more than 6 weeks away!

An additional important note is: Meat is generally accepted as a protein source, but when you see deboned meat products listed it is referring to the bony carcass that is scraped to remove all the cartilage and tissue: This is “deboned meat product”.

Take the time to compare all the foods you are considering. Be aware that mass producing commercial pet food companies do not have you or your pet’s best interests in mind…..the bottom line is their guide.

Pet Food Safety – Home Made Can Eliminate Uncertainty

The latest outbreak of dog food and cat food contamination has shaken the confidence of pet owners the world over, but nowhere as much as in the United States where illness and reported deaths took its highest toll of family pets. Now, in the aftermath of large scale pet food recalls, many are asking questions about the ingredients that they’ve always trusted to provide optimum health for their family pets.

It comes as no real surprise now that many pet owners are choosing to make their own homegrown variety of pet nutrition. When made properly, it has to be a better option than all that imported stuff with unknown ingredients of suspicious composition and origin. In fact, many say it’s not too difficult at all and fairly inexpensive to make. But, a number of experts caution that homemade diets won’t work for every pet or its owner. Some dogs and cats have a more difficult time adjusting to a new diet and the new process itself may simply be too labor intensive and inconvenient for many owners. The choice should be made only after careful consideration.

For starters, you can have your family vet or a recommended veterinary nutritionist put together a starter diet for you to try. On the other hand, if you prefer, do the nutritional research yourself. It’s unfortunate, but the rap against vets today, is similar to what doctors experienced in years past, that they know a lot about medicine, but were never taught much about nutrition. And, the veterinary nutritionists are accused of being little more than puppets, with the pet food manufacturers pulling the strings. There may be an element of truth to both, but in any case you’ll have to use your own judgment. However, having a few sample diets to follow while getting started will most likely be helpful.

The most responsible advice is to suggest paying close attention to your dog or cat. You know your pet better than anyone, so you should quickly notice changes in the quality of their health, such as energy levels, condition of their coat and stool texture. So, keep a close eye out for any subtle changes during the transition, as you would with changes to any food. When you decide to begin with your homemade foods, do it gradually by mixing the new food into the old food for a couple of weeks. Slowly increase the ratio of new to old each day as you monitor your pet’s adjustment.

Another trend of late has some owners feeding their pets a diet based largely on raw meat, vegetables and fruits. In fact, many people believe it’s the most natural and therefore the healthiest choice for pets. Melinda Miller, president of the North American Raw Pet Food Association recently stated, “There are a wide variety of benefits. Animals with arthritis and longstanding gastrointestinal ailments or skin problems often improve significantly after being placed on grain-free raw diets”.

For those who might be concerned about introducing contaminants into their own diets, it’s important to note here that the more common phobias and issues related to food borne microbes, such as salmonella are largely unfounded, with no real evidence of actual cases of illness to animals or humans when the meat is fresh and handled in an appropriate manner. Melinda Miller added, “no study has ever correlated human illness with raw-fed dogs or cats.” Raw food diets are popular in Europe and have gained significant interest in America over the past twenty years, so it can be considered yet another possible alternative over the store bought brands.

A Word of Caution:

Don’t just think that you can feed your pet table scraps and assume it to be a viable nutritional alternative. It’s not! Pets have special needs just as we do, so do your homework. There are many online resources, and even pet food cookbooks to help make things a lot easier. But, in the meantime, don’t just feed them what you’re eating. At the very least, they won’t be getting the nutrition they need, and the things you’re giving them could make them sick or even kill them.

Here’s a short list of foods that can be toxic for animals and should always be avoided, even in small quantities: chocolate, mushrooms, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, leeks, chives, grapes, raisins, potato peelings, tomatoes (cats) and drinks containing caffeine or alcohol. The list for your particular pet may include other dangerous or sickening foods, so think before you toss.

Making your own pet foods can certainly be a loving and caring way to guarantee that your pet gets the healthy nutrition it deserves and without the risk of unknown contaminants. But, do your cost/benefit research first as to ensure a situation that you’re comfortable with including dollars, time and balanced nutrition. Carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages for both you and your pet before deciding on this trendy alternative.

For more information regarding the care, development and safety of the family pet, please visit All About Dogs.

Copyright 2007 Harry Monell. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share the entire contents of this article with your friends or post it on your site as long as it is left intact with all links unchanged, including this notice.