As we are nearing the end of National Nutrition Month, we wanted to focus on some ingredients you should try to avoid when looking at your pet’s food. We touched on this a little bit while discussing our how to read a food label and some of the more “interesting” ingredients contained in lower grade dog and cat foods, but today we’ll give you a little bit more information.
There’s a lot we could talk about, but we’ll focus on these broad ingredient areas:
- Non-specific proteins and fats: examples – poultry by-products, meat and bone meal, animal fat
- Protein fillers: examples – corn gluten, wheat gluten, egg product meal
- Carbohydrate overload: examples – refined flours, wheat, mill runs
First we’ll cover non-specific protein and fat sources. By-products are included in a lot of pet foods because they’re a very cheap ingredient. Unfortunately, they don’t provide the proper nutrition to our pets. Dogs, and especially cats, thrive on a meat-based diet, but by-products are actually pretty much everything but the meat. The official definition is:
“the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low-temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hooves”
While some organ meat is actually a great treat, it’s not ideal for by-products to make up a large portion of their diets because it’s less digestible and exclusive of the nutrition that the meat itself includes, which would leave your pet eating a pretty unhealthy meal. Think fast food at every meal for you and I.
Along the same lines, you also want to avoid other non-specific ingredients like “meat and bone meal,” “poultry by-products,” or “animal fat” – not only does the vagueness mean that formulas change from batch to batch (possibly causing upset tummies), but when a label says “meat” or “animal” it can mean any meat from any mammal including “any parts of the carcasses of any animals that died otherwise than by slaughter.” Ewww…mystery meat. If that’s not enough to make you want to feed your pets healthy food, we don’t know what is!
Next you want to make sure that your pet food doesn’t include protein fillers such as corn gluten meal, wheat gluten, or egg product meal. This is another trick that pet food companies use to make their products look like they have a higher amount of protein in them, however, fillers like these aren’t usually in a usable, digestible form by your pet’s body, and are often the culprit in food allergies and dull skin and coats.
The last thing we’ll touch on today is carb overload in your pet’s diet. As we said before, a dog or cat’s natural diet is like the Atkins diet – super high in meat-based protein, super low in carbohydrates. Our general food philosophy here at L&R is to keep their diets as close to what nature intended as possible, and foods that include a lot of grains (especially foods that use grains as the first ingredient) are ones we think you should avoid. When you feed a food that’s more appropriate to what their bodies are built for, you have a healthier pet and you’ll likely even save money on vet bills for potentially avoidable issues like food allergies, ear infections, and intestinal issues.
If you’d like to learn more, swing by the store and talk to us, or check out these online resources:
http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/ (Hard copies available at L&R)