the Pet Health Cafe Blog at Fiesta Pet Deli

The Truth About Dog and Cat Food

Most pet owners are under the misconception that dogs and cats are at their best if they only eat dog or cat food. The truth of the matter is dog and cat foods were originally developed and marketed for one reason, to provide profits for the pet food companies.

If you think back far enough, the early makers of pet foods were cereal companies, the original convenience food producers for Moms. When Mom no longer had to prepare a “cooked” breakfast for their children, there evolved a necessity for a companion product to suit our pets. (Up until then, Rover and Kitty shared our “people or real” food).

In reality, few pet food companies are truly concerned with the optimal health of your pet. In addition, the competition for your pet food dollars has led to some much exaggerated claims.

To understand pet food, you must first understand your pet. Dogs and cats are carnivores, meat eaters with a very different digestive system than ours.

Dry foods are full of indigestible ingredients, no matter how high the price tag is, how reputable the seller may be, or how “premium” the ingredients may sound. There is no such thing as a dry food that is labeled as “no fillers.” By their very nature, kibble (dry, processed dog and cat foods) have 80% or more grain or other carbohydrates. Have you ever tried to bake a cookie or muffin that does not contain flour, or oats? Grains lend cohesiveness to the formula and help the processed, cooked food hold together in its cute little shapes. Grains, potato, and other carbs are also very inexpensive thus making pet food cheaper to produce, with a larger profit margin.

Grains are carbohydrates that dogs and cats (carnivores) do not need. In carnivores, carbohydrates do not digest well and they do not provide energy as they do for humans. Dogs and cats obtain their energy from fats.

The term “energy” does not pertain to how feisty your kitten is or how much get-up-and-go old Rover has. Humans and pets convert their foods into this energy in very different manners. Dogs and cats are much more efficient at converting fats into energy rather than carbohydrates. After all, they are carnivores.

Fats serve many other functions in a pets’ diet. Dogs and cats do not perspire like humans, so replacing the much needed protective oil layer on the pet’s skin and coat requires higher levels of Omega Fatty Acids and oils. Unfortunately if these fatty acids and oils were to be added to packaged foods, it would quickly mold, turn rancid, and become toxic to your pet.

Grains also metabolize directly into glucose, which feeds cancer cells, contributing to a condition known as cachexia. Therefore, grains in the diet of a pet with cancer are deadly. This is why some people refer to a raw, grain less diet as a “cancer starving” diet. There is no such thing as an anti-cancer diet that is a kibble. It has been shown that pets with cancer do best on a high-fat, high-protein diet, with the fats and proteins provided in the form of raw meat. Also, the conversion of these carbohydrates into “sugar” contributes to our pets becoming overweight and diabetic as well as producing dental problems.

Dry foods are also full of preservatives. The three biggest names to avoid are BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. Some “meat and fish meals” aren’t required to list these preservatives. Don’t be fooled by packaged foods that claim to be preservative free. They would have zero shelf life without some kind of preservation. Check those expiration dates on the bag and think about it. How appealing is it that some of these foods will last 2 years on the shelf? There are at least some higher quality foods, which use “natural” preservatives such as vitamins. However, there is some controversy that high levels of these antioxidants used as preservatives can actually interfere with absorption of other nutrients. In addition, many are available in a wide variety of forms and qualities which can create their own problems.

The meat content of dry pet food is quite limited by the processing equipment used to make kibble. The quality of the meat can vary considerably. For instance, if the food lists chicken as its meat source, we must realize that this could be nothing more than backs and necks, with little or no muscle meat. Chicken by-product meal also needs to be looked at. By USDA standards, this is a pre-cooked formula of beaks, heads, toes, and guts. Fish meal is very similar in its contents.

No matter how “natural, organic, or human-grade” the ingredient list, by the time those ingredients are processed into kibble form, there is virtually nothing left in the way of useful nutrition. The processing necessary to convert the ingredients into kibble requires high heat and days of cooking, followed by the extrusion process. All of this literally kills the enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that lend their “living” qualities to raw foods. This is why you see a lengthy list of chemical-sounding names on the ingredient panel of all dry and most canned foods. The manufacturers replace these essential vitamins and minerals that were removed during the manufacturing process however; it must be in synthetic form. Synthetic versions of vitamins and minerals have been shown to be less effectively absorbed and utilized by the body than natural forms found in real foods in their raw state.

And finally, dry foods take 12-14 hours to pass through a pet’s system. All of that time spent lingering in the digestive tract will many times lead to room-clearing clouds of gas (attributed to fermentation of indigestible grains in the gut) and is also thought to contribute to the formation of “allergies.” The body sees these indigestible ingredients (grains, preservatives, denatured proteins, etc.) as foreign substances, to which it develops irritations, manifested as allergy symptoms. Translation: Bowser and Kitty have itchy, flakey skin, infected ears and chew their paws.

The reason should be crystal clear. The combination of cereal grains, corn, wheat, rice, potatoes and oats, the poor quality and quantity of meat along with the manufacture’s cooking process depletes the nutritional value and is just “wrong” with even the “best” dry and many canned pet foods. Unless your food is mostly real meats and not manufactured “meat meals,” it’s time to look for a new food and give your pet the life they DESERVE!

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