Pet Food Ingredients-What do they mean? The Pet food recall of March 2007 caused many pet owners to question the benefits of feeding commercial pet food diets! There were daily recalls of pet foods by several different pet food companies, that all were produced by the Menu Foods Company. The recall began when it became clear that animals became ill and some died after eating the foods produced by Menu Foods. It was a very scary time for many pet owners and the veterinarians who treated sick pets during that time. As a result of the contamination of the pet foods and the media coverage, we received many calls from clients and non-clients wanting to know what to feed their pets. They were looking for safe, nutritional foods that were not contaminated to feed their pets. |
The question of what to feed was difficult answer. Much of the answer has to do with the client's confidence in purchasing non-contaminated food, or preparing a homemade diet in place of commercial food For those who wanted to avoid possible contamination by avoiding commercial diets, homemade diets were an answer. Since the recall, national pet food manufacturers have taken measures to guarantee the origin of the ingredients of their foods and have improved testing for the quality of the ingredients used in pet foods. However, recalls cannot be eliminated totally, because new toxins could be found in pet foods that originally were not tested for. As new toxins are found, new testing is created.
The rule of thumb when purchasing pet food generally is; you get what you pay for. In general, a more expensive brand name food will have higher quality ingredients in the recipe, will be more digestible by your pet's gastrointestinal system, and will have greater than the minimum level of required nutrients. Look for pet foods that carry the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) logo and identification. Foods that contain this label have at least the minimum required nutrients and the company will have performed at least minimal six-months feeding trials with their particular recipe to ensure that no ill health resulted from the use of the food. Major national companies have, since March 2007, invested a great deal of money and time in researching the palatability, nutritional levels, and quality of their product in order to provide a consistent, healthy diet for your pet. They do so to provide a good diet to your pet and to stay competitive with other companies that produce pet food. It is in their best interest to provide a safe, nutritional product for you to purchase for your pet. The Menu Foods Co., producer of the pet foods recalled in 2007 was stricken with profit losses and client dissatification that is still felt today. Avoid generic or "store brands" dry and canned foods, as the quality may not be consistent.
HOW TO PICK YOUR PET'S FOOD
Label reading is key! Ingredients are listed in the order of appearance by weight; the highest in weight is listed ahead of the rest. The commercial pet food industry companies lists the analysis of their food on the label for their customers' information. The first ingredient listed is the most prevalent ingredient by weight, the second ingredient, second most by weight and so on.
Cats and Dogs have a minimum percentage requirement of protein (called crude protein) in their diets, higher for cats and a little lower for dogs. When reading the pet food ingredients list you will see a listing for the percentage of protein guaranteed in the food, whether dry or wet. There is generally a listing of the percentage of carbohydrates, fiber, ash, and other nutrients, as well.
Protein is listed as the first percentage in many foods, but is not usually the first by weight. Protein sources are listed in the ingredients as beef/pork byproducts, egg, chicken livers, pork, etc indicating the protein source of the food. The manufacturer is informing you that the food contains the protein source listed. More expensive foods usually list the exact protein source on the label used as; "chicken livers",or "eggs".
When listed as either/or then; either or both of the protein sources are ingredients in the food. Knowing the protein source is in your pet's food is important, especially when feeding pets with food allergies. Pets will react more severely to one protein more than another. Therefore, you will want to expose your pet to as few protein sources as possible but always only one at a time in order to find out which protein is the problem for your pet with allergies. Review the list on the label carefully to ensure that the recipe does not include fat or flavorings from other protein sources.
Meat byproducts is a protein source that may not consumable by the human food industry. "By-products" are not clearly defined and can include a vast array of animal parts such as organs, blood, and nonmeat protein sources. While this may be problematic for humans, cats and dogs are carnivores whose gastrointestinal systems are meant to handle protein sources different from humans.
Grains (Carbohydrate sources)
Commercial pet foods contain a balance of proteins to grains that has been found through testing to be the healthiest balance for optimum pet growth and nutrition. Grains supply carbohydrates in just the right amount for your pet. The pet food companies have done all the work to make sure that the food they offer is balanced and complete. A pet food label will have grains listed in many different ways each having their benefit. Grains are used as carbohydrates for energy, for fiber, and when incomplete proteins, such as found in grains, are combined, they can supply complete proteins to boost the protein levels in the food. Common grains are barley, brown rice, corn, wheat and oats.
Vegetable Protein and Gluten
These ingredients are a cheaper way to enhance the protein level of a diet so that the animal protein volume can be decreased. The gluten help "stick" or bind the ingredients together to provide consistency throughout the kibble in dry food or to make gravies for the moist foods.
Preservatives and other additives
Pre-packaged foods require some sort of preservative in order to keep them fresh and from spoiling (preventing mold or proteins and fats from going rancid). The majority of the preservatives used are in very small amounts that are not harmful to the pets. In large doses, some of the preservatives are known carcinogens. But without them in the commercila diets, the foods would spoil and could be harmful or fatal to pets. Synthetic preservatives are of more concern than natural preservatives. Some of the synthetic preservatives that have created media attention are Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), ethoxyquin. Propylene Glycol is an additive used to enhance flavors and make foods taste sweeter that has caused some concerns. Tocopherols (vitamin E) and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) are the most common natural preservatives. However, the Tocopherols do not preserve the food as long as the synthetics. It will be important to note which preservatives are used so that you can use food up before it oxidizes, expires or becomes spoiled.
When selecting a commercial food, dry or wet, for your pet, pick a name brand, pick a type of food for your pet's life stage, measure it carefully as indicated by the label and feed your pet on a regular schedule. Watch for digestive upsets, especially when trying or switiching to a new food. Make switches gradually. Monitor your pet's weight and assist in maintaining good weight by decreasing food and increasing exercise when pet gains weight or increasing food when pet is losing weight or exercising heavily, nursing babies or hunting to maintain optimum weight.