Not All Pet Foods Are Created Equal
Making the right choices
by CHRISTIE PISHA
If you ask your veterinarian what to feed your pet, chances are they will say “Something with quality ingredients that is well balanced.”
But what does that mean?
Nutrition is more than just filling our pet’s stomachs. It is about nourishing them.
Good nutrition helps to keep their bones and muscles strong and their coats glossy. Their personalities are more stable because with proper nutrition, pets are able to better cope with stress.
Here are some recommended guidelines to follow when shopping for your pet's food.
First Look for the use of whole meats from "named species" of animals (i.e., chicken rather than poultry; beef rather than meat) and meals made from whole meats (chicken meal versus poultry meal).
Next, look at the sources for their proteins. All animal proteins, even by-products, which tend to be of lower quality than muscle meats, have more to offer dogs and cats than plant-derived proteins, especially wheat gluten and corn gluten.
Here's a summary of the products pet foods can contain (both good and bad):
• Safflower oil
• Chicken fat
• Meats: Chicken, Lamb, Beef, Whitefish, etc.
• Grains: Millet, Barley, Sweet Potatoes, Brown Rice
• Animal fat
• Digested byproducts
• Meat/meat meal
• Corn/gluten meal
Typically, the first five ingredients on a label are like the cover of a book. They set the tone for the rest of the food's contents. Let’s take a look at the first few lines of ingredients listed on two different dog food labels:
Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice, Tomato Pomace, Rye Flour, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Tomatoes, Rice Bran, Deboned Whitefish, Natural Chicken Flavor, Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Ground Flaxseed, Ground Millet...
Ground Whole Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Wheat, Meat And Bone Meal, Animal Fat (Preserved With Bha/Bht), Wheat Flour, Lamb, Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Natural Flavor, Salt...
Which would you rather eat, or serve to your family or pet?
Label 2 has "mystery" meat meal, generic animal fat preserved with Bha/Bht, and the first ingredient is corn. It also has poor sources of carbohydrates.
Also, watch for unpronounceable chemicals and coloring agents. While foods must be preserved for shelf life and safety, there are quality preservatives available.
In summary, quality isn't cheap. This is obvious in the dog food you buy that costs $4 for 40 pounds versus another brand that costs $15 for 20 pounds.
Whatever your choice, know what you are feeding and why you chose to purchase it. Be an informed consumer, making this decision based on good information and realize that you really do get what you pay for.
Note: Most pet food manufacturers offer discount coupons or frequent buyer programs. Whatever you feed, visit their websites to check for special offers.
Christie Pisha is with Morris Hospital for Veterinary Services, 26684 Grand River, Redford, MI. For more information, call 313-537-6100 or visit their website at MorrisVet.com.