We Lovingly Remember Daisy, Who Enjoyed her Homemade Food!
Pet foods are not our main focus. We do have a few ideas, however, that we would like to offer as a possible food for thought, no pun intended. Our ideas concerning pet foods might appear radical, but they are not really. They were formed through years of experience, much extensive reading, some experimentation, and a lot of thought. So, what do we think of pet foods? Well, we think it is best to avoid them. We believe it is best to feed our pets fresh, preferably organic whole foods and not processed foods full of additives, preservatives, artificial vitamins and other chemicals. But aren’t there “good” pet foods? Yes, some are far better than others. It is still a much better choice to feed a well-balanced diet of fresh, unprocessed, whole, organic foods. But aren’t pet foods appropriately “balanced” for the benefit of our pets? Not necessarily.
So, we need to sort out a few matters. We will start with a brief history of the pet food industry. What was the goal behind the concept of commercial pet foods? The most likely answer to come to mind is that the goal was the health and well-being of our pet, right? The other one is the convenience of pet owners, right? Well, as it turns out, the primary goal at the outset, as for any nascent industry, was the profit for the industry. With the advent of the human-grade meat factory farming, the problem of what to do with the waste and by-products became very real. Pet food appeared to be a solution to try. And it worked! It worked for whom? For the human meat industry as it now had a cost-efficient method for disposing of its waste, or parts of the animal that were unfit for human consumption. It worked for the new pet food industry as it quickly became profitable. It worked for the veterinary establishment partnering with the industry. It also “worked” for the ordinary pet owner since commercial pet foods were inexpensive and convenient, particularly the dry varieties. At this point we would recommend the following article offered by the Harvard Law School. It is a serious and detailed piece of research. Its basic tenets are as follows:
1. Historically, the pet food industry evolved to benefit businessmen, not pets. 2. Nutritionally, pet foods are not optimal for pets. 3. What goes into pet foods may shock you. It may not be at all what we believe we are feeding our pets. 4. What is labeled as 100 percent “complete” and “balanced” is neither complete nor balanced. The carbohydrate content of many commercial pet foods is far too high for our felines and canines. Occasionally, pet foods can even be unsafe and deadly, as some of the recent recalls would attest. 5. A typical consumer of pet food lacks the appropriate skepticism and trusts veterinarians blindly with respect to pet nutrition. 6. Veterinarians are, interestingly, not the best experts on pet nutrition.
We provide links to other sources of information on the topic. They are for you to read and study in order to make your own decisions. The decision for some of us has been to transition our pets to raw diets that include whole meats, bones, organs, and some vegetables. For others, home cooked foods have been the answer to the problems with the existing commercial pet foods. There are different schools of thought on whether supplementation is necessary. Yet others have found “trustworthy” pet foods made with good ingredients.
It is our belief that it is far better to feed high quality low-carb pet foods (with real meat and not rendered meat or grains as the primary ingredient) than to feed the cheaper varieties, but that it is still not the best solution for the following reasons:
Most dry foods have grains, and we believe, based on most of the research we trust, that grain-free foods are best. Some dry foods are grain-free, but those tend to be high in fats and low in moisture, a particular problem for cats who do not drink enough water to compensate for inadequate moisture in their food. The shelf life of dry foods is several months to a year or more (unrefrigerated), which means that they must have preservatives in sufficient quantities to keep from spoiling. Even if these preservatives are termed “natural,” such as vitamin E, they are still present in unnaturally high amounts if they are to do their job of preserving at room temperature foods containing meats. Also, it is always preferable to consume fresh foods, not foods that are several months old and need preservatives. In addition, fats in dry foods can become rancid over time and can grow molds, which can trigger allergies in some pets (refrigerating dry foods helps with this problem up to a point); worse still, these foods can grow a particular type of fungus, called Aflotoxin, a highly toxic mold implicated in the deaths of perhaps more than 100 dogs in 2005-2006 (see the link below). Canned or “wet” foods may be healthier than dry foods to some degree (in particular because their water content is higher and carb content tends to be lower), but there are problems with them as well. One of the problems is that most (see the link below for a listing) canned (pop top cans) foods -- even high quality -- come in cans lined with Bisphenol A, which is an epoxy and an endocrine disrupter that has been linked to a growing list of human health problems. In cats, eating canned food has been linked to an increased incidence of hyperthyroidism. Also, consumption of primarily canned foods is bad for the teeth, as the texture of cooked foods (unlike raw foods) is such that it tends to build up on the surface of the teeth and under the gums, requiring regular dental cleanings under general anesthesia, which is not risk-free, particularly for older animals (not to mention costly).
A word of caution: please do your own reading and make your own decisions. We have explained what we believe, but it is for you, the pet owner, to do the homework. Feeding raw or home-prepared foods requires knowledge and attention to detail and if you choose to go that route, make sure you understand all the implications. There are many listservs and online groups that offer advice and tips on alternate diets. Good luck. We hope to help you keep your precious companions as healthy and fit as possible.