How to Assess the Quality of Your Dog and Cat's Food
Do you know what's in your pet's food?
No, like really know?
Have you read the ingredient list and thought I'm not really sure what that is, but why would they put something in the food that doesn't help my pet's health?
The more I learn about pet food and what these companies can get away with, the more upset I get. This is why we focus heavily on food and how it impacts your pet's health. Food is medicine and the foundation for health. When we feed our pets poor quality food, their chance of developing disease and cancer increase tremendously. There are great companies who genuinely care, and then there are companies that are great at marketing to draw pet parents in but make food with cheap ingredients that don't help your pet.
Grab your pet's canned food and dry food and turn around the bag to check out the ingredient list to follow along.
Looking at this ingredient list, would you feed this to your puppy?
Do you think these ingredients lead to optimal health?
Let's discuss a few things that stand out that we haven't discussed in our previous blog posts.
The first ingredient to look for is "natural flavor" or it may be listed as "natural chicken flavor". This ingredient is used to enhance the taste of the food. Most animals will NOT eat the food when it is first extruded from the machine. The companies have to spray flavoring onto the kibble to make it tasty again. However, companies are allowed to consider these natural flavors proprietary, meaning they are not required to disclose what is used to make the flavoring or how it's made (ie what chemicals are used).
If your pet experiences food allergies, itchy skin or inflammation in general, we have no idea the source and the quality of the source this flavoring comes from. It could be a combination of beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, and who knows what else. Not what you want if your dog or cat has a food sensitivity.
The second ingredient to look for is unnamed proteins, like "meat meal", "animal" or "poultry" products. These types of protein indicate the cheapest and lowest quality source. Many of the higher grade pet foods don't use these anymore, but it's important to look for. Animal grade meats are the meats that were discarded from the human side, because they were not high enough quality, meaning the meats were diseased, had cancerous growths, or were in general poor quality meats. Not what you want to be feeding your pet.
Finally, are there any artificial colors or preservatives listed?
Preservatives are necessary to extend the shelf-life of foods and slow down oxidative changes and fats going rancid. Bad preservatives you want to look for include:
Ethoxyquin - This is a pesticide and has been linked to cancer. Unfortunately, ethoxyquin is sometimes used in some meal products so it can be hidden from the ingredient list.
Propylene glycol - This is an ingredient used in anti-freeze.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) - Both of these chemicals potentially cause cancer.
Tertiary Butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) - This is a form of butane used to make varnish and resins.
Sodium Metabisulphite - This is a bleaching agent.
Foods should be using natural preservatives, however the food doesn't last as long on the shelf. However, I don't want those chemicals going into my pets.
Here are some natural preservatives you'll want to see in your pet's food instead:
Mixed tocopherols (vitamin E)
Forms of vitamin C (like ascorbic acid)
There are many little things that add up in pet foods to serious health implications over the long-term for your pets. By increasing your knowledge about what's going into your pet's bodies through food, you can help them live a longer and healthier life. 60% of pets will develop cancer, but you can help change that by questioning if the foods on the market are the best for your pet. Together we will create the change needed for our precious pets!
To learn more about pet nutrition and what may be hiding in your pet's food, head here:
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*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.