Is there really that much difference between grocery-store pet food and so-called “designer” foods? Yes!
When you think about it, the food you select for your companion animal is extremely important. After all, with the exception of an occasional treat, it is all your companion animal will ever eat – every day, all year, throughout his or her lifetime. Therefore, the choice of pet foods has a significant impact on the quality of his or her life – in appearance, personality, and long and short-term health conditions.
Check the Ingredients
By law, pet food manufacturers must list ingredients in descending order of weight before the food is cooked or processed. Accordingly, the first four or five ingredients typically make up 75% of the food.
First, Check the Protein Source
Dogs and cats are carnivores and require diets consisting primarily of meat protein to build and repair tissues. Therefore, check the first few ingredients of the pet food and determine the source of protein. If the first ingredient is corn, wheat or soybean, for example, the food is mostly grain-based. While grains are less expensive than meats, they are harder for a dog or cat to digest.
If a meat source is listed first, consider the quality and digestibility of the meat. Digestibility refers to the quantity of food eaten that is actually absorbed and used by the dog or cat’s system. The higher the digestibility, the more nutrients are absorbed into the animal’s system for growth, tissue repair, energy and keeping the immune system strong. Also, the higher the digestibility, the less the animal needs to eat and the less he or she will eliminate (meaning less yard waste!).
Meat sources can be broken down in to two categories of digestibility:
1.Highly Digestible: Meat or Meat meal (Chicken or Chicken Meal, Lamb or Lamb Meal).
2.Poorly Digestible: Meat by-products (Chicken by-products, Lamb by-products. By-products consist of parts of the animal such as necks, feet, feathers, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, which are hard to digest.
Second Look at the Carbohydrates
After checking the type of meat protein, look at the grains used – the source of carbohydrates. Like the meat proteins, grains can be broken up into two categories:
1.Nutritional sources: Ground Whole Grains – Ground Whole Wheat, Ground Brown Rice, Ground Yellow Corn, Oatmeal, Oat Groats, etc. Whole grains provide high quality, complex carbohydrates and organic sources of vitamins and minerals. They are not fillers.
2. Fillers: Ground Wheat, Wheat Flour, Rice Flour, Brewer’s Rice, etc. These are very cheap for manufacturers to purchase and have very little nutri-tional value.
Third, Review Secondary Ingredients
Secondary ingredients can supply rich organic sources of vitamins and miner-als, much like the role of vegetables in a human’s diet. Bene?cial secondary ingre-dients to look for include, for example: linseed (Source of Omega-3 fatty acids for the immune system), alfalfa (rich in trace minerals, beta-carotene), dehy-drated eggs (protein), dried kelp (rich in micronutrients and Vit. K), sea salt (or-ganic micronutrients), chelated minerals (300 to 500 times more metabolized than inorganic rock (oxide) minerals!). Avoid Cane Molasses (sugar), Peanut Hulls, and Powdered Cellulose.
Fourth, Check the Preservatives
Many popular “grocery brands” use chemical preservatives, primarily BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin. BHA and BHT have been associated with metabolic stress, liver damage and fetal abnormali-ties. OSHA classi?es Ethoxyquin as a haz-ardous chemical, and the Department of Agriculture lists it as a pesticide.
Consider that a 25 pound dog will consume 6 to 9 pounds of chemical preservatives a year when fed a diet preserved with chemicals. Recent stud-ies have found these chemicals to be carcinogenic. Signi?cantly, cancer is the number one killer of older dogs. Ac-cordingly, chemical preservatives should be avoided. Look instead for natural preservatives, such as: Citric Acid (Vit. C), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vit. C), d-Alpha-Tocopherol (Vit. E), and Ascorbic Acid (Vit. C).
The Bottom Line – Cheaper is More Expensive!
Surprisingly, it actually costs less to feed your pet a better quality diet. How is this possible? While their retail price is higher, all natural, premium pet foods have better quality ingredients, with much more protein and energy per kibble than the economy, supermarket brands. As a result, the dog or cat consumes less (and, with the higher digestibility, poops less!) but gets better, more useable nutrients.
The fact is, it just does not pay to feed a cheap quality pet food. By selecting a premium or super-premium food, your companion animal can potentially live a longer and healthier life!
By Dennis P. Bourgault, Esq., President, Doolittle’s Chateau-Animaux, www.chateau-animaux.com.