Editor’s note: Borderstan welcomes Tori Tyree back with her weekly column on you and your pets. She is the owner of Walk of the Town, a dog walking and pet sitting company. Tyree has been working with animals most of her life — caring for them in animal hospitals, training dogs, volunteering at zoos and the Washington Humane Society, and counseling customers about pet nutrition. You can leave a comment or send Tyree an email: tori(at)borderstan.com.
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From Tori Tyree
Do you know what’s going into the food you feed your pets? I have asked this question to just about every animal person I’ve met and have been surprised by the answer. Some people tell me, “It’s whatever the vet told me to give her” or “Yeah… it’s the purple bag with all the vegetables on it.”
If you can’t recall the ingredients in your pet’s food, you are not paying enough attention.
Did you know that dogs and cats have the biological potential to live into their 20’s? I usually tell people that feeding an inferior food to your pets is like eating every meal at McDonald’s Sure, you can live on it — but for how long, and how healthy will you be for doing it?
I want you to go take a look at the ingredients on your pet’s food right now. If you see these ingredients, just know that the pet food manufacturer tried to cut corners. A named animal protein (i.e., chicken, beef, lamb) should always be the first listed ingredient.
Corn, Wheat and Soy. These are considered cereal grains and a low quality source of protein. They are also highly indigestible and can cause stress on the kidneys. In addition, corn is the third leading cause of allergens in dogs and cats.
Byproducts. We’ve all heard that byproducts aren’t good for your pets, but exactly what are by products? Not only are they also highly indigestible, but byproducts can include animal organs, chicken heads, bones, intestines, chicken feathers and beaks. More importantly, byproducts do not have to include any meat and can include diseased or contaminated meat from the slaughter houses.
Next week I will talk about some of the different options that are available, and how to transition from one diet to another.
Meat and Bone Meal. These can legally include dead pets and animals from road kill. Not only that, it can include euthanized animals that are ground up in rendering factories. These animals could have been shot up with antibiotics or been severely diseased.
Chemicals. Chemicals are usually used to preserve the freshness for pet food storage. There are three main ones. BHT and BHA both are known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction and are known carcinogens. The third chemical is Ethoxyquin which over prolonged use has been linked to cancer. There are many natural preservatives that can be used, such as Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Vitamin C and Rosemary extract. Companies use these chemicals because they need a long shelf life. Sometimes it can take 18 months before the pet food is even sold further lessening the nutrient content.
Artificial Colors, Flavors, Sugars, Salt, Corn Syrup. These are used to sweeten the deal for the dogs. They are usually used to offset a product that contains little healthy animal protein. So, now we’ve determined what’s going into your animal’s body. Did your food pass the test? If not, don’t worry. About 75% of people I talk to are shocked to learn that the food may not be the best thing. (Those commercials made them seem so healthy!)
Here is the good news. There are so many options in healthier pet foods these days. You may even find that they are cheaper than what you are paying now. Usually if a food is higher quality, you don’t have to feed your pet as much. Also, in the long run you save on vet bills. I’ve had clients that were able to stop giving medicine and allergy shots just because they made the switch to a better food. One client even told me his cats were nicer than they had ever been before!