Do You Know What You’re Feeding Your Pet?

One of the things I vowed never to do on this blog was to create a sensationalized header for any topic, no matter how dire or breath taking it might be.  Well, I kind of broke that rule with good reason this time.  I have worked in the pet industry since 2008 now, and have been involved in animal rescue since 2004.  I admit, at first I wasn’t as hands on as I am today – but that’s beside the point.  I have since then become an avid advocate of many things related to animals, the biggest one of which is nutrition.

For the animal rescue that I work with, I was put in charge of setting a base-line for nutrition standards.  Either side of that I assigned some leeway that was expressed in a numbering system from 0 to 10 with 10 being the best.  Foods that were rated 5 and up were considered approved foods, 4 and under were unapproved foods, and 0’s were banned.  Select foods within that range of banned foods were also flagged as health hazards to pets, and in some cases could mean we would revoke the fostering status of the foster parent.  It’s kind of like if you’re inspected for fostering children and you’re eating a salad while the children are eating two gram crackers and some black licorice for their daily meal.

So what factors did I look at?

  1. What is the history of the parent company that manufactures the product?
  2. What is the foods recall track record?
  3. What kind of protein is used in the food?
  4. What is the composition of the food?
  5. Where do all of the foods ingredients come from?
  6. What is actually in the food?

In some cases, the results could anger a few people, and others could simply be shocked.  Then a few others might just give themselves a pat on the back.  The bottom line is however, nutrition for pets is new in America.  Our markets have been dominated by large companies such as Purina – owned by the Nestle corporation, Pedigree – owned by the Mars corporation, and Iams – owned by the Proctor and Gamble corporation.

Now comes the part of the post where you might kick, scream and cry, insist that I’m wrong, and pout.  What if I told you those three companies manufacture some of the worst of the worst of food?  Well, I already know what most of you would do.  But, I don’t present that statement without information to back it up, so lets do that.

Our first “bully” is Purina.  Did you ever wonder why there are so many Purina products?  Seriously…it is absolutely pathetic and nauseating.   Their front page says it all.  The bottom of it has all of their lines of food: Alpo, Chow, Beneful, One, One Beyond, Pro Plan, Vet Diet, Pro Plan Focus, Mighty Dog, Chef Michaels, Moist N Meaty, Just Right…take a deep breath now.  To even the most slightly educated person in pet nutrition, several of those names should sound alarms in your head, but we need to examine those as this is an educational post.

1st offender: ALPO – Your first clue here should be that ALPO has yet to have a recent year that it hasn’t been recalled for some form of malnutrition standard or health hazard.  But of course ALPO has never ever ever … ever never been recalled and is obviously one of the best foods for the price.  Except not.  The short ended version of this, if you don’t want to kill your pets.  Don’t feed them this.  They deserve so much better.  Aside from the fact that it has nothing but eyeballs, beaks, tongues, corn, wheat and soy in it – if the fact it’s always recalled isn’t enough.  If this is all you can afford, don’t have a pet.

2nd offender: Beneful – ah Beneful.  I think what I love the most about Beneful is it’s blatant and up front advertising of a terrible product that somehow goes un-noticed.   Have you ever looked at a bag of Beneful?  I encourage you to do so next time you’re at your local pet store and just look at the front of the bag.  Look for about fifteen seconds, then smack yourself in the head as hard as you can.

On the front of this bag are two ingredients in particular you should pay attention to: corn and wheat.  I don’t know about you, but when I eat canned corn, or any corn…it comes out the same way it goes in, and my digestion system is longer than my dog’s is.  Realize the problem with that yet?  Next, if you’re lucky enough to feed this specific formula – I can’t remember which, you’ll notice carrots on the front, but no carrots in the ingredient list.  I guess they’re phantom carrots.

3rd offender: Chef Michaels – if anyone out there actually believes this man gave this food a thumbs up and supervised the selection of ingredients that go into this food, congratulations, you never have to go eat at a five star restaurant ever in your life, or even a two star establishment.  In fact Applebee’s is probably too good for you.  Enjoy your life full of McDonalds and Rally’s Jr.

By-products, it’s full of by-products, corn, and wheat, and soy, and salt beyond belief.  It is by far one of the worst foods to possibly feed your pet if s/he has any kind of health problems.  The kibble might look tasty – but trust me, unless tasty to you is roadkill, it’s not.

Next is Mars’ Pedigree – which I’m still trying to understand why no one has put together that these companies make money off of candy – food that’s not good for you.  What really makes you think their pet food is any better?  Pedigree is another food that has been associated with hundreds and possibly thousands of pet fatalities. Funnily enough, the leading issue with Pedigree is tooth decay leading to heart health issues.  Imagine that, the same company that makes M & M’s is causing problems with canine teeth and heart health…

Lastly is Proctor and Gamble’s Iams, Eukanuba, and Innova…I don’t think I’m going to rant all that I can about these companies because I just don’t have that kind of free time.

I’ll start with Innova a food that used to be of one of the highest qualities before it’s former parent company Natura was taken over by the disgusting animal that is Proctor and Gamble.  Since “P&G” took over, recall after recall has been cycling through Innova, primarily due to Salmonella infestation.  So bad as such that during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, Innova spent more time off the shelves than on, eventually leading retailers such as PetCo to remove them from their store altogether – similar to the relationship with Eukanuba cat food products – another P&G food.

And as much as I do not support all of the ideals of PETA, I do believe in some of their protocols and ethics.  Particularly when it comes to the fair treatment of animals and humanity.  Sadly, the majority of information on this site is accurate.  If you’re feeding a P&G product with “meat by-product” – congratulations…your dog or cat is now a cannibal.  The worst part about that is that it’s not even a healthy dog or cat, it’s an animal that’s need for being tested on has ended.

This doesn’t take into account that Iams and Eukanuba are also guilty of the same Salmonella contamination as it’s holistic sister Innova.

Other foods such as Royal Canin and Science Diet appeal to the masses also by use of their slug lines “veterinarian recommended” or “scientifically formulated and designed” respectively.  The cold hard truth is that in Hills’ Science Diet, the formula has been watered down to the point it’s only slightly better than it’s Purina cousin: Pro Plan.  Royal Canin uses modified kibbles formulated in various ways and markets it as “breed specific”, but it is no more specific than any other formula on the market and is extremely high in cost with an ingredients list that mimic’s Science Diet.  To date, Hills has remarketed the original Science Diet formula under the name “Ideal Balance” which ranks high on the list I compiled.

Foods like Merrick, Blue Buffalo, Solid Gold, Wellness, Canidae, and Nature’s Variety are among some of the best food that you can buy for your pet at your local pet store.  Some lines such as Merrick and Nature’s Variety offer products that are at an adjusted price point in order to cater to those who are on a tight budget.  For example, Merrick’s Whole Earth Farm’s line runs generally around the same price as a bag of Iams and is dozens of times better in quality, providing a safe and healthy option for those switching.  The best part about this is that Merrick does not use by-product, fillers, or low quality ingredients and all of those ingredients are U.S. based along with processing and packaging.

Things to watch out for:

  • Avoid colors in food:  colors are additives and can cause allergic reactions in all pets.
  • Examine the amount of salt in the food: the lower on the list, the less salt is used.  AAFCO requires salt be used as a preservative in all foods.
  • Corn can not be digested:  If it is listed anywhere in the food, it is a useless ingredient that does not supply any nutrition to the dog.
  • Wheat and soy can cause allergic reactions at any time.
  • By-products are always by-products, there’s no such thing as “high quality” when you’re dealing with remains.
  • If you ever see “meat by-products”, it means that anything living could be that food, including dogs and cats.
  • Don’t be fooled by packaging: always look at the ingredients.

Another tip that can help some people who are having problems with their pet eating a lot of food is protein examination.  By law, the AAFCO requires a guaranteed analysis of multiple key factors of food to be presented on the bags.  One of these is protein content.  A bag of food that’s first five ingredients are: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Barley, Cranberries – and has a protein content of 34% minimum, likely does have 34% minimum concentration of protein.  Your dog is likely to eat less of this food and will keep their muscle mass toned up and remain healthy.

However, a food that’s first five ingredients are: Chicken By-Product Meal, Whole Ground Corn, Ground Yellow Corn, Ground Whole Wheat, Yellow-5 Extract – with a protein content of 24%, likely only has a concentration of between 8% and 13%.  Why?  Look at the second and third ingredients, they can’t be digested.  The fourth indicates a filler that the dog can’t use, and the fifth is a food coloring preservative with no nutritional value.  Your dog is more likely to eat more of this food, and will struggle keeping up a healthy muscle mass which could lead to severe health complications later on.  In some cases that might also include premature death.

Feeding your dog or cat a higher quality food may cost more now, but it reduces vet bills later, and can prolong their life so they can spend more time doing the things that make memories.  Including all the things that make you cringe and laugh.  I go by this motto for pets:  don’t be cannibalistic, go holistic.

You can find a list of pet food available at a few popular pet stores with their ratings below, two of these are local, but the others are national.

Food List – You will need Microsoft Excel or Spreadsheet to open this, and no it does not have a virus on it.  Feel free to scan it over a time or two before you open it if you’re one of those paranoid types.

Addendum:

I had someone on Facebook insist Pro Plan is one of the top formula’s to feed their pets.  I was informed who I was speaking with is someone who has had championship dogs for a number of years, and they were constantly feeding the food.  I did some research on this, and just for that person I have this reply.

Pro Plan itself is certainly the better Purina food to purchase, but that’s only if you’re limiting yourself to Purina products.  It is a middle of the road formula that by no means is bad, but is not “high” in quality.  Pro Plan does not meet the standards of most international breeders.  If we were looking at 20 or so years ago, Pro Plan would possibly be seen as the best, but people are getting smarter and wiser about what they feed their pets.

One of the most popular formulas is the shredded blend chicken recipe.  I took the liberty of pulling the list of ingredients that Purina says they put in this food:

Chicken, Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Wheat, Poultry By-Product Meal (Natural Source of Glucosamine), Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat preserved with Mixed-Tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), Whole Grain Corn, Soy Flour, Corn Bran, Soybean Meal, Fish Meal (natural source of Glucosamine), Animal Digest, Glycerin, Salt, Dried Egg Product – these are the first 16 ingredients.  Don’t believe me?  Tough.

Remember earlier I said  corn can’t be digested?  I don’t think we need to go there again.  Remember what I said about by-products?  You have a better chance to get glucosamine out of the chicken than you do the poultry by-product, nice try though Purina – that’s giving it the old college BSing-the-paper-the-night-before-it’s-due try.  Whole grain wheat ensures that pets may develop allergic reactions, minor or serious – or increased shedding at any given time.  Soybean meal and soy flour – same as the previous sentence except soy is typically used as a protein source, and your pet can’t synthesize soy the way that they’d need to get protein out of it.  Animal digest, that’s feces, vomit, undigested food, and urine ladies and gentlemen.  Indeed a quality product.

I reiterate – you can find food that is similarly priced that is much higher in quality by stepping over into the natural food aisles of your local pet store.  You will be glad that you did.

2 thoughts on “Do You Know What You’re Feeding Your Pet?

  1. I have recently tried the Iams Sensitive Naturals Ocean Fish & Rice Recipe dog food and from my research, it seems to be one of the only decent brands that Iams is currently selling. By no means is it the best food for dogs out there, but for those on a budget who want to do the best they can for their dog, it seems to be a good option.

    1. And there are certainly times where you only have access to a specific formula, and issues of that nature. I can definitely understand that. I don’t like P&G’s practices as a general rule of thumb, however…there are far worse products on the market, and Iams does happen to be one of the formulas out there that is available essentially everywhere, which is another selling point. But I would agree with you for sure, if you MUST feed Iams, do the sensible thing and feed the natural selections line. If anything, it as at least a step in the right direction on your journey to better pet health.

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