|Cater to Your Pet with more than just Kibble
Posted: 7/19/2006 1:27:00 PM
Variety is the spice of life. All things in moderation. Most people hear these familiar sayings and incorporate these ideas into their dietary habits by choosing from a wide variety of different foods every day. Yet when it comes to our pets, many of us simply open a bag of dry kibble or a can of wet food. We feed our pet the same diet, day after day, because it is convenient and inexpensive. But for optimum health, our companion animals should also be enjoying a varied diet rich in fresh meats, vegetables, grains and even fruit. Varying your pet's diet doesn't mean you have to devote hours to becoming a gourmet pet chef and cooking all your pet's meals at home, but there are some simple and tasty ways to improve your pet's health and longevity.
First, to get an idea about what is really in your pet's current food, look at the ingredient list on the bag of pet food in the pantry or on the supermarket shelf. The first ingredient is typically some kind of "meal" such as lamb meal, chicken meal or meat-and-by-product meal. This "meal" is actually a ground mixture of parts of the animal which is not considered fit for human consumption, including byproducts of slaughterhouse production of meats and waste products such as intestines, beaks and bone. Considering that cats and dogs in the wild would catch and eat their prey whole, this is not a fundamental problem, except that sanitary conditions in slaughterhouses are not regulated concerning these waste parts. So they may contain disease and contaminants including antibiotics, hormones and drugs used to anesthetize the animals before slaughter. In the process of making the "meal," the components are heated at extremely high temperatures, the fat is skimmed off, and the liquid is removed. The meal may be nearly sterilized, but the effective nutrition of the meat is reduced to practically nothing.
The next ingredient in the dry kibble is usually a grain, such as rice or corn, and in fact several different grains may be used. Dogs and cats both have very short intestinal tracts, and left to their own devices in the wild would not eat grains. Their short digestive tracts are most effective for digesting raw meats, and indeed, cats and dogs are both natural carnivores. Just look at their teeth to see that they are designed for tearing flesh and breaking bones. So, while rice and corn are inexpensive fillers, give pet food their bulk and provide protein and calories to your pet, they are not the kind of foods cats and dogs are meant to consume. Canned "wet" foods are a better choice than dry kibble, since they typically do not contain as much grain and have a higher ratio of protein to carbohydrate. Pets on high carbohydrate diets are at risk for developing obesity , immune problems, cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Canned food is still highly processed and contains preservatives, sweeteners, sodium and even pesticides which are harmful to your pets.
So what is the best diet for Fido or Fluffy? Since cats and dogs are carnivores, a diet high in raw meats is preferable. Additions of vegetables, fruit and some grains provide needed vitamins and minerals. Raw pet food is available at some pet stores and is usually sold frozen for convenience of storage. Another good option is certified organic pet food, which is free of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and other undesirable ingredients such as meal, hair and blood. In general, look for pet foods with "whole" ingredients, such as fresh meats, whole eggs, grains and vegetables, which contain natural sources of vitamins and probiotics and do not contain artificial preservatives. If using a kibble style food, try to vary the diet with the addition of some raw meats and veggies on a regular basis. Even table scraps are acceptable to incorporate more fresh foods into your pet's diet. (Just remember to reduce the amount of canned or dry food when adding fresh foods to avoid excessive weight gain!) By reducing the amount of processed food you feed your pet, you will be reducing their risk of developing cancer, heart disease and allergies, improving their energy, overall health, weight, and appearance and helping them to live a longer, happier life.
Umut Newberry, " Natural Pet Foods ," Mother Earth News, June 15, 2006.
Dr. Larry Siegler, " What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food ," Holistic Health Care Library. Only Natural Pet Store, LLC. 2006.
Susan Wynn, DVM, " Pet Food Primer ," PreciousPets.org.