Monthly Archives: July 2014

Would you eat your pet’s food for a month?

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Recently, a pet food retailer in Richland, Washington made headlines when she decided to eat nothing but pet food for a month. The idea came to Dorothy Hunter when she worked up an appetite at her store and was unable to run out for food. She picked up a bag of dog treats and after reading the label decided they were better quality than most snack foods for people. Dorothy started a video blog documenting her 30 day dog food diet.

Dorothy’s intention is to draw people’s attention to pet (and human) food labels. She believes that the pet foods she sells are healthier than many foods sold for human consumption.

This story brings up several issues.

1.      Any animal – human or pet – can survive on just about any food for a short period.

This woman is doing an abbreviated AAFCO feeding trial. The “Gold Standard” for pet foods to show they are complete and balanced is a feeding trail. In a feeding trail, 8 animals are fed the pet food for 6 months. (25% of the animals in the trial can be removed for “non-nutritional reasons.”) So the fact that 6 animals can survive on the food for 6 months allows the pet food to say your pet should eat it every day for his entire life.

2.      BPA!

When I saw Dorothy dig into the can of chicken cat food all I could think of was the study that linked the BPA in pull-top canned cat food to feline hyperthyroidism. The plastic chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in the lining of many canned foods and is a known disruptor of the endocrine system.

3.      Pet food labels lie.

My previous 2 blogs documented the many ways pet food labels can be misleading. For example, even “natural” and “holistic” can contain preservatives that are not included on the ingredient list. You also cannot tell the quality of the pet food ingredients from the label. Food that is unfit for human consumption often gets dumped into pet foods. The pet foods this woman is eating may not be as healthy as she thinks.

4.      Most people do eat unhealthy diets. (But even “natural” pet food is not much better)

It is true that many Americans eat foods and snacks loaded with sugar and carbs. Unfortunately, most pet foods are also laden with way too much starch which promotes excessive weight gain, inflammation, and cancer. Poor diets for people and pets are the main reason we are plagued with chronic diseases.

5.      Eating strictly processed foods is not healthy for people or pets.

It appears that at least some of the pet foods Dorothy is eating are freeze dried and not heat processed. This is good because pet food processing destroys important nutrients. That’s why I’m a proponent of raw diets for pets. While I do not personally eat uncooked meats, I do eat fresh fruits and veggies and my steaks are medium rare. I also drink my dog’s Answers Raw Goat’s Milk. I do not eat People Chow. Pets that are fed strictly processed foods miss out on the nutrition they need.

I applaud Dorothy Hunter for really standing behind the pet food she sells and her quest to inspire people to read food labels. I wish her the best.

What do you think? Is Dorothy crazy or is there a method to her madness?


Lying Labels – Part II

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In last week’s blog post, we explored some of the many ways pet food companies misguide us with their labels. This week I have the rest of the story.

Questionable Quality

Hopefully there is meat listed somewhere on the ingredient list. Unfortunately, you cannot easily tell the quality of that meat from the label. Here’s a tip about the meat in pet food. Stay away from any food that lists “meat and bone meal” as an ingredient. This “mystery meat” component comes from a rendering plant and may contain pentobarbital (the drug used to euthanize animals). In fact, two separate studies found traces of this drug in major brands of pet foods. It truly is a dog-eat-dog world.

If you look carefully at any pet food label you will see that the amount of “Crude Protein” is listed. However, this is not a measurement of the actual protein in the food – thus the name “Crude Protein.” The way this ingredient is actually measured is by looking at the nitrogen level of the food since protein is high in nitrogen.

So an unscrupulous supplier of wheat gluten (a common source of pet food protein) could adulterate their raw ingredient with some other compound that is high in nitrogen – such as melamine – and make their gluten look especially nutritious while in reality it is more toxic. This is how thousands of dogs were poisoned by the food they were fed a few years ago.

Hidden Preservatives

On another front, no one wants to see preservatives in their pet’s food. Unfortunately, the label may not be much help with evaluating this. You see, if the pet food company buys an ingredient, such as chicken fat, and adds a chemical to preserve it, that chemical must be on the ingredient list. However, if they buy fat that is already chemically preserved, the preservative does not go on the label. Just because there are no preservatives on the ingredient list does not mean the food is preservative free. This scam is used in some “holistic” and “natural” pet foods.

Don’t Trust the Labels

I wish I could give you a straightforward way of choosing the best pet food based on the label besides being aware of the tricks of the trade. At a recent veterinary nutrition conference I attended, the nutritionist told us that “You cannot tell the quality of a pet food by reading any company material or even the pet food label.” He recommended that we veterinarians take note of the pet food each patient we see is being fed and the animal’s health. Over time, correlations can be made between specific foods and health.

Based on my experience, dogs and cats that are fed a balanced, raw diet are the healthiest. This evolutionary diet includes raw meat, ground raw bones, organ meat and shredded veggies. Frozen, pre-made diets are available.

In my opinion, Mother Nature is smarter than the smartest veterinary nutritionist and the closer we stick to the animal’s natural diet, the better off they are.