Something to chew on: giving your pet healthy food
Hippocrates, often considered the father of modern medicine, was reported to have said, “Let food be thy Medicine.” In my 18 years of veterinary practice, I have not found a single more important medicine than the feeding of as fresh a diet as possible to our dogs and cats. While animal guardians often rely on their veterinarians as expert resources on both surgical and medical approaches to various diseases, when it comes to healthy and preventative nutrition, this is one area of veterinary medical school training that is truly sadly lacking.
While in school, most veterinarians spend only a few hours in a nutrition course, and much of commercial pet food recommendations that are given to clients are based on what veterinarians hear from pet food sales representatives. Many of the common foods sold across the country out of veterinary offices are often filled with toxic meat byproducts and preservatives, as well as many of them being cheaper carbohydrate cereal based protein foods, rather than the protein/fat rich fresh diets that carnivores like cats and dogs evolved to eat.
If there is anything that the huge pet food recall taught us and the public, it is how poorly regulated the pet food industry truly is. Many pet foods do not contain optimum nutrition, but often minimum levels of cheaper nutrients that were, at best, adequate during short feeding trials. The pet food recall involved many major pet food manufacturers cheaply buying their main protein sources from a Chinese-based company that was contaminated with a toxic ingredient known as melamine, which was toxic to the urinary tract and kidneys of pets consuming such foods. These were many of the same pet food companies commonly available at pet supermarkets, grocery stores and even many from veterinarians around the country.
When evaluating pet foods, it is important to always look at not only the quality of ingredients in terms of fresh meats or meat meals, but also the order of ingredients on a pet food label. I usually recommend to clients that the first two out of three ingredients should be some sort of meat products, preferably fresh meat or meat meals. Foods should have a variety of ingredients, as well as preserved naturally with vitamin E known as tocopherols, or vitamin C, and not other preservatives like ethoxyquin, BHA or BHT. I always tell clients that if they don’t understand what an ingredient is in the food, or it is cryptic sounding like “meat and bone meal” (i.e meat and bones of what?), then those ingredients probably should not be in pet foods.
And while I always encourage my clients to feed fresh proper homemade diets if possible, following balanced recipes, there are a growing number of trustworthy and reliable natural commercial pet foods. Amongst the ones I have found quite effective when feeding home made diets is not possible, are Wysong and Halo as other reliable and trustworthy companies.