Good Food is the Foundation of Good Health
by Lisa Shapiro
Pet foods…as long as they say “complete and balanced”, it’s a great food, right? Well, nope, not so much. The quality of pet food ingredients can vary widely amongst the brands and those ingredients can have a profound impact on your pet’s health. Is your pet itchy, constantly licking, hyperactive, gassy, have soft poop, frequent diarrhea, or overweight? All of these conditions can be related to his diet. This article references dogs, but the majority of it applies to cats as well.
Dogs are carnivores, over time they have evolved to handle more vegetables, grains and fruits in their diet…but at the root they are carnivores and most will thrive on a diet with plenty of high quality meat protein. Note that I wrote “high quality protein” because not all protein is created equal. The Biological Value of a protein is a very important factor. Biological Value (BV) is a measure of the “useability” of a protein. An egg is considered the perfect protein and has a BV of 100. High quality muscle meat has a BV in the 70-90 range while corn is 54 and wheat gluten Is 40. A food that is primarily corn and wheat gluten (e.g. Beneful) has a usability of less than 50%, so your pet must eat more to get the nutrition that is needed. This makes it difficult to maintain an appropriate weight.
Corn, wheat and soy (and all of their variations such as corn gluten meal) all fall into the low BV category. They are also high sources of allergens to many pets. Some believe it is because of the pests like mites that often infest feed grain supplies, more so than the grain itself. But either way the inclusion of these grains often cause itching and digestive upset. Corn has a high glycemic index which means it can cause unhealthy blood sugar spikes. Glutens are linked to all kinds of issues in humans; digestive upset, behavior problems, joint pain, skin problems etc. and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that our furry friends are affected as well. Intolerance can build over time, so a pet that has been eating a food for years with no issue can suddenly begin to display symptoms.
Many grains, particularly corn, are subject to mold growth and the presence of aflatoxins which have been linked to cancer, liver and kidney failure. The FDA has stated that moldy corn may be used in pet foods as long as it is “properly treated”, which often means just mixing it with non-moldy corn until the concentration level of the aflatoxins achieve the level that they have deemed as safe.
By-product meals, meat and bone meal, & animal fat are products of the rendering pit. This is the place where all the human food rejects go; animals that are dead, dying or diseased when they get to the slaughter house, supermarket and restaurant waste such as past due meats, roadkill, euthanized animals including the drugs that were administered to try and save them and then kill them. The FDA says that as long as it’s cooked at high temperatures it’s OK to feed our pets.
Artificial dyes have been linked to cancer, allergies (digestive upset, airway swelling) and behavioral issues in humans and again, it’s apparent that our pets are affected as well.
Now that we know what we’re looking out for, let’s take a look at 3 foods that I consider representative of the low, mid and high quality levels within the pet food industry. First up Beneful…
Beneful Original ingredients (some vitamins/minerals have been clipped out to save space) :
Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat, rice flour, beef, soy flour, water, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, animal digest, potassium chloride, sorbic acid (a preservative), dried peas, dried carrots, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, Red 40, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Blue 2.
Beneful is one of the lowest quality foods on the market. I see one ingredient that I like in that list, the beef, which is the 7th ingredient so there isn’t very much of it (pet food ingredients are listed by weight). The dried peas and carrots are a reasonable addition as well. But think of those Beneful ads with all the pretty vegetables and beautiful cuts of meat…does this ingredient list resemble that image? If you purchase this food, you’re not paying for quality ingredients…you’re paying for TV commercials and lots of marketing hype.
Science Diet Advanced Fitness Original (some vitamins/minerals have been clipped out to save space) :
Chicken, Brewers Rice, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Wheat, Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Dried Beet Pulp, Wheat Gluten, Lactic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Flaxseed, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins…Oat Fiber, Mixed Tocopherols added to retain freshness, Citric Acid added to retain freshness, Phosphoric Acid, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract, Dried Apples, Dried Broccoli, Dried Carrots, Dried Cranberries, Dried Peas.
OK, this one looks a little better. Chicken is the first ingredient, but that can be misleading since the chicken includes water and the ingredients following it are dry. So the chicken weighs more, but about 70% is water weight. Significant meat protein isn’t found until the chicken meal at the 8th ingredient. So this is still a very grain heavy food with lots of glutens. Animal fat from the rendering pit is also included. A positive is that there are no artificial colors.
Fromm Gold Adult (some vitamins/minerals have been clipped out to save space) :
Duck, Chicken Meal, Chicken, Brown Rice, Pearled Barley, Oatmeal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Chicken Fat, Lamb, Potatoes, Dried Tomato Pomace. Dried Whole Egg, Salmon Oil, Cheese, Flaxseed, Brewers Dried Yeast, Alfalfa Meal, Carrots, Lettuce, Celery, Chicken Cartilage…Probiotics.
Fromm Gold Adult is a good entry level product to the higher quality foods and reasonably priced. The first 3 ingredients; duck, chicken meal and chicken, are high quality easily digestible protein sources. The chicken meal does not include water so you are getting more meat than vegetable matter.
Fromm Gold does not contain dyes or low quality rendering pit ingredients, eliminating the possibility of associated issues. What it does contain are probiotics for digestive health, chicken cartilage for joint health, flax seed and fish oil for Omegas. Whole grains with lower glycemic index that are not an aflatoxin risk. Basically, this food has a list of whole ingredients that are recognizable and healthy for your pet.
All of the foods at Pawsitively Yummy are the quality of Fromm Gold or better. We specialize in helping you find the right food for your furry friend. There is no better feeling for us than to help a customer choose a new food and have them come in a few weeks later and tell us how well their dog is doing on it!