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CAN YOU TRUST THE ADVICE YOU GET FROM THE PET STORE?


A visit to the local pet store had convinced me that many people must feed their pet companions like a foster home parent just in it for them self and the little extra cash. I went to Petco looking to see what changes they might have made in the last 10 years. Fast food commercial cereal (kibble) were still litter all over isle after isle and the nutritional advices given out was almost criminal. When I inquired about where the sales staff get their animal nutrition education I find out that nothing has changes in the last 20 years, they get it from the sales reps. The nice manager assured me that the Sales Rep.s where quite knowledgeable in all aspects of animal nutrition. Whatever you think your pet needs there is a fast food product ready to meet it organic, holistic, natural, raw, kosher, vegetarian, all-meat, gluten-free, high-fiber, high-protein, grainfree, low-fat, “lite,” veterinary prescriptive and anti-allergy. What’s even better, one bag fits all breeds of dogs or cats. Do parents rely on the advice of the cashier at Rite Aid for help for sensitive skin, sensitive stomachs, digestive disorders, weigh loss and other illness for their children? Why do they ask ask teenager or store owner that they know as never step foot in a vet school for nutritional advice for their pet? Do the so called “conscientious pet owners” who buy these products really fall for the sales gimmicks that are rolled in and out every year? Pro-biotics, grain free, low ash, vitamin enriched veterinary approved, etc. Do they scour the Petco for the human equivalent of “Grain-Free Optimal Holistic Nutrition for Dogs, Thoughtfully Chosen Whole Food Natural Ingredients in Every Bite,” as proclaimed on the package of Natures Variety Natural dog food? Or baby/puppy food like Innova Puppy Food made with turkey, duck, barley, brown rice, apple, tomato, carrot,


potato, egg, cottage cheese and alfalfa sprouts? All pureed and baked into a bite sized something you would scream in horror if your child put into it’s month. Parents know how to respond when a baby reacts badly to a newly introduced food. But if a puppy eating Blue Buffalo had a food sensitivity issue or their hair started falling out, how could you tell which ingredient was responsible? Do you really trust the 18 year old telling you what the sales reps told them to tell you? For god’s sake, most veterinarians know very little about animal nutrition (by evidence of what they sell in their waiting rooms) why would you belief a take advice from a Petco or any other pet store employee? I’m not against you burying your head in the sand and feeding what ever is most affordable and convienent, Just don’t claim you do what is best for your fur baby when you do feed them their daily portion of McKibble. No sane person really believes that any kibble provides the same nutrients as a whole food meal does. You don’t believe that the whole meat, vegetables and fruit on the cover of the bag is the same as what is in the bag, do you? Pet parents are overindulged in treats, clothing and affection but not when it comes to health care, wellness and nutrition. Too much junk food and too many snacks in proportion to the exercise they get are the rule. Veterinary groups have estimated that 40 to 60 percent of American dogs and cats are overweight or obese and at risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, organ failure, cancer and food allergies.


And I wonder whether people who invest in high-end pet foods are getting their money’s worth. Do they see their pets really are not healthier and happier? They are not living longer? And are these foods are far worse than they think and are not any better than the generic versions sold in supermarkets and big-box stores? When McDonalds came out with their healthy menu did you believe it was really health food or McHealth food? Recognizing the high value most owners place on their companion animals, and distressed by recent recalls of contaminated pet foods, one of my favorite scientists decided to examine the pet food industry and the evidence for the value of its products and the claims made for them. Malden C. Nesheim, professor of nutrition at Cornell said: “People are willing to and think they are doing better for their pets by spending more on these premium food brands. The $18-billion-a-year pet food industry is considered to be recession-proof. Although during this economic downturn shelters have been overwhelmed with pets people could not afford to keep, those who have kept their pets are not stinting on what they spend to feed them.” She noted, what most of us already knew, that the so-called premium pet foods cost three to four times more than supermarket brands. When one compares ingredient lists they find that they are strikingly similar since all have to meet and try to stick to certain nutritional minimum standards. The first five ingredients of nearly every kind of dog and cat food are generally the same, representing protein, carbohydrates and fats. He also said “anything listed below the salt would be present in only very small amounts.” Dr. Nesheim compared 10 premium wet and


canned chicken dinners for dogs and found that all contained basically the same ingredients: All start with chicken or chicken broth, followed by grains and vegetables. The non-premium brands use more grains and poultry, meat and fish byproducts. Knowing this the Premium brand have taken to advertise nongrain formulas in the effort to more clearly define the premium from the pedestrian brand. Other nutritionist like Dr. Goldstein say to look for products labeled “complete and balanced,” is deceiving because no one food is complete and balanced for all dogs. This is just an indication that the food meets the nutritional minimum requirements of cats and dogs listed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This organization, in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration, state officials and the animal feed industry, develops model regulations for pet foods, which are voluntary unless encoded in state laws. 99% of all commercial pet foods are made from the byproducts of human food production. No matter what the package says, your dog is not getting whole chicken breasts, prime cut of beef or New Zealand lamb but what remains after the animal have been removed for human food. By law all meat not used for human consumption must be “denatured” prior to leaving the meat processing plant and shipped to an animal food processing plant. It is primarily human food companies — Mars, Nestle, ColgatePalmolive, Procter & Gamble and Del Monte — that make the pet foods sold throughout the world. These companies form their


waste into pet food. The very good independent pet food companies are quietly bought up, keep the same packaging and the manufacturing of this product is changed. In much of the world, domestic dogs and cats survive on table and scavenge trash or street scraps, not commercially produced pet foods. This book seeks to find evidence for the added value to health and longevity of commercial pet foods, the authors found almost none. No agency requires proof of pet food health claims, and only a few pet food company is willing to invest or do decades of research to determine whether its products keep animals healthier and extend their lives. Pet food companies say they do research, but it is rarely done in a scientific fashion, with comparable control and experimental groups. There is, however, ample evidence that, despite claims to the contrary, both dogs and cats “are perfectly able to digest grains if they are cooked,� Dr. Nestle said. There have been several noted studies that have shown certain breeds have a nutritional requirement of these grains, vegetables and fruits. It is in the right proportions and how the nutrients are made to be at their most bio-available state that matters, not their exclusion. None of this should imply that different pet food products make no difference to individual animals. When my neighbors Golden Retriever began licking its paws incessantly, the vet suggested they try a corn-free pet food, which stopped the itching and licking. However, they need not spend $42 for a 12.5-pound bag of premium Science Diet or some other food that is corn free;


They need to find a food product that does not rely the base of the food being made from cheap corn. Many are paying good money for marketing gimmicks. If characteristics like natural, organic, holistic, vegetarian or kosher are important to pet owners, it may be worth it to them to pay top dollar for pet foods that claim to provide the desired attribute, even if there is no official or enforced definition of the claim. There are suggested guidelines for “Natural” and “Organic” but no enforcement. The current trend is for owners insisting on receiving catered hand made food or cooking for their pets. Most noted veterinary nutritionist agree this is a much better option to achieving optimum health, wellness and optioning life extension. The key is providing the unique nutritional requirements of the individual dog or cat. This can be done by blood test, a nutritional consultation and learning how to properly make the food or have a company that is qualified to do this for you. In my next article I will discuss what to look for in a private animal food catering company, a veterinary nutritionist and what blood test you should have to determine what your pets needs are. If you have any questions, would like a consultation, want to order food or have a comment, contact me at: daryll@petnutritionsystems.com or 562.295.6391


CAN YOU TRUST THE NUTRITION ADVICE YOU GET FROM A YOUR PET STORE?