Sunday, 10 June 2012

If "you are what you eat", what does that make your dog?

In our current ‘Nescafe Society’, the Western World wants everything at the touch of a button and convenience food is a number one best seller. The link between these foods and obesity, diabetes and heart attacks has clearly been made and the government are attempting to educate the public about a healthy lifestyle of food and exercise in their “Health for Life” campaign; their bias being to help reduce the NHS costs incurred by a citizens’ unhealthy lifestyle. Thus the question becomes, who is there to do this for our pets?

The pet food companies? – their bias is sales!

The veterinarians? – most of their information comes direct from the pet food companies.

Who then? and what is in our conveniently packaged, well advertised, pet foods?

Pet food labelling does not come under the same laws as that of human food, therefore can be somewhat vague, it may read: Meat and animal derivatives, derivatives of vegetable origin, oils & minerals – and little more. Some labels may be much more explicit, but appear to use a language all of their own i.e. ‘poultry digest’ ‘gluten meal’ etc. So how can the average pet owner discern the health qualities of each individual food?

Simply put, they can’t.

Pet food manufacture swept the nation after the world war, when cavalry horses were surplus to requirements and therefore canned and sold as pet food, but when the horses ran out, so did the high meat content and manufacturers found themselves needing a substitute.

Grains are cheap and have protein content and therefore made a logical replacement, in fact Britains’ best selling pet food is 50% grain.

Scientists worked out which were the ‘essential’ vitamins and minerals necessary to keep a dog alive and these became the premise from which a product can be labelled “Complete”. Minimum requirements of each of these, if met in the product, entitles it to be labelled “Balanced”. This leaves the average pet owner not realising that the “Complete” pet food he or she is purchasing, may well be lacking or overdosing on certain nutrients, leaving a pet nutritionally imbalanced or even starving in certain areas. Symptoms of which are often attempts to self-medicate via stealing human food or some form of coprophagia, soil eating, etc.

So, with this knowledge and a plethora of foods on the market, chose those which are both “complete” and “balanced” right?

If only it were that simple.

Not all of the pet food sold is Britain is made in Britain and therefore subject to British laws on ingredients or manufacturing process. Whilst the ‘Pet Food Manufacturers Association’ can assure us a certain quality of ingredients on 95% of British made foods, ‘Made in Britain’ is often a misnomer and actually only means that the item was packaged in Britain.

Outside of the UK “Meat and animal derivatives” can mean euthanized pets, that much beloved dog, cat or horse, still containing barbiturates and even wearing their identity collars or chemical infused flea collars, as these are not ‘intentionally added ingredients’, the law does not require them to be listed.

OK, so that’s what the ‘meaty chunks’ are?


Often those ‘meaty chunks’ are processed soy, high in protein and made to look like meat.

But the packet says “with Chicken”!

Yes, that means that the product in question contains a minimum of 4% chicken.

Armed with this information, now which way do you turn?

When it comes to dried, tinned or moist foods, it is tricky. A small number of manufacturers have a “closed recipe” on their product, which means, that whatever happens, the percentages of all ingredients do not change, these manufacturers may be happy to send you a list of ingredients so that you can be somewhat more reassured as to what you are feeding your pet.

OK, so what do you do?

Personally, I prepare my pets food myself. After studying canine nutrition and digestion for over a decade I feel able to get the balance right and I know 100% what my dogs are eating, how it effects their digestive tract, DNA and each individual cell in their bodies. Friends of mine that do the same & I often hear the words “that dog eats better than I do” and in all honestly, never a truer word were spoken.

If you want to know more about preparing a healthy, “complete” and “balanced” meal for your pet, there are a great number of books on the market, but if that is not “Nescafe” enough for you, get in touch.

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