Roger L. Welton, DVMPresident, Maybeck Animal Hospital5 Myths YouShould Know AboutDog and Cat FoodsWest Melbourne, FLFounder, Chief Editor, Web-DVM.net
What we’ll cover 5 myths… and why you shouldn’tbelieve them Characteristics of bad pet food How to select the right pet food
Myth #1Corn is an unhealthy ingredient in pet foods.
Where corn myth comes fromThis is a common theme on internet chat forums and amongmany non-medically trained people in the pet industry Groomers Breeders TrainersMany who deride the inclusion of corn in pet foods go so faras to link it to food allergies and a host of other commondiseases in veterinary medicine.
Reality check: Value of corn Attaining the knowledge to grow corn from NativeAmericans saved New England settlers fromstarvation and disease because of its nutrientand calorie dense properties. Corn is an invaluable source of fiber, b-complexvitamins, beta carotenes, vitamin C, vitamin E,and other antioxidants. Corn is an invaluable source of amino acidsand fiber.
Reality check: Value of corn It is inexpensive to cultivate and harvest,therefore corn provides a cheap source of keynutrients to keep quality pet food costs minimal. Corn is not linked to specific disease in dogsand cats except for rare cases of food allergy. Depending on the study one refers to, corn ranks 27-32 on the food allergy list, thus debunking the notionthat it is a common source of food allergy.
Myth #2Animal by-product” translates to the inclusion ofabysmal nutrient sources, such as skin, hair, and hoof.
Reality check: Animal by-products The most common animal by-products usedin pet |foods are organs(liver, brain, heart, kidneys, heart, etc.) andbone meal. Although organs and bone meal are valuablenutrient sources, most people do not findthem appealing dietary items, making themideal low cost ingredients in pet foods.
Myth #3Veterinarians do not receive significantnutritional training and are thus not good sourcesfor pet food recommendations.
Reality Check:Vets and nutritional training Animal nutrition is mandatory first year coursework in all AVMA (American Veterinary MedicalAssociation) accredited veterinary curriculums. Nutritional training continues later in physiologycourse work and how it specifically relates tophysiological function. Nutritional training is further expanded inmedicine coursework in the form of clinicalnutrition and the role nutrition can play indisease management/prevention.
Myth #4“Holistic”, “all-natural”, and “corn-free”are the best criteria to select pet food.
Reality check: Pet food labels While eliminating corn from diets having no scientific basis hasalready been addressed, the terms “holistic” and “all-natural” arenot official terms recognized in the pet industry. Holistic carries no significance because the pet food governingbody (AACFO) – more on this later – has not established criteriato meet this standard. Thus a diet labeling itself as holistic holdsno significance. Any diet that is put into canned or kibble form requiresprocessing, thus, labeling any canned or kibble diet as all naturalis misleading and dishonest.
Myth #5Feeding of raw meat is what is most appropriatefor dogs and cats because that is what natural selectionand evolution have dictated.
Reality check:Raw meat for dogs and cats While the dog’s ancient ancestor, the wolf, is theproduct of natural selection, the domestic dog is not. While the domestic dog is descended from thewolf, physiologically, they are very different as theresult of 100,000 years of domestication andselective breeding. Domestication and selective breeding has led to a0.8% change in DNA from the dog’s most closelyrelated species of wolf.While a 0.8 % difference in DNA may not seem significant, we areseparated from our closest evolutionary ancestor, thechimpanzee, by 1.2% difference in DNA sequence. (Most would notargue that we should follow the same dietary nutrient needs of thechimp.)
With significantly less acidic gastric pH comparatively to thewolf, dogs have less protective mechanisms to protect against rawmeat pathogens and parasites. Dogs also cannot digest large pieces of bone as wolves can(because of differences in jaw strength, dentition, and gastric pH)and they are thus a common source of gastrointestinal obstructionand perforation for dogs. Cats are better adapted to eating raw meat than dogs, but withcases of raw food poisoning prevalent among raw fed cats, mostveterinarians agree that benefit does not justify the risk.Reality check:Raw meat for dogs and cats
Characteristics of bad pet foods Poor quality diets will often have undesirable animalby-product (skin, hoof, hair) for nutrient sources. In thecase of mold growth, rancid pet food may cause death. Many so called all natural or holistic diets do not usepreservatives and commonly go rancid as a result.• Rancid food may cause mild to severe GI disturbance.• In the case of mold growth, rancid pet food may cause death. Often, so called holistic diets are especially too heavyin protein and too light in fiber.• Excessive protein over time puts excessive stress on theliver and kidneys and may contribute to degenerative diseaseof these organs. Label claims to be “all life stages.” There is no diet that existsthat covers the unique nutritional requirements of all lifestages: kitten/puppy, adult pet, senior pet.
Watch for certificationOne more characteristic of bad pet food: Not AAFCO certified!!! Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) is an officialwatchdog for the pet food industry.• AAFCO participation is voluntary, but not required by law.• AAFCO has established minimum standards for pet food. Since AAFCO participation and certification is strictly voluntary,it is up to the consumer to look for the AAFCO certificationlabel, indicating that a pet food has met AAFCO standards. For more information on AAFCO, visit: www.aafco.com
How to select the right pet food1. Your single best source for seeking the best quality andappropriate pet food for your pet is your veterinarian.2. Seek species and life stage appropriate foods• Puppy/kitten: up to 1 year• Adult 1-7 years• Senior 7 plus years3. Choose only diets that are AAFCO certified.4. If there is underlying disease, your veterinarianmay choose disease specific nutrition for your pet.Several pet food companies offer prescription veterinarydiets as an integral treatment modality/ component todisease management.
How to select the right pet food5. Avoid diets with label claims of “all natural,”“holistic,” or “all life stages.”6. If you choose a preservative-free pet food,make certain that it is vacuum sealed and theseal is not broken.Always smell a new food batch to make certainit is not rancid. (Although most people do not findany type of pet food to have an appealingsmell, rancid pet food can be detected by mostpeople.)7. Keep posted on pet food recalls utilizingnews/informational pet industry sites suchas PetMD.com, Web-DVM.net, andWebMD.com/pets.
Q&AThank you for attending!If you have further questions about pet nutrition or any other issues withyour dog or cat, you can always speak with a veterinarian at any time:http://www.pearl.comRoger L. WeltonDVM