When it comes to dinner time for your pooch or kitty, there is an array of different types of pet food we can choose from. The average pet owner will most likely grab a bag of average commercial dog or cat food he is familiar with and that’s not too highly priced and will barely glance at the list of ingredients on the package. He will trust the label and hope he will have a happy and healthy dog or cat for a long time.
Commercial dog food at a glance
Here is the question: Is commercial pet food really as nutritious and healthy as the package promises? Let’s look at some ingredients of dog food: animal by-products, processed material made from animal tissue (labeled as “chicken” meal, “turkey meal”) unfit for human consumption. In some cases even roadkill or spoiled meat and fish, but no real meat.
Grains like wheat, corn and soy are used as fillers especially in dry dog food. Artificial colors, preservatives and other harmful substances are also added. Depending on where the dog food was processed, traces of toxic waste, pesticides and other chemicals can be found.
This is not really the rich source of protein and healthy vegetables we want to offer our little companions. Could it be we do more harm than good with the food we are feeding them, causing our pets to get sick with diabetes, causing digestive problems and allergies. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and as responsible pet owners we should care about the quality of the pet food we buy.
How healthy dog food should look like
I prefer the term “natural to “organic” simply because “organic” food is strictly regulated and it’s usually labeled “certified organic”. Pet food brands that claim being natural and organic should apply high standards when it comes to their ingredients. This type of dog food is made from all natural ingredients (no GMOs) like premium meat and real vegetables. Main sources of animal protein are beef, chicken, lamb, venison, turkey and salmon, no animal meal. It should not contain any preservatives, artificial colors or other harmful substances. Gentle cooking and processing techniques are applied to preserve the nutrients in the food.
Natural and healthy dog food is usually grain free, no corn, wheat or soy are added. Too much grain in pet food, especially grain treated with pesticides, can trigger allergies in pets and other illnesses. Premium natural dog food should be rich in animal protein and minerals and should not be loaded with calories.
Dry dog food or wet dog food
Quality dog food made from natural and healthy ingredients can be in wet or dry form. First of all, it is more expensive to buy wet food in a can versus dry food in a much bigger package. Like dry food, quality wet food should be free from grains and other fillers. Real meat like chicken, beef, lamb, venison and salmon is used as source of protein.
Dry dog food has more calories than wet food, but it also contains more fiber, which is definitely beneficial to your dog’s digestion. Another benefit of dry food are its properties that help keep your dog’s teeth clean. I always thought it best for my dogs to just mix wet and dry food together, it just seems to add more flavor to their food, and they seem to love it !
The raw food diet
This special diet for dogs has increased in popularity in recent years, even though it is controversial and some veterinarians and the FDA don’t necessarily support it. This form of diet consists of feeding dogs raw meat, meaty bones, animal livers and kidneys, vegetables and fruit (mostly raw). It can either be purchased frozen, freeze-dried or as a combination of raw meat with grain and vegetables. There is quite a few brands on the market that sell raw food diets, and the ones offering organic meats with organic vegetables are ranked the highest what quality is concerned.
People who oppose this kind of diet point out the risks: Bones can be a choking hazard for dogs and damage their teeth. There is also the dangers of bacterial contamination like E.coli bacteria in raw meat, dogs and humans are equally exposed.
But this type of dog food is gaining in popularity and a lot of dog owners firmly believe in its health benefits. It is said to have a positive effect on the animal’s teeth, keep the dog’s skin healthy and it’s coat shiny. Especially when it comes to older dogs, this protein-rich diet seems to be better for their digestive tract and boosts their energy level.
What about dog treats
There is a variety of dog treats on the market, but as pet owner you should be aware that dog treats add calories to your dog’s diet. Some less healthy dog cookies contain fat, sugars and preservatives and too much salt, usually listed as iodized salt or sodium chloride. Opt for natural and organic dog treats that are grain-free, corn-free and contain no soy. They contain premium ingredients and the same high processing standards that we saw for dog food are applied here.
Our kitties deserve quality food too
If you are looking for natural and organic cat food the same quality standards apply as seen for dog food. Non-GMO ingredients, no grains, corn or soy. Cats are carnivores and therefore need a lot of animal protein. Dry cat food has more carbohydrates like potatoes than one would expect, even if the bag says “grain free”, and it is water depleted. This causes cats to become dehydrated easier since they don’t drink as much water than dogs do. Wet cat food has fewer carbohydrates but more animal protein and it contains more water which is better for the cat’s urinary tract health.
This is a common weedy plant related to oregano and spearmint. It is a popular treat for cats and fairly safe. This plant contains volatile oils that cause euphoria in most cats, and it is fun to watch your kitty roll around and moan while sniffing it. It can be bought as dried herbs, but make sure they are as fresh as possible for best quality and not treat with chemicals. If you prefer toys stuffed with catnip choose the ones that have more herbs than fillers. Catnip is also found in the wild as on the side of trailroad tracks, but be careful, it may have been exposed to pesticides or other toxic substances.
What you should look for
Healthy and natural pet food for dogs and cats should be made from premium ingredients and comply with high processing standards. It should be grain-free and contain real vegetables and real meat, no animal by-products. It should be free from toxic substances like preservatives, pesticides, artificial colors. Pet food should be rich in animal protein and contain vitamins and minerals. When it comes to so called “organic” food, the market in the United States is certainly more regulated than anywhere else, so when choosing a product look for the “made in USA” label. Every pet owner wants a happy, healthy and long living dog or cat, that’s why opting for the right food is important. And I, for my part, like to cut down on visits to the veterinarian as much as possible.