I want to talk to you about the pet food industry. Let’s pull back the curtain a little and really get a good look at what’s going on. The pet food industry is a multibillion (yes, BILLION…with a B) dollar industry that, like every other business, is out there to make a profit. They spend a lot of time and money on marketing and PR to get you to buy their product. Now, a lot of the regulations associated with the pet food industry are created to ensure that pet foods are safe and provide a guaranteed minimum level of nutrition to keep pets, relatively speaking, healthy. That being said, minimal nutrition is really not what we’re after here. We’re seeking optimal nutrition – nutrition that is going to prevent and also potentially treat diseases. Now, nobody in the world of pet food manufacturing wants to make pets sick. Clearly, there are occasionally pet food recalls, however, those are mistakes that are ultimately corrected, usually at a considerable expense to the company. What we’re really talking about is the difference between adequate and optimal nutrition and there are very few pet foods out there that are providing optimal nutrition. As convenient as canned and kibble varieties are, it’s just not possible that these foods provide that degree of optimal nutrition based on the way they are processed.
Pet Food Industry & Pet Food Nutrition
Providing optimal nutrition requires some form of a fresh, whole food diet – whether that means cooking up a balanced recipe at home or purchasing one from a pet store. There are quite a number of them out there right now and these are the things that we as pet owners and as consumers need to demand from the pet food industry.
You may be thinking from a nutritional standpoint is that adequate is adequate; that it’s OK to feed that to your pet. The way that pet foods and nutritional regulations are designed is to ensure that your pet has enough nutrition to prevent them from having diseases associated with nutritional deficiencies. They want to make sure there is enough vitamin D so they don’t get rickets or a sufficient amount of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy. There’s nothing wrong with that – we want to make sure that those diseases are prevented! – but that’s about where the regulations stop. Many of these foods, particularly the dry foods, are so high in carbohydrates that they may actually be causing diseases. In cats, a diet high in carbohydrates can lead to obesity and ultimately diabetes. The chronic inflammation associated with the high carbohydrate load and some of the pro-inflammatory compounds that form during processing may lead to chronic conditions ranging from gastrointestinal issues and even all the way up to cancer.
While adequate is a good thing in the sense that it prevents diseases of deficiency, it does not provide a pathway to good health long-term. I know that these concepts can seem like a lot to people who are very accustomed to just feeding dry food or canned food and, ironically sometimes the change can be a bit of an adjustment for your pet as well. But it’s important to really think about the big picture.
It is also important to keep in mind that this is not necessarily a binary system; it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you find that feeding a fresh, whole food diet exclusively is to difficult, consider a combination of fresh food and kibble or canned food. You can also start to eliminate the highly processed treats and you start feeding fresher food. You can give vegetables like carrots or broccoli as treats or you can either buy or make your own dehydrated or freeze-dried meat strips. Lifestyle changes take time and may take some adjustment. Don’t feel pressured to get it right on the first try. Even a small step is a step in the right direction.