It’s difficult for pet owners to know what to feed their pets. In 2014, 22 billion dollars was spent on pet food in the United States. With this kind of money to be made there are many pet food companies that are using marketing techniques to sway owner into buying their products. Dr. Anna Coffin talks about some common pet nutrition myths.
Just like you can’t judge a book by its cover you can’t always judge a pet food by it’s ingredients. The basics of pet nutrition are not about the actual ingredients but about the nutrients that are available from each of the ingredients. When an animal eats, the primary ingredients are broken down into these six primary nutrients:
Essential Pet Nutrients
- Proteins: During digestion, proteins are broken down into amino acids. There are essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids can not be made by the pet and must be supplied in the diet.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates consists of starch which are used for energy and fiber that is used for GI health.
- Water: Water is the most essential nutrient in life.
- Minerals: These are essential for life and needed for metabolic processes that occur in the body.
- Vitamins: Consists of fat and water soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body. However, water-soluble vitamins are not stored in the body and must be provided in the diet.
- Fats: The most concentrated energy source of all the nutrients. They supply twice as much energy.
Common Pet Nutrition Myths
Corn is a filler: A filler is an ingredient that has no nutritional value and is added to bulk up the diet. Corn is an excellent source of proteins, carbohydrates, and fatty acids.
Corn is not digestible: Whole corn is not very digestible. However, the processing of whole corn removes the outer, un-digestible hull and converts into corn gluten and corn gluten meal. This single ingredient can provide a source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat.
Corn causes food allergies: There is no scientific research to proof that corn is a common food allergy in pets. In fact, studies have shown that there is only a 1.5% rate of adverse reactions to corn.
By-products consist of beaks, feathers and left overs not used for human consumption: This is simply not true. By-products include clean internal organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs and heart. These products contain a valuable source of energy, vitamins, and minerals.
Chicken meal is an inferior source of protein compared to chicken meat. Chicken meal is chicken that has been dehydrated and defatted. In fact, it is a more concentrated protein source than chicken meat.
Real meat should be one of the first three ingredients on the list. When meat is listed as an ingredient, it is important to remember that it consists of 80% water. Because it is 80% water, it weighs more than most of the other ingredients. The meat is not just thrown into the pet food, it must be processed and dehydrated. This is a marketing ploy to make the food more appealing.
Flax seeds are an excellent source of fatty acids. Flax seeds only produce a precursor that can then be used by your pet’s body to make omega-3 fatty acids. This is not an efficient process. Omega-3 fatty acids are only found naturally in certain marine plants and fish, making these a better source of fatty acids than flax seeds.
Talk with your veterinarian about your pet food or seek reputable information from third parties that are not part of the pet food manufacturers. For more information on pet nutrition, read Dr. Anna Coffin’s blog How to find the right pet food. The Pet Food Alliance consists of several veterinary organizations that are committed to pet nutrition and has pet owner nutritional tools and resources. The Savvy Cat Owner’s Guide Nutrition on the Internet and The Savvy Dog Owner’s Guide Nutrition on the Internet are great sources that contain credible web site to search for information about pet nutrition.