Choosing a good pet food that is nutritious and healthy for your pet can be challenging to say the least. There are so many commercial pet foods that are (for want of a better term), nothing but dry kibble – lacking all of the essential nutrients your fur kid needs. However, there are some pet food manufacturers that do value the health of your pet, and strive to create feed that is healthy and nutritious. It just becomes a matter of learning how to sift the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. With that said, here are 10 surprising facts about commercial pet food that just might surprise you. Take them to heart, and keep them in mind when choosing the best pet food for your four-legged companion.
Not All Pet Foods Are Created Equal
In fact, some may be seriously subpar. There are certain pet foods that are manufactured from what is known as 4D meat. Worse, this practice is perfectly legal. 4D meat comes from diseased and disabled animals who are dying or have died. Sound yummy? Yeah, doesn’t sound too appetizing to us either. You wouldn't eat meat like this, so don’t feed it to your pet. Instead, make sure that the pet food you are buying is “fit for human consumption.”
Consider Feeding Your Pet “Fresh” Food
Or at least feed them fresh food part of the time. Unfortunately, whether you’re buying canned food or dry kibble, the process that makes them stable enough to sit on a shelf for months on end is so extreme that most of the time any natural nutrients that may have been present get eradicated. This means that manufacturers are forced to add things back in, like synthetic minerals and vitamins and even artificial flavors, just to entice your pet to eat it.
Read the Ingredients. Really!
We bet you only thought you’d have to read ingredients for your own food. Unfortunately, no. Read the ingredients in your pet food of choice, and see how it measures up. Ideally you want the first ingredients to be proteins, not grains and starches. In fact, you might consider going grain-free entirely. Often grains are corn or cornmeal based, which is highly fattening and offers very little nutritional value. Sometimes veggies like garbanzo beans and peas may be added in as starches, and those are acceptable. Just make sure they aren't the first ingredient listed.
Avoid “Meat Meal”
Yes, you want the first ingredients to be protein, but you don’t want that protein to be meat meal. Meat meal is basically an animal by-product, and you probably don't want to know what goes into its production. Suffice to say, avoid, avoid, avoid.
Added Preservatives Are Unhealthy
Unfortunately, they are necessary for most commercial pet food brands, so that the food can store for indeterminate periods of time. There are some natural preservatives, but they increase production costs, which make them largely undesirable to pet food manufacturers. Also, it’s worth noting that some preservatives are also used as pesticides, and some are even known to cause health risks, yet they are still used. Even if the preservative agent is illegal in other countries, it could still be legal here in the good old US of A.
Raw Food, Shmaw Food
There’s a belief that is being passed around that raw foods are bad for your pet and you shouldn’t feed them such nonsense. We call baloney. Obviously, pet food manufacturers have a vested interest in making people believe kibble and canned food is better than raw or real food. It doesn’t make it true. Just like we can thrive on a raw food diet, animals can as well. So even if you feed your pet commercial food a few times a week, then mix it up with fresh food the other days of the week, you could potentially offset nutritional deficiencies.
Protein Extenders = Bad
Protein extenders are used to save on costs. For instance, blood meal is considered a “protein extender.” However, it is essentially indigestible for your furry friend. What is blood meal, you might ask? It is blood that has been dried and powdered, and then used in various brands of pet food. The other problem with blood meal is that it has the potential to pass along mad cow disease to dogs.
Buyer Beware of Heavy Metals
Metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium have been found in commercial pet foods. Obviously, this is not desirable, nor healthy.
Another fun factoid: because the manufacturing process depletes nutrients, pet food manufacturers will add back in synthetic nutrients. Sometimes this can be overkill, and even toxic to your animal, such as too much vitamin A or vitamin D.
To Meat or Not to Meat…
Because too much meat can mess with a manufacturers machines, most dry kibbles are made up of about 50% of the good stuff. If it’s the good stuff. See point number 1. Remember to research your options, and choose your pet food wisely. And if you fear your dog may be missing vital nutrients in their diet, consider using an omega rich supplement for dogs to help provide vital nutrients.