By Dr. Becker
As pets keep getting fatter, pet food companies get ever more creative developing 'weight management' formulas to peddle to uninformed consumers.
It's a discouraging trend, since most of these special formulas consist of the same inappropriate, low quality ingredients that contribute to pet obesity in the first place.
And in fact, these foods actually contain more of exactly the wrong type of nutrition for overweight pets ... or any pet.
The Goal: Fool Pets into Thinking They're Full
According to PetfoodIndustry.com, one of the goals of pet food companies is to develop formulas for overweight dogs and cats that create a feeling of fullness or satisfaction.
Per the article, inducing satiety is important because, "... as long as the pet doesn't act hungry we will be less likely to give in and overindulge begging behavior."
And according to one pet food manufacturer, studies show overweight dogs fed 'fiber-enhanced' foods consume fewer calories and appear less hungry.
So if I understand this correctly, the goal is to stuff carnivorous dogs and cats full of species-inappropriate fiber rich food so they won't act hungry, and in turn, their owners won't overindulge them.
This thinking is so wrong on so many levels I'm not sure where to begin.
Let's just say I'm adamantly opposed to intentionally feeding companion animals biologically inappropriate nutrition, so their owners don't have to deal with begging behavior or the temptation to overfeed their pets.
Certainly if we have an overweight pet we can find the energy and ambition to feed our dog or cat the nutrition she was designed to eat, in reasonable portions?
And certainly we can muster the patience to ignore begging behavior (which is typically temporary when ignored) for the sake of our pet's health?
But Wait ... It Gets Better ...
Another pet food company has created a 'satiety-triggering ingredient' which they say reduces calorie intake in pets.
This magical ingredient is described by its manufacturer as a "patented emulsion of highly purified palm and oat oils." What this emulsion does is delay digestion of the fat in the food. This leads to the presence of free fatty acids in the small intestine.
When food is 'delayed' in the small intestine, it slows down gastric emptying and gut motility. According to the manufacturer of the 'satiety-triggering ingredient,' this permits better digestion of gut contents (hogwash) while creating a feeling of fullness and reducing appetite.
So if I understand this correctly, certain oils can be added to certain pet foods that are designed to significantly impede the normal, natural digestive process of dogs and cats.
And this is, again, for the purpose of creating pets that don't act hungry, and therefore run less risk of being overfed by their owners.
Certainly we don't need to feed bizarre, unnatural ingredients to our pets that gum up their intestines and interfere with normal digestion in an effort to help them lose weight?
The PetfoodIndustry.com article also mentions another company's 'meal replacement and food supplement' to help adult cats maintain a healthy weight.
A meal replacement for cats?
Needless to say, I had to take a look at the ingredients in this meal replacement/food supplement. It's apparently a powder you mix with warm water. The ingredients:
Maltodextrins, dried milk protein concentrate, dried whey protein concentrate, canola oil, casein, vanilla, fructooligosaccharide, potassium chloride, choline chloride, dicalcium phosphate, disodium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, niacin supplement, copper gluconate, vitamin E supplement, manganese sulfate, biotin, vitamin A supplement, vitamin B12 supplement, folic acid, pantothenic acid, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement.
So this is a 'meal replacement' intended for obligate carnivores that contains not a speck of animal protein. How is that not an absolutely terrible idea?
And then we have a 'weight management' food for dogs being promoted for its L-carnitine ingredient, which is touted as a "proven fat-burner that helps dogs naturally burn fat instead of storing it."
L-carnitine may help burn fat, but when the food it's added to has seven different grains listed in the first dozen ingredients, making the formula wildly inappropriate nutrition for dogs at any weight, the addition of the L-carnitine isn't going to matter one iota.
Parents of Overweight Pets Beware
For the sake of your beloved, overfed four-legged companion, I recommend the following:
- Beware any pet food marketing ploy aimed at making you believe the newest grain and fiber-filled bag of pet food is the answer to your dog's or cat's obesity. It isn't.
- Beware any pet food marketing gimmick that names a specific ingredient (example: L-carnitine) as being the secret key to your pet's weight loss. It won't be.
- Beware any pet food marketing scheme that uses human diet buzz words ('meal replacement') to convince you the same nutritional principles apply to your pet. They don't.
- Feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet to your pet. Regardless of her weight, your dog or cat still needs the right nutrition for her species, which means food that is high in animal protein and moisture, with low or no grain content.
- Practice portion control -- usually a morning and evening meal, carefully measured. A high protein, low carb diet with the right amount of calories for weight loss, controlled through the portions you feed, is what will take the weight off your dog or cat. And don't forget to factor in any calories from treats.
- Regularly exercise your pet. An overweight body gets back in shape by taking in fewer calories and expending more energy. Daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes of consistent aerobic activity, will help your pet burn fat and increase muscle tone.
The key to getting and keeping your pet lean and healthy can't be found in the latest bag or can of inferior quality, species-inappropriate pet food, no matter how slick and convincing the marketing campaign.
The key to keeping your dog or cat nutritionally fit at the cellular level is with a high protein, moisture rich diet fed in controlled portions, and augmented with plenty of physical activity.