Is the Fox Guarding the Henhouse? Purina Launches ‘Project: Pet Slim Down’ for Pets

dog on a scalePet food industry giant Purina has launched a program called 'Project: Pet Slim Down' to assist veterinary practices that want to help pet owners take weight off their too-heavy dogs and cats.

Grace Long, DVM and director of technical veterinary marketing for Nestlé Purina describes the program this way:

"Project: Pet Slim Down is designed to help veterinarians and staff motivate clients to be active participants in pet weight loss, with regular weigh-ins, ongoing encouragement and practical advice for diet and exercise.

It's all about achieving intangible results, making clients feel supported and improving pet health."

Dr. Long goes on to say:

"Obesity is one of the most prevalent health problems facing pets today, but one of the most treatable and preventable. Many owners don't realize that excess weight puts their pets at greater risk for developing serious health problems, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis."

Dr. Becker's Comments:

Oh, the irony.

A giant pet industry player now wants to undo the health damage caused by the food they sell – by selling a brand new line of the same old inferior food.

"Project: Pet Slim Down" looks a lot a marketing campaign masquerading as a pet health care initiative.

What Purina is marketing with this program is their line of veterinary diets. In order to sell this line of products, they need veterinary partners. There, in a nutshell, is surely the real reason behind Project: Pet Slim Down.

Just another Entry in the 'Low Fat' Pet Food Category

A quick glance at the ingredients list for these products reveals two universal truths about the vast majority of processed pet food, and especially the stuff marketed as a 'weight management' formula:

  1. The ingredients are of very poor quality and include impossible-to-pronounce additives and preservatives, not to mention known allergens, and the ever-popular "meat byproducts." And don't forget the locust bean gum.
  2. These diets are about as far from canine or feline species-appropriate nutrition as it gets.

It may surprise you to learn there's very little government regulation of pet food quality. Neither the USDA nor the FDA keeps tabs on the ingredients in commercially sold pet food.

Governance is by state by state, and not much attention is paid to the overall healthful quality of prepared foods for dogs and cats.

Placing the health of a precious pet in the hands of giant pet food manufacturers is a gamble too many pet owners have lost. Even veterinarian-recommended pet diets have failed to live up to the hype and have caused health problems.

Are there good quality pet foods on the market? Sure, if you can 1) find them and 2) afford them.

Given the lack of regulation and the questionable quality of many commercial pet foods, more and more dog and cat owners have become leery of serving them to their furry family members. That's why the trend toward raw feeding and homemade pet food is growing.

My advice?

Just Say No

Refuse to feed any inferior processed diet to your dog or cat, even if it comes recommended by a veterinarian, and especially if it's marketed as low fat.

There are three reasons to avoid these foods:

  1. Too much fiber. Contrary to manufacturers' marketing claims, making your pet feel temporarily full by stuffing her with fiber is not a good thing.

    Too much fiber can block absorption of healthy nutrients into your pet's small intestine. It acts as a mechanical barrier, preventing trace minerals, vitamins and antioxidants from getting to and through the walls of your pet's gastrointestinal tract.

    A dog or cat eating too much fiber and too little protein is being deprived at the cellular level where it really counts. The reason many pets on low fat diets seem constantly hungry is not due a lack of calories, but to a lack of proper nutrition in the cells of their bodies.

  2. Too high in carbs. Low fat pet foods are high in carbohydrates – there's no getting around it. Carbs are high in calories, and if they aren't burned away, your pet's body stores them as fat.
  3. If you boost your heavy pet's carbohydrate intake and don't boost his activity level significantly to use up those extra calories, what you end up with is an even fatter 'dieting' dog or cat.

  4. Not enough high-quality protein. Worst of all, what comes out of low-fat pet food to make room for all those extra carbs and fiber is the very protein your carnivorous dog or cat needs for good health. Second only to water, your pet's primary nutritional requirement is protein. The bulk of your dog’s or cat’s diet should be protein and pet food manufacturers know it.

To trick you into thinking you're feeding a primarily meat-based diet, manufacturers split up carbs on the label into smaller fractions so they can be listed separately (corn, corn meal, rice, rice bran, etc.).

If you see meat as a first ingredient on a pet food label make sure to add up the second, third, fourth and fifth ingredients. Usually you’ll find three or all four of those ingredients are unnecessary carbs. The 10 or 20 percent meat these poor-quality diets offer is nowhere near enough.

How to Help a Chubby Pet Get Svelte

If your dog or cat is too heavy, you can help him get back to a good weight in the following healthy ways:

Control the amount of food he eats. No matter the size of your pet, he still needs food appropriate for his species, which means high in protein. 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. For more information on how to diet your pet, click on the related links at the end of this article.

Make sure your pet gets regular exercise. A heavy body gets in shape by taking in fewer calories and expending more energy. Daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes of consistent, non-stop aerobic activity, is how your pet will burn fat and increase muscle tone.

The key to managing your dog's or cat's weight can't be found in a bag or can of inferior quality, species-inappropriate processed pet food advertised as low fat. The key is to keep your pup or kitty well-fueled at the cellular level with a high protein diet, controlled portions, and regular physical activity.

+ Sources and References