Pet owners are making the switch to more wholesome foods for their companions for a variety of reasons, including:
- Recent pet food recalls for contamination issues
- Allergic or aging pets with special dietary requirements
- Trends in human diets like the move to more natural, organic foods
According to Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Association:
"If there's a trend in human food and supplements, you'll see it on the pet food aisle. Gluten-free, vitamin supplemented, breed-specific, senior formulas — all of these have taken over the pet marketplace, and we're seeing the competition increasing."
However, experts warn there is no guarantee specialty pet food formulas can't also be contaminated.
For consumers looking for independent advice on which pet food brands might be safest, according to PetfoodIndustry.com, "Greenopia, an online directory that educates consumers on sustainable purchasing, updated its independent "green" ratings of nearly 30 petfood brands sold in the United States."
Greenopia rated pet food brands by specific criteria, including:
- Sustainability reporting
- Supply chain
- Animal testing policies
Dr. Nancy Scanlan of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), thinks pet owners may want to experiment with different formulas to find the right food for their pet. She encourages pet owners to talk to their vet about dietary requirements, read pet food ingredient labels, and research peer-reviewed journals.
I'm certainly thrilled to know pet owners are paying more attention these days to the quality of food they feed their non-human family members.
Proper nourishment is the cornerstone of vibrant health for all animals.
Your dog or cat has a need for wholesome, living foods just as you do. 'Living foods' are simply uncooked foods in which the natural enzymes necessary for proper digestion have not been heated or otherwise processed 'to death.' These enzymes are considered the 'energy' or 'life force' of food.
Whole, fresh food is also packed with the nutrients nature put there. Cooking robs food of vitamins and minerals.
In my opinion, the most nutritious diet you can feed your pet is one you prepare at home in your kitchen from real, whole, human grade foods.
Your next best option is to buy premium quality commercial pet food, preferably canned or rehydrated options over moisture-deficient dry foods.
Be a Savvy Pet Food Shopper
When it comes to purchasing prepared food for your dog or cat, of great concern to me are human food trends that carry over to pet food formulas.
Your four-legged companion has very different nutritional needs from the two-legged members of your household.
Pet food manufacturers realize it is you and not your pet that determines what your dog or cat eats. And they cleverly assume when it comes to pet food purchases, you'll be swayed by the same types of marketing buzz words used to sell human food.
For example, there should be no need for a 'gluten-free' pet food formula, since gluten is found in grains, and grains are not an ingredient dogs and cats require biologically. In fact, too much grain in pet food is the source of a wide variety of illnesses and health conditions, from allergies to obesity to digestive problems and more serious diseases. Stick to grain-free formulas, preferably canned, and you won't have to worry about when your pet is ingesting gluten.
Your Pet is One in a Million
Your pet is an individual, and I recommend you team up with a holistic vet to develop a customized nutrition plan based on your animal's unique physiology and health status.
I agree with Dr. Scanlan of the AHVMA that experimentation is a good way to settle on the best diet for your pet. Since your companion will grow and mature, encounter lifestyle changes and challenges, and become a senior citizen one day, it makes sense to re-evaluate her dietary requirements every so often and make adjustments as necessary.
If you feed a commercial pet food, I recommend you learn all you can about ingredient labels and the quality of various brands. Don't leave it up to pet food companies and marketers to sell you on a particular type of food, nor should your choices be dictated solely by what your dog or cat likes to eat.
Given a choice, most pets will gobble up doggy or kitty junk food. Pet food makers know this, and they know what to add to their formulas to build an addiction in your cat or dog to a certain brand. This is why frequent rotation of protein sources and brands is important.
Species-Appropriate vs. Organic
As I mentioned above and discuss all the time here at MercolaHealthyPets.com, your pet's nutritional requirements are specific to his species. A good basic list of species-appropriate ingredients in a nutritious food for your dog or cat would include:
- High quality protein from animal muscle meat, not pieces/parts/byproducts from animals
- Moderate levels of animal fat
- High levels of EPA/DHA (essential fatty acids)
- High moisture content
- A few fresh cut vegetables and fresh fruit (to mimic the stomach contents of prey in the wild)
Notice there's no mention of 'low fat' this or 'whole grain' that. You also don't see the words 'organic' or 'holistic.' Those are marketing buzz words used to convince consumers that a certain food is better or more appropriate than other similar foods.
I have no problem with organic or holistic ingredients in pet food, as long as the diet is first and foremost, species-appropriate and balanced.
If you have access and can afford to feed your pet grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and other non-factory farmed animal protein sources, and organically grown veggies and fruits, that's wonderful.
But if like the majority of pet owners you want to buy the highest quality pet food you can reasonably afford, go with balanced and species-appropriate as your first priority, not whether the formula contains organic ingredients.