By DR. DOUG KNUEVEN, DVM, CVA, CVC, CVCH
Nutrition is the basis of health. To build and run a healthy body, both wholesome raw materials and appropriate fuel are needed. We have been led to believe that processed pet foods provide healthy nutrition. I would like to inject an ounce of reality into this notion. Here are six falsehoods regarding the benefits of processed pet foods.
1. Pet food is 100% complete and balanced.
Processed pet foods are heated to the point that most of the natural nutrients in the raw materials are destroyed. The pet food companies realize this and supplement the diets with synthetic vitamins. Unfortunately, research indicates that synthetic vitamins do not provide the same health benefits as eating foods containing those same vitamins. Eating whole foods is a much better way to feed the body. Also, pet food manufacturers can only balance the diets to their current understanding of nutrition. Since nobody knows everything, nutrition knowledge is incomplete, and therefore so are the diets.Processed pet foods are not 100% complete and balanced.
2. “Natural” processed pet food.
The word natural implies that something is closely mimicking what takes place in the wilds of nature. It is true that some pet foods start with natural ingredients. However, when those ingredients are inappropriate and then processed, the end product is no longer natural. The wild (natural) counterparts of dogs and cats eat diets that are very different than what we provide our pets from a bag or can. Wild carnivores eat raw food that contains little to no carbohydrates. Processed pet food is cooked at high temperatures and is often laden with starch.The term “natural” when applied to processed pet food is an oxymoron.
3. Grain-free pet food is good for pets.
Dogs and cats did not evolve to eat grain or any other form of starch. Their bodies are not built to handle it. Grain-free diets are a step in the right direction. However, every dry food contains starch. Kibble simply cannot be made without it. In my opinion, the starch in the food is what makes it unfit for pets.
4. Crunching on dry food cleans pets’ teeth.
It seems logical that the process of chewing kibble would clean a pet’s teeth. However, studies do not bear this out. In fact, the idea that crunching pet food cleans their teeth makes no more sense than to think that chewing up pretzels cleans ours. When the tip of the pet’s tooth contacts the kibble, the nugget shatters and does not scrape the teeth. And, when you consider that kibble has to contain lots of starch we can see that the opposite of dental health results. Starch is easily converted to sugar which feeds the bacteria that cause plaque and leads to tooth root infections. Dry food is not good for pets’ teeth.
5. Pet foods are made with wholesome ingredients.
It is common knowledge that most pet foods are made from ingredients that are unfit for human consumption. What many people don’t realize is that studies have shown that some pet foods contain traces of Pentobarbital. This is the drug used to put animals to sleep. Euthanized animals make it into pet foods due to the use of ingredients from rendering plants. If your pet’s food lists “meat and bone meal” as an ingredient, throw it away. It may contain dead cats and dogs. Some pet foods are made with nasty ingredients.
6. Processed pet foods promote health.
It is well known that cooking meats at high temperatures creates cancer-causing chemicals. Two recent studies found these carcinogens both in pet foods and in pets’ bodies. Both studies concluded that pet foods may promote cancer. There are much healthier things to feed our pets rather than conventional pet foods.
Our pets rely on us for their food. Feeding is the most important thing we do for them on a daily basis. Everything we put intoour pets either promotes health or promotes disease. Our current, processed pet foods provide less than optimalnutrition. In my opinion, the best diet for pets is a balanced, raw food.