I have been kookoo for coconuts for over 3 years now and use it for everything, I mean EVERYTHING! I brush my teeth with it, remove makeup with it, eat it, drink it, slather it on my body, use on my kids and of course feed it to my dogs.Read More
…The carnivore asks, "what’s really in that bag?" As you may recall in part one of this blog we posed the question “if nutrition is the foundation of good health then why is only one week of study dedicated to this subject in the eight years it takes to become a vet”?
Our discovery left us with an even larger onslaught of questions or rather really frustrating observations such as:
- How confusing the label is on a bag of a commercial pet food
- How cleverly misleading the pet food ads are on television
- The lack of regulations surrounding pet food manufacturing
- The appalling reality of animal cruelty involved with factory farming, not to mention the intense environmental impact it has on our planet
- The exorbitant amount of money the commercial pet food industry brings in each year in relation to how little they spend on the most important element, the ingredients
I mean, holy smokes – we’re talking about a real machine here, responsible for driving a grand divide between how the information of commercial dog foods are portrayed to us, versus what the actual ingredients are that go into commercial dog food…and then there is the topic of who is responsible for the grand divide…
So in order to keep this a straightforward blog post as opposed to a book of small essays, let us break this down into a “Who, how, what” of Commercial Dog Food.
Who are the main producers of commercial dog food?
The top five commercial dog food companies are:
- Mars Pet Care – Royal Canin, Pedigree, Whiskas, Cesar
- Nestle Purina Pet Care – Proplan, Beneful, Alpo, Dog Chow
- Proctor and Gamble Pet Care – Iams, Eukanuba
- Hills Pet Care – Science Diet, Hills, Prescription Diet
- Del Monte Pet Products – Milk Bone, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Pup-peroni, Meaty Bone, Milo’s Kitchen, Gravy Train, Jerky Treats, Snausages
How the media portrays commercial dog foods to us:
Whole roasted chicken, prime cuts of beef, fresh fruit and vegetables all wrapped up in a shiny package. Pulling in an estimated $19 billon in sales in 2011, the commercial pet food industry has got it in the bag! Advertising works, even when it’s misleading.
What is actually in that bag?
As we concluded in part I of our nutrition quest, our aim is to help you make informed decisions by providing you with the facts. During my research to find these facts it became very apparent that what is in the bag is not at all what is advertised.
And before I begin, it is worth stressing; the following is shocking and not necessarily appropriate if you have a weak stomach. Here we go…
Rendering companies in the US pick up 100 million pounds of “waste material” everyday to be turned into pet food. This “waste” includes: heads, feet, stomachs, intestines, spinal cords, tails, bones, contaminated blood, feathers and restaurant grease rejected by slaughterhouses. Okay, so far, besides the contaminated blood, feathers and restaurant grease, some of these ingredients sound somewhat edible by carnivore standards.
Then, 4D animals are thrown into the mix: What the heck are 4D animals you ask? Disturbingly the 4 D’s stand for Dead, Dying, Diseased and Disabled animals. We are talking cancerous cow, contaminated swine, decaying lamb nothing is off limits. They throw it all in there.
Then add a little road kill, dead zoo animals and expired grocery store meat (including the styrofoam packaging).
But here is the kicker: 6 to 7 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year and brought to these rendering plants. Besides introducing qusai cannibalism, trace amounts of the drugs used in the procedure- pentobarbital and phenytoin have been found in kibble. The drugs have proven to be resilient to the cooking process. Because the amount of companion animals in each rendering vat varies, so does the amount of these toxins.
Although pet food companies claim they do not buy from rendering plants that accept dog and cat, the rendering industry acknowledges it would be impossible for the purchaser to know what exact raw material they are buying. After processing dog, cat and chicken are almost identical.
Another ‘how’ question: How is this possible?
Rendering persists because it provides an essential service: disposing of millions of pounds of dead animals. Advocates of rendering claim that there is no other way to dispose of these dead animals. Dr. William Heuston, formerly associate Dean of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, argues that disposing of animals via landfills would create a “Colossal public health problem, because dead animals are the ideal medium for bacteria. Cost and potential air pollution problems preclude burning the animal carcasses”.
Oh, I get it; instead we feed it to our companion animals…What? Is anyone else alarmed by this?
Pet food manufacturers have become masters at inducing our companion animals to eat “food” and I use that word lightly, they would normally turn their nose up at. Pet food scientists have learned that it is possible to take a mixture of inedible scraps, fortify it with artificial vitamins and minerals, spray it with “tallow” (left over yellow fat after rendering), preserve it with chemicals so that it can sit on the shelf for more than a year, add dyes to make it attractive, and then extrude it into whimsical shapes, wrap it up in a pretty package to appeal to the human consumer then finally it’s passed to Don Draper to work his magic and Ta Da!
For this, pet food companies can expect to earn $20.3 billion in sales in 2012.
And finally: What can we as animal loving, environmentally conscious, pet owning consumers do about this?
If you feed kibble to your pet, do some research and ask questions. Look into the company that manufactures the product. It is within your rights to contact the company to ask if they use HUMAN GRADE ingredients. This is the most important question. The wonderful world of marketing and advertising is really excited about using the words “organic”, “whole”, “AAFCO Inspected” or “FDA Approved”. These words mean very different things when talking about pet food but there is no getting around whether or not it is fit for human consumption.
We here at The Bone House have done some of the legwork for you. On our shelves you will find food and I can confidently use that word here, produced by manufacturers that use human grade ingredients such as:
Champion Pet Foods- Acana and Orijen
Fromm Family Foods- Classic, Gold, Four Star
Petcurean- GO, NOW, Summit
Bottom line, no matter where you shop do your canine and consumer research, equip yourself with the basic knowledge of a dog (remember, that’s a wolf in pet’s clothing…) and don’t let your pet become of victim of advertising. Your dog or cat could not care less about the colour of their bag of kibble.
Companion animals rely on us for everything. It is our responsibility to provide the best we can for them. If money is tight these days for you as it is for me, rather than spending your hard earned dollars on chew toys to occupy your dog, go for a walk, then spend that money on proper nutrition. You’ll end up saving money in vet bills, you dog’s behavior will improve, you’ll build an amazing bond and you’ll add years to yours and your pet’s life. Sounds worth it to me!
February is National Pet Dental Health Month! Now is a good time to think about your k-9's k-9s (you see what we've done there?)
A stinky mouth not only affects the frequency of those kissing sessions your dog is so serious about but also their confidence and ability to attract a suitor. Seriously, dental health is a bigger and more serious issue than you may think. Roughly 70-80 percent of cats and dogs develop periodontal disease by the time they are three years old. You might be thinking "So what? Dogs are supposed to have doggy breath," but here's what - poor oral hygiene is also linked to shorter life span. Yikes.
Raw meaty bones are an excellent and delicious way to keep your dogs mouth healthy, not to mention keep him occupied while you dive into that pile of laundry that you've been meaning to do for days. Bones have been a staple food for dogs for centuries but most dogs these days rarely get a real raw bone, probably because people are concerned over bacteria. But when was the last time you came home to find your dog standing at the stove with a spatula? Dogs don’t cook their food in the wild; with shorter digestive tracts than humans, their bodies are made to digest raw food. As long as you the owner practice safe food handling you should feel really good about tossing Rover a bone. In addition to the nutrition, raw meaty bones help develop strong muscles as they pull and tear the meat off the bone and keeps the dog mentally stimulated, chewing the bone rather than your favorite pair of shoes. The chewing of the bone after the meat is gone cleans away tartar and freshens breath - nature's toothbrush! Plus your dog will LOVE bone day and it’s way cheaper than dental surgery!
If you are still unsure about raw bones or think you may have difficulty dealing with the mess (although it isn't that messy! Just teach your buddy to stay on his bone mat or towel and then wash it, no big deal), start making tooth brushing part of the quality time you spend with your dog. Starting regular tooth brushing can be challenging with an older animal that is not used to it but if you are consistent and help your dog make positive associations with brushing (read, lots of treats) he will eventually thank you for it. Here is a link to a video where Dr. Sheldon Rubin shows you how to get your pet used to the idea of oral hygiene. I bet this would work on kids too.
If you are still having trouble getting your dog to readily accept the toothbrush there are some products that can help with the tartar build up. Tartar Buster bones are a smoked patella that is crunchy and scrapes away at the plaque while your pup looks at you with gratitude for dropping the brush. Nature's Dentist is a pro-biotic that you add to your pet's food. It works by introducing good bacteria that helps to combat the bad bacteria that causes plaque and tartar build up - it's really a great product.
If you do notice any of these symptoms it may be time for a dental check up.
- abnormally bad breath.
- difficulty chewing and eating
-the color of gums change to red.
- intestinal and stomach upset due to the presence of bacteria.
- teeth have become loose or fall out.
- pawing at the mouth.
- sudden and abrupt changes in the dogs behavior. Many tend to be nervous or depressed.
Do check inside your dog's mouth regularly and try to prevent gum disease as much as you can. You know the old saying "an ounce of prevention is worth a bazillion dollars in vet bills," or something like that, right?
Health-conscious and ecologically minded, nutritious pet food.