It is quite easy to lure people into buying a product because it offers convenience and reasonable price. This is what commercial pet food manufacturers want pet owners like you and veterinarians to believe when they advertise their products. They present their products as having many advantages over other types of pet food. They want to make the impression that you don’t have the time to prepare your own dog food, and that you don’t know how to make a balanced meal since you are ignorant of what dogs need in terms of nutrients.
Commercial pet food manufacturers insist that their products are your only viable option to feed your dog. But are the packaged pet foods they sell at the local pet store or supermarket really as good for your dog as they claim? Do they really provide a complete and balanced meal? They may be popular indeed but if you think that feeding commercial pet food is your only option, you may have to rethink how you want to care for your dog. In spite of the good things pet food manufacturers and the veterinarians the have convinced say about their products still there are many issues that you should take time to be aware of.
A. Mystery Ingredients, Additives, and Preservatives
The pet food industry has close ties with the agricultural and human food industries. Agricultural and animal by-products that are “unfit for human consumption” are delivered to pet food manufacturers to be made ingredient of pet food. Such by-products, actually considered as wastes, including heads, hooves, udders, and intestines coming from what may possibly be diseased animals.
Manufacturers may label their products as containing “meat by-products” and “meat meal” but what they will not tell you are the real ingredients that go into those. The meat ingredients can be quite a low grade and of poor quality. They may even contain what the industry refers to as the 4 D’s – dying, dead, disabled and diseased.
The manufacturing of commercial pet food starts at the rendering plants where livestock or the raw materials – millions of dead dogs and cats along with large quantities of other animal waste materials such as those mentioned above – are processed. They are placed into a huge vat and allowed to boil for long hours. The rendering process removes water, separates fats, and because of the heat, bacteria, parasites, virus and other organisms present in the raw materials are eliminated as well. But the heat that is supposed to make the raw materials safe for processing to pet food however, is also causing the alteration or destruction of nutrients and enzymes naturally contained in the raw materials. The rendering plant uses different animal remains from many slaughterhouses, shelters, and from veterinary clinics where animal owners don’t pick up the body of their dead pets. The government requires that the meat by-products go through a process called denaturing in the slaughterhouse before being delivered to the rendering plants. This process is, in reality, a very toxic chemical bath where corrosive substances and preservatives are used. These include carbolic acid, creosote, kerosene, citronella, and fuel oil.
Because pet food can spoil and become rancid after a while, strong preservatives are added in the processing. These preservatives may include Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) and Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), which have been linked to kidney and liver dysfunction. They have been found to affect the dog’s neurological growth and development. Because of this, the dog’s sleep and other behaviors, including aggression can be affected as well.
B. Problems with Commercial Dog Food
From what we have discussed above, it is easy to see that many problems can arise from feeding commercial pet food to your dogs. The dog food available in the market contains many ingredients that have been linked to the development of several diseases in dogs. Many health problems such as certain heart diseases, bloat, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, cystitis, bladder and kidney stones, skin diseases, pancreatitis, obesity, and cancer have been associated with what dog owners have been feeding their dogs. Manufacturers are typically unwilling to disclose information about their sources of ingredients, their processing method, their standards of quality control, or even the location of their manufacturing plant.
A number of potential problems can arise from feeding commercial dog food. One such problem is the presence of antibiotics, molds and pesticide residues in the ingredients. Since manufacturers get their raw materials from sick animals, the meat they use may be full of drugs, such as those mentioned above. The quality of commercial dog food is largely unpredictable. The ingredients can have different nutrient composition and nutritional value. Pet foods containing “meat and bone meal” or “by-product meal” are the cheapest sources of animal protein. Their contents and quality can vary from batch to batch and are generally an unreliable source of nutrition for your dogs. The protein in bone meal, for example, may not be properly digestible and therefore fail to provide the right nutrition. Generic or store brands may be just repackaged pet food rejects from the big manufacturers. They usually cost less and have poorer quality ingredients. Commercial pet food is highly processed so that its natural nutrient and enzymes content is altered or damaged, making it unfit for consumption. Manufacturers know this so they add synthetic vitamins and minerals to compensate. Pet food recalls and regulation. Many dog owners would still remember the massive dog food recall in March 2007 when thousands of pet deaths due to contaminated pet foods made by several major manufacturers were reported. Pets died due to kidney failure. More than 5300 different pet food products were involved. The source of contamination was melamine in the wheat gluten from a Chinese company used as an ingredient in pet food.
The US pet food industry is largely unregulated but several changes are expected to happen as a reaction to the 2007 pet food recall. You may have heard of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and think that it is the agency in charge of pet food regulation. The AAFCO however, does not have any regulatory power to approve or ban pet foods. It is actually a non-regulatory, non-governmental organization (NGO) of feed control officials from each US state. It only has an advisory role and acts as a forum for dialogue among stakeholders where they can discuss issues involving manufacturing, labeling, quality and standardization of pet food products.