The information on this page is NOT advice on pet nutrition, but is here to educate/inform you as to what is available "commercially" for pets, both in grocery stores and at your veterinarian's, and to provide you with informational links so that you can make your own informed decisions/choices. Because I am a "beginner" on nutrition information, I am deferring to those who DO have the research knowledge and experience in this area and providing you with links to do your own "self education" so that you can make your own decisions:
Read, read, read, and when you get tired of reading, read some more. It is only through educating OURSELVES that we can truly make the best choices for our pets. We CANNOT rely on vets, trainers (which I am), or any other pet-related professional to make decisions for us or to be educated better than us about such things. They do NOT always have our pet’s best interest at heart. They often do not have the information necessary to make such choices for our pets. For example, vets receive only about 40 hours of nutrition training in school, and all of that education is done by the pet food industry. Trainers have even less training than that, unless like me they make an effort to educate themselves. WE, as pet owners, have complete control of what our pets eat. This need to educate ourselves does NOT stop with diet It overflows into vaccinations, medications, medical procedures, holistic medicine, and every other area of our pets’ lives.
From the book,
"Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food." By Ann N. Martin. NewSage Press (1997). This book is on sale at Dr. Jeff's Homevet/Amazon.Com bookstore.
Television commercials and magazine advertisements for pet food would have us believe that the meats, grains, and fats used in these foods could grace our dining tables. Chicken, beef, lamb, whole grains, and quality fats are supposedly the composition of dog and cat food.
In my opinion, when we purchase these bags and cans of commercial food, we are in most cases purchasing garbage. Unequivocally, I cannot state that all pet food falls into this category, but I have yet to find one that I could, in all good conscience, feed my dog or cats.
Pet food labels can be deceiving. They only provide half the story. The other half of the story is hidden behind obscure ingredients listed on the labels. Bit by bit, over seven years, I have been able to unearth information about what is contained in most commercial pet food. At first I was shocked, but my shock turned to anger when I realized how little the consumer is told about the actual contents of the pet food.
As discussed in Chapter Two, companion animals from clinics, pounds, and shelters can and are being rendered and used as sources of protein in pet food. Dead-stock removal operations play a major role in the pet food industry. Dead animals, road kill that cannot be buried at roadside, and in some cases, zoo animals, are picked up by these dead stock operations. When an animal dies in the field or is killed due to illness or disability, the dead stock operators pick them up and truck them to the receiving plant. There the dead animal is salvaged for meat or, depending on the state of decomposition, delivered to a rendering plant. At the receiving plants, the animals of value are skinned and viscera removed. Hides of cattle and calves are sold for tanning. The usable meat is removed from the carcass, and covered in charcoal to prevent it from being used for human consumption. Then the meat is frozen, and sold as animal food, which includes pet food.
The packages of this frozen meat must be clearly marked as "unfit for human consumption." The rest of the carcass and poorer quality products including viscera, fat, etcetera, are sent to the rendering facilities. Rendering plants are melting pots for all types of refuse. Restaurant grease and garbage; meats and baked goods long past the expiration dates from supermarkets (Styrofoam trays and shrink-wrap included); the entrails from dead stock removal operations, and the condemned and contaminated material from slaughterhouses. All of these are rendered.
The slaughterhouses where cattle, pigs, goats, calves, sheep, poultry, and rabbits meet their fate, provide more fuel for rendering. After slaughter, heads, feet, skin, toenails, hair, feathers, carpal and tarsal joints, and mammary glands are removed. This material is sent to rendering. Animals who have died on their way to slaughter are rendered. Cancerous tissue or tumors and worm-infested organs are rendered. Injection sites, blood clots, bone splinters, or extraneous matter are rendered. Contaminated blood is rendered. Stomach and bowels are rendered. Contaminated material containing or having been treated with a substance not permitted by, or in any amount in excess of limits prescribed under the Food and Drug Act or the Environmental Protection Act. In other words, if a carcass contains high levels of drugs or pesticides this material is rendered.
Before rendering, this material from the slaughterhouse is "denatured," which means that the material from the slaughterhouse is covered with a particular substance to prevent it from getting back into the human food chain. In the United States the substances used for denaturing include: crude carbolic acid, fuel oil, or citronella. In Canada the denaturing agent is Birkolene B. When I asked, the Ministry of Agriculture would not divulge the composition of Birkolene B, stating its ingredients are a trade secret.
At the rendering plant, slaughterhouse material, restaurant and supermarket refuse, dead stock, road kill, and euthanized companion animals are dumped into huge containers. A machine slowly grinds the entire mess. After it is chipped or shredded, it is cooked at temperatures of between 220 degrees F. and 270 degrees F. (104.4 to 132.2 degrees C.) for twenty minutes to one hour. The grease or tallow rises to the top, where it is removed from the mixture. This is the source of animal fat in most pet foods. The remaining material, the raw, is then put into a press where the moisture is squeezed out. We now have meat and bone meal.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials in its "Ingredient Definitions," describe meat meal as the rendered product from mammal tissue exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, hide, trimmings, manure, stomach, and rumen (the first stomach or the cud of a cud chewing animal) contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. In an article written by David C. Cooke, "Animal Disposal: Fact and Fiction," Cooke noted, "Can you imagine trying to remove the hair and stomach contents from 600,000 tons of dog and cats prior to cooking them?" It would seem that either the Association of American Feed Control Officials definition of meat meal or meat and bone meal should be redefined or it needs to include a better description of "good factory practices."
When 4-D animals are picked up and sent to these rendering facilities, you can be assured that the stomach contents are not removed. The blood is not drained nor are the horns and hooves removed. The only portion of the animal that might be removed is the hide and any meat that may be salvageable and not too diseased to be sold as raw pet food or livestock feed. The Minister of Agriculture in Quebec made it clear that companion animals are rendered completely.
Pet Food Industry magazine states that a pet food manufacturer might reject rendered material for various reasons, including the presence of foreign material (metals, hair, plastic, rubber, glass), off odor, excessive feathers, hair or hog bristles, bone chunks, mold, chemical analysis out of specification, added blood, leather, or calcium carbonate, heavy metals, pesticide contamination, improper grind or bulk density, and insect infestation.
Please note that this article states that the manufacturer might reject this material, not that it does reject this material.
If the label on the pet food you purchase states that the product contains meat meal, or meat and bone meal, it is possible that it is comprised of all the materials listed above.
Meat, as defined by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle that is skeletal or that which is found in the tongue, diaphragm, heart, or esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels that normally accompany the flesh. When you read on a pet food label that the product contains "real meat," you are getting blood vessels, sinew and so on-hardly the tasty meat that the industry would have us believe it is putting in the food.
Meat by-products are the non rendered, clean parts other than meat derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. Again, be assured that if it could be used for human consumption, such as kidneys and livers, it would not be going into pet food. If a liver is found to be infested with worms (liver flukes), if lungs are filled with pneumonia, these can become pet food. However, in Canada, disease-free intestines can still be used for sausage casing for humans instead of pet food.
What about other sources of protein that can be used in pet food? Poultry-by-product meal consists of ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practice.
Poultry-hatchery by-products are a mixture of egg shells, infertile and unhatched eggs and culled chicks that have been cooked, dried and ground, with or without removal of part of the fat.
Poultry by-products include non rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, and viscera, free of fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice. These are all definitions as listed in the AAFCO "Ingredient Definitions."
Hydrolyzed poultry feather is another source of protein - not digestible protein, but protein nonetheless. This product results from the treatment under pressure of clean, intact feathers from slaughtered poultry free of additives, and/or accelerators.
We have covered the meat and poultry that can be used in commercial pet foods but according to the AAFCO there are a number of other sources that can make up the protein in these foods. As we venture down the road of these other sources, please be advised to proceed at your own risk if you have a weak stomach.
Hydrolysed hair is a product prepared from clean hair treated by heat and pressure to produce a product suitable for animal feeding.
Spray-dried animal blood is produced from clean, fresh animal blood, exclusive of all extraneous material such as hair, stomach belching (contents of stomach), and urine, except in such traces as might occur unavoidably in good factory practices.
Dehydrated food-waste is any and all animal and vegetable produce picked up from basic food processing sources or institutions where food is processed. The produce shall be picked up daily or sufficiently often so that no decomposition is evident. With this ingredient, it seems that what you don't see won't hurt you.
Dehydrated garbage is composed of artificially dried animal and vegetable waste collected sufficiently often that harmful decomposition has not set in and from which have been separated crockery, glass, metal, string, and similar materials.
Dehydrated paunch products are composed of the contents of the rumen of slaughtered cattle, dehydrated at temperatures over 212 degrees F. (100 degrees C.) to a moisture content of 12 percent or less, such dehydration is designed to destroy any pathogenic bacteria.
Dried poultry waste is a processed animal waste product composed primarily of processed ruminant excreta that has been artificially dehydrated to a moisture content not in excess of 15 percent. It shall contain not less than 12 percent crude protein, not more than 40 percent crude fiber, including straw, wood shavings and so on, and not more than 30 percent ash.
Dried swine waste is a processed animal-waste product composed primarily of swine excreta that has been artificially dehydrated to a moisture content not in excess of 15 percent. It shall contain not less than 20 percent crude protein, not more than 35 percent crude fiber, including other material such as straw, woodshavings, or acceptable bedding materials, and not more than 20 percent ash.
Undried processed animal waste product is composed of excreta, with or without the litter, from poultry, ruminants, or any other animal except humans, which may or may not include other feed ingredients, and which contains in excess of 15 percent feed ingredients, and which contains in excess of 15 percent moisture. It shall contain no more than 30 percent combined wood, woodshavings, litter, dirt, sand, rocks, and similar extraneous materials.
After reading this list of ingredients for the first time and not really believing that such ingredients could be used in pet food, I sent a fax to the chair of the AAFCO to inquire. "Would the 'Feed Ingredient Definitions' apply to pet food as well as livestock feed?" The reply was as follows, "The feed ingredient definitions approved by the AAFCO apply to all animal feeds, including pet foods, unless specific animal species restrictions are noted."
If a pet food lists "meat by-products" on the label, remember that this is the material that usually comes from the slaughterhouse industry or dead stock removal operations, classified as condemned or contaminated, unfit for human consumption. Meat meal, meat and bone meal, digests, and tankage (specifically animal tissue including bones and exclusive of hair, hoofs, horns, and contents of digestive tract) are composed of rendered material. The label need not state what the composition of this material is, as each batch rendered would consist of a different material. These are the sources of protein that we are feeding our companion animals.
In 1996 I decided to find out the cost of this "quality" material that the pet food companies purchase from the rendering facilities. Aware that a phone call from an ordinary citizen would not elicit the information I required, I set about forming my own independent pet food company. Stating that my company was about to begin producing quality pet food, I asked for a price quote on meat by-products and meat meal from a Canadian rendering company and from a U.S. rendering company. Both facilities I contacted were more than pleased to provide this information. As I was just a small company and did not require that much material to begin production, the cost was higher than it would have been for one of the large multinationals. Meat and bone meal, with a content of a minimum of 50 percent protein, 12 percent fat, 8 percent moisture, 8 percent calcium, 4 percent phosphorus, and 30 percent ash, could be purchased by me, a small independent company for less than 12¢ (Canadian) a pound. As for the meat by-products the prices varied:. liver sold at 21¢ per pound, veal at 22¢ per pound, and lungs for only 12¢ per pound.
The main ingredient in dry food for dogs and cats is corn. However, on further investigation, I found that according to the AAFCO, the list is lengthy as to the corn products that can be used in pet food. These include, but are not limited to the following ingredients.
Corn four is the fine-size hard flinty portions of ground corn containing little or none of the bran or germ.
Corn bran is the outer coating of the corn kernel, with little or none of the starchy part of the germ.
Corn gluten meal is the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm.
Wheat is a constituent found in many pet foods. Again the AAFCO gives descriptive terms for wheat products.
Wheat flour consists principally of wheat flour together with fine particles of wheat bran, wheat germ, and the offal from the "tail of the mill." Tail of the mill is nothing more then the sweepings of leftovers after everything has been processed from the week.
Wheat germ meal consists chiefly of wheat germ together with some bran and middlings or shorts.
Wheat middlings and shorts are also categorized as the fine particles of wheat germ, bran, flour and offal from the "tail of the mill."
Both corn and wheat are usually the first ingredients listed on both dry dog and cat food labels. If they are not the first ingredients, they are the second and third that together make up most of the sources of protein in that particular product. Perhaps the pet food industry is not aware that cats are carnivores and therefore should derive their protein from meat, not grains?
In 1995 one large pet food company, located in California, recalled $20 million worth of its dog food. This food was found to contain vomitoxin. Vomitoxin is formed when grains become wet and moldy. This toxin was found in "wheat screenings" used in the pet food. The FDA did investigate but not out of concern for the more than 250 dogs that became ill after ingesting this food. It investigated because of concerns for human health. The contaminated wheat screenings were the end product of wheat flour that would be used in the making of pasta. Wheat for baking flour requires a higher quality of wheat. Wheat screenings, which are not used for human consumption, can include broken grains, crop and weed seeds, hulls, chaff, joints, straw, elevator or mill dust, sand, and dirt.
Fat is usually the second ingredient listed on the pet food labels. Fats can be sprayed directly on the food or mixed with the other ingredients. Fats give off a pungent odor that entices your pet to eat the garbage. These fats are sourced from restaurant grease. This oil is rancid and unfit for human consumption. One of the main sources of fat comes from the rendering plant. This is obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial process of rendering or extracting.
An article in Petted Industry magazine does not indicate concern about the impurities in this rendered material as it relates to pet food. Dr. Tim Phillips writes, "Impurities could be small particles of fiber, hair, hide, bone, soil or polyethylene. Or they could be dirt or metal particles picked up after processing (during storage and/or transport). Impurities can cause clogging problems in fat handling screens, nozzles, etc. and contribute to the build-up of sludge in storage tanks."
Other tasty ingredients that can be added to commercial pet food include:
Beet pulp is the dried residue from sugar beet, added for fiber, but primarily sugar.
Soybean meal is the product obtained by grinding the flakes that remain after the removal of most of the oil from soybeans by a solvent extraction process.
Powdered cellulose is purified, mechanically disintegrated cellulose prepared by processing alpha cellulose obtained as a pulp from fibrous plant material. In other words, sawdust.
Sugar foods by-products result from the grinding and mixing of inedible portions derived from the preparation and packaging of sugar-based food products such as candy, dry packaged drinks, dried gelatin mixes, and similar food products that are largely composed of sugar.
Ground almond and peanut shells are used as another source of fiber.
Fish is a source of protein. If you own a cat, just open a can of food that contains fish and watch kitty come running. The parts used are fish heads, tails, fins, bones, and viscera. R.L. Wysong, DVM, states that because the entire fish is not used it does not contain many of the fat soluble vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. If, however, the entire fish is used for pet food, oftentimes it is because the fish contains a high level of mercury or other toxin making it unfit for human consumption. Even fish that was canned for human consumption and that has sat on the shelf past the expiration date will be included. Tuna is used in many cat foods because of its strong odor, which cats find irresistible.
In her book The Natural Cat, Anitra Frazier describes the "tuna junkie" as an expression used by veterinarians to describe a cat hooked on tuna. According to Frazier, "The vegetable oil which it is packed in robs the cat's body of vitamin E which can result in a condition called steatitis.'' Symptoms of steatitis include extreme nervousness and severe pain when touched. The lack of vitamin E in the diet causes the nerve endings to become sensitive, and can also induce anemia and heart disease. However, excess levels of vitamin E can be toxic. A veterinarian with an understanding of nutrition should be consulted.
One commercial food that most cats and dogs seem to love are the semi-moist foods. These kibble and burger-shaped concoctions are made to resemble real hamburger. However, according to Wendell O. Belfield and Martin Zucker in their book, How to Have a Healthier Dog, these are one of the most dangerous of all commercial pet foods. They are high in sugar, laced with dyes, additives, and preservatives, and have a shelf life that spans eternity. One pet owner wrote to me explaining that she had fed her cat some of these semi-moist tidbits. The cat became ill shortly after eating them, and even professional carpet cleaners could not remove the red dye from the carpet where her cat had been ill. In his book, Pet Allergies: Remedies for an Epidemic, Alfred Plechner, DVM., writes, "In my opinion, semi-moist foods should be placed in a time capsule to serve as a record of modern technology gone mad."
The pet food industry corrals this material, then mixes, cooks, dries and extrudes the stuff. (Extruding simply means it is pushed through a mold to form the different shapes and to make us think that these so called "chunks" are actually pieces of meat.) Dyes, additives, preservatives are routinely added and they can accumulate in the pet's body. According to the Animal Protection Institute of America newsletter, "Investigative Report on Pet Food, "Ethoxyquin (an antioxidant preservative), was found in dogs' livers and tissue months after it had been removed from their diet."
After processing, the food is practically devoid of any nutritional value. To make up for what is lacking, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and supplements are dumped into the mix. If the minerals added are unchelated (chelated means minerals will more readily combine with proteins for better absorption), they will pass through the body virtually unused. Most are added as a premix, and if there is a mistake made in the premix, it can throw off the entire balance. Veterinarians Marty Goldstein and Robert Goldstein have stated that the wrong calcium/magnesium ratio can cause neuromuscular problems. As an example, when I had the commercial pet food tested by Mann Laboratories for my court case, most of the minerals showed excess levels.
Please note: The information provided here is meant to supplement that provided by your veterinarian. Nothing can replace a complete history and physical examination performed by your veterinarian. - Dr. Jeff
I greatly value your feedback. Please let me know what you think of this site and what you would like to see on it. firstname.lastname@example.org
Plump whole chickens, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains, and all the wholesome nutrition your dog or cat will ever need.
These are the images pet food manufacturers promulgate through the media and advertising. This is what the $11 billion per year U.S. pet food industry wants consumers to believe they are buying when they purchase their products.
This report explores the differences between what consumers think they are buying and what they are actually getting. It focuses in very general terms on the most visible name brands -- the pet food labels that are mass-distributed to supermarkets and discount stores -- but there are many highly respected brands that may be guilty of the same offenses.
What most consumers don't know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a market for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered "unfit for human consumption," and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, esophagi, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.
Three of the five major pet food companies in the United States are subsidiaries of major multinational companies: Nestlé (Alpo, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Mighty Dog, and Ralston Purina products such as Dog Chow, ProPlan, and Purina One), Heinz (9 Lives, Amore, Gravy Train, Kibbles-n-Bits, Nature's Recipe), Colgate-Palmolive (Hill's Science Diet Pet Food). Other leading companies include Procter & Gamble (Eukanuba and Iams), Mars (Kal Kan, Mealtime, Pedigree, Sheba, Waltham's), and Nutro. From a business standpoint, multinational companies owning pet food manufacturing companies is an ideal relationship. The multinationals have increased bulk-purchasing power; those that make human food products have a captive market in which to capitalize on their waste products, and pet food divisions have a more reliable capital base and, in many cases, a convenient source of ingredients.
There are hundreds of different pet foods available in this country. And while many of the foods on the market are similar, not all of the pet food manufacturing companies use poor quality or potentially dangerous ingredients.
Although the purchase price of pet food does not always determine whether a pet food is good or bad, the price is often a good indicator of quality. It would be impossible for a company that sells a generic brand of dog food at $9.95 for a 40-lb. bag to use quality protein and grain in its food. The cost of purchasing quality ingredients would be much higher than the selling price.
The protein used in pet food comes from a variety of sources. When cattle, swine, chickens, lambs, or other animals are slaughtered, the choice cuts such as lean muscle tissue are trimmed away from the carcass for human consumption. However, about 50% of every food-producing animal does not get used in human foods. Whatever remains of the carcass -- bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, and almost all the other parts not generally consumed by humans -- is used in pet food, animal feed, and other products. These "other parts" are known as "by-products," "meat-and-bone-meal," or similar names on pet food labels.
The Pet Food Institute -- the trade association of pet food manufacturers -- acknowledges the use of by-products in pet foods as additional income for processors and farmers: "The growth of the pet food industry not only provided pet owners with better foods for their pets, but also created profitable additional markets for American farm products and for the byproducts of the meat packing, poultry, and other food industries which prepare food for human consumption."1
Many of these remnants provide a questionable source of nourishment for our animals. The nutritional quality of meat and poultry by-products, meals, and digests can vary from batch to batch. James Morris and Quinton Rogers, two professors with the Department of Molecular Biosciences, University of California at Davis Veterinary School of Medicine, assert that, "There is virtually no information on the bioavailability of nutrients for companion animals in many of the common dietary ingredients used in pet foods. These ingredients are generally by-products of the meat, poultry and fishing industries, with the potential for a wide variation in nutrient composition. Claims of nutritional adequacy of pet foods based on the current Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient allowances ('profiles') do not give assurances of nutritional adequacy and will not until ingredients are analyzed and bioavailability values are incorporated."2
Meat and poultry meals, by-product meals, and meat-and-bone meal are common ingredients in pet foods. The term "meal" means that these materials are not used fresh, but have been rendered. What is rendering? Rendering, as defined by Webster's Dictionary, is "to process as for industrial use: to render livestock carcasses and to extract oil from fat, blubber, etc., by melting." Home-made chicken soup, with its thick layer of fat that forms over the top when the soup is cooled, is a sort of mini-rendering process. Rendering separates fat-soluble from water-soluble and solid materials, removes most of the water, and kills bacterial contaminants, but may alter or destroy some of the natural enzymes and proteins found in the raw ingredients. Meat and poultry by-products, while not rendered, vary widely in composition and quality.
What can the feeding of such products do to your companion animal? Some veterinarians claim that feeding slaughterhouse wastes to animals increases their risk of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. The cooking methods used by pet food manufacturers -- such as rendering, extruding (a heat-and-pressure system used to "puff" dry foods into nuggets or kibbles), and baking -- do not necessarily destroy the hormones used to fatten livestock or increase milk production, or drugs such as antibiotics or the barbiturates used to euthanize animals.
Animal and Poultry Fat
You may have noticed a unique, pungent odor when you open a new bag of pet food -- what is the source of that delightful smell? It is most often rendered animal fat, restaurant grease, or other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans.
Restaurant grease has become a major component of feed grade animal fat over the last fifteen years. This grease, often held in fifty-gallon drums, may be kept outside for weeks, exposed to extreme temperatures with no regard for its future use. "Fat blenders" or rendering companies then pick up this used grease and mix the different types of fat together, stabilize them with powerful antioxidants to retard further spoilage, and then sell the blended products to pet food companies and other end users.
These fats are sprayed directly onto extruded kibbles and pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable. The fat also acts as a binding agent to which manufacturers add other flavor enhancers such as digests. Pet food scientists have discovered that animals love the taste of these sprayed fats. Manufacturers are masters at getting a dog or a cat to eat something she would normally turn up her nose at.
Wheat, Soy, Corn, Peanut Hulls, and Other Vegetable Protein
The amount of grain products used in pet food has risen over the last decade. Once considered filler by the pet food industry, cereal and grain products now replace a considerable proportion of the meat that was used in the first commercial pet foods. The availability of nutrients in these products is dependent upon the digestibility of the grain. The amount and type of carbohydrate in pet food determines the amount of nutrient value the animal actually gets. Dogs and cats can almost completely absorb carbohydrates from some grains, such as white rice. Up to 20% of the nutritional value of other grains can escape digestion. The availability of nutrients for wheat, beans, and oats is poor. The nutrients in potatoes and corn are far less available than those in rice. Some ingredients, such as peanut hulls, are used for filler or fiber, and have no significant nutritional value.
Two of the top three ingredients in pet foods, particularly dry foods, are almost always some form of grain products. Pedigree Performance Food for Dogs lists Ground Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, and Corn Gluten Meal as its top three ingredients. 9 Lives Crunchy Meals for cats lists Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, and Poultry By-Product Meal as its first three ingredients. Since cats are true carnivores -- they must eat meat to fulfill certain physiological needs -- one may wonder why we are feeding a corn-based product to them. The answer is that corn is a much cheaper "energy source" than meat.
In 1995, Nature's Recipe pulled thousands of tons of dog food off the shelf after consumers complained that their dogs were vomiting and losing their appetite. Nature's Recipe's loss amounted to $20 million. The problem was a fungus that produced vomitoxin (an aflatoxin or "mycotoxin," a toxic substance produced by mold) contaminating the wheat. In 1999, another fungal toxin triggered the recall of dry dog food made by Doane Pet Care at one of its plants, including Ol' Roy (Wal-Mart's brand) and 53 other brands. This time, the toxin killed 25 dogs.
Although it caused many dogs to vomit, stop eating, and have diarrhea, vomitoxin is a milder toxin than most. The more dangerous mycotoxins can cause weight loss, liver damage, lameness, and even death as in the Doane case. The Nature's Recipe incident prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to intervene. Dina Butcher, Agriculture Policy Advisor for North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer, concluded that the discovery of vomitoxin in Nature's Recipe wasn't much of a threat to the human population because "the grain that would go into pet food is not a high quality grain."3
Soy is another common ingredient that is sometimes used as a protein and energy source in pet food. Manufacturers also use it to add bulk so that when an animal eats a product containing soy he will feel more sated. While soy has been linked to gas in some dogs, other dogs do quite well with it. Vegetarian dog foods use soy as a protein source.
Additives and Preservatives
Many chemicals are added to commercial pet foods to improve the taste, stability, characteristics, or appearance of the food. Additives provide no nutritional value. Additives include emulsifiers to prevent water and fat from separating, antioxidants to prevent fat from turning rancid, and artificial colors and flavors to make the product more attractive to consumers and more palatable to their companion animals.
Adding chemicals to food originated thousands of years ago with spices, natural preservatives, and ripening agents. In the last 40 years, however, the number of food additives has greatly increased.
All commercial pet foods must be preserved so they stay fresh and appealing to our animal companions. Canning is a preserving process itself, so canned foods contain less preservatives than dry foods. Some preservatives are added to ingredients or raw materials by the suppliers, and others may be added by the manufacturer. Because manufacturers need to ensure that dry foods have a long shelf life to remain edible after shipping and prolonged storage, fats used in pet foods are preserved with either synthetic or "natural" preservatives. Synthetic preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (also used as a less-toxic version of automotive antifreeze), and ethoxyquin. For these antioxidants, there is little information documenting their toxicity, safety, interactions, or chronic use in pet foods that may be eaten every day for the life of the animal.
Potentially cancer-causing agents such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are permitted at relatively low levels. The use of these chemicals in pet foods has not been thoroughly studied, and long term build-up of these agents may ultimately be harmful. Due to questionable data in the original study on its safety, ethoxyquin's manufacturer, Monsanto, was required to perform a new, more rigorous study. This was completed in 1996. Even though Monsanto found no significant toxicity associated with its own product, in July 1997, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine requested that manufacturers voluntarily reduce the maximum level for ethoxyquin by half, to 75 parts per million. While some pet food critics and veterinarians believe that ethoxyquin is a major cause of disease, skin problems, and infertility in dogs, others claim it is the safest, strongest, most stable preservative available for pet food. Ethoxyquin is approved for use in human food for preserving spices, such as cayenne and chili powder, at a level of 100 ppm -- but it would be very difficult to consume as much chili powder every day as a dog would eat dry food. Ethoxyquin has never been tested for safety in cats.
Some manufacturers have responded to consumer concern, and are now using "natural" preservatives such as Vitamin C (ascorbate), Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), and oils of rosemary, clove, or other spices, to preserve the fats in their products. Other ingredients, however, may be individually preserved. Most fish meal, and some prepared vitamin-mineral mixtures, contain chemical preservatives. This means that your companion animal may be eating food containing several types of preservatives. Federal law requires preservatives to be disclosed on the label; however, pet food companies only recently started to comply with this law.
Additives in Processed Pet Foods
Flour treating agents
Oxidizing and reducing agents
pH control agents
Surface active agents
Surface finishing agents
While the law requires studies of direct toxicity of these additives and preservatives, they have not been tested for their potential synergistic effects on each other once ingested. Some authors have suggested that dangerous interactions occur among some of the common synthetic preservatives.4 Natural preservatives do not provide as long a shelf life as chemical preservatives, but they are safe.
The Manufacturing Process
How Pet Food Is Made
Although feeding trials are no longer required for a food to meet the requirements for labeling a food "complete and balanced," most manufacturers perform palatability studies when developing a new pet food. One set of animals is fed a new food while a "control" group is fed a current formula. The total volume eaten is used as a gauge for the palatability of the food. The larger and more reputable companies do use feeding trials, which are considered to be a much more accurate assessment of the actual nutritional value of the food. They keep large colonies of dogs and cats for this purpose, or use testing laboratories that have their own animals.
Most dry food is made with a machine called an expander or extruder. First, raw materials are blended, sometimes by hand, other times by computer, in accordance with a recipe developed by animal nutritionists. This mixture is fed into an expander and steam or hot water is added. The mixture is subjected to steam, pressure, and high heat as it is extruded through dies that determine the shape of the final product and puffed like popcorn. The food is allowed to dry, and then is usually sprayed with fat, digests, or other compounds to make it more palatable. Although the cooking process may kill bacteria in pet food, the final product can lose its sterility during the subsequent drying, fat coating, and packaging process. A few foods are baked at high temperatures rather than extruded. This produces a dense, crunchy kibble that is palatable without the addition of sprayed on palatability enhancers. Animals can be fed about 25% less of a baked food, by volume (but not by weight), than an extruded food.
Ingredients are similar for wet, dry, and semi-moist foods, although the ratios of protein, fat, and fiber may change. A typical can of ordinary cat food reportedly contains about 45-50% meat or poultry by-products. The main difference between the types of food is the water content. It is impossible to directly compare labels from different kinds of food without a mathematical conversion to "dry matter basis."5 Wet or canned food begins with ground ingredients mixed with additives. If chunks are required, a special extruder forms them. Then the mixture is cooked and canned. The sealed cans are then put into containers resembling pressure cookers and commercial sterilization takes place. Some manufacturers cook the food right in the can.
There are special labeling requirements for pet food, all of which are contained in the annually revised Official Publication of AAFCO.6 The use of the terms "all" or "100%" cannot be used "if the product contains more than one ingredient, not including water sufficient for processing, decharacterizing agents, or trace amounts of preservatives and condiments." Products containing multiple ingredients are covered by AAFCO Regulation PF3(b) and (c). The "95% rule" applies when the ingredient(s) derived from animals, poultry, or fish constitutes at least 95% or more of the total weight of the product (or 70% excluding water for processing).
Because all-meat diets are usually not nutritionally balanced, they fell out of favor for many years. However, due to rising consumer interest in high quality meat products, several companies are now promoting 95% and 100% canned meats as a supplemental feeding option.
The "dinner" product is defined by the 25% Rule, which applies when "an ingredient or a combination of ingredients constitutes at least 25% of the weight of the product" (excluding water sufficient for processing) as long as the ingredient(s) shall constitute at least 10% of the total product weight; and a descriptor that implies other ingredients are included in the product formula is used on the label. Such descriptors include "recipe," "platter," "entree," and "formula." A combination of ingredients included in the product name is permissible when each ingredient comprises at least 3% of the product weight, excluding water for processing, and the ingredient names appear in descending order by weight.
The "with" rule allows an ingredient name to appear on the label, such as "with real chicken," as long as each such ingredient constitutes at least 3% of the food by weight, excluding water for processing.
The "flavor" rule allows a food to be designated as a certain flavor as long as the ingredient(s) are sufficient to "impart a distinctive characteristic" to the food. Thus, a "beef flavor" food may contain a small quantity of digest or other extract of tissues from cattle, without containing any actual beef meat at all.
What Happened to the Nutrients?
Dr. Randy L. Wysong is a veterinarian and produces his own line of pet foods. A long-time critic of pet food industry practices, he said, "Processing is the wild card in nutritional value that is, by and large, simply ignored. Heating, cooking, rendering, freezing, dehydrating, canning, extruding, pelleting, baking, and so forth, are so commonplace that they are simply thought of as synonymous with food itself."7 Processing meat and by-products used in pet food can greatly diminish their nutritional value, but cooking increases the digestibility of cereal grains.
To make pet food nutritious, pet food manufacturers must "fortify" it with vitamins and minerals. Why? Because the ingredients they are using are not wholesome, their quality may be extremely variable, and the harsh manufacturing practices destroy many of the nutrients the food had to begin with.
Commercially manufactured or rendered meat meals and by-product meals are frequently highly contaminated with bacteria because their source is not always slaughtered animals. Animals that have died because of disease, injury, or natural causes are a source of meat for meat meal. The dead animal might not be rendered until days after its death. Therefore the carcass is often contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Dangerous E. Coli bacteria are estimated to contaminate more than 50% of meat meals. While the cooking process may kill bacteria, it does not eliminate the endotoxins some bacteria produce during their growth and are released when they die. These toxins can cause sickness and disease. Pet food manufacturers do not test their products for endotoxins.
Mycotoxins -- These toxins comes from mold or fungi, such as vomitoxin in the Nature's Recipe case, and aflatoxin in Doane's food. Poor farming practices and improper drying and storage of crops can cause mold growth. Ingredients that are most likely to be contaminated with mycotoxins are grains such as wheat and corn, cottonseed meal, peanut meal, and fish meal.
The National Research Council (NRC) of the Academy of Sciences set the nutritional standards for pet food that were used by the pet food industry until the late 1980s. The NRC standards, which still exist and are being revised as of 2001, were based on purified diets, and required feeding trials for pet foods claimed to be "complete" and "balanced." The pet food industry found the feeding trials too restrictive and expensive, so AAFCO designed an alternate procedure for claiming the nutritional adequacy of pet food, by testing the food for compliance with "Nutrient Profiles." AAFCO also created "expert committees" for canine and feline nutrition, which developed separate canine and feline standards. While feeding trials can still be done, a standard chemical analysis may be also be used to determine if a food meets the profiles.
Chemical analysis, however, does not address the palatability, digestibility, or biological availability of nutrients in pet food. Thus it is unreliable for determining whether a food will provide an animal with sufficient nutrients.
To compensate for the limitations of chemical analysis, AAFCO added a "safety factor," which was to exceed the minimum amount of nutrients required to meet the complete and balanced requirements.
The digestibility and availability of nutrients is not listed on pet food labels.
The 100% Myth -- Problems Caused by Inadequate Nutrition
The idea of one pet food providing all the nutrition a companion animal will ever need for its entire life is a myth.
Cereal grains are the primary ingredients in most commercial pet foods. Many people select one pet food and feed it to their dogs and cats for a prolonged period of time. Therefore, companion dogs and cats eat a primarily carbohydrate diet with little variety. Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the primarily protein diets with a lot of variety that their ancestors ate. The problems associated with a commercial diet are seen every day at veterinary establishments. Chronic digestive problems, such as chronic vomiting, diarrhea, and inflammatory bowel disease are among the most frequent illnesses treated. These are often the result of an allergy or intolerance to pet food ingredients. The market for "limited antigen" or "novel protein" diets is now a multi-million dollar business. These diets were formulated to address the increasing intolerance to commercial foods that animals have developed. The newest twist is the truly "hypoallergenic" food that has had all its proteins artificially chopped into pieces smaller than can be recognized and reacted to by the immune system.
Dry commercial pet food is often contaminated with bacteria, which may or may not cause problems. Improper food storage and some feeding practices may result in the multiplication of this bacteria. For example, adding water or milk to moisten pet food and then leaving it at room temperature causes bacteria to multiply.8 Yet this practice is suggested on the back of packages of some kitten and puppy foods.
Pet food formulas and the practice of feeding that manufacturers recommend have increased other digestive problems. Feeding only one meal per day can cause the irritation of the esophagus by stomach acid. Feeding two smaller meals is better.
Feeding recommendations or instructions on the packaging are sometimes inflated so that the consumer will end up purchasing more food. However, Procter & Gamble allegedly took the opposite tack with its Iams and Eukanuba lines, reducing the feeding amounts in order to claim that its foods were less expensive to feed. Independent studies commissioned by a competing manufacturer suggested that these reduced levels were inadequate to maintain health. Procter & Gamble has since sued and been countersued by that competing manufacturer, and a consumer complaint has also been filed seeking class-action status for harm caused to dogs by the revised feeding instructions.
Urinary tract disease is directly related to diet in both cats and dogs. Plugs, crystals, and stones in cat bladders are often triggered or aggravated by commercial pet food formulas. One type of stone found in cats is less common now, but another more dangerous type has become more common. Manipulation of manufactured cat food formulas to alter the acidity of urine and the amount of some minerals has directly affected these diseases. Dogs also form stones as a result of their diet.
History has shown that commercial pet food products can cause disease. An often-fatal heart disease in cats and some dogs is now known to be caused by a deficiency of the amino acid taurine. Blindness is another symptom of taurine deficiency. This deficiency was due to inadequate amounts of taurine in cat food formulas, which itself occurred because of decreased amounts of animal proteins and increased reliance on carbohydrates. Cat foods are now supplemented with taurine. New research suggests that supplementing taurine may also be helpful for dogs, but as yet few manufacturers are adding extra taurine to dog food. Inadequate potassium in certain feline diets also caused kidney failure in young cats; potassium is now added in greater amounts to all cat foods.
Rapid growth in large breed puppies has been shown to contribute to bone and joint disease. Excess calories and calcium in some manufactured puppy foods promoted rapid growth. There are now special puppy foods for large breed dogs. But this recent change will not help the countless dogs who lived and died with hip and elbow disease.
There is also evidence that hyperthyroidism in cats may be related to excess iodine in commercial pet food diets.9 This is a new disease that first surfaced in the 1970s, when canned food products appeared on the market. The exact cause and effect are not yet known. This is a serious and sometimes terminal disease, and treatment is expensive.
Many nutritional problems appeared with the popularity of cereal-based commercial pet foods. Some have occurred because the diet was incomplete. Although several ingredients are now supplemented, we do not know what ingredients future researchers may discover that should have been supplemented in pet foods all along. Other problems may result from reactions to additives. Others are a result of contamination with bacteria, mold, drugs, or other toxins. In some diseases the role of commercial pet food is understood; in others, it is not. The bottom line is that diets composed primarily of low quality cereals and rendered meat meals are not as nutritious or safe as you should expect for your cat or dog.
What Consumers Can Do
Note: Because pet food manufacturers frequently change the formulations of their products and API would not have conducted the necessary testing, we are unable to offer endorsements for particular brands of pet food. Many of our staff choose to make their own pet food or to purchase natural or organic products found in most feed and specialist stores but we cannot recommend brands that would be right for your companion animal or animals.
For Further Reading about Animal Nutrition
The Animal Protection Institute recommends the following books, many of which include recipes for home-prepared diets:
The books listed above are a fraction of all the titles currently available, and the omission of a title does not necessarily mean it is not useful for further reading about animal nutrition.
Please note: The Animal Protection Institute is not a bookseller, and cannot sell or send these books to you. Please contact your local book retailer or an online bookstore, who can supply these books based on the ISBN provided for each title.
What API is Doing
Who to Write
AAFCO Pet Food Committee
Dr. Rodney Noel -- Chair
Office of Indiana State Chemist
1154 Biochemistry Building
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1154
FDA -- Center for Veterinary Medicine
7500 Standish Place
Rockville, MD 20855
Pet Food Institute
2025 M Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
Association of American Feed Control Officials Incorporated. Official Publication 2001. Atlanta: AAFCO, 2001.
Barfield, Carol. FDA Petition, Docket Number 93P0081/CP1, accepted February 25, 1993.
Becker, Ross. "Is your dog's food safe?" Good Dog!, November/December 1995, 7.
Cargill, James, MA, MBA, MS, and Susan Thorpe-Vargas, MS. "Feed that dog! Part VI." DOGworld, December 1993, 36.
Case, Linda P., M.S., Daniel P. Carey, D.V.M., and Diane A. Hirakawa, Ph.D. Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals. St. Louis: Mosby, 1995.
Coffman, Howard D. The Dry Dog Food Reference. Nashua: PigDog Press, 1995.
Corbin, Jim. "Pet Foods and Feeding." Feedstuffs, July 17, 1996, 80-85.
Knight-Ridder News Syndicate. "Nature's Recipe Recalls Dog Food That Contains Vomitoxin." August 28, 1995.
Morris, James G., and Quinton R. Rogers. "Assessment of the Nutritional Adequacy of Pet Foods Through the Life Cycle." Journal of Nutrition, 124 (1994): 2520S-2533S.
Newman, Lisa. What's in your pet's food? Tucson & Phoenix: Holistic Animal Care, 1994.
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. 1994 Commercial Feed Analysis Annual Report. Albany: Division of Food Inspection Services, 1995.
Parker, J. Michael. "Tainted dog food blamed on corn." San Antonio Express News, April 1, 1999.
"Petfood activist." Petfood Industry, September/October 1991, 4.
Pet Food Institute. Fact Sheet 1994. Washington: Pet Food Institute, 1994.
Phillips, Tim, DVM. "Rendered Products Guide." Petfood Industry, January/February 1994, 12-17, 21.
Pitcairn, Richard H., D.V.M., Ph.D., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats. Emmaus: Rodale, 1995.
Plechner, Alfred J., DVM, and Martin Zucker. Pet Allergies: Remedies for an Epidemic. Inglewood: Wilshire Book Co., 1986.
Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Agriculture. 1994 Report of the Inspection and Analysis of Commercial Feeds, Fertilizers and Liming Materials. Providence: Division of Agriculture, 1995.
Roudebush, Philip, DVM. "Pet food additives." JAVMA, 203 (1993): 1667-1670.
Rouse, Raymond H. "Feed Fats." Petfood Industry, March/April 1987, 7.
Sellers, Richard. "Regulating petfood with an open mind." Petfood Industry, November/December 1990, 41-44.
Smith, Carin A. "Research Roundup: Changes and challenges in feline nutrition." JAVMA 203 (1993), 1395-1400.
Strombeck, Donald. R. Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Foods: The Healthful Alternative. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1999.
Winters, Ruth, M.S. A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives. New York: Crown, 1994.
Wysong, R. L. "The 'complete' myth." Petfood Industry, September/October 1990, 24-28.
[Wysong, R. L.] Fresh and Whole: Getting Involved in Your Pet's Diet. Midland: Wysong Corporation, 1990.
Wysong, R. L. Rationale for Animal Nutrition. Midland: Inquiry Press, 1993.
1. Pet Food Institute, 2.
2. Morris, 2520S.
3. Corbin, 81.
4. Cargill, 36.
5. The conversion is: ingredient percentage divided by (100 minus moisture percentage).
6. Official Publication, Regulation PE3, 114-115.
7. Wysong, Rationale, 40-41.
8. Strombeck, 50-52.
9. Smith, 1397.
Veterinary Alternative Can Help Your Pet
From the May 1998 issue of ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE magazine
The Poisons in Pet Food
By John Anderson
A homeopath of our acquaintance, who specializes in animal health, recently reported that nearly all of her new cases are dogs and cats with cancer. This is a most unusual and alarming trend, she told us. One of the reasons American dogs and cats are getting very sick can be found in the pet foods they eat every day. The realities of animal health aren’t much different than human health: if you consume a diet of toxins, eventually you will get terribly sick.
Despite the appealing blandishments of pet food advertisements with their claims of providing "complete and balanced nutrition," if you’re not exceedingly circumspect, you may end up feeding your pet chicken heads, road kills, spoiled or moldy grains, cancerous material cut from slaughterhouse animals, tissue high in hormone or pesticide residues, and even shredded Styrofoam packaging, metal ID tags and minced flea collars.
Don’t expect the food label to be any true guide to the product’s contents. The list of ingredients on that bag of dry pet food or can of "meat" can mask the toxic horrors behind innocuous-sounding phrases such as "meat meal," "bone meal," and "meat by-products." It’s the substances you don’t know about in that can of pet food that may sicken or even kill your pet.
Rendering Garbage Into Pet Food—Rendering is the process of grinding up and then melting down or cooking scrap material from animals. The final products of this process—meat and bone meal and squeezed-out-fats—are sold primarily to pet food companies.
The list of materials that go into the rendering process is extensive and horrific. When cattle, sheep and poultry are slaughtered for human consumption, the parts deemed unsuitable for eating—heads (including growth hormone implants in cattle), skin, fat containing pesticide residues, toenails, hair or feathers, joints, hooves, stomach and bowels—are rendered.
Other animal parts sent to rendering plants include cancerous tissues, worm-infested organs, contaminated blood and blood clots. Compounding these toxins, slaughterhouses add carbolic acid and fuel oil to these remnants as a way of marking these foods as unfit for human consumption.
Slaughterhouses aren’t the only source for animals that end up rendered. Animals classified as "4-D" (dead, diseased, dying and disabled)—that is, too unhealthy for human consumption—are rendered. These include animals with residues of antibiotics, such as chloramphenical and sulfamethazine, that are commonly used in meat production.
Road-kill animals and some deceased zoo animals are also sent to rendering plants. A report in the San Francisco Chronicle (February 19, 1990) presented evidence that dead pets from animal clinics and shelters are carted away to be rendered—with their name tags and flea collars intact. Other items tossed into the rendering "soup pot" are rancid grease from restaurants and supermarket meats that are no longer fresh (including their Styrofoam and shrinkwrap packaging).
All of this material is slowly ground up at the rendering plant, then chipped or shredded, and cooked for up to an hour at 220 degrees F to 270 degrees F. The fat or tallow separates during the cooking and is removed. What’s left over is then pressed to remove all moisture and crushed into what is misleadingly called "bone meal" or "meat meal."
Meat and poultry by-products, another major category of pet food ingredients, are the unrendered parts of the animal left over after slaughter, everything deemed unfit for human consumption. In cattle and sheep, this includes the brain, liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, blood, bones, fatty tissue, stomachs and intestines. The items on this list that would normally be consumed by humans, such as the liver, would have to be diseased or contaminated before they could be designated for pet food. Poultry by-products include heads, feet, intestines, undeveloped eggs, chicken feathers and egg shells.
Other items counted as acceptable protein sources and included under "by-products" are dried animal blood and hair, dehydrated stomach contents from cattle and dried pig and poultry excrement. As explicit as the facts about pet food contents may be, you won’t find them listed on the label; the truth about these poisons is conveniently buried under the rubric "by-products."
The primary ingredient in many dry commercial pet foods is not protein but cereal. Corn and wheat are the most common grains used but, as with the meat sources, the nutritious parts of the grain are generally present only in trace amounts. The corn gluten meal or wheat middlings added to pet foods are the leftovers after the grain has been processed for human use, containing little nutritional value. Or they may be grain that is too moldy for humans to eat, so it’s incorporated into pet food. Mycotoxins, potentially deadly fungal toxins that multiply in moldy grains, have been found in pet foods in recent years. In 1995, Nature’s Recipe recalled tons of their dog food after dogs became ill from eating it. The food was found to contain vomitoxin, a mycotoxin.
Perfecting the Contamination – The nutritional needs of pets are hardly the concern of most manufacturers. Commercial pet foods are usually concocted with the profit margins in mind, and nothing else. A new food may be tested to see whether animals like it (eat it in large quantities), but not whether it is good for them. For dry foods, ingredients (meat meal, by-products, cereals) are mixed together with water or steam, pushed through a machine called an extruder which gives the food its shape, then cooked at high temperatures and dried. To make the food palatable to your pet, fats—often the tallow separated during the rendering process—is sprayed on after the food is dried. Wet foods are made from raw ingredients ground up with additives and preservatives. "Chunky" canned foods are run through an extruder to produce the look of natural meats.
Harmful chemicals and preservatives are added to both wet and dry food. For example, sodium nitrite, a coloring agent and preservative and potential carcinogen, is a common additive. Other preservatives include ethoxyquin (an insecticide that has been linked to liver cancer) and BHA and BHT, chemicals also suspected of causing cancer. The average dog can consume as much as 26 pounds of preservatives every year from eating commercial dog foods.
The manufacturing process destroys most of whatever minimal nutritional content remained from the dubious list of ingredients. Even when the companies include more healthy ingredients at the outset, manufacturing depletes the nutritional value. "Processing is the wild card in nutritional value that is, by the large, simply ignored," states R L Wysong, DVM, a veterinarian who founded Wysong Corporation to produce healthful pet foods. Proteins, enzymes, vitamins and minerals and fatty acids present in the foods can all be altered or destroyed by the manufacturing process, leading to nutritional deficiencies in the pets eating these foods.
Nobody’s Watching the Pet Bowl—No consumer agencies are looking out for your pet’s health interests. The pet food industry is virtually unregulated regarding food composition. In fact, information about the poisons in pet foods is not easily obtained; hence its shock-value when it’s finally revealed to the unsuspecting public.
The problem is that only the label, not content, of pet foods is regulated. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a group of federal and state bureaucrats, define the ingredients listed on the labels of pet foods, but they do no testing on the foods themselves and have no enforcement authority. So don’t expect their semantics to keep your pet healthy.
The United States Department of Agriculture, a government agency you might think would be watching the pet food industry, only oversees food for human consumption, letting pet food makers off the leash. The Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (FDA/CVM) concerns itself mainly with labeling: manufacturers must substantiate any health claims they make for their pet food, but they aren’t asked to prove that their food is not quietly toxic to pets. While the FDA/CVM can prohibit an ingredient’s use if it is proven detrimental to health, they do no ingredient quality testing on pet foods, so how will they ever know? The claims of "complete and balanced nutrition" on many commercial pet foods are based on AAFCO nutrient profiles. What isn’t addressed on the label is the quality and bioavailablity of these nutrients. For instance, the label may state that the food contains a "minimum of 65% protein," but is it clean and can it be absorbed? The labels will never tell you. "Although the AAFCO profiles are better than nothing, they provide false securities," states Quinton Rogers, DVM, a veterinarian with the Department of Molecular Biosciences, Veterinary School of Medicine, University of California at Davis. "There is virtually no information on the bioavailability of nutrients for companion animals in many of the common dietary ingredients used in pet foods."
110 Million Sick Pets?—There are an estimated 55 million dogs and 63 million cats living in American households. Given the appalling condition of most commercial pet foods, it’s a wonder there are any healthy pets walking around anymore. "Nature never designed canine or feline kidneys to handle the volume of impurities that come their way," states veterinarian Al Plechner, DVM, author of Pet Allergies. "The result is fatigued, irritated, damaged and deteriorated kidneys after several years of life. Left untreated, the toxic buildup leads to vomiting, loss of appetite, uremic poisoning and death."
Recent studies have shown processed foods to be a factor in increasing numbers of pets suffering from cancer, arthritis, obesity, dental disease and heart disease, comments Dr Wysong. Dull or unhealthy coats are a common problem with cats and dogs and poor diet is usually the cause, according to many veterinarians and breeders. The AAFCO nutrient profiles may play a role here, in the "balanced" nutritional levels they recommend may be inadequate for an individual animal.
It is estimated that up to two million companion animals suffer from food allergies. Dr Plechner believes that the commercial pet foods are a primary cause and can contribute to a host of health problems. "Among pets, there is a widespread intolerance of commercial foods," he states. "This rejection can show up either as violent sickness or chronic health problems. It often triggers a hypersensitivity and overreaction to flea and insect bites, pollens, soaps, sprays and environmental contaminants."
Feline urological syndrome, a chronic condition similar to cystitis in humans (characterized by frequent urination with blood in the urine), is an increasingly common and potentially fatal illness in cats. It has been linked to elevated levels of ash and phosphorus, two substances commonly found in commercial pet foods. High iodine levels are seen as a contributing factor for thyroid tumors in cats. "New diseases are being discovered that are linked to ‘100% complete’ diets," states Dr Wysong. These include "polymyopathy (a muscle disorder) from low potassium levels, dilated cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disorder) from low taurine levels, arthritic and skin diseases from acid/base and zinc malnutrition and chronic eczema from essential fatty acid malnutrition," he reports. Given the high possibility that your favorite pet foods may be slowly poisoning your cat or dog, it’s crucial that you prepare your own foods.
Pat McKay: Unfortunately at the present time I don't know of any commercially prepared dog or cat foods on the market that have the necessary standards for good health. Please see my free ebooks on my homepage that tell you how, what and why to prepare your own food, find out how quick and easy it is to prepare and how beneficial it is for your dogs and cats.
THE DOG FOOD REPORT
from: http://www.lucy-the-dog.com/ date: 12/24/04
The folks at Sojourner Farms continue their series on the benefits of a raw food diet for your pet.
May my beloved partner ROMI rest in peace - no matter wherever her bits and pieces/frozen carcass may be held hostage.
[what's in YOUR "urn" ?]