What is Your Pet Eating? Part IV (And what are YOU eating?)

What is Your Pet Eating? Part IV (And what are YOU eating?)

My ongoing interest in health and nutrition led me to the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. The shocking information I learned by reading this book made me not only reevaluate what I was feeding my pets, but what I was putting in my own body as well. Since I have been posting about the poor quality and ingredients found in processed pet food these past few weeks, I thought now was as good a time as any to share a few of the main points discussed in this book.

The Whole Grain Hoax

We are constantly hearing how incorporating whole grains into our diet will help us maintain a healthy weight and improve our overall health. Sadly, the majority of whole grains available to Americans today are far from healthy.

Over the past few years, technology has birthed a new breed of genetically modified grains. A food that has been genetically modified has had its natural genetic makeup altered, turning it into a laboratory created “super food.” GM foods are typically easier to crop because they grow faster and are more resistant to disease. It has even been said that they taste better.

But as we all know, super hero powers don’t come without a price. GM foods have been linked to many health issues, including allergies (ever wonder why so many people are on a gluten/wheat free diet these days?). The scary part is that because GM foods are so new, the majority of their risks are unknown. I don’t know about you, but I’m not completely comfortable being a GM food guinea pig.

The Most Popular Ingredient

Aside from the fact that the majority of grains we consume are genetically modified; grains have also swindled their way into all of our food. Wheat is by far the most popular ingredient in grocery stores around the country. So much so, that you will often see “GLUTEN FREE” labeled on products that you could never imagine would contain a grain.

This wheat overload is adding to the ever-growing wheat intolerance in this country and correlating health problems. We are constantly ingesting wheat from morning to night, even when we don’t think we are. As a validation of this claim, I challenge you to check the ingredient list. How many of the things that you eat, CONTAIN: WHEAT?

Knowledge is Power

I hope you take some of this information into consideration and pause for a minute and think about what you, your family and your pets are eating on a day-to-day basis. You may be shocked at how stagnate your nutrition has become and how predictable your next meal really is.

What is Your Pet Eating? Part III

There is a lot to be said about the negative effects of processed pet food, which is why I put together this five-part blog series. In my last post, I discussed how many of the seemingly harmless ingredients in processed pet food, like poultry meal and apple pomace, can actually be detrimental to your pet’s health.
But what about all the other ingredients? What about the chemicals, preservatives, “flavor enhancers” and binders? We already know our pets don’t need to eat those ingredients, so why are they there? And what does consuming them do to your pet?
Chemicals & Preservatives
Many of these mystery ingredients also have mysterious names. Ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), to name a few. Some go by the rule, “If an ingredient can’t be pronounced, it shouldn’t be eaten,” and with good reasoning. These preservatives, which are included in pet food to keep the meat from rotting, have been linked to allergies, organ failure and cancer.
Some brands have already replaced these chemical preservatives with natural alternatives, like Vitamin E, which can also keep the food fresh but often have a shorter shelf life than their chemical counterparts.
Flavor Enhancers
Any kind of added flavoring is unnecessary. If the food your pet was given had any nutritional value, his or her instinct would be to eat it. Flavor is added to pet food in most part to make it more appealing to your pet. Even worse is that these “flavor enhancers” are rarely from natural sources. They are usually an artificial composition that resembles the taste of meat.
Wheat and corn gluten are commonly used to bind pet food together. Neither of these ingredients have any nutritional value. They are typically of poor quality and come from the byproducts of human food processing – not that the corn and wheat produced for humans is much better.
In the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, the genetic manipulations of wheat is discussed and how the altering of this grain in the last 50 years has contributed to many of the health problems we face.
In Part IV of this series I will share some of the facts I learned from reading Wheat Belly, and explain how eliminating this genetically modified grain will not only improve your pet’s health, but yours as well.

What is Your Pet Eating? Part II

In Part I, I touched on a subject that is of great importance to me – the negative effects that processed pet food has on dogs and cats. In this segment I will go into more detail about processed pet food and a few of the risky ingredients that are used to make this popular “fast food.”
So, what exactly is considered “processed food”? Processed food can include both dry and wet varieties of pet food. The scary part is that the majority of pet food found on store shelves falls into this category of cheaply made, overly processed food.
Despite misleading packaging and ingredients lists filled with fancy words, many of the ingredients in processed pet food are just byproducts of human food processing and contain little to no nutrients. For example, you may find “apple pomace” listed as an ingredient. You figure an apple is a nutritious food and probably contains some vitamins and minerals that could be beneficial to your pet. Although it is true that an apple is a nutritious fruit, apple pomace is not an apple. Apple pomace is what is left over after making apple juice for human consumption. That’s the skin, seeds and core. Apple pomace does not contain the same nutrients as an apple.
Pomace is just one of many fancy words used in ingredients lists that can be misleading to pet owners. And while we’re on the topic of apples and misleading information, I should mention that packaging that boasts fruits and vegetables may be doing so for a reason. Let’s not forget that our pets are carnivores, which means that the number one most important ingredient in their diet is meat. Apple pomace aside, what your animal really needs is a hearty meat diet. Many pet foods today point a lot of attention to these “filler” ingredients like fruit and vegetables, to distract from the fact that they don’t include very much meat.
Is the first ingredient in your pet’s food meat? If not, that’s a problem. Is it the only meat ingredient among tens of others? That may also be a problem. Processed pet food tends to not have adequate amounts of meat to fulfill your pet’s dietary requirements. The quality of the meat used is also extremely questionable. For example, some brands list “poultry meal” or “meat meal” as an ingredient, without specifying which animal the meal comes from. This generalized term leaves a lot of opportunity to source from basically anywhere and does little to regulate quality or the possibilities of contamination.
I know this a lot of information to take in and I have only discussed the ingredients we thought we wanted to find in pet food. What about all the chemicals, preservatives, binders and “flavor enhancers” that are also in processed pet food? We’ll save that for next time. Join me next week for Part III of this series, What is Your Pet Eating?, where I will discuss other harmful ingredients found in processed pet food and what these not-so-good ingredients can mean for your pet’s health.

What is Your Pet Eating?

What effect does processed food have on your pets?
The negative effects of processed pet foods are not widely publicized, but that does not mean they are not concerning. Processed pet foods, both dry and wet, have been linked to diseases and illnesses in dogs and cats. Some veterinarians believe the onset of these illnesses, ranging from kidney failure to cancer, especially in younger animals, is due in large part to diet. I think of it like this; we know a human who consumes large amounts of fast food and junk will be in poor health, so why should we assume an animal is any different?
Processed food first and foremost, does not contain the same nutrients that can be found naturally in whole food. A dog that only eats processed foods will likely not receive the proper nutrients he or she needs and, unfortunately, signs of this malnutrition can sometimes take years to surface. The main ingredients in processed pet food are also a concern, since the majority of brands use cooked grains, which is not natural for dogs or cats to consume.
Additionally, many processed pet foods contain chemicals and additives that have already been deemed unsafe for human consumption, but are still allowed in food for pets. If these ingredients cause harm to humans, why should they be considered safe for animals?
Another related concern is that animals that eat predominantly dry food can potentially suffer from dehydration and related illnesses. With so many potential risks, it is important for pet owners to become educated. Although processed pet food is convenient, natural options are the better alternative – even if they require some extra effort from owners.
Since pet food manufacturers play such a large role in the veterinary world, from education to testing, it is difficult to be fully educated on the effects this food has on animals. Despite this restriction, there is still plenty of information available from veterinarians and scientists who have made it a point to bring attention to this issue.
Being that this is an extensive topic and of personal importance to me, I am going to be publishing a series of related posts in the upcoming weeks. I will go into further detail about the risks of processed foods, the benefits of a natural diet, and share my recommended alternatives to processed pet food.