By Rex Riggs, DVM
It seems every day we hear about yet another recalled pet food. Why is this happening you ask? I really feel there are a number of reasons but here are the few that I think contribute the most. The first one is actually a good reason. The pet food manufacturing plants are under scrutiny. They are being inspected more thoroughly, not only for our pets, but for better public health. The vast majority of the recalls involve the high protein low grain diets. Many of the recalls have been due to salmonella contamination from poor hygienic practices. Other recalls have been due to unbalanced diets that result in toxicities. So what is the biggest reason we are seeing more problems? Money.?? Clear and simple. The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar business, with everyone getting their niche in the market. They use whatever is needed, even false science and words with undefined meanings to promote their often over priced products. ???Organic???, ???holistic??? and ???natural??? have no definition in pet foods. Therefore, these terms can be used to describe anything. The current ???big fad???, a term I am sure will offend some people, is the high protein low grain diets. There is no scientific basis to support these diets, just unsubstantiated claims. One theory as to how these diets came to be is due to the increase of gluten intolerance diagnosed in humans. Dogs or cats rarely have allergies to grains; the vast majority of allergies are due to proteins! The disappointment is that these diets are marketed to people who are concerned about what they are feeding their pets, and they are being misinformed unintentionally or intentionally. The sales force who are selling these products in your local pet store, are giving recommendations they often feel are best, they are good people , but they too are misinformed and repeating the company line. I have always been a critical thinker and I look into claims before I buy.
Here are some questions you should ask about a pet food company before you buy.
Is there a veterinary nutritionist on staff? Does the company archive its ingredients? This is done so they have a way to test ingredients if a problem arises. Does the company do AAFCO feeding trials on any of their foods? This is not a federal requirement but one that good companies do feeding trials to insure quality control. Where are the diets made? Many of these pet food companies don???t have their own plants and farm the manufacturing out to other companies who make many of the foods on the shelves. Iams, Science Diet, Purina and Royal Canin all make their own dry diets and can answer yes to all the above questions. We as Veterinarians do not get any kick back from the companies as the pet stores would have you believe. We only sell prescription foods, so we have no conflict of interest.
Ultimately, what I am saying is make sure you get the facts. Look to internet sites that are university based. The internet has no editor so….people can and will say anything. You do not need to spend in excess of $50 or more on your pet’s maintenance food and you shouldn’t. Be that critical thinker and ask questions and demand documentation of their claims. I want the same thing for your pet that you do??? a happy, long and healthy life.