We all want to see our pets live a long and healthy life. This includes bringing your pets to regular vet visits, taking them out for their daily exercise and play, grooming them, and having a low stress environment. The same rules apply for us silly, yet more dexterous humans. Another way to keep our pets healthy is by feeding them the right kind of pet food. Not all pet foods are the same! Some are more nutritious and safer than others.
So which pet foods are safe, and which ones are not? Does the FDA strictly monitor pet food? Are manufacturers required to get the FDA’s approval before they start selling their pet food products? The short answer to that question is an unfortunate and disappointing no.
“There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval by the FDA. However, the FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have an appropriate function in the pet food. Many ingredients such as meat, poultry and grains are considered safe and do not require pre-market approval. Other substances such as sources of minerals, vitamins or other nutrients, flavorings, preservatives, or processing aids may be generally recognized as safe for an intended use or must have approval as food additives.”
I was shocked to read that the FDA doesn’t require pet food products to have the FDA seal of approval before they put their products on the market, though the FDA ensures that all pet food is safe to eat and have an appropriate function in the pet food. What do they mean by safe?
“The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires that all animal foods, like human foods, be safe to eat, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.”
The FDA’s statement doesn’t specifically define what safe means, so what is considered to be safe to eat these days? Do they look at the nutritional value? Do they conduct tests or trials to see if the animals they are feeding get sick? Do they look at weight gain/weight loss? Do they check to see if a certain ingredient causes cancer? It’s hard to say how strictly the FDA monitors pet food, but at least there are some laws addressing the issue.
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
When it comes to food that I eat, I always read the labels and ingredients to food because I have celiac disease, which means I can’t consume wheat, rye, or barley. After speaking with a licensed golden retriever breeder, I realized that some dogs also suffer from food allergies including celiac disease. Please see this article about Celiac Disease in Dogs to learn more. This surprised me, but it also didn’t surprise me considering the evolution of humans and dogs. You can read about how Dogs and Humans Evolved Together, which was published by National Geographic in 2013. I’ve also heard that some cats suffer from a form of celiac disease as well.
Regardless of what the FDA allows manufacturers to put in their pet foods, it’s our responsibility as pet owners to look at the labels and ingredients of pet foods, treats, supplements, and anything else that we buy for our pets that they consume. It’s also our responsibility to test our pets for any possible food allergy!
Assuming that the ingredients are 100% accurate, here is an example of what should be in a pet food:
Examples of Good Ingredients:
- Boneless meat (chicken and turkey)
- Fish (herring and salmon)
- Meat meals such as chicken meal
- Whole eggs
- Vegetables (green peas, chickpeas, pumpkin, butternut squash, spinach greens, and carrots)
- Fruits (Apples, pears, cranberries, and blueberries)
- Source of vitamins (Vitamin A, vitamin B12, vitamin D3, Vitamin E, niacin, riboflavin, iron, and copper)
- Fresh ingredients that are preservative free and never frozen
- GMO free
Also assuming that these ingredients are 100% accurate, here is an ingredient list that you should probably avoid:
Examples of Bad Ingredients:
- Any type of meat by-product
- Animal fat
- Grains (Some animals have a sensitivity to certain grains such as wheat)
- Potassium Chloride
- Calcium Carbonate
- Pretty much anything that is synthesized
Notice the difference between the good ingredients and bad ingredients. The good ingredients consist of meats, fruits, and vegetables, which are very similar to what our doctors and nutritionists are telling us to eat. They also do not contain any by-products, GMO foods like wheat and corn, and they don’t contain any preservatives. Sounds pretty good, right?
The bad ingredients, however, contain meat by-products, which can consist of anything that used to be an animal such as the lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, fatty tissue, and intestines. In my opinion, any meat by-product sounds more like food for zombies than food for our pets.
These bad ingredients may also contain synthesized ingredients, which are chemically made in a lab. These synthesized foods may contain some vitamins and minerals, but they aren’t natural. It’s all artificial. They are made to substitute natural ingredients in order to make their foods have some nutritional value. That’s like Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings mixing meat by-products from orcs he just killed, some potatoes and carrots, and a serum that has some nutritional value, proceed to cook everything in a boiling pot, and then telling Frodo that it’s okay for hobbit consumption. No thanks, Gandalf, I’ll just stick with the potatoes and rabbit stew that Samwise just cooked for me. You can take your orc by-product elsewhere! If I wouldn’t eat it, then I wouldn’t give it to my pet, unless we went on an unexpected journey and we had nothing else to eat.
Anyway, back to reality. A lot of ingredients contain preservatives, such as high amounts of salt, sugar, MSG, GMOs, and other potentially harmful ingredients. Preservatives are a great way for preserving food to outlast a nuclear winter, but they are not great for consumption because they are so unhealthy not only for us, but also for our pets as well.
Ultimately, if you want to know what’s best for your pets, then check the ingredients. Don’t be lured in by labels such as ‘premium’ or ‘pro-health’ pet food without looking at those ingredients! It’s a marketing strategy to get you to think that they use healthy ingredients so that they can charge you extra. Don’t buy into it.
The major problem with healthier brands is the cost. It is estimated that the healthier (organic) pet food brands cost $20+ more than pet foods that have more artificial ingredients. Another problem is that not all pet food stores sells these organic brands of pet food such as Blue Buffalo and Orijen, but at least you can order them online.
- Pet food is not strictly regulated by the FDA! Their wording of what is appropriate and safe is loosely defined.
- Check your pet food ingredients! Good pet food includes meat, fruits, and veggies that don’t contain any synthesized ingredients, GMOs, or preservatives.
- Bad pet food contains meat by-products, synthesized ingredients, GMOs, and preservatives.
- Don’t be fooled by ‘premium’ and ‘healthy’ labeling! Always read the ingredients before you make a purchase!
- The healthier brands are more expensive, but the results are noticeable. Just make sure that you slowly introduce new food to your pet.
LET’S HEAR FROM YOU!
Have you switched pet foods? Did you notice a difference in your pet’s health? Which brands do you think are healthy/unhealthy for your pets? Do you think that the FDA should be more strict with manufacturers? Does your pet suffer from any food allergies? If so, how did you find out? Are you concerned that some manufacturers are putting profit ahead of our pet’s health?
We switched our cat food from a cheaper brand to Blue Buffalo, which has much healthier and organic ingredients. We’ve noticed that our cat vomits less, has both thicker and softer fur, and she has more energy. She definitely seems happier and healthier, and I believe that it’s something we can all relate to. I feel better and I have more energy after eating healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables and even some meats, than I do after eating junk food. If it happens to us, then why can’t it happen to our pets as well?