Have you seen the milk commercial featuring actress Susan Sarandon? Something struck me with this commercial; an ah-hah moment.
It’s funny how a reality hits you; wham! That’s what happened to me when I saw a new television commercial for the milk industry featuring actress Susan Sarandon. She makes the statement…”9 out of 10 Americans aren’t getting essential nutrients we need.” That’s a startling statement when you think about it. But what really struck me was…if 9 out of 10 Americans aren’t getting the essential nutrients we need…why aren’t we all dead yet?
This is basically the sales pitch the pet food industry has been making for years. You must feed a 100% balanced commercial pet food every single day, never give table scraps or any people food, or your pet might just fall over dead in an instant.
This milk industry campaign is based on a recent study published by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee (2010) (DGAC). A significant quote from the 2010 report is (more to my ah, hah)… “A fundamental premise of the DGAC is that nutrients should come from foods.” http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/DGAC/Report/E-Appendix-E-1-Conclusions.pdf page 7
Nutrients should come from foods…now there’s a unique concept (as opposed to some/many commercial pet food where some/many nutrients are added to the final product).
Adding into my growing ah hah…
One of you wonderful Pet Parents out there sent me a very interesting link. The link was to Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM Expert Opinion on the Pet Food Industry to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Hearings from April 12, 2007. Below are some excerpts from Dr. Hodgkins testimony…
“Today, the pet food industry operates within a marketplace of its own deliberate design. Through astonishingly successfully marketing efforts of the industry, pet owners and their veterinarians have come to believe that household pets must consume commercial foods, and only commercial foods, day in and day out, throughout their entire lives, in order to remain healthy. In fact, many veterinarians today teach their clients that any deviation from this rigid commercial dietary protocol will invariably lead to illness, and perhaps even death. Veterinary nutritionists uniformly insist that “homemade” diets, those prepared by owners at home from human food ingredients, are likely to be contaminated, unbalanced, and dangerous for pets, in almost any amount.”
“Those who agree with this view argue that pet owners are not qualified to compose complete and balanced, safe diets for their pets at home. Certainly this cannot be because pet owners lack the intelligence to learn to do this. Rather it is because the pet-owning public has no access to educational programs about the basics of pet nutrition and how to prepare homemade diets through qualified experts in industry, government or the veterinary profession. The pet food industry has knowingly substituted itself for the pet owner in the decision making process when it comes to the nourishing of pets. This co-opting of the pet owners’ initiative in choosing how to feed their pets has been facilitated by the widespread presence of AAFCO life-stage or lifetime nutritional safety and adequacy claims on commercial pet foods. These claims tell the pet food purchaser, in no uncertain terms, that the food bearing the claim can be trusted absolutely to provide safe, complete, and balanced nutrition for the pet. Every one of the pet foods implicated in this latest recall bore this AAFCO safety and adequacy statement on its label.”
“Contrast this with the government’s and the human medical community’s view of human nutrition. No physician attempts to control the diet of any patient to the extent that the pet food industry controls the pet owner’s beliefs about proper pet nutrition. Humans are allowed the freedom to purchase raw meats and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a wide variety of canned, frozen and dry packaged meals, and supplemental ingredients for their daily diet with out alarm or constraint from the government or the medical community. Despite this unlimited freedom people enjoy to choose all dietary elements for themselves and their families, there are almost no health or medical claims made on the packaging of these foods and certainly no claims for complete safety or nutritional wholesomeness. As a result, consumers have no unreasonable reliance on the nutritional quality of these foods. Rather, in recent decades human health interest groups and the government have sought to influence and improve people’s food choices through education, in school, and through public interest advertising. When human foods become contaminated, as is nearly inevitable from time to time, we humans know enough about what good nutritional alternatives are available to make safer choices. Because we enjoy such a wide variety of different foods from different sources in our diet, we never feel at a loss about what to eat at our next meal to avoid contact with known contaminated foods. Further, because we do eat such a diverse diet, the effects of consuming a single contaminated food is mitigated greatly in any particular individual.”
Are you seeing my ah hah? After watching the Susan Sarandon commercial, after reading the nutritional deficiencies report from the Dietary Guidelines Committee, and after reading the tremendous statement from Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee I got to thinking…if I could have successfully feed two children from birth to adulthood, then I’m confident I can successfully feed dogs and cats. Just as with feeding my children (and by the way I made all of their baby food from scratch – this was 23 years ago)…I have to be smart about feeding my pets, and… I am capable.
In a recent NY Times article regarding home prepared foods for pets, Dr. Korinn Saker of North Carolina State University was quoted stating if home prepared foods are “not done correctly, the consequences could be harmful“. I wrote Dr. Saker asking her specifically what the ‘consequences’ could be. She told me…
“In general home-prepared diets:
1) are quite high in both protein and fat content. This may not be a problem for the healthy,active pet, but can pose major concerns for the patient that has kidney and/or liver disease, a history of pancreatitits, a history of GI health issues, is obese prone or currently overweight or obese.
2) have a skewed calcium:phosphorus ratio. This can and does lead to developmental orthopedic disorders in growing animals, pathologic fractures in adult animals, mineral deposition in tissue , etc
3) can have trace mineral and vitamin deficiencies and/or imbalances. Many recipes are not adequately or appropriately supplemented with vitamins and trace minerals
4) are rarely, if ever, analyzed to provide a chemical nutrient analysis. This type of analysis will reveal exactly what the nutrient profile of the diet recipe is and that information can be used to ascertain the diets appropriateness for the animal it is being fed to.
5) are not screened for pathogenic and/or other types of contaminants
6) are not put through animal feeding trial tests, which will “test” how appropriate the diet recipe is in maintaining the health and well-being of the animal group it is meant to be fed to.
Additional concerns regarding raw home-prepared diets include:
1) vertebra (such as chicken necks) can become stuck in the esophagus, especially in small breed dogs resulting in an esophageal obstruction and possible perforation, both serious medical concerns.
2) if the raw diets do contain many bones, the diet may be excessive in calcium which can result in constipation as well as osteochondrosis. Inappropriate calcium in the diet can adversely influence growth rate and increase risk of developmental orthopedic conditions in growing dogs, especially growing large breed dogs.”
So…the risks of improperly feeding your pet home prepared food are very real. However, as we all know, the risks of feeding 100% balanced commercial pet food are very real too.
When I was a kid, my grandparents had many dogs and cats on their farm. There never once was commercial dog food or cat food – there was only people food. And all of these pets lived long healthy lives. My grandparents weren’t scientists, they had no clue (or probably even gave thought to) the exact nutritional requirements of their dogs and cats. They just fed the animals the same food they ate themselves and the animals did a little home prepared feeding on their own (mice, rabbits). What has changed from animals fed people food fifty years ago to now? Why was it a non-issue fifty years ago and it is a proven scientific concern today? I don’t know.
I can tell you that over the past six/eight months, I have fed my own pets almost exclusively home prepared food. I haven’t had their variety of foods tested (but I intend to test some), and I have followed the advice of friend Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM…variety. Variety, variety, variety.
This does not mean I am recommending to Pet Owners to immediately trash all commercial pet food and haphazardly begin to make pet food from scratch. Rather, it is meant to be a boost of confidence to all that a sensible home prepared meal for your pet is fantastic. Variety of food is the key. If you feel more comfortable use some commercial, some home prepared.
I think it’s time we begin to go back to the good ol’ days of pet food. Remember, Dietary Guidelines for Americans Committee recommended nutrients come from food; I’m confident if there was a similar committee studying the needs of pets they would feel the same. Try giving your pet some home prepared food. Just start.
There will be more posted on this home prepared feeding soon; Dr. Cathy Alinovi wants to weigh in on this topic too.
Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,
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