Article by Kristi Pahr for Reader's Digest
Of course you want the very best for your furry best friend—but are you being misled by the marketing of pet food makers? Here's how to know.
Don't believe everything you read.
When you feed your pet, you trust that you're feeding them healthy food. You read the labels, check the ingredients, avoid the things that sound sketchy—but how much can you trust that label? These are the claims that should make you suspicious.
"A grain-free diet is of no benefit to companion animals unless they have a specific allergy," explains Robin Sturtz, DVM, director of Veterinary Technology Program at LIU Post. "Grains can add flavor, and help satiate the animal (make them feel full). Given the very high percentage of dogs and cats who are overweight, satiation is a desirable feature."
There's no official definition for this claim, and any pet food maker can slap it on their product. One suggested guideline from a pet food group is that "natural" dog foods should come strictly from plants, animals, or mined sources. According to Dr. Sturtz, "Adding vitamins to a food would not be consistent with the term 'natural'. Therefore, to say that 'natural' food is better for the animal is to misinterpret the term."
A low-fat diet may not even be the best idea for humans. Dogs really don't have to worry about their fat consumption—they can eat much higher levels of both saturated and unsaturated fats and not suffer any ill effects. Unless your dog is obese or is suffering from pancreatitis, there is no reason to feed a low-fat diet. Consult your veterinarian if you think your dog may be overweight.
This term has a strict definition: The food must be raised without chemical fertilizers and meet very stringent guidelines set by the USDA. However, says Dr. Sturtz, "there are no formal definitions for 'organic' pet food; the definition of the term is based on human standards, which may not apply to animals." Remember that while organic food is potentially safer than conventional food, it isn't necessarily healthier.
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