May 8, 2012

Proper Pet Care Series #1: Nutrition

What's your dog really eating?In honor of “Be Kind to Animals Month,” Barkworthies is putting together a three-part blog series discussing topics regarding pet happiness and physical well-being. For the first installment of our series on pet health, we’re talking about proper pet nutrition.

Dietary Needs

Your pet's diet should be comprised of as many whole foods and quality proteins as possible. Animals require many of the same essential nutrients as humans. This of course isn’t to say they have the same dietary needs as us. Things actually couldn’t be further from the truth!

From conventional and premium all-natural organic foods to homemade dog foods, let’s explore the different ways you can feed your pets.

Conventional Pet Foods

Nutritionally poor and unbalanced, conventional pet foods contain heaps of processed ingredients. The largest of these imbalances are usually carbohydrates derived from grain — dogs have no biological requirement for grains. These disproportionate levels of carbohydrates in conventional foods are not only far too high, they’re also derived from nutritionally poor ingredients. These excess “filler” ingredients are often added to offset a lack of meat and whole food ingredients.

Soy and corn additives are the most troublesome. Corn is a known allergenic, and soy, high in estrogen, can disrupt canine endocrine systems. Dog food with these ingredients should be avoided whenever possible.

Artificial preservatives like BHA/BHT are also of particular concern as these preservatives, sometimes added before ingredients even arrive for processing, aren’t even listed on pet food labels.

In addition to the ingredients themselves, there are more risks and issues associated with the production of these overly processed foods. Fiascos like the 2007 Pet Food Recalls saw widespread mandatory and voluntary recalls of pet food due to contamination.

A lack of quality controls, and even reports of deliberate protein adulteration, pet food from a Chinese company would cause over 100 pet fatalities in addition to 500 cases of kidney failure everywhere from North America and Europe to South Africa. Additionally, the protein content in many conventional pet foods are sometimes sourced from meat by-products and comprised of these  objectionable ingredients. Ingredients like hooves, beaks, feathers, organs and even tissue with tumors are processed together forming “meat by-products.”

All-Natural Pet Foods

In order to remedy the inadequate nutritional contents and artificial ingredients of many commercially available pet foods, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines for balanced pet nutrition. Look for brands with the AAFCO guarantee — these foods are nutritionally sound and less likely to be nutrient deficient than other brands.

Pet owners should seek out foods advertising whole food protein sources and human grade (USDA Approved) ingredients with a grain-free source of carbohydrates. All-natural pet foods, either Made in the USA or where there are quality controls in place, can help your pet avoid any nasty run ins with unhealthy products.

The Homemade Alternative

An increasingly popular alternative is to make your pet’s food at home. However, veterinarians warn it is difficult to develop homemade meals containing all the essential nutrients your pet needs. Homemade pet food may increase your pet’s chance of anemia and calcium deficiencies. We at Barkworthies strongly suggest all owners contact a holistic veterinarian prior to altering their pet’s diet. For a more comprehensive overview on what’s specifically required in your pet’s diet, check out DVM Karen Becker’s article about formulating homemade pet foods.

Health and Happiness

Diet and nutrition play a tremendous role in how your pet feels. Not only does proper nutrition help to eliminate the chance of major health issues, it can also improve their energy and well being. Sound nutrition is important for pets and people alike — after all would you really want to feed your pet something you wouldn’t eat yourself?

Pet health isn’t solely about nutrition, though. Don’t forget to check back for next week’s installment where we’ll discuss the importance of exercise!

Barkworthies is an online retailer specializing in safe and all-natural dog treats and chews. Follow us on Facebook & Twitter to catch the latest news and specials!

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