Wet food, dry food, whole foods, raw foods, the list of options goes on and on when considering what to feed your pet. For humans, we tend to learn over time what ingredients are best for us in our own diet and which ingredients we should steer clear of. However, for many people pet food is a complete mystery and they tend to buy whatever is recommended to them by fellow pet owners or by their veterinarian without taking the time to look at what is actually in their pet’s food.
Pet foods are similar to human foods in the sense that both have “good” ingredients and “bad” ingredients. Good and bad are in quotes because most food ingredients are OK in moderation, but there are certain ingredients we do not want our pets to be consuming all of the time.
One of the best ways to feed pets is with natural, whole foods and raw ingredients when possible. Feeding raw can have a surplus of benefits including better overall health and less veterinarian visits. Feeding your pet fruits and vegetables provides them with minerals and micronutrients that may be lacking in a standard dry food diet, and incorporating cuts of meat helps your pet get the protein and other nutrients that are essential for health and wellness.
Feeding raw may not be the most economically feasible option for everyone. Simply doing your best to incorporate wholesome real foods into your pet’s diet when possible is also a great step. You can purchase freeze-dried raw meats in the form of meal supplements, treats, or seasonings as a way to start integrating more natural, raw foods into your pet’s diet (such as the wonderful options Momentum Carnivore Nutrition offers!).
When purchasing dry food for your pet, take some time to read the label on the package. Notice which ingredients are listed first. Ingredient lists are typically designed to have the ingredient with the highest percentage listed first, and the rest of the ingredients listed in descending order. Ideally, we want the first few ingredients to be healthy foods like meats, fruits, or vegetables, rather than artificial fillers or by-products. This tells us the food is made with more wholesome foods than fillers that offer much less nutritional value.
Ingredients to Watch Out For
Some dry food brands try to supplement their kibble with fillers as a way to increase the mass or quantity of the food without having to increase the price. The more natural ingredients are represented in a bag of food, the more expensive it is for companies to make (typically). Some ingredients that are best to avoid in high quantities are corn and wheat gluten, and meat and grain meals and their by-products. Some filler ingredients may be marketed as “healthier” options, such as pea-protein, but it is best to try to avoid any type of filler, if possible.
Other ingredients to watch for are chemicals and preservatives. Three common preservatives used in pet foods are Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytolluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquin. BHA and BHT are traditionally added to fats and oils, but they are also known carcinogens that can lead to kidney and liver failure. Ethoxyquin is a chemical that is actually illegal to use in human foods, yet it is still somehow allowed in pet foods. This chemical may not directly show on the label but can often be found in “fish meal.”
Food dyes are also on our no-no list. Certain food dyes such as Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have been shown to contribute to allergic-type reactions and cancer in humans. If we wouldn’t ingest it ourselves, it’s probably best not to give it to our pets either. Artificial coloring may be appealing to humans but the truth is, our pets don’t mind the color of their food as much as we do.
Overall, purchasing your pet’s food should be more than just looking for the most visually appearing bag at the pet store. Look into the ingredients you are giving to your pet and be mindful of the amount of unnecessary fillers or artificial products your pet may be consuming. Wholesome, real foods are always a safe option for a healthy, happy pet!
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