Pet Food Evolution: One Diet Does Not Fit All
Dec 28, 2013 07:39PM
● By Robert Goldstein, DVM, and Susan Goldstein
We’ve come a long way from the dark days of the pet food industry, which for years produced inferior dog and cat foods sourced with ingredients from human food chain wastes. The first commercial pet food was produced more than 100 years ago, replacing a time when dogs and cats dined on fresh meat, fertile raw eggs, wholesome communal soups and vegetable stews and hunted prey consisting of raw protein, pre-digested vegetables, grass and herbs. In those days, factory-farmed animals fed pesticides, hormones and antibiotics did not exist and the Earth’s soil was naturally organic.
It did not take long for the convenient, highly cooked foods to catch on, such as kibble, canned and semi-moist foods. Pet parents or consumers were enticed by convincing marketing into purchasing their animals’ food, as well as clinical food and nutrition trials appealing to consumers as well as veterinarians. Generations of millions of dogs and cats have been fed commercially prepared foods consisting of rendered and rejected meat by-products, synthetic vitamins, minerals and low grade milled grain bits containing a myriad of chemicals all cooked at excessively high temperatures.
The rest is history and the experiment has seen its closure. It took a great deal of time for the results to show themselves because – just like people - dogs and cats are, for the most part resilient and, in many cases, it takes years for improper diets to produce the symptoms of degeneration and disease.
There is a great need for humans to understand what is going on in the inside of their animals nutritionally and metabolically before disease manifests. The inflammation building up in the organ systems of the body caused by sub-standard ingredients, some of which are toxic, is often the root cause of the nagging conditions that we see in modern veterinary practice. The direct link between poor diet and skin allergies, arthritis, kidney, liver, lung disease and even cancer is real, if only we’d make the connection and veterinarians were taught preventive methods in veterinary school. We’re getting there slowly but surely, unfortunately at the expense of millions of pets who have suffered along with their families.
Consumer demand for better quality food began in the 1980s as our consciousness shifted and dogs and cats became an integral part of the family, instead of “owned” possessions. There was a collective light bulb which went on when folks began to link chronic illness and chronic use of medicine with the inferior foods being fed. The pet food industry is positively evolving and producing more nutritious foods. However, they have a long way to go as there is a philosophical need to move away from the “one diet fits all” mentality.
It’s helpful to understand that dogs and cats enter our lives in an individual state of wellness or disease. There are levels of wellness and disease and the selection of food and diet should meet the individual needs, which is when true healing and sustained wellness occurs. Regardless of which path one takes in selecting the appropriate nutrition, we suggest that the concept of feeding farm fresh, minimally processed local whole foods be revisited.
It’s a good idea to consider selecting food which is neutral and does not incite harmful inflammation, which sets the stage for disease to develop. Foods which contain organic fresh meats, fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, phytonutrients, non-synthetic vitamins and minerals are the warriors against inflammation and the disease process. They set the stage for an immune defense unlike heavily cooked and processed foods that are laced with unfamiliar potentially harmful chemical compounds.
It’s a whole new world...composed of many choices. Depending upon a dog or cat’s current state of health, it’s a good idea to re-evaluate his or her diet by using the guidelines of individual needs and neutrality along with researching the integrity and consciousness of the pet food provider. The key question to ask is “what are your personal food goals?” with regards to one’s animal, lifestyle and economic situation. Once answered, review the choices which best match both the pet and family’s needs. The selection process should begin with the following choices:
A balanced home cooked or raw diet versus a commercially prepared (raw, dehydrated, canned or dry diet)
A natural diet consisting of organic, human grade, whole ingredients versus a diet that contains by-products of meats, grains and vegetables along with chemical additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients and coloring agents
Veterinary hospitals, specialty local or regional pet food stores, farm stores, human or pet health food stores versus big box pet stores, grocery stores, mass merchants or discount stores with pet sections as these locations offer different quality foods at different price points
These decisions will help to decide on the type and quality of food that is best for one’s animal companion. The various food terms, marketing words and pros and cons of food types (dry, canned, semi moist, raw, dehydrated, pre-mix, etc.) as well as nutritional concepts such as organic, human grade, grain free, raw, freeze dried and dehydrated will be covered in future articles to offer further education and tools to make the appropriate food choice for the health and well being of our beloved animals.
Dr. Bob and Susan Goldstein are the founders and co-owners of Earth Animal in Westport. The Goldsteins are the authors of “The Goldsteins’ Wellness and Longevity Program” and Dr. Bob is the editor and an author of the veterinary textbook, “Integrating Complementary Medicine into Veterinary Practices.” See ad, page 51.