Change Foods and Change A Life

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

When Wembley was first diagnosed with cancer, I immediately questioned her dog food. At the time, we were feeding her Science Diet. Like millions of others we were duped into believing this was a quality dog food, since the first vet she ever visited recommended it. There are all sorts of politics involved with veterinarians and Science Diet, but that isn't my intent now. My issue is with the poor quality of their food.

I started reading several resources about dog food, and was horrified when I found out what we had been feeding our dogs all those years. I don't blame Wembley's cancer entirely on Science Diet, but I do believe it was a factor in why she got it at such a young age.

Many dog foods are preserved with BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin. These are chemical antioxidants and Ehtoxyquin is a carcinogen. All three of these have affects on health and interfere with kidney and liver functions (Wembley's cancer started in the liver). Science Diet is one of many foods that uses these preservatives.

These are not the only alarming ingredients found in many dog foods. Food is prepared with fillers to create bulk weights with low cost, and what is suffering is the health of many dogs, cats, and livestock. Dogs thrive on grain free or low grain diets. Reagan used to eat Science Diet Sensitive Stomach because she always had stomach problems.

These are the first three ingredients in Science Diet Sensitive Stomach formula:

Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, and Animal Fat.

Brewers Rice "is the small milled fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from the larger kernels of milled rice."

Corn Gluten meal is "the dried residue from corn". It is actually a corn by-product.

Animal Fat is used for flavor. It is usually rendered meat by-products, which can include:

"spines, hair, hooves, feet, heads, euthanized dogs and cats from veterinarian offices and animal shelters, roadkill, zoo animals, dead animals and those declared unfit for human consumption due to disease and illness are also placed in the mix, pentobarbital, rancid restaurant grease, toxic chemicals and additives."

The last one is especially appalling. Many foods are also sprayed with animal fat to make the food taste better and greasier for dogs. I highly recommend Food Pets Die For by Ann N. Martin to learn more about rendered meat and by-products and what they do to the animals consuming these products. This book really sparked my hardcore research into finding a better dog food for our pups. Dog Food Analysis is a great web resource for looking into what your dog food is rated, or to check out what tops the list of dog foods. It is all about finding what works for your dog too, because if you pick out a holistic dog food, that doesn't mean your dog will immediately take to it. It is best to switch to a new food gradually and see how they do on it.

After heavy, time consuming research and reading, reading, and more reading, we decided to go with Wellness dog food, which is a holistic brand that we get at local, independent pet stores, although PetSmart has started to carry it. This is slightly alarming, because I hope Wellness doesn't change their formulas if there is a higher demand. Other brands that we will feed include Taste of the Wild, Merrick, and Orijen. These are not the only good holistic brands out there. Others include Solid Gold, Wysong, Fromm, Canidae, and Eagle Pack. If you are going to switch foods, I suggest researching what would be best for your dog according to health issues or breed. For example, we feed Reagan the formula with glucosamine because she has hip dysplasia.

It all comes down to knowing what to look for on the label. If you refuse to buy anything for yourself with high fructose corn syrup, you look at the label, right? It's the same thing with dog food. Look for natural ingredients, like beef, chicken, turkey, or duck. If it says "chicken meal" or "turkey meal" that is okay too. All that "meal" means is that it's a combination of clean flesh and does not include bones or feathers. If it is a by-product, it will contain ground up feathers, bones, and more.

Another thing you can do for your dog is to feed raw. I am not well-versed in the raw diet, but it requires a lot of knowledge about what vitamins and minerals are needed to keep your pet healthy. K9 Cuisine has a great list of links on feeding your dog a raw diet. This is something we are hoping to start doing a few times a week, but haven't started yet.

Reagan is a shining example of how switching to holistic foods changed our dogs for the better. Before feeding holistic foods, Reagan was ridden with stomachaches, gas all day long, and allergies. She was always itching and scratching and very, to put it mildly, flatulent! After we switched to Wellness, she lost seven pounds, her coat is smooth, shiny, and healthy, and she only gets a bellyache after she gets into something she shouldn't. Her allergies are virtually GONE. At her yearly check up, our vet said she is healthier than she's ever been in her life. Her coat was so gorgeous that he thought we had just given her a bath, which was not the case! Reagan's nails are growing really quickly these days too, and the vet said this is a sign of good health. I attribute this to changing dog foods and giving our dogs a solid vitamin regiment, which I discussed with the vet.

Now, I realize not everyone can afford to feed their dogs holistic food, and I would rather see a dog eating a less desirable dog food and have a home than be homeless because someone can't pay holistic dog food prices, but if you can, spend a little extra on dog food and get something that is quality. Having three dogs doesn't make this a cheap venture by any means, but we love them and are willing to cut things out of our lives in order to feed them what they deserve. After all, they give us unconditional love and endless amounts of joy, and for that they are worth it.

*The same applies to cat food. Our cats eat a variety of holistic foods including Wellness and Taste of the Wild! We do this so they don't get fussy.


April October 24, 2010 at 3:08 PM  

I just wanted to thank you for doing all this research and bringing to light the unsavory factors regarding dog food and meat by-products.
Our border collie has a lot of food allergies, including: Soy, chicken, pork, potato, peanuts, venison, and a few others. These are commonly occurring ingredients in dog food and treats, especially soy. I am going to look into some of the companies you've mentioned because as of right now he is on Purina One sensitive systems, and let me tell you, its nasty food. My inlaws golden who would eat through a brick wall to get to a piece of kibble actually spit his food back out. And he stinks. A lot.
I hope I can find something more appealing to him, and something that will ultimately be better for him. :)


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