**Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Purina. All opinions expressed here are mine and mine only.
If you’re a new pet owner, searching for a dog food can be overwhelming. With thousands of dog foods lining the shelf and new rumors about pet food circulating in the news everyday, it can drive one crazy. I’ve been there. I’ve stood in front of a stack of dog food totally lost. Even now I sometimes stare at all the different options or a shiny new bag will grab my attention.
What is the best food for your pet? What is the best food for my pet? Answers to those questions are going to vary because all dogs are different but luckily I was able to sit down last week and participate in a live YouTube session with Dr. Marty Becker where he addressed a few of the most common dog food myths to give us a starting point of what pet owners should and shouldn’t be concerned about when searching for a pet food.
Myth #1: By-Products are bad for my pet
Truth: By-products are often mischaracterized as low-quality ingredients in pet food when in fact they are commonly used in both human and animal food, and provide valuable nutrients for pets such as protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. In the wild, cats and dogs instinctively eat organs first because they are nutrient-dense and highly palatable, so eating by-products is more natural than most people think. Additionally, by-products can provide more essential nutrients than regular muscle meat (which can be lacking in calcium and Vitamin A) but are naturally provided in by-products from the bones and liver. Many pet food manufacturers use high-quality by-products – such as beef, chicken or pork that may include hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs and spleens – and is considered a part of sustainable food sourcing.
My opinion: This is my biggest pet peeve myth. We’re in 2017, not 1995 people. The myth of chicken feet, chicken beaks and feathers being used in pet food is long outdated. First, many people feed whole chicken feet and they are sold in stores as a treat for dogs. Second, what do think those bully sticks are that you give your dog to chew on? ‘Um…..they’re a bull penis which is a by-product. True story, I was in the pet store the other day and a lady was looking at dog food and she was telling the sales associate that she wanted a dog food without by-products in it because she didn’t want her dog eating that nasty stuff. The lady was holding 4 bully sticks.
Myth #2: I should avoid feeding my pet grains
Truth: Through decades of nutrition research, we’ve learned that grains produce positive outcomes in dogs and cats. Gram for gram, grains deliver more complete nutrition than the ingredients typically used to substitute for grains, such as potatoes. In addition, grains are an excellent source of energy-rich carbohydrates and contain protein and antioxidants, including Vitamin E, and fiber to promote digestibility. Many pet food products are formulated with grains because they provide needed natural nutrients as part of a complete and balanced diet.
My opinion: Many people are under the assumption that grains are the main cause for allergies in dogs when it’s actually protein that is most often found to be the culprit. So why are their so many pet foods out there that are grain free? Because someone started a myth and pet owners jumped on the band wagon. Sigh. Do you some dogs better with less grains in their diet? Sure.
Myth #3: I can feed my pet solely a raw diet
Truth: There are many trends and fads in pet food, such as raw diets. Some people believe pets should eat a raw food diet because it’s allegedly more like what they would eat in the wild. However, raw pet food may not provide all the nutrients a pet needs — and it can sometimes contain dangerous bacteria that is harmful to both the owner and pet when food safety regulations aren’t met. The FDA maintains a “zero-tolerance” policy for salmonella in pet food because it can pose risks to human health when people who are ‘at risk’ (children, the elderly and individuals with comprised immune systems) come into direct contact with the contaminated pet food so raw diet may not always be the best choice. It’s important to discuss the pros and cons of a raw diet with your veterinarian, and whether a solely raw diet is appropriate for your pet.
My opinion: I’m all for raw diets and have seen many people successfully feed a raw diet to their pets, however, these are people that have taken the time to learn about feeding a nutritionally sound raw diet. They have done the research and they are continually educating themselves on feeding raw. I do not feel that the majority of pet owners know where to start or have the means to sustain this kind of diet for their pets when they can’t even differentiate a backyard breeder from a reputable breeder.
Myth #4: The quality of pet food solely depends on the type of ingredients in the food
Truth: The quality and safety of pet food are equally as important as the ingredients themselves. When determining which pet food to purchase pet owners should go directly to the manufacturer’s website to learn more about what safety and quality standards and best practices are being used. This includes learning about processes for conducting regular safety and quality checks; employing food scientists, pet nutritionists and other veterinary professionals to develop products; and understanding if the manufacturer is operating its own facilities and maintaining in-house testing laboratories. Pet owners should also look at the manufacturing and ingredient quality standards of the brand to make sure they meet or exceed FDA and AAFCO standards.
My opinion: This is where pet owners of the world need to step up and take action themselves. Do your own research. I get that we’re all new at this at some in point time and asking other pet owners is a good first step but many people stop there when they really should take the next step and do some research. Take responsibility. If you’re feeding a pet food that is made in China and you didn’t know it was made in China, you didn’t do your research. Wondering where the ingredients are sourced and can’t find it on the bag? Reach out to someone from that company. We are in the age where you can contact someone several different ways. I always have the best luck hitting someone up on social media. Find out what platform they are most active on and hit them up there. If they’re not on social media send an email or pick up the phone. If you can’t get a hold of anyone, take that as a sign that they don’t value their customers and they don’t value your pet. You can also visit the Pet Food Institute to learn more about pet food.
About Dr. Marty Becker
- Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” has spent his life working toward better health for pets and the people who love them. Dr. Becker was the resident veterinary contributor on “Good Morning America” for 17 years. He is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the American Humane Association as well as its Chief Veterinary Correspondent, a founding member of Core Team Oz for “The Dr. Oz Show,” and a member of the Dr. Oz Medical Advisory Panel.
- He has written 25 books that have sold almost 8 million copies.
- Dr. Becker is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and also at the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine at both Colorado State University and the University of Missouri. Additionally, he has lectured at every veterinary school in the United States, and is on the advisory board of World Vets, an international veterinary and disaster relief programs to help animals.
- A passionate advocate for the human-animal bond, Dr. Becker serves as an adjunct professor at the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Dr. Becker also serves as the Chief Veterinary Correspondent for the American Humane Association. His special fondness for older pets has led him to a spot on the Advisory Board of The Grey Muzzle Organization, which is dedicated to helping homeless senior dogs.
- He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital because he loves veterinary medicine, pets and the people who care for them.