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OUR ANIMALS, OURSELVES: Provide good eats for your pets

March 30, 2017
By SABINE WEBER , Lake Placid News

As an integrative and functional nutritionist practicing for over 25 years, I have seen firsthand how toxic food can be to humans. As an animal lover, I have also seen how it can be just as harmful to our pets. Although my work has primarily been with people, I know from personal experience with my own pets what a change in food can do. Our pets are presenting chronic conditions that I feel is related to how we feed them, and I am not alone on this.

Animals now end up with arthritis, metabolic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, autoimmune problems, thyroid problems, cancers, gastrointestinal disorders, multiple food intolerances and chronic skin conditions. The list is endless. The foods we give our pets may be considered "nutritionally complete" but what else are we feeding them?

Government recommendations for people were developed to prevent nutrition deficiencies, malnutrition and adequate nutrients for normal growth and development, the USDA developed guidelines on adequate protein, calories, vitamin and minerals and little of anything else.

The pet food industry has developed nutrition guidelines in a similar fashion meeting the guidelines of the AAFCO means it must meet basic nutrient guidelines. You may see this on the pet food bag stating- the food meets AAFCO guidelines for all life stages. What exactly is the AAFCO? It stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials. AAFCO is a nonprofit organization that sets standards for both animal feeds and pet foods in the United States.

In order for a dog food to be marketed as "complete and balanced," it must meet the nutritional standards established by AAFCO. There are two nutritional adequacy standards for nutrient profiles based upon a dog's stage of life which are adult maintenance and growth and reproduction.

What are missing in these guidelines are guidelines for "optimal" health and prevention of disease, plus guidelines of foods and additives to avoid.

For example, take a look at ingredients of a top-selling supermarket brand. You'll likely notice corn as a primary ingredient, some sort of anonymous meat meal, and a long list of chemicals and preservatives.

When I look at a label like this, I have numerous concerns. First and foremost, I think where is the real food? Why is it ok to feed our pets food not fit for human consumption? If I break down ingredients what is the source of the anonymous meat and if it can't be specified, then where is it coming from? How much of the food is just filler?

I could go on but that states enough. When looking for better foods consider choosing ones with: no controversial chemical preservatives; no anonymous meat ingredients; no artificial coloring agents; no generic animal fats; no corn and wheat gluten; and no unspecified meat, grain meals and by-products. Choose food made with: natural preservatives (such as Vitamin E & C and rosemary extract); made in the U.S.A. or Canada; human-grade ingredients; and whole protein sources as first ingredients like fish, chicken, turkey, beef, duck, etc.

Picking through a pet food label can be confusing, but this is the start to raising healthy happy pets.

(Sabine Weber, MS, RDN, CDN, CFSP, is the owner and operator of Adirondack Nutrition Consulting and Man and Beast in Lake Placid.)



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