Pet Food and it’s journey to your pet’s plate, have you ever thought about how it finds its way to your home and your pet’s plate? You buy it in a store or online. A bag of dry or wet food, as pet owners we do not think more about it, other than the fact that the you scoop it out and feed your pet!
If meat is an ingredient it’s journey most likely began on a consolidated feed lot (factory farm). The meat (chicken, beef, pork or lamb/mutton) grown for human consumption is transported to a slaughter house, often the remains not considered fit for human consumption find their way into commercially mass produced pet food.
Do Pet Food Companies test on Animals?
As a pet owner or fosterer it may or may not come as a surprise to you that pet food companies do indeed conduct what are known as palatability tests on animals. These animals are cats and dogs, during these trials if food is contaminated or has an unsafe ingredient these animals die. These facts remain undisclosed to consumers.
Where do you get your information from?
The pandemic has changed shopping and researching behaviours. For some age groups upto 70% the internet has become their primary source of information for pet products and food. Physical stores as well as television have declined. Research your pet’s food and do not rely solely on the information on a bag of mass produced dog or cat food bag. Multi national corporations sell products before they sell nutrition.
Why do dogs get food allergies from commercial pet food?
Commercial pet food and it’s journey to your pet’s plate involves ingredients being cooked at high temperatures. Pellets of kibble are made when raw ingredients are passed through machines called extruders. Often cooked at high temperatures which can alter the amino acid structure of proteins. This results in the body (in this case your dog’s body) not recognising the protein which causes allergies. Switching to fresh or meat free foods as well as supplements in a guided manner help many dogs over some allergies.
Why Vegan Dog Food?
There is considerable debate about vegan dog food. In particular the choice by owners to choose a vegan diet for their dog. Veganism is a compassionate life choice (not an extreme diet) compassionate way of living. Will the world go vegan and is it even possible?
Probably not, especially in the case of obligate carnivores such as cats. The vegan ‘movement’ is no more than individuals recognising the devastation animal agriculture wreaks on the planet. In addition, the deplorable conditions of factory farms for animal and workers is at the heart of individuals who wish to contribute to a sustainable life for the present and future.
Advantages of Vegan Dog Food
Animals raised for meat are born and live their lives in consolidated feed lots. What is means is that many chickens, cows or pigs are born and raised in crowded conditions which are breeding grounds for diseases. To combat this high doses of antibiotics are added to their feed. In addition to those hormones are used to produce quick, cheap meat- the faster an animal grows, the quicker it gets to the slaughter house, good for business and profits. This means it’s not so good for the end consumer, person or animal because all those antibiotics and hormones trickle their way into our food chain.
So where do dogs stand in this debate?
Dogs are omnivores like human beings and therefore most evidence points to the fact that they can lead long healthy lives on a diet with limited access to meat. So here’s a question for you- if you feel strongly that your dog must have access to meat, would you cut back your consumption to compensate? The debate is as much ethics as it is about nutrition. No, vegans or meat free eaters do not advocate carnivores turn herbivore. Absurd arguments against meat free food such as ‘would you ask a lion to go vegetarian?” are designed more to get an angry response than to engage in meaningful discussion.
To stay on point here, we’re discussing omnivores. Dogs are omnivores and as many Indian dog owners will testify to the fact that they have in fact raised happy healthy vegetarian dogs.
What is a balanced diet for your pet?
Your pets basic nutritional needs are simple. Ensure they get a balanced diet, but what does a balanced diet mean? One important thing to remember when feeding your pets is that you are their only source of nutrition. They have no opportunity to forage or seek out a food if you do not provide it. Each meal can never be perfectly balanced it is not realistic to expect an animal or human to consume a specific quantity of protein, fats, carbohydrates at each meal. It is also not practical to weigh each meal. The scoop in your bag of commercial kibble is an average measure of food. Each dog has a personalised energy and nutrition requirement, which we should pay attention to – but not obsess over!
The food journey’s through your pet’s system just as food passes through your system. The function of your digestive and other systems is to absorb nutrients to help your body carry on its basic functions.
What are essential dietary needs ?
Protein and amino acids building blocks essential for all species. Protein is not meat. Marketing has us believe meat is protein and protein is meat. Plant and animal products contain nutrients ranging from amino acids, protein, sugars, carbohydrates. For a diet to be balanced, your pets need all these nutrients to be available to them in the form of food. Each animal like a person has specific needs, there is no one size fits all. But there are certain basic nutritional requirements for each and every living organism. Macro Nutrients are protein, carbohydrates, starch all sources of energy . Micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals the body derives from breaking down macro nutrients.
What are essential dietary needs for a cat?
‘As essential carnivores, cats ned to eat good quality protein. The stated quantity of protein in some commercial cat foods can be misleading, since some forms of protein are not digestible and therefore have no nutritional value. Digestible protein in the cat’s diet can be ensured by periodically providing modest portions of cooked meat in such forms as chicken, ground beef or fish….. Varying such supplements can cater to the cats’s sensitivity about food.”Fraser, A. F., & C.A.B. International. (2012). Feline behaviour and welfare. Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK: CABI.
Chapter 5 Basic Activities Pg 43
So with respect to cats and their nutritional needs things get tricky and it is not as simple as imposing your ethical beliefs on your cats digestive system.
Is there only one way to feed my dog?
No, there is no perfect diet to feed your dog or yourself. Vegetarian and vegan households often struggle with the ethics of feeding their dogs. The advantages of meat free diets for pets and people are that they are hormone and anti biotic free. Our food chains are so industrialised that no matter how you eat, unless you grow your own food, chances are there is some degree of processed ingredient in your meal.
Cover Photo: Rarnie Mccudden from Pexels