The Grain-Free Fad: Part Two

Did you miss part one? Read it here! 

So, you should have just read an excellent blog on pet diets and I would like make some further notes.

We get daily notices on contaminated or adulterated pet food recalls.  A recent example is a food was contaminated with Pentothal, an anesthetic agent commonly used in euthanasia solutions.  Within a few days, several other foods and treats were recalled for the same reason.

Last year there were multiple recalls due to E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria contamination. These bacteria can cause gastrointestinal infections that range from serious to life threatening.

Listeria can infect the nervous system and is potentially fatal. The pattern was always the same. A specific brand diet would be recalled and within days multiple brand diets would follow suit. So, the question is why does this pattern occur?

Back in the “olden days” diet manufactures’ meat and carbohydrate sources were all purchased locally. They would be transported to the processing plant where the diets were formulated and produced. Then off to the retail outlets they went, the end.

How times have changed.  

Today, sources of feed-stuffs are very different. Often, meat is raised in this country, slaughtered, quartered, and shipped to Asia for processing. Then, the processed product is shipped back. The same can be true for grains and other carbohydrate sources. Likewise the meat, grain, and carbohydrate sources may be raised and processed outside of North America, usually in Asian nations. They are all processed and shipped back to North America where they supply many of our pet food manufacturers. Each manufacturer then produces their own form of kibble, treats, etc. and market it as they see fit.  

So, as you watch all these dog/cat food commercials with dogs running across meadows, doing agility drills, and cats getting their food on crystal desert cups, realize that their feed sources are coming from common markets and the main difference is packaging and and how the food is presented.  Stews, pates, large kibble, small bites, star shapes, and heart shapes are examples.

In the “good ole days” I used to tell pet owners that when it comes to pet foods, you get what you pay for. More expensive foods were a superior product, more nutritious, better palatability, and digestibility. But today it is almost a buyer beware market. Pet foods are being marketed to humans, pulling on their heart strings, or “manufacturing” new trends such as grain-free, all natural, vegetarian, etc.

This is why we have given up trying to keep up with the myriad of pet food diets out there. We recommend only two, Royal Canin and Science Diet. Why? Because all of their feed sources are raised and processed in North America. This is why they rarely show up on recalls for contamination. They do not purchase from the common overseas sources. They are renown for their quality and we feel we are guiding our patients to sound, healthy, trustworthy diets.

There is some good news, however. Almost all commercial diets respect and adhere to AAFCO standards. These are pet food government requirements. So, as long as you can find the AAFCO label somewhere on your pet food, you know that you are at least getting minimal requirements for the food and you can feel relatively confident that the food marked for large breed puppies, small breed puppies, and so on, are truly diets for that purpose.

We also have recommendations for grocery diets and you can feel free to call us for advice.

So, good luck as you venture into those pet supply stores and remember, despite what some food salesman tells you, a sudden change in diet is asking for diarrhea accidents in the middle of the night!

Dr. Jerry Miller

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