Dec 162012

As I watch my favorite programs on TV, I shake my head at the amount of money spent to advertize pet food. Most ads are geared to convince you that their food is the “best” for your loved one and that you could do nothing better than to feed their food to your pet. These foods, while maybe not the best nutrition for your pet, they are probably ok as basic animal nutrition. However, what really makes me cringe are the vague claims the manufacturers make. For instance, there is a major, and I mean MAJOR, cat food brand that is sold mostly in grocery stores airing commercials with the following claim:

“…. With the highest amount of protein!”

Current knowledge of feline nutrition emphasizes the importance of high levels of protein with low amounts of carbohydrates. Cats are strict carnivores and, unlike dogs, have metabolisms that require mostly protein and the amino acids that come with it. So the commercial of the pet food manufacturer that claims it has the highest amount of protein is appealing to your interest in following this advice.

However, ask yourself what “the highest amount of protein” means. The highest amount compared to what? Here is the information on the package label:

Guaranteed Analysis: Protein: Min. 35.0%, Crude Fat: Min. 13.0%, Crude Fiber: Max. 4.0%, Moisture: Max. 12.0%, Linoleic Acid: Min. 1.4%, Calcium: Min. 1.0%, Phosphorus: Min. 0.8%, Zinc: Min. 150 mg/kg, Vitamin A: Min. 11,000 IU/kg, Vitamin E: Min. 150 IU/kg, Taurine: Min. 0.1%, Glucosamine*: Min. 400 mg/kg, Chondroitin Sulfate*: Min. 300 mg/kg


35% protein in a dry cat food is not particularly high. Pretty average, really. What is more telling is the ingredient list. By law, the ingredient list is listed in order of highest percent of total first. In this food the first four ingredients are chicken by-product meal, ground corn, corn gluten meal and animal fat (no telling what animal’s fat). So, the major protein source is chicken? Well, not necessarily. It is from chicken by-products made into meal (not necessarily bad, by the way) and probably corn gluten. They don’t tell you how the 35% breaks down. But the pet food company’s commercial implies they have the “highest” protein, implying that it is the major ingredient when it is not. There is a heck of a lot of corn, wheat and rice. So, the commercial is terribly misleading. I will hazard a guess that if we asked the pet food company to explain “highest” they will say “higher than our previous products” which were not very high to begin with.

Let’s compare this cat food to a food that I consider a very high quality, high protein, low carb (no grain) dry cat food. Here is what is on their package label:

Guaranteed Analysis: 
Crude Protein (min): 50.0%
Crude Fat (min): 22.0%
Crude Fiber (max): 2.8%
Moisture (max): 10.0% Calcium (min): 2.99%
Phosphorus (min): 1.654%
Vitamin E (min): 212.1 IU/kg
*Vitamin C* (min): 50 mg/kg
*Omega 6 Fatty Acids (min): 3.69%
*Omega 3 Fatty Acids (min): 0.684%, Carotene: 11.29 mg/kg, Vitamin A: 21753 IU/kg , Vitamin D: 1591 IU/kg…etc

: Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Tapioca, Salmon Meal, Natural Chicken Flavor, Pumpkinseeds, ….etc.
Visit the Ingredient Glossary to learn about each ingredient.

Protein is a whopping 50%. The first four ingredients are chicken meal, chicken fat, tapioca, and salmon meal. Tapioca is a source of starch (carbohydrate) which is described in their glossary of ingredients (provided on their website) as “… an all natural ingredient that is extracted from the root of the cassava plant via a series of washing, peeling, grating, and drying steps, a process that removes any cyanogenic glycosides. Tapioca is a unique, 98% digestible, grain-free, gluten-free starch…” Further down the ingredient list are freeze dried chicken, turkey, turkey liver, turkey heart. Also included are cottage cheese and chicken, duck, pheasant and quail eggs. These smaller ingredients are high quality sources of protein. Besides the tapioca, the other source of carbs is a variety of vegetables and fruits such as spinach, broccoli, persimmons and butternut squash.

Clearly, quality proteins make up the 50% protein content with no grains. This is not a “no-carb” product but it includes a variety of carbohydrates that contribute important minerals, vitamins and fiber.

I haven’t named these products because my point here is to highlight the misleading information being fed (pun intended) to you in many pet food company’s glossy, high-cost commercials and advertisements. I encourage everyone to pay attention to the information on their pet’s food package labels and try to interpret the quality of the pet food with the information provided. Not all product labels are good sources of information (some pet food companies are much better than others) so you may need to search on pet food company websites or ask your veterinarian for help.

Nov 222012

Is what you feed your loving companions healthy for them? This is what Bill Good asked me on Tues morning on his show in Vancouver, BC on CKNW AM980. The recent illnesses and deaths of many dogs after they ate chicken jerky treats made in China has prompted many pet guardians to question how safe are the food and treats that many companies sell. How regulated is the pet food industry in Canada and the US? The answers may surprise you. Bill and I had a lively discussion and could answer only a few of the many calls that came in. If you would like to listen to the segment, you can go on-line to iTunes podcasts and listen for free. Here is the link to the Bill Good Show podcasts on iTune. My talk is in the first half of Nov 20th Hour 3. If you have any questions after listening, please contact me. The Bill Good Show Podcast on iTunes

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