Thursday, November 20, 2008

Confusing subject pet food

You have a simple question. Which product of a certain brand should you feed your pet? You visited the manufacturer’s website and hopefully found the information, but it is overwhelming and typically confusing. While visiting the pet store you discovered that the clerk did not understand that manufacturer’s philosophy and couldn’t help either. You called customer service but didn’t get the answer you were looking for. Why does pet food have to be so complicated?
Let me turn the tables and ask you what I, a human being, should eat? Would you tell me to just go and buy a box, can or package of something, like you are hoping that manufacturer will tell you to do for your pet? Would you give me that kind of a simple answer? Feeding humans involves a vast array of foods, not just a package of a food. You might tell me to have cereal at breakfast, but not the same cereal all the time. Then you say I should add milk and fruit to it. You might also suggest some fruit, toast, coffee and orange juice. All the sudden it’s not simple anymore. You go on and say for lunch I could have a burger and fries, a sandwich, a cookie, a shake, a salad. Now you are overwhelming me. For supper you suggest some chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed asparagus with butter and salt and some apple pie. You even list some snacks for in between and tell me that everything you have just described could vary meal to meal and day to day. Help, now I’m lost. If you are really concerned about my health you even tell me to take some vitamin, mineral or herbal supplements. Is all that “simple”? Where is my one food in a package in all that? And why are you expecting a pet food manufacturer to provide such a simple answer with regard to your pet?
When it comes to human food there is no one who really finds this to be a dilemma or confusing. In fact, eating a variety of foods, hundreds of options, with barely a thought given to it is fun. Almost nobody runs to the doctor or nutritionist to find out what to eat at their next meal. Or go to the food manufacturers to ask them what to feed their family. So why are so many pet owners confused about what to feed their pets? Why do people latch onto myth, fable and lore propagated by breeders, a neighbor, a clerk at a pet store or pet food manufacturers, or feel they need the advice of a nutritionist or a veterinarian? Can feeding a pet really be any more mysterious than feeding yourself?
The answer is a simple “No”. Your pet does not need “a” food. It doesn’t need a certain % of protein, calcium, taurine or any other nutrient guaranteed on a package. It needs a variety of foods and different meals. These meals should be as fresh, natural and healthy as possible. You can virtually start with any food. Then cycle through the dozens of options. As absurd as it may sound on the surface, in some cases you can even feed cat food to dogs and vice versa, or senior to puppies and growth to seniors. You should offer some good, appropriate table scraps, fresh meats, veggies and fruits and use supplements. Cycle everything, even the supplements. Fast your pet once in awhile for a meal or two, or a day. Feed only fresh meat at a meal once in awhile. Offer some yogurt, some cottage cheese, and tidbits of real cheese or some sliced apple or carrots. Be as creative with your pet’s food bowl as you are with your own. Read literature and learn all about your options. You do not have to feed every nutrient with every meal. Your pet has reserve capacity. Apply the same simple logic to pet feeding that you do to yourself. Change your definition of “simple,” from one specific food fed at every meal, to the “simple” logic of feeding pets like you feed yourself.
Pet food marketers may try to make pet feeding sound too complicated for you to do all by yourself, or appeal to your desire for convenience and simplicity. I agree, how wonderful it would be if some experts somewhere bundled up ideal health in an easy to open package, and all we had to do was pour it in a bowl day after day. Yes, you can go to a store and find a diet specific for your pet’s breed, or your pet’s age, or its size, or with a certain % of whatever, or its health condition or with some fancy ingredient, or some demon ingredient left out. But that is not where good nutrition and good health will be found. Let me put it this way: You can have simplicity by feeding a certain diet to your pet day in and day out. But you will trade that simplicity for a whole lot of complexity dealing with the illness that will likely eventually result. And just in fairness to your pet, would you want to eat one food 24/7? Health is not something somebody else like a doctor or a vet or a food manufacturer does to you. It is something you do to yourself … and your pet. So relax. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to feed your pet. Just use the same common sense you use for yourself and your family everyday. After all, pets are people too. (Inspired by Dr. Wysong, DVM)

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