Sunday, January 25, 2009

For and against raw, dry and canned foods – A comparison (Part 1)

A great number of pet owners are confused by the magnitude of pet foods available. The choices available to us are mind boggling. Add to that pretty labels, fancy packaging, discount prices and conflicting information on the web and it becomes very clear why there is so much confusion.What is a buyer to do? Whom can you ultimately trust? The local grocery super market? The mass merchandise market? In both cases I would clearly vote a no. How about the brick & mortar pet retailer? Maybe. The fashionable pet boutique with all the fancy stuff from pretty clothing, exclusive pet bedding to more and more awesome (for the eye) treats made right in front of your eyes to higher priced (higher quality?) pet food? Definitely a better chance for success.
There are so many ingredients available in pet foods with a wide array of nutritional positives and negatives. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that many pet owners are overwhelmed and seek advice from their vet. And end up buying his well positioned national brand, which is his best friend (since it most likely contributes heavily towards his profits). Your pet will enjoy the comforts of a veterinarian’s office. Your hard earned dollar will disappear very fast. Wouldn’t you rather have those extra dollars for you to enjoy? Ultimately you only can trust one: Yourself. And that in turn means you have to become an educated consumer.
Your buck stops at the store’s cash register. And that is where your pet’s health starts.
Many foods available pay special attention to quality nutrients and incorporate high grade ingredients. Lately such quality foods are appearing in greater numbers in quality pet stores, regardless of whether it is raw food diet, freeze dried diets or kibble.Today I want to take a closer look at the benefits and (to some pet owners) negative aspects of these food categories.Dry food or kibble is the most common way of feeding your pet. The advantages are that it is easy to serve, convenient, comes in a wide array of flavors, has the lowest cost of all pet food categories, lately comes in different formulas supposedly accommodating requirements for various ages and health conditions, is offered with a wide array of fruits, berries and vegetables incorporated, comes in beautiful packaging and with impressing marketing materials (to whom ever this may be an important factor and it has probably the longest shelf life.
What speaks against dry food? Synthetic vitamins, which may or may not be absorbed properly by your pet. It may have by-products and by-product meals, corn or wheat gluten meal, potatoes, ocean fish meal which can cause health issues. Ingredients may include soy, peanut shells, mill run, colorings, flavorings, which again can cause health issues. It may include preservatives that have been linked to cancer. The high retail cost factor coming with the marketing of inferior ingredients while these in reality are inexpensive and contained in most minimal proportions. It may have allergens. Much of the information provided about dry food is misleading information. And the worst negative: Manufacturing requires high heat processing. This in turn translates into lost nutrition of the ingredients. There is no question about it, kibble has matured. There is a great number of quality kibbles are now available. Knowledge is the key to making the best possible choice.
Now let’s take a look at raw food diets. By now raw foods have become the forefront of nutritional excellence in pet foods. Raw food is stated to be the closest to a natural diet a dog or cat can obtain in food. Many vets however proclaimed a raw food diet would cause bacterial problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. The animals digestive system is extremely short making a bacteria sticking to the lining walls very unlikely. Dogs and cats are in the contact with various forms of bacteria just by walking on grass. Many vets probably are against it since they obviously want to push their own line of dry food. I believe that it is more the pet owners handling the raw food having a problem with the bacteria than it is the pet. Raw food requires a strict compliance with all safety rules related to it. So what speaks for raw? It is highly nutritious, has very active nutrients, is closest to natural feeding, just like in the wild, comes in many hypoallergenic formulas and some manufacturers even use organic ingredients, an ingredient classification guaranteeing the currently highest quality standards.
Against it speaks that there are many brands out there providing formulas with inferior raw ingredients. Many brands also offer formulas which are not considered to be a balanced diet. Some say it is very expensive, I challenge you on that and believe this statement is highly debatable. Raw food requires a good amount of freezer space. It has a short storage life after it has been thawed. In summary, feeding raw is exceptionally beneficial for pets. High quality products are manufactured in USDA human plants or organic facilities and are nutritionally balanced without the use of synthetics.How about canned food? For it speak the great number of flavorful choices. The manufacturing process compared to kibble does not require as much ingredient manipulation. Some say it is inexpensive. I cannot agree with that. This may be true if you have one small dog, but boy, when you own a couple large breeds it really strains your pocket book. Against it speak, just like with kibble, the heat with its nutrient destroying factor during manufacturing. Though less than kibble it still may contain some synthetic nutrients. Many of the formulas look like a flavored mush. Some of them are lacking sufficient. It may contain harmful ingredients.I always recommend that canned foods should not be used as the main food for your pet and think it should be considered as a supplemental feed helping to provide variety and bring some “color’ in your pet’s menu. Lately a number of manufacturers introduced so called “meat only” or “high percentage meat content” formulas, an option getting very close to raw meat since in most cases contains ony the protein source and water sufficient for processing as the main ingredients. However, there is still the factor of the heat processing during canning.Stay tuned for part 2 on this subject when I am going to address the new comers in the pet food market and assortment such as dehydrated, freeze dried, TNT and other more modern processing methods making pet food.

No comments: