In part 1 and part 2 of this series we talked about pet food ingredient standards and the problems pet owners are facing when selecting a commercial pet food. We came up with a basic check list of things you may want to consider when shopping for pet food and we addressed some feeding guide lines for our companion animals. Today we are going to conclude this series by briefly addressing vegetarian pet foods and discussing some secrets you should know about pet food labeling.
Dogs and cats are classified as carnivores, but many dogs can thrive on a vegetarian diet. There are several vegetarian and even vegan pet foods available which are supplemented with nutrients unavailable in plants. Your dog might do very well with one of these diets, or even with a balanced homemade vegetarian diet. However, you should watch your dog carefully for problems such as a dull coat, dandruff, low energy, diarrhea, or other symptoms. It can take months or even years for a deficiency to develop.
Cats have very specific metabolic requirements for several nutrients found only in animal products, such as taurine, pre-formed Vitamin A (they cannot convert the plant precursor, beta-carotene), and arachadonic acid. They may not be able to adequately digest some plant-based proteins. There is at least one product marketed as a feline supplement for vegetarian diets, but these nutrients are chemically synthesized or highly purified, and may lack the enzymes and co-factors needed for optimal absorption and function. The long-term implications of these supplements are unknown. Therefore, API does not recommend that cats be fed a strictly vegetarian diet.
Pet Food Label "Rules"
The 95% Rule: If the product says “Salmon Cat Food” or “Beef Dog Food,” 95% of the product must be the named ingredients. A product with a combination label, such as “Beef and Liver for Dogs,” must contain 95% beef and liver, and there must be more beef than liver, since beef is named first.
The 25% or “Dinner” Rule: Ingredients named on the label must comprise at least 25% of the product but less than 95%, when there is a qualifying “descriptor” term like “dinner,” “entree,” “formula,” “platter,” “nuggets,” etc. In “Beef Dinner for Dogs,” beef may or may not be the primary ingredient. If two ingredients are named (“Beef and Turkey Dinner for Dogs”), the two ingredients must total 25%, there must be more of the first ingredient (beef) than the second (turkey), and there must be at least 3% of the lesser ingredient.
The 3% or “With” Rule: A product may be labeled “Cat Food with Salmon” if it contains at least 3% of the named ingredient.
The “Flavor” Rule: A food may be labeled “Turkey Flavor Cat Food” even if the food does not contain such ingredients, as long as there is a “sufficiently detectable” amount of flavor. This may be derived from meals, by-products, or “digests” of various parts from the animal species indicated on the label.
Contributed by and © 2004-2009 - Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute - All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Celeste Yarnall. Natural Cat Care. Journey Editions. ISBN 1-8852-0363-2.
Celeste Yarnall. Natural Dog Care. Journey Editions. ISBN 0-7858-1123-0.
Kate Solisti-Mattelon and Patrice Mattelon. The Holistic Animal Handbook: A Guidebook to Nutrition, Health, and Communication. Beyond Words Publishing Co. ISBN 1-5827-0023-0.
Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Rodale Press, Inc. ISBN 0-87596-243-2.
Donald R. Strombeck. Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative. Iowa State University Press. ISBN 0-8138-2149-5.