Is Your Dog And Cat Food Healthy?

I have a written a few articles on premium dog food and premium cat food. Some articles even have included the importance of supplements, treats and even the bones you give as a reward. So you can only imagine how important it is to feed our pets the proper nutrition. This nutrition comes daily from the food we decide to give them. It is extremely important to feed premium, quality foods for their health and in some cases their mental well being.

This article is especially important to me because of the recent pet food recall including dog and cat food. Please visit your vet immediately if you see any signs that may appear “abnormal” behavior. It may have nothing to do with what they ate but it is better to be safe than sorry.

As I write this article on March 25, 2007, the recall has widened to include all wet food as a safety precaution regardless of the date code, reports the Globe & Mail. Retailers have been asked to remove all of these foods. The “recall” list can be found by visiting menufoods.com/recall/.
As you may or may not have heard there has been a huge pet food recall on numerous brands of dog and cat food that may contain aminopterin, rat poison. Yes, rat poison. At this time there is no news as to how it got into the food. It has been reported this has been the cause of at least 16 deaths as well as more that are very ill and receiving treatment.
What can separate the premium food from mainstream?

Unfortunately, current pet food regulations allow manufacturers to use ingredients that you would never knowingly give to your dog or cat. In fact, you may be shocked to learn what some brands of pet food really contain. For example: the use of by-products (feet, bones and intestines, etc.), chemical preservatives (BHA and BHT) and grains that are often difficult to digest (corn, wheat, gluten and soy), which are often used as a protein source instead of meat.

Be Aware of Undesirable Ingredients

By-products – basically this is what is left over when the good cuts of meat are taken for humans. Bones, intestines, heads, feet, tendons, ligaments and other body parts are known as by-products.

Grains like soy, corn, corn gluten and wheat gluten are often used as protein sources; however, they are generally inferior and difficult to digest.

Chemical Preservatives like BHA, BHT and ethoxoquin can be very harmful to pets.

Freshness – Large manufacturers make pet food in tremendous batches that can last for a very long time, so you may be feeding food that is six months to a year old.

These are only some things to stay away from. Look to see if your dog or cat food contains vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and bacteria cultures to name a few.

Remember, what your vet recommends as premium dog food might be the farthest thing from healthy.

Natural Foods – Healthy Foods Or Hype?

The evidence increases that what you eat – and how much you eat – impact your health. Today, more people are well aware that good nutrition is a major factor for a healthy lifestyle. The problem is that figuring out what’s a healthy food and what is not can be confusing.

As we became more concerned about the source of our food and the ingredients in it, companies created new strategies for their marketing. They redesigned their food labels to reflect our willingness to go out of our way or pay a little more for healthy foods. Companies started using the terms like “all natural”, “hormone free”, “no artificial ingredients”, and “free range”.

As a result of all this advertising, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published definitions for many of the marketing terms, including “natural”, so that consumers would have a better idea of what they were purchasing. According to the USDA, food can only be labeled natural if it contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is minimally processed.
This definition is enforced through the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which monitors how food is produced and what goes into it. They’re responsible for backing up product labels with regular inspection.

The term “all natural” was the most used label on new food products in the US last year. Manufacturers wanted to cash in on last year’s $13 billion dollar natural food market.

The main reason that natural food products sell so well is that you and I believe that if a food is labeled “natural” it must be good for us. Plus, we’re willing to pay extra if that natural food keeps us healthy.

The problem is that even with the USDA regulations, the term “natural” isn’t well-defined. There’s no standard definition for the term except for meat and poultry products other than the product contains no synthetic or artificial ingredients including artificial flavors and food colorings.

And a natural food may not be a healthy food, either. For example, a brand of vanilla ice cream may meet the natural standard but the product is high in calories and saturated fat. That’s not too healthy!

Right now there’s only one way to even attempt to make wise decisions for natural food products. Read the label. The label will help you compare one product to another and tell you which natural food product – or regular food product- fits your dietary needs.

Fight Fat With Food! Healthy Eating Made Easy

Many people uphold the misconception that a bit of physical activity is enough to maintain a healthy weight. This is false. A healthy diet AND regular exercise are necessary to achieve physical fitness. Crash diets or short periods of cutting out a particular product are not conducive to keeping off weight. It is important to create a healthy and balanced lifestyle, with a diet that suits nutritional and physical needs. Eliminating an entire food group can be unhealthy. A diet is not just about weight loss, but about achieving overall well-being. To do so, it is essential to have a lifestyle diet, in which you maintain certain healthy eating habits.

Necessary Nutrition

Carbohydrates – Choose good carbs, NOT no carbs. Whole grains are best!

Proteins – Fish, poultry and beans are great sources of protein, but be aware of the “package.” A food like steak is very high in protein, but has a large amount of fat. Also, be mindful of the percentage of fat that is saturated, as too much is not good. Always pay attention to what fat content comes with a protein-packed product.

Fats – Choose healthy fats, limit saturated fat, and avoid trans fat altogether. Plant oils, nuts, and fish are the healthiest sources.

Fiber – Choose a fiber-filled diet, rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Apples, oranges, beans, and peanut butter are good high-fiber foods.

Vegetables/Fruits – Go color crazy! When choosing the best fruits and vegetables, the more colors the better. Green fruits and veggies are especially nutritious.

Calcium – Calcium is essential for strong bones; however, milk is not the only source. Dairy products contain plenty of calcium, but in many instances they also carry high levels of saturated fat. Some good non-dairy sources of calcium include: collards, bok choy, fortified soy milk, and baked beans.

Drinking plenty of water, consuming less salt, taking a daily multivitamin, and even moderate drinking (red wine promotes heart health) are other dietary choices beneficial to your overall health.

Cooking Lifestyle

The way in which you cook your foods can have a remarkable effect on how you respond physically to your daily food regimen. Portion is important; do not let your eyes be bigger than your stomach. More meals of a smaller size will boost your metabolism, burning fat more quickly. Cook using extra virgin olive oil, rather than vegetable, peanut, or canola oil. Olive oil happens to be high in a good fat, monosaturated fatty acids. Consume larger portion of vegetables, and a smaller portion of meats. You will notice a great difference with this slight augment in veggie to meat ratio. Sustaining a balanced diet is essential in losing or maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding health risks.

Dog Food – Healthy Dog Diets

Contrary to popular belief, it’s easy to give dogs all the nutrients they need. Dog food sold commercially are either dry foods – a convenient choice for owners due to ease of serving – or wet foods, used as treats to hide daily medications and to increase water intake. And surprisingly, dogs also need nutrients that come from vegetables. Here are food nutrients that are especially important for dogs:

Carbohydrates/Fiber. Majority of dog food diets contains a certain percentage of carbohydrates, even if they are not considered essential nutrients for dogs. Sugars and starches from carbohydrates are metabolized and converted into glucose, which in turn provides energy, gives out amino acids and helps synthesize fats. Carbohydrates are great nutrients for dogs, as they can digest the forms it comes in easily. It also provides an inexpensive alternative to protein and fats.

Soluble fiber should also be a part of a dog’s diet. Foods like fruit or oat bran maintain proper hydration, regulate nutrient absorption, and keep the dog’s intestinal tract healthy. These fibers can be included in the dog’s diet in combination with fresh, raw vegetables. Carrots do nicely, especially diced and served as treats.

Fats are helpful to dogs as they can safely digest lots of it, turning it into an excellent source of energy. Fat nutrients regulate muscle contractions, blood clotting, and allergic reactions, and add luster to his coat. Just be cautioned – fats should not exceed 20% of the dog’s average diet because it causes obesity on dogs. Further, high fat diets depletes the storage of Vitamin E in dog’s body which later on results to gall bladder disease, pancreatitis, diarrhea and general poor health.

Protein requirements for dogs have no recommended amounts, but rule of thumb dictates that the more activity the dog goes through on a regular basis, the greater the need for protein. Protein’s main components are amino acids such as arginine, leucine, methionine, histidine, isoleucine, lysine, phenyllalaine, tryptophan, valine and threonine, all of which are required by active dogs. A dog’s diet deficient of these amino acids can result to poor growth, weight loss, loss of appetite and muscle tone, a dull, brittle or rough coat, an impaired immune system, blood protein depletion, or even death.

One important note: dogs who have undergone kidney failure, or at least have a tendency toward kidney disease, must not be fed too much protein.

Vitamin A is important for normal growth, reproduction, mucous membranes, skin cell surface lining, immune functions, and vision. Vitamin A-rich foods include liver and organ meats, and must be included sparingly in a dog’s diet. Vitamin D contributes to the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus and maintains blood calcium levels and bone formation. Vitamin E serves as an antioxidant and maintains muscle cell structures. Vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting.

Water soluble vitamins like Vitamin B1 (thiamine) helps metabolizes carbohydrates for energy. Pyridoxine or Vitamin B6 supports enzymes to metabolize protein and necessary for normal immune system functions. Vitamin B12 contributes to red blood cell production and synthesis of nucleic acids.

Check the nutrition labels on the dog food products to see if your dog is getting enough of these nutrients. If you have any questions or concerns, you can discuss your dog’s diet with your veterinarian during regular checkups.