Nutrition is complicated. Just like in human nutrition, there are different ingredients in dog and cat food that can either help or hurt your pet. These are 5 ingredients that you should avoid in pet food.
Carbohydrates listed as the first ingredient.
While dogs and cats can eat and digest carbohydrates, they should not be the first listed ingredients. To ensure proper growth and metabolism, dogs and cats need more protein in their diet than carbohydrates or fibre. Other than nutritional benefits, animal protein is also just more tasty to pets!
Meat by-product meals
Meat by-product meals are the ground, dried leftovers from the meat rendering plants. These by-product meals include things like bones, cartilage, feathers and viscera. These ingredients aren’t nearly as digestible to dogs and cats as as whole meat meals like chicken or fish meal. It is often cheaper to use these meat meals and allows pet food companies to cut corners and save money, while sacrificing a quality product.
This is not to say all meat by-products are bad. Certain ingredients like liver, heart or gizzard are healthy organ meats that provide pets with nutritional benefits like iron and B vitamins. Digestible organ by-products such as these are also great for promoting sustainability, as it promotes the usage of rendered products that would otherwise go to waste!
High starch grains
Diabetes is a very prominent problem in both human and animal medicine. This is why it is important to avoid rapidly digestible starches like corn and wheat in pet food. These rapidly digested starches allow for a higher availability of sugars like glucose. Highly available sugars trigger high blood sugar and subsequently diabetic conditions.
Grains like rice, quinoa, barley and millet are more beneficial as they are more slowly digestible and lower glycemic index. An alternative to lower blood sugar is also opting for grain free diets. Ingredients like peas, legumes and sweet potato are great carbohydrate alternatives to grains and have been scientifically proven to lower glycemic index.
Artificial colours, sweeteners and flavours
Artificial additives are added to appeal to humans. Dogs and cats do not care what color their kibbles are or if their food smells like “backyard bbq”. These added colors and palatants can even be toxic to pets. Scientific studies have even shown that some artificial ingredients, like red and yellow dyes, can even be carcinogenic and cause cancer.
Preservatives are required in a lot of food that is kept at room temperature and not all preservatives are bad. Ultimately, it is better to use safe preservatives in pet food than having it go rancid and risk having microbial contamination.
However, there are some preservatives that should be avoided and could be very dangerous to pets. While not used as frequently anymore, ethoxyquin, BHT and BHA are some preservatives that should not be fed to, well, anyone. Ethoxyquin is a compound that may potentially cause liver and kidney damage, while BHA and BHT have been recognized as carcinogens by the US FDA.
Ultimately, it is good to be aware of what is in your pet’s food. Proper nutrition can go a long way in ensuring that your pet lives a long and healthy life!