This past year has brought me several different opportunities to dog sit. It seemed random yet perfectly planned that I kept being contacted by friends and coworkers, but I welcomed each opportunity with open arms. I love dogs and have grown up with them. Sometimes I think I enjoy their company more than humans. As an adult however, my frequent travels and irregular schedule have kept me from making the commitment of adopting a dog of my own. Dog sitting though, gives me the best of both worlds, time around these magnificent animals and personal freedom. It is also fun to get to know each dog’s different, quirky personality. With each of these wonderful dogs, feeding time is always when they seemed to love me the most. The keeper of the food and treats holds a godlike status in a dog’s mind (or so I assume). After serving all different types of dog food, from organic vegan to plain old Pedigree, I began to wonder, “what is actually in this stuff?” The answer might disgust and appall you and lead you to rethink what you put into your beloved pet’s dish.
The dog food industry might as well be called the scrap industry. Major pet food brands are buying and using the leftover scraps from major farming operations. It is not uncommon to find ingredients such as meat, bone meal, expired grains and residues of drugs used to euthanize animals in pet foods. In an investigation, the FDA has found traces of the drug pentobarbital sodium, which is used to euthanize animals. They claim that it is at a low enough level so as not to harm your pet, but do you really want to take that risk?
Ingredients in commercial dog food
If you think that some of the additives in food made for human consumption are shocking, imagine the things that they allow in pet food. As I mentioned before, these dog food companies seem to be nothing more than a way for large factory farms to unload their waste products. Why is it that they think that just because these animals cannot speak to tell us what they want for dinner that they deserve the disgusting scraps and leftovers which we would never fathom eating ourselves. Here is a shocking list of some of the things added (both intentionally and unintentionally) into your dog’s food.
Animal digest – Digests are animal tissue and materials treated with heat, enzymes and/or acids to form concentrated natural flavors. Digest is the least desirable form of slaughter residue and since it may contain beaks, feet, “hidden MSG,” etc.
Meat meal – the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents
Blood meal – Blood Meal is produced from animal blood, exclusive of all extraneous material such as hair, stomach linings and urine except as might occur unavoidably in the manufacturing process.
Are you disgusted yet? These are the things that are allowed to be added into food, we also have to consider the things that end up in the food unintentionally through the manufacturing process.
Mycotoxins – Toxic substances produced by fungus and mold, grains are particularly prone to mycotoxin growth. Existing studies have shown that daily exposure to even low levels of these toxins can result in chronic liver and kidney disease.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – These dangerous, resistant bacteria strains may find their way into the food by the addition of infected animal remnants or by adding rotten, putrid meat. Either way, it’s dangerous to the health of humans and pets alike.
Pesticide and chemical residues – With the widespread use of pesticides and chemicals in modern, large scale farming, it’s difficult for these to not end up in the end product.
FDA Regulation of pet food
As clearly stated on the FDA’s website; “There is no requirement that pet food products have pre-market approval. However, FDA ensures that the ingredients used in pet food are safe and have an appropriate function in the pet food.” This is the same FDA that has approved substances such as artificial sweeteners, synthetic dyes and hydrogenated oils for human consumption. One can only guess the types of ingredients they allow to be used in pet food.
The use of rendered animal feed ingredients is allowed by the FDA and as stated in their compliance policy, “No regulatory action will be considered for animal feed ingredients resulting from the ordinary rendering process of industry, including those using animals which have died otherwise than by slaughter, provided that they are not otherwise in violation of the law.” When do you think they actually take action? It’s not until a disease has actually been transmitted and harm has been caused that they will investigate and enforce regulatory action. In fact, it wasn’t until the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (aka Mad Cow Disease) outbreak of 1997 that they added specific requirements for the renderers who process and distribute this material.
While it might seem that the FDA has policies in place to protect the health of your pet, there are so many loopholes and ways around things that it becomes hard to trust them. Also, such a large government organization seems to have a vested interest in protecting the profits of these companies.
What can you do?
Now that I’ve sufficiently disgusted and scared you off from major pet food brands, what can you do to protect your beloved canine? Well, luckily it’s easy and cheap to prepare some homemade food for your pup. If you look at the wholesome ingredients that these foods claim to contain, you will find sweet potato, rice and other grains. These are very easy to prepare yourself and add into your dog’s dish. You can simply prepare a large batch of rice and cook some sweet potatoes to have for the week, both for yourself and the dogs. With the rice, it is best to use white rice as it is digested quicker, which is preferable for their short digestive tract. Also, it’s important to note here that dogs are omnivorous, and like humans, they can thrive on a vegetarian or a vegan diet by internally transforming and metabolizing all amino acids. (Different story for cats though!)
It doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to make your dog happy and healthy. Dogs don’t live a long life like we do, so let’s make their years happy, by feeding them yummy, healthy food. They deserve it just as much as we do.
This article is dedicated to all of the wonderful canines I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with over the past few years. Buddy, Maggie, Dora (rest in peace), Ami, Molly, Eloise, Tucker, Nelson, Indiana, Emmy and Coco.
Also by Kathryn: Castles, Cafes & Operas. Just A Day In The Life Of A Vegan In Prague
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