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The Jungle of Pet Food And Misinformation!

Updated: Mar 13




When I worked at the clinic, there was always apart of me that was disappointed on a daily basis when I talked to clients about their pet's health, specifically the nutrition aspect.


There is SO much misinformation out regarding this subject, and pets are suffering from it.


These clients wanted to learn, they were curious, and I got questions about nutrition multiple times a day. Either from a proactive standpoint and wanting to provide their dog/ cat the best to prevent health issues and disease down the road... Or as a new tool or management strategy for a currwnt ailment.


Why so much misinformation on pet food?

Where is it coming from?


There just wasn't enough time in a 15 minute appointment to discuss it. Sometimes I'd find myself quickly writing a post-it note of online respurces for them to research when they got home as I checked them out at the front desk.


I can honestly say, most of our 'regular' patients ate a very poor, grocery store brand of grain-filled kibble. You know, the pets that we saw every few weeks for ear infections, UTI's, anal gland problems, diarrhea, itching, etc.


 

Why Study the Topic of Nutrition Day in and Day out?


Because it fascinates me.


I am continually blown away by what the pet food companies, veterinary professionals and the animal health industry as a whole feeds people with. No pun intended.


Starting at the big corporate owners, to the manufacturers, trickling down to the students in veterinary school... To the training of pet store employees, and veterinarians/ technicians, all the way down to the pet owner themselves via commercials and advertisements.


I always like to take a look at both sides, but it's incredibly hard to do when much of one side doesn't make any sense!


 

A Few Statements You Might Here:





"In order for a pet food to be considered, you need to make sure it is formulated by a board certified veterinary nutritionist. So many clients try to find information online when they should be getting nutrition advice from veterinary professionals"

This is the primary argument you will hear among veterinary professionals, and the pet industry as a whole. Even on social media. Veterinarians are expected to be an expert on everything... but, the truth is... they aren't. Not even close.


This is nothing against vets, but that many veterinarians choose to disregard any choice that doesn't specifically line up with their views on what they were taught in school or by corporate company representatives.


Some pet owners have noticed this in recent years. And have since looked elsewhere for nutrition advice.


Turns out, the internet is the most abundant and least biased of all resources. Why would I trust one single person who was taught that one single company is the end-all- be-all for pet nutrition? Perhaps there are other options out there.


Maybe... Just MAYBE there are other reliable sources, studies, articles, pet owners and professionals alike who have done other research that could be included in deciding what to feed a pet?


Might we ask:

"Why, across the entire nation, are there only 3 brands of pet food that EVERY veterinary clinic sells and solely recommends...?"


  • Are they getting incentives?

  • Are there company sponsorships?

  • Have they all been taught the same exact thing in school about nutrition from the same companies who sell that food?


We must wonder...



There's clearly no question in conflict of interest... A paid advertisement towards veterinarians on how to boost their revenue by a whopping 30% just for selling Purina brand pet feed products.


What's also clear, is most veterinarians are doing very little research on nutrition or pet food as a whole.


But instead, are simply following what they are told.


Hill's even provides this handy flow chart for how to create more profit via Rx diets!



Clearly, veterinarian recommended means big company endorsement.


And now, shelter endorsed means the same thing! In order for an animal shelter to receive discounted pet food from Hill's, they must advertise it and follow a script to convince pet owners that it's the best.


Furthermore, I'm a Veterinary Technician, and even my courses for Continuing Education credits have been sponsored or 100% taught by these big corporate giants.



I'm not exaggerating, see above where it says this nutrition course is "Sponsored by Hill's"?


*I do try my very best to find various webinars and CE courses that are not taught or endorsed by these companies, but it can be quite a challenge.


And last but not least, the teaching of veterinary professionals (by big pet food companies) on how to coerce pet owners into compliance with recommendations. You can read more about these new 'guidelines' in this post. Believe me, you'll want to read that one!


 

Nutrients vs Ingredients:


"Pets need nutrients, NOT ingredients. Scientists understand what nutrients come from a food the animal needs after studying them for a long time, so ingredients don't really matter."

Wow! What?


P.s. you'll hear this one a lot 😉


Yes, let's isolate specific components of various nutrients, and omit whole foods and label them as inappropriate, and then add these specific vitamins/ minerals back in to a grain-filled pet food so the analysis reads that it is in fact: 'complete and balanced.'


Heck, I could make a bowl of sand 'complete and balanced' by adding a few vitamins to it.



Another one that always has me scratching my head:

"The term filler is misinformation, and corn always gets a bad reputation. Grains such as corn and wheat gluten provide a lot of carbohydrates and energy for the pet. Companies would not add ingredients to a pet food if it did not provide any nutritional value, they just wouldn't waste their money on it."

False.

Ummm... Again, what?!


Companies SAVE money by using cheap grains, and artificial material as opposed to the real stuff...


How much does steak cost compared to a bag of rice? Times that by billions of pounds of pet food. Whatever money they are saving on quality ingredients, they are likely doubling the price to profit at the end.


I'll let you do the math...


Please know that by using plant-based protein vs. animal-based, this can alter the guaranteed analysis.


Wheat actually contains 75-80% of the plant protein in the form of gluten. And since AAFCO doesn't regulate where nutrients comes from; if you're not reading a pet food label correctly... this trick could leave your pet's health at risk.


Also, what nutritional value does Red dye #40 provide? Propylene glycol? Artificial flavor? MSG? BHT? TBHQ? Soy flour? Corn grits?


This statement proves that someone really must not know very much about how pet food companies operate.


In fact, grains and starches do the sole job of holding the kibble's shape.


Many foods containing corn have also been recalled for KILLING PETS with mold contamination!


Grains also do a lovely job at contributing to health issues such as obesity, deficiencies, and dental disease.



Example:

  • Beef by-product

  • Soy flour

  • Soy grits

  • High fructose corn syrup

  • Wheat flour

  • More corn syrup


5 of the first 6 ingredients are completely unhealthy, and far from nutritional. Nor are they appropriate to feed.


 

What About Unprocessed, Fresh or Raw Food?


The fresh food debate:

"We don't have any studies proving that there is any type of superior health value to feeding fresh, whole, or raw foods to pets as opposed to kibble."

What kind of none-sense is this?! We need a multi-million dollar scientific, double-blind placebo study proving that fresh food is healthy?


Does this not sound insane?!


Why do our doctors tell us humans to eat less processed and more fresh foods to be healthy... and the veterinary industry tells us the exact opposite?


I don't ask my doctor what to eat. Or ask him to formulate any specific diet for me and have it be analyzed and approved by a 3rd party.


It's just common knowledge that we should eat as many whole, fresh, and unprocessed foods as possible.


Heck, if any doctor does give advice on nutrition it most likely sounds like this:

"Avoid processed foods, eat your veggies and limit junk food and sweets."


Why isn't this taught in the animal industry?


Here, it is actually discouraged to feed fresh foods... And for some reason, we darn near ask veterinarians for permission on what to feed our pets.


I've actually seen pet owners literally be degraded by veterinarians and technicians for what they choose to feed their pets. It seems that if you aren't feeding what they solely recommend and sell in their office... it's not good enough.


If human doctors did this to their patients, they would be out of business within days.


Am I saying that all kibble is bad? Absolutely not!


I myself feed kibble for multiple reasons. But to say that fresh food cannot ever be superior to processed food is downright ludicrous!



Providing fresh whole foods to your dog/ cat's daily diet is essential for optimal health and longevity!


Above all, do your research to make an informed decision, and above all- use common sense.


 


Who Should Be Giving Nutritional Advice?



Recently I saw a Facebook post in a pet group from a dog owner asking for advice on if a specific food was good, as she was interested in feeding it. Kudos to her! Curious about her dog's nutrition and looking for information.


I scrolled through a few comments and saw that one gal decided to chime on how it wasn't a big name brand that veterinarians recommend, and therefore there's no way it could possibly meet nutritional guidelines. I'm not sure what her credentials are, but I chimed in with a statement about what AAFCO does as far as regulations go.


I was quickly met with resistance and this was her reply:




I began to wonder:

Does she know what credentialed technicians are trained to do? I'm not diagnosing, prescribing, or performing surgery. Nutritional education is a fundamental role of Veterinary Technicians.


A Today's Veterinary Practice article actually states:


"Technician’s Role:

While most veterinarians address nutrition for patients with medical concerns, wellness nutrition often falls through the cracks. Incorporating nutrition into regular wellness routines is an excellent idea; however, practical concerns, such as appointment length, can interfere with a veterinarian’s ability to do so. This is where the veterinary team, in particular, the technician, can step in to help:

  • Complete the nutritional assessments

  • Develop, along with the veterinarian, nutritional recommendations

  • Communicate that plan to the owner

  • Perform follow-up to help owners be successful at home.

An ICV Journal titled "Technicians as teachers: tapping their expertise to educate clients about nutrition" states: "Pet parents look to their veterinary team as experts in healthcare, as well as for nutritional advice. In an AAHA study, 90% of clients wanted nutritional recommendations, yet only 15 % perceived they were given any. The AAHA compliance study revealed that only 7% of the pets that could potentially benefit from therapeutic foods were actually receiving that therapy. There is tremendous opportunity for veterinary technicians to fulfill this role rather than allow clients to gain nutritional information from non-veterinary personnel or the internet.


...A veterinary technician’s goal is to help patients live a long, happy, and healthy life, and proper nutrition is the cornerstone of that goal. Therefore, it is imperative that veterinary technicians play an active and leading role in educating clients about proper nutrition for their pets."


Clearly, Veterinary Technicians are more than qualified to educate pet owners about nutrition.


 

How Did Things Get This Way?


In 100% honesty, it is heart wrenching that pet owners are so misinformed.


Am I saying that you should never trust a veterinarian? Of course not!

I'm simply pointing out where their interests and expertise are. And I wanted to draw attention to the importance of the veterinary team playing an active role in your pet's health care and nutritional plan.


I must add, not all veterinarians operate in a way that they only push corporate products. But most do.

Though the number is very low, I do know some veterinarians who fully endorse raw feeding and alternative care for their patients.


It is all in their hands to choose where they put their educational interests and what they promote to their clients and patients.


And you, as your pet's advocate, need to take into consideration every aspect of nutrition- starting from the source of information, where that source gets their information... all the way down to what you put into your pet's bowl.


There is no perfect way to feed our pets, so we must do the research and use common sense down to the wire, or our pet's health may suffer.


 


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