This essential ingredient in dog and cat food is perhaps the most manipulated of all components in processed pet foods. Dogs and cats are carnivorous, and they require significant levels of meat in their diet (60-80%meat), which includes muscle meat, organs, offal and bones. One of the most common substitutions for meat protein is the use of “meat by products”, these include many indigestible body parts like feet, feathers, hoofs and horns – which are rendered at high temperatures into a protein powder. Whilst this end product can “claim” to be high in animal protein, it is not biologically appropriate protein, and is not well utilised or assimilated by dogs and cats. When a pet food label is described as having “meat and/or meat by products”, you can almost bet the quality of the animal protein will be poor (and if the price is cheap, most likely the word “or” is most appropriate).
The second most common substitution is the use of plant proteins to boost up the overall protein levels in pet foods. If a dry pet food has 20% protein, just how much of that is animal protein (meat based or not) ? The use of cereals that are high in carbohydrate and also contain some protein is now very common in nearly all processed pet foods. Soy is a very common source of plant protein used in pet foods, and corn and wheat are also regular bulking agents. The problem with plant protein is that it is also not biologically appropriate for a carnivore, and it actually causes alkalising of the body fluids – most importantly of the urine (it loses its natural acidity) which can lead to crystal and stone formation, and repeated bouts of infection. In the stomach it also causes a loss of gastric acidity, which results in poor digestion (particularly of bones) and increased susceptibility to gastro-enteric bacterial pathogens like salmonella. Plant based ingredients are also high in natural phytates, which will bind dietary zinc, and cause a deficiency. Zinc deficiency leads to chronic skin disease and also contributes to early onset of degenerative joint disease (arthritis).
Meat based proteins are by far the most expensive ingredient in any pet food, and unfortunately, as a result, many companies look for ways to reduce the levels and quality of these ingredients. This is generally reflected in the price you pay for a commercial pet food, and by the protein level. A good adult dry food should have protein levels above 30%, and wet foods should be above 10-12%. One great advantage of fresh raw foods is that you can see exactly what you are getting, and what you are feeding, and there is little chance for any substitution – they may seem more expensive than some dry foods, but remember, you get what you pay for, and the long term health of your pets will be a direct expression of the food you choose to feed them.
For more information about your dogs diet please ring
Healthy Pets Veterinary Clinic
9 Elizabeth St, Castlemaine VIC 3450
(03) 5472 5477