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Over the last few years, we have watched the numbers of pet foods on store shelves become more numerous

Over the last few years, we have watched the numbers of pet foods on store shelves become more numerous. Selecting the right pet food for our companions is one of the most difficult and confusing decisions for most owners. As a wise veterinarian once said:

"We now know that fresh food and vegetables are best for humans, who are omnivores. Where did we come up with the fact that kibble made from dry meat by-product would be the best food for a carnivore?"

Mimic Their Natural Diet

Dogs and cats are domestic animals. In relative terms, they haven't been domesticated for too long. When making a decision on what to feed them, I try and look at who we're feeding. Cats in the wild tend to live and thrive off fresh rodent kill. Dogs are also carnivorous and in the wild, will mainly eat fresh kill as well. If these observations make sense to you, then pets should be fed those foods most approximating their natural diets.

There are now more and more raw foods on the market. There are also easily prepared foods that come in powdered form all you do is add the meat. These foods are generally formulated to be similar in composition to your pet's natural prey.

Be careful when handling raw meats. Wash your hands and the utensils after preparing the food. Freeze any meat for at least 24 hours before serving it. This will kill any potential parasites. Be extra cautious if you are immune deficient or are taking any medications that may suppress the immune system.

For those who can't abide giving their pets raw foods, there are plenty of very high quality low heat processed foods on the market, which are becoming better all the time. Processed foods can be good quality when the ingredients are human grade. The foods are cooked at low heat, preserved with natural vitamins and there are no additives such as food colorings. Cats very seldom drink water as they get all the moisture they need from their food, so do not feed them dry foods.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the Pottenger Studies elicited the advantage of fresh raw foods over cooked foods for cats. A physician who ran a tuberculosis treatment centre in the US fed the cats that lived there raw table scraps. He noticed that these cats did much better than those fed cat food. He conducted an extensive study on the cats. The conclusion-cats fed fresh raw foods live healthier from generation to generation than those fed cooked foods. I also have seen a dramatic improvement in the health of my patients when fed raw foods.

A raw food diet normalizes the cat's weight. This diet can combat the common problem of obesity in our pets. It's not for every pet. The older the animal, the more difficult it is to change its eating habits.

As for dogs, I try to give them good quality foods that are prepared either fresh-frozen (raw), or the high quality processed foods. These can be supplemented with a variety of table foods such as meats and a various assortment of vegetables and grains that can be put into your dog's dish. Do not feed your dogs onions or chocolate. They can be toxic.

I hear many of my patients' owners tell me that their dogs shouldn't be sick because all they get is dog food. In a high number of dog foods, there are many suspect ingredients, including grains which may contain toxins and meat by-products that are undigestable, such as hair and feathers.

The less expensive the pet food in general, the lesser the quality of the ingredients. If you consider the price of our fresh foods and compare it to the price of pet foods, how can the price for pet food be so low? Easily pet foods are generally being prepared with ingredients that are unfit for human consumption. They conveniently make it into our pets' dishes.

An Optimistic Outlook

The outlook in the pet food industry is not bleak, however. A growing number of pet food companies are now preparing foods from ingredients fit for human consumption.

If you're in doubt about the food you're feeding your pet, speak with the manufacturer and see if they are using human grade ingredients in their foods. There are also many companies on the market that now prepare fresh- frozen raw foods or lightly cooked foods from organic and human grade sources. Most cities have pet stores that focus more on health and natural supplies. These are the stores that tend to carry higher quality pet foods.

For an extensive review of the pet food industry please go to api4animals.org/default.asp?ID=79.

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