Dog is man’s best friend. And would you feed your best friend a meal that substitutes healthy ingredients for cheap fillers like corn that offer almost no nutritional value? Not if you were thinking about it. If you are like most dog-owners, you probably go to great efforts to keep your pet healthy, from scheduling regular check-ups and shots, to adding supplemental vitamins to the mix, to making sure he gets plenty of exercise. But odds are pretty good that you purchased whatever food your vet recommended without ever taking the time to read the label. And if you’d do it for yourself, why would you shirk the responsibility when it comes to your best friend?
Unfortunately, even reading ingredient lists and nutritional information may not tell the whole truth. There are plenty of brands on the shelf that claim to be “natural” when in fact they are nothing of the sort. Remember the pet food recalls of 2007 that occurred as a result of food tainted by melamine that was causing animals to become sick and die from kidney failure? Even some companies that claimed to make “all natural” or “locally grown” pet foods were caught up in the scandal. In case you didn’t know, melamine is an industrial chemical and the tainted foods were shown to have come from factories in China. Even beyond this, there are standards for organic pet foods that are similar to those used for human food. So if your bag of kibble claims to be natural but doesn’t bear the USDA certified organic seal, you probably aren’t getting a very high dose of natural ingredients (even with the seal, it may only be 70% organic). And even beyond that, a label that boasts holistic properties may still be serving your pet food that mainly consists of corn products. While this will certainly curb your dog’s appetite, it will not provide the nutrients he needs to live a long and healthy life.
So how can you ensure that your dog is not only receiving all the proper nutrients, but also steering clear of chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers used on crops, as well as hormones and antibiotics that are injected into chicken and beef? There is a company, PetGuard, that offers a variety of both dog and cat foods that bear the USDA organic label. Almost every ingredient listed has the word “organic” in front of it so that you know exactly what is organic (pretty much everything except vitamins and minerals). But if you don’t want to take any chances, your best option is probably to make your own pet food. It’s not as hard as you think, either. You can cook up a large batch of organic chicken or fish, cut it into chunks, and serve it with whole grains like rice, wheat, barley, or quinoa, as well as a number of vitamin-rich vegetables and fruits. You will also want to include certain supplements, so consult with your veterinarian to make sure all of your pet’s nutritional needs are being met. One other thing to consider, though, is that while most hard kibble helps to clean your pet’s teeth, soft food will stick. So if you’re going to make your own food, you may want to take him to the doggie dentist a couple times a year.