Past experiences often pave the road for new habits, but if you’re on the path of preparing your pets’ food at home, from scratch, can you be sure that you are meeting all of your pet’s nutritional requirements?
It’s an unfortunate fact that all food stuffs are susceptible to biodegradation, or “going bad”, hence the essential inclusion of expiry dates or best before dates on all processed foods, which includes pet food and is the reason why negative experiences can occur. As a result there are a number of South Africans who have opted for apparent greater control by rather preparing their pet’s food themselves, often feeding them the same foods that they themselves eat or choosing to feed a raw meat diet.
While on the surface of it, it may seem logical to think that your complete and balanced diet equates to a complete and balanced diet for your pet, the Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) cautions against assuming a pet’s dietary needs mirror your own. “Remember that you achieve your diet balance by eating a variety of foods throughout the day and you are not always with your pet and able to share,” notes Barry Hundley, Executive Director for the PFI.
Highly qualified individuals guide the pet food industry to find the balance between all required nutrients for your pets. Science and research backs the careful combination of essential nutrients found in commercially prepared foods, and although the quality of the ingredients may differ per brand, in order for a pet food to be registered it must meet certain minimum requirements, which are often neglected when home cooking a pet’s meal. On a daily basis, dogs and cats require about 40 different nutrients, most of which can only be acquired through the food that they consume and all of which have been considered in registered, commercially prepared foods.
To ensure that your pet is getting the benefit of these minimum nutritional requirements you must verify that the food bought carries a ‘V’ number. This indicates that the food has met certain nutritional requirements laid down by Act 36, that the formulation has been assessed by the Technical Advisor Animal Feed to the Registrar of Act 36 and that the food has been correctly registered. After foods are registered the PFI continues, through random testing of foods in the market place, to ensure that the nutrient levels are consistent with what was registered and with what is displayed on the packaging.
Furthermore, there are other risks associated with home cooking, such as food poisoning and parasites, and these risks can even extend to the pet owner. By feeding a dry food, the occurrence of fungal and bacterial contamination is significantly reduced.
Aside from the nutritional pitfalls of home cooked meals, feeding commercially prepared pet food will always be more convenient and since it has a longer shelf life, many pet owners choose this option. While home cooking may seem like a healthy, natural and cheap alternative, the PFI urges pet owners to consider the compromise made on their pet’s overall wellbeing and health. Pet longevity has improved notably over the years, and as with humans, this is associated with better nutrition. Further indicators of this is the growth in senior and geriatric pet foods available, required for pets who now live longer lives, and the fact that diseases associated with old-age (many metabolic) are becoming more and more prevalent in our pet population.
To enjoy the confidence of feeding a pet food brand that has committed to upholding quality nutrition, choose a PFI member brand. And if your chosen brand is not a member of the PFI, ask yourself why not? You are well within your rights to demand that your preferred pet food brand make this same public commitment by requesting that they too join the PFI and stand together in upholding the wellbeing of all South African pets.