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Myths and misconceptions about pet food

In this day and age, where information is so readily available, one has to be cautious of the content they consume and decide to believe. Everyone’s an expert, especially when it comes to pets, so how does one differentiate between fact and opinion? The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) has compiled the below list to clear up common myths and misconceptions about pet food.

1. Use of waste products: While it is true that by-products of foods manufactured for human consumption are used in pet foods, it is hardly waste, and in actual fact they often contain more nutritional value than the products extracted for use in human foods (some of this “waste” is even used in other human food as well). With the advent of processed foods, a great deal of wholesome components are extracted in the food production process – these unwanted, yet nutritious ingredients have become the major constituents of pet food. Not only does this reduce the cost of both human and pet foods but, at the same time, overall wastage is significantly reduced, so both humans and pets benefit from the process.

2. Price does not indicate quality: Unlike other industries, the price of a pet food product should be a good indication of quality because a good quality pet food is usually defined by the inclusion of higher quality proteins and grains. Of course this has led to a few rogue pet food producers taking advantage of this truth and hiking their prices up merely to give the illusion of quality and line their own pockets, while leaving pets at a nutritional disadvantage, so one should not fall into the trap of choosing a pet food brand based on price alone. To limit the likelihood of falling into this trap be sure to only purchase PFI member brands – brands that have committed to upholding safe and nutritious pet food, putting the wellbeing of the pet first.

3. Grains are harmful to cats and dogs: As the grain-free craze grows in the human world so it begins to surface in the pet world. Based on incorrect assumptions that cats and dogs do not have the necessary enzymes to digest grains (which is true of raw grains only), it has been incorrectly believed that the mere presence of grains are the cause of allergies, obesity and other health concerns. The actual trick comes down to the method and efficiency of cooking the grains as correctly cooked grains are able to be well digested and utilised by cats and dogs. Your best bet to ensuring you’re choosing a well-cooked grain is to buy a PFI member brand of food. Having said that, it is not unheard of for pets to suffer allergies, of which grains can be 1, but be aware that this is more of an individual issue (much like in humans) than one that is likely caused by a single specific ingredient included in commercially prepared food.

4. Cats and dogs’ stomachs are stronger than humans, so they are immune to bacteria and food poisoning: Because of the evolution of cat and dog species from wilder ancestors, people often believe that they have stronger digestive systems that can withstand bacteria often found in raw foods and foods that have gone off. Remember that the evolution from the wilder species is the key here – through the evolutionary process cats and dogs are in fact their own separate species and so the same way of life of wolves or wild cats cannot be applied to them and they are definitely not immune to food borne illnesses, which can in fact be fatal in some cases.

And while many raw diets have been formulated to ensure that basic nutritional requirements of your pets are being met (confirm this via their “v number”, indicative of registration with Act 36), there is a larger risk of food spoiling associated with these food types because of their raw nature. Greater care should be taken when feeding these types of diets and especially when it comes to cleaning of food dishes – regular cleaning methods are not always effective in killing pathogenic bacteria.

5. Natural diets are better: “Natural” does have a nice ring to it, but it’s not quite as simple as that and natural sources of certain minerals, vitamins and amino acids are not always practical. Naturally occurring nutrient content varies significantly according to source and even season, making it difficult to ensure a certain level with confidence. In addition to this, the quantity of ingredients and food required to meet minimum nutritional requirements increases when dealing only in natural nutrients because whole food ingredients never provide only one nutrient – there is a possible resultant increase in ingredient cost which could make these products very unaffordable. It is not uncommon to fortify foods (as is often seen in the human cereal market) to improve their nutrient content. As it is widely accepted in these industries, so it should be accepted in the pet food industry – “synthetic” vitamins and minerals does sound unnatural, but rest assured their inclusion in your pet food ensures that all essential nutrients are provided for.

6. I’m getting a balanced diet, so feeding my pet the same food means they’ll be getting one too: Start by asking if your pet is really getting a portion of everything you eat, every time you eat? A full day’s food intake is what adds up to a so-called balanced diet and pets are most certainly not getting a smaller portion of absolutely everything that you ingest. Aside from this, and quite simply put, humans, dogs and cats are not the same species and therefore do not have the same nutritional needs. To feed your dog or cat the same diet as yourself, or even just table scraps is a sure fire way to ensure that your pet is not getting what they need from their diet. Do not negate the level of research and science that has gone into commercially prepared pet foods, to ensure that each and every day your pet is getting just what they need to ensure that they perform optimally and are receiving a balanced and nutritious diet.


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