Animal Nutrition – Pet food and the corn and soy problem

Posted on September 13, 2011

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In my profession I come across all kinds of health problems with dogs and cats.  Unfortunately, I find many plague our animal companions that could be avoided altogether if people only knew more about what they feed their animal family members – and more importantly, what they shouldn’t be feeding them.

Not only is obesity an epidemic with humans in the U.S., it’s also an epidemic with our dogs and cats.  Some times this is due to over-feeding, but more often it’s due to the ingredients in the food like corn and soy.  These ingredients have no business being in pet food as they have no nutritional value and are just a cheap way to fill a bag.  These products cause weight gain but actually leave the animal hungry, and often food obsessed because they are not being nutritionally satisfied.  With good intentions people tend to with-hold food from their dog or cat because they are overweight, but the animal ends up suffering from hunger and lack of nutrition, and can even end up acting out with behavior problems from frustration. Thus a vicious cycle.  And ironically these ingredients are in some very common and well known weight loss pet foods.  To add even more problems corn and soy also cause food and skin allergies that many dogs and cats suffer from, another epidemic entirely.

Any time you see corn or soy (or any grain) listed as the first ingredient, that’s the red flag to avoid that food!  In fact you should never buy a food with corn or soy listed. When looking for store bought pet food you should always see a meat listed first, followed by vegetables like sweet potato, peas, green beans, carrots and even fruits like blueberries, and then perhaps a healthy grain like brown rice, barley, oatmeal, millet or quinoa.  Some foods specialize in being completely grain free and that’s okay too.  The focus of the food should be protein! Animals need real, healthy protein (not meat by-products) as the main ingredient – that’s what gives them energy and satisfies the metabolism.

On a similar note, I think we need to re-examine the dry food phenomenon. Understand that it was developed for our convenience and for the manufacturing companies convenience, but our dogs and cats were not made for it!  Their bodies weren’t made to live on dry food, especially not as the main source of food every day of their lives.  Dry food is highly processed, hard on the digestive tract, and makes the body work harder to obtain the nutrients.  Like us, dogs and cats are made mostly of water, and their bodies absorb nutrients much faster and more easily when food is moist.  Adding water to dry food only makes the dry food expand in their gut, not aid in digestion or nutrient absorption.  Dogs and cats should also be consuming a variety of foods, not just one food all the time.  This is why I am a huge proponent of home-cooking, as well as advocating for providing a variety of real meat and vegetables on a daily basis, even when a healthy store bought food is provided.

Corn and soy are just the tip of the iceberg when speaking about unhealthy pet food ingredients, but it’s a good place to start to begin to understand what healthy pet food should consist of.  The days of “people food is bad for your pet” is over!  And we now know that many pet foods are bad for our pets.  Real foods are the healthiest, but you need to know what foods to feed, the portions, and the proper supplements.  But it’s easy once you get it. Also, if you have an animal with a health concern like diabetes, kidney or thyroid disease, you will need to be aware of specific dietary needs for them.  And of course there are foods that can cause harm like chocolate, grapes, raisins, products sweetened with xylitol, dinner rolls, macadamia nuts, many types of mushrooms, onions, onion powder, avocado skins, poultry skin and bones, fatty foods, salt, sugar, coffee and alcohol.

It’s a whole new world with how we feed our dogs and cats, and it’s exciting.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I love to help people learn how to feed their animal friends yummy, healthy food.  It’s easy, very inspiring, and rewarding, when you see how much your cat or dog loves the food – especially when you know it’s truly nutritious for them.  It’s a great feeling for everyone! And a wonderful way to celebrate your love for them.

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Posted in: Animal Nutrition