Common Myths About Pet Food

By Nina Silberstein

Introduction

With all the changes in the pet food industry and the new products and diet fads being promoted, no doubt your clients ask lots of questions about what to feed their pets. The information in this article will help you educate your clients on some of the more common pet food myths.
 

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Myth #1: “Natural” pet food is better for my pet. 

Fact: Although the word “natural” is found on some pet food labels, it’s really hard to know exactly what that means. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates pet food labeling, offers no official definition. There’s an assumption, however, that pet food free of artificial flavors, colors or preservatives is more “natural” and better for a pet. Artificial ingredients like these are rarely used in pet food, however, and if they are, they must be from sources approved by the FDA.1

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Myth #2: Corn and other grains are low-quality fillers in pet food. 


Fact: Corn is not a cheap filler as one may think. It gives pets energy and contains valuable nutrients such as carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Carotene supports a pet’s eyesight, skin health, reproduction, and the development of bones and muscles.2

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Myth #3: Preparing a homemade diet for my pet is healthier and less expensive than purchasing a commercial product. 


Fact: Homemade diets are rarely nutritionally balanced and complete, and they take a significant amount of time, effort and cost to prepare. A board-certified veterinary nutritionist is really the only person with the knowledge and expertise to formulate a homemade diet, and it should be prescribed only in appropriate circumstances.3

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Myth #4: Feeding a raw diet to my pet is a healthy choice.


Fact: There are many risks associated with the feeding of raw diets. They include the possibility of breaking teeth, damage to the gastrointestinal tract, intestinal blockage, insufficient nutrition, contamination from bacteria and infectious diseases.4 In addition, owners who feed their pets a raw diet may have a higher risk of getting infected with Salmonella and Listeria bacteria.5

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Myth #5: Whole meat ingredients in pet food are better sources of protein than meat meal.


Fact: Like whole meat, meat meal can be an excellent source of protein too. It can be added in greater amounts to dry foods to establish a higher protein content because it doesn’t contain the water content of whole meat.6

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Myth #6: Table scraps are fine for my pet.


Fact: As a rule, veterinary practitioners recommend against feeding leftovers to pets. Doing so can lead to vomiting and diarrhea and when a pet regularly eats food that is high in fat (such as pan drippings and fatty meat scraps), inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) can occur. Feeding table scraps to your pet can also encourage begging and that is a very hard behavior to correct. 7

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Myth #7: My pet has allergies so a grain-free diet is best. 


Fact: Some pets do develop food allergies, but they are not usually due to the addition of corn and other grains in pet food. Feeding a grain-free diet can be a valid option for your client's pet. However, this type of diet must be nutritionally complete and balanced.4

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Myth #8: By-products are bad for my pet.


Fact: By-products such as beet pulp and tomato pomace, as well as organ meats of animals (e.g., liver, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, and so on) can be an excellent source of nutrients and protein in pet food.4

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Myth #9: Dry foods prevent dental disease better than canned or semi-moist foods.


Fact: Dry foods do not necessarily produce healthier teeth and gums. Most dry food actually crumbles when a pet eats it and can get stuck between the teeth. If left behind, plaque and tartar can build up. There aren’t enough long-term studies to prove that any single method, including a dry dental diet, is best for preventing dental disease. 4

Sources:

1. Pet food labels – general. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Animal & Veterinary. www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/ucm047113.htm. Accessed Feb. 16, 2015.

2. A guide to reading pet food labels. Banfield Pet Hospital. www.banfield.com/pet-health-resources/preventive-care/nutrition/a-guide-to-reading-pet-food-labels. Accessed Feb. 16, 2015.

3. Homemade diets: Are they right for your pet? Banfield Pet Hospital. www.banfield.com/pet-health-resources/preventive-care/nutrition/homemade-diets-are-they-right-for-your-pet. Accessed Feb. 16, 2015.

4. Separating fact from fictions: Commonly asked questions from pet owners. Pet Nutrition Alliance. Pet owner resources. FAQs. www.petnutritionalliance.org/Pet_Owner_FAQs.aspx?section=Facts_and_Fiction. Accessed Feb. 16, 2015.

5. Get the facts! Raw pet food diets can be dangerous to you and your pet. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Animal & Veterinary. www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm373757.htm6. Accessed Feb. 16, 2015.

6. Myths and misconceptions surrounding pet foodsThe Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. http://vet.osu.edu/vmc/myths-and-misconceptions-surrounding-pet-foods. Accessed Feb. 16, 2015.

7. More myths. Pet Food Institute. www.petfoodinstitute.org/?page=MoreMyths&hhSearchTerms=%22table+and+scraps%22. Accessed Feb. 17, 2015.
 

About the Author

Nina Silberstein graduated from the State University of New York College at Buffalo with a BA in journalism. She joined Banfield in 2008 as a medical writer/editor on the Marketing team. She and her husband, David, have one son, Graeme, and a black cat named Blackie.