I will admit it. I’m a sucker for fads. It's not like I buy everything from late night infomercials but I’ve come close. I come by this trait honestly, my mom has a kitchen FULL of "As Seen on TV" gadgets. And when you buy one and get one free? I get the free one. For someone who cooks something on average of once a month I have a LOT of kitchen gadgets. Food is all about fads. Whole grain this, low carb that, no GMO, organic, without high fructose corn syrup. Who do you trust? Pet food is no different as companies are seizing the human food fads and continuing them with pet food.
With pets it’s raw vs. kibble, grain vs. no grain, corn vs. not, real meat vs. parts, big companies, home cooked, added vitamins, and on and on and on and on… As someone who is often asked to help clients with diet related questions I’ve always paid attention to pet foods. I look down on the generic bags of food that are $6 for 75 pounds (really? That’s cheaper than bark dust. BARK DUST!) and am the first to blame the el cheapo cat foods for urinary obstructions. We have food labeled “junk food” here at DoveLewis that I remember feeding to my pets as a child. We’re pretty judgmental in this field when it comes to nutrition and everyone has an opinion about everything. This big company is better than that one. This prescription diet works better than that one. We seem to take it personally when someone does something we don’t think is right, and get really defensive when someone has an opinion about what we’re doing ourselves.
When I got my first dog he started with a nationally known brand’s premium kibble. Easy. He liked it, and he seemed to do well. My cats ate the same brand. As his age advanced I put him on a prescription diet for joint issues which seemed to help him. But I started reading… and I read about whole foods, and the kibble making process and nutrients sprayed onto food after cooking the kibble, and health problems related to diet. It’s all over human research – the better you eat the healthier you’ll be. Yes, these giant pet food companies are pouring money into research, but they’re still mass producing millions of pounds of kibble and at all different quality levels. Not to mention the melamine scare and treating pets literally dying from eating store bought food.
So I did some research and found a website created by a veterinary nutritionist with recipes that you had to purchase. You entered info about your pet (age, health issues, weight) and the recipe was created. Then you purchased the vitamin/mineral additive to mix with the food after it was cooked. I tried it out for my two dogs and was very happy with the results. I felt good about what I was doing for them, that I had control over the ingredients and process of their food and they looked GREAT. Once a week I went to the grocery store and bought the ingredients, spent and entire day cooking and measuring and portioning and freezing and then mixed in the nutrients right before feeding. And realized my dogs were eating better than I was. I kept that up for about a year before my schedule made it almost impossible.
Then the grain research starting coming out. Grain = inflammation = cancer = death. Maybe not that dramatic but that’s what it seemed like! The more I read the more sense it made, to me. I moved my dogs and cats over to grain free and that’s the fad we’re still on today. Their food comes from a small company that promises free range proteins and sun kissed berries and veggies (I’m not that naïve to totally believe it all, but it sounds nice). My old man died at an advanced age for his size and he looked great until the end. My ten year old princess dog runs around like she’s 4 and shows no signs of slowing down. My cats, who have been told they are not allowed to develop any sort of urinary tract issues, eat grain free kibble in the morning and some fancy expensive canned food at night. They are (magically) not obese and have beautiful coats (which they leave all over the house).
Am I telling the world to feed grain free? To cook for your pets? To feed raw chicken and beef marrow? Nope. I’m telling the world to research. Not all raw is bad. Not all home-cooked is bad. Not all kibble is bad. Not all fads are bad. If people want to feed raw they need to read and educate themselves. Get that education from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Get that home-cooked recipe from a veterinary nutritionist. Read the ingredients on the bag. As a veterinary professional that’s the best I can do. Dispense advice, tell my personal experiences (of which I have plenty!), and don’t judge too harshly when someone tries something a little different. All of us animal people are just a little bit crazy anyway, right? Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to microwave some over processed "meal" for lunch.