Most mass-produced foods for dogs and cats are formulated using a similar first step: A pet can only consume so many calories of feed per day, so within that calorie limit, manufacturers must find a proportional blend of ingredients that meets all legal and commercially viable nutrient requirements. For example, an ounce of ingredient may contain a complete supply of vitamin B12, but if the ounce contains too many calories, measurements and ingredients need to be adjusted. This is a mathematical problem that feed and pet food manufacturers face every day, and that some resolve more successfully and elegantly than others.
Many pet foods contain ingredients like soybean meal, seed oils, and corn. Also high on the list for most producers is a substance called “meat and bone meal,” since dogs and cats naturally derive most of their necessary nutrient requirements from meat and bone. But what if you, as a pet owner, are ethically opposed to buying products derived from animals, or you’re trying to live a fully organic lifestyle?
Choosing Pet Food: Should Fido Go Vegan?
Avoiding CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) by thoughtfully selecting our own food may be easy enough, but what about our pets? Should we choose natural pet food or organic dog food over conventionally produced foods? What about vegetarian pet food? These decisions are personal, but here are three important points to consider as you decide how and what to feed your pets.
- Dogs and cats are not natural vegetarians. Reach for responsibly grown organic products, but do not feed strictly vegetarian pet food to dogs and cats.
- At the same time, dogs and cats are omnivores and cannot live on meat alone. For adequate nutrition, they require a wide variety of meats, grain and vegetables. If your cook for your pet, be aware that it can be difficult to provide the right blend of every necessary nutrient on your own, and that some deficiency-related health problems may not become visible immediately. Remember than diversity is key, and avoid excessive calories, which can undermine the benefits of a proper nutrient balance.
- Whatever you decide to feed your pet, make dietary changes gradually and under close observation. Always provide fresh water and exercise. If your pet has adequate water, exercise and care, then any noticeable health changes or problems can be more accurately linked to changes taking place in his or her diet.