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pet food 411: the right diet for your pet & the planet

Petplan pet insurance discusses the right diet for your pet and the planet.
Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen a shift away from highly processed, extruded kibble to real, whole pet foods with recognizable ingredients.

Even though pet food is more highly regulated than human food, we’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to providing pet owners with meaningful labels and confidence in marketing terms – how many times have you found yourself staring down the pet food aisle wondering what exactly all those labels mean? And if the health benefits manufacturers claim are true?

When it comes to better health for your pet, I think spending more for better nutrition is money well spent. And when it comes to choosing what we feed our pets, we must also consider the impact our pets have on our planet’s resources.

Drs. Robert and Brenda Vale, professors at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand and authors of Time to Eat the Dog calculated that it takes two acres of farm land to feed a medium-sized dog each year. Because cats need to eat more protein than dogs, that figure may even be higher for them. If it takes two acres to feed my dog, Sandy, I want to make sure we’re using that land as wisely as possible.

Here is my prescription for purchasing pet foods that satisfy both your pet’s nutritional needs and the health of our planet:

Rx 1: Go organic whenever possible.  Until we get meaningful definitions for organic pet foods, we can rely on the human definitions. By feeding organic foods, you’re telling the pet food industry you’re concerned about what goes into your pet’s food bowl. More importantly, you’re not contributing to the toxic tactics of adding hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and dangerous fertilizers to our food supply.

Rx 2: Read the label. If you see a lot of meat “by-products” or ingredients that sound like a chemistry experiment on your pet’s food label, ask why? Not all by-products and strange-looking additives are bad but many are often the result of factory farming techniques. Vote with your pocketbooks and send the message that change is needed.

Rx 3: Contact the company. Perhaps the simplest and most effective way to be heard is to say something. Call or email your pet food manufacturer and ask where and how do they obtain their proteins? Where does the wheat or corn come from and how is it processed? Do they have a sustainability mission and what are they doing to ensure that the animals used in their foods are treated humanely? When food companies receive queries such as this, they change. After all, they want our business. Give your hard-earned money to companies you trust and believe in and those truly helping pets and our planet.

Rx 4: Make smaller paw prints. By feeding a food with more nutrients and calories per cup or can, you’ll feed less, thereby reducing your pet’s carbon footprint. Feeding less also means your pet produces less biological waste, further shrinking their environmental impact.

Rx 5: Explore alternative protein sources. According to experts, fish-based diets have less eco-impact than beef, pork or chicken. Don’t be afraid to experiment with protein sources other than the “typical three.”

The choices we make for our pets impact not only their well-being, but the health of our planet. Organic certainly is the way I choose to go for my family and pets. Regardless of your opinions or beliefs on this subject, I encourage every pet lover to take a good look at what you pour into the pet bowl each day. Pets don’t get to choose what they eat; they depend on us to make healthy decisions for them. Whatever you choose, remember – they’re counting on you. 

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Posted by Lynn B
on November 19 2015 16:12

Here's a novel idea - feed your animal a biologically appropriate diet - Raw. Then you won't have to worry about unwanted foods in your dog's diet. You will be actually feeding raw meat, organs and bones to your animal. No fillers, no meals, no grains - unless you want to feed grains. It can be conventionally raised animals or organic - whatever you choose. Your animal will thank you and your vet bills will be far lower and I would think that PetPlan would be thrilled because you won't file as many claims.

Posted by ibfreud1@aol.com
on August 13 2013 13:33

I have found that many people don't take the time to understand that what they feed their pet is no different than determining what they are going to put into their own bodies. People that don't choose well for themselves and their families will not care what they feed their pets. It takes a lot of time to read labels. I also don't believe large pet food companies do the right thing by making sure they source ingredients with the intention of providing safe, healthy and proper nutrition in their food for our beloved pets. It's all about spending the least amount of money for what amounts to garbage, not fit for human consumption, being fed to our pets with a fabulous picture and description on the bag that is totally false. Pet food is the place to dump everything not fit for humans to eat but make enormous amounts of money. Many people, like me, who are trying to find out information regarding ingredient sourcing so we can make informed choices are either ignored, not given the information, or are lied to because they are not required to do so. At least Certified Organic must meet certain criteria. I can afford it but many people can't afford to buy organic. Dogs and cats are suffering an alarming rate in the increase of cancer and death because of poisonous ingredients and lack of basic regulations in the pet food industry. Most importantly, large pet food corporations want the uninformed general public to think they care so much about animals by donating large sums of money for pet welfare are the biggest problem. They can and should, just out of human decency, make the changes they need to by having standards in pet food that should go hand in hand with the supposed priority to animal welfare.

Posted by Rick Nelson
on August 05 2013 13:50

How can you determine a really good dog food?What should you look for, is there a web site that compares different dog foods, is grain free better, etc......

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