The truth about pet food and its impact on animal health
Let's face it - industrially produced cat and dog foods are not so much about comprehensive nutrition and care, as advertising campaigns would have us believe, but rather about convenience for us - the owners. We open the package, pour it in and we're done.
Globally, billions of dollars are spent each year on advertising and marketing campaigns designed to convince us that we are doing the best for our four-legged friends by buying product XY. Among them are at least half of the products that can be described as true 'crimes against bestiality'. And unfortunately, this is often the case with the biggest multinational and most widely promoted brands.
It is similar for human food. Chronic diseases caused by a poor diet kill seven out of ten people prematurely, and the Czech Republic is one of the countries with the highest incidence of colon cancer and the lowest concern for food quality and safety. Almost half of everything available on the shelves today is in the category of ultra-processed foods, which pose the same risk to human health as cigarettes, except that they are not regulated in any way. Do you think it's any different for our four-legged pets' food?
"Just like humans, more and more cats and dogs are living their lives with chronic diseases." The Independent
To what extent industrially produced feeds are involved, we can only guess, as there is virtually no research in this area. However, if we go by research from the human world, the influence is probably considerable.
The 2012 State of Animal Health report published on Petfoodindustry.com shows that overweight and obesity increased by 37% in dogs and 90% in cats, while arthritis increased by 38% in dogs and 67% in cats. In addition, the report found that nearly half of arthritic dogs (40%) and more than one in three arthritic cats (37%) are also overweight; nearly half of diabetic dogs (42%) and diabetic cats (40%) are overweight; and 40% of dogs with high blood pressure and 60% of dogs with hypothyroidism are also overweight.
"Veterinarians estimate that 20 to 60% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese, and there is a risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes." The New York Times
Do people who invest in high-end 'super premium' pet foods get any real value? Are their pets really healthier and happier? Are they living longer? And are these foods actually better at anything? Or is it just a lot of marketing hype and a huge business of human stupidity?
Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University, and Malden C. Nesheim, professor emeritus of nutrition at Cornell University, have compiled their findings in a book titled "Feed Your Pets Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dogs and Cats."
In an interview, Dr. Nestle says, "People are willing to spend virtually anything on quality for their pets. So-called premium pet foods cost three to four times more, even though these products contain essentially the same ingredients as other brands. Generally, their formulas always start with chicken or chicken broth, followed by grains and vegetables. Cheaper brands use more cereals and animal by-products. 'Complete and balanced' suggests that they should meet the recommended nutritional requirements, but you must remember that all pet foods are made from the by-products (or waste) of human food production. Regardless of what it says on the package, your dog is not getting a whole chicken breast, but only what is left over after processing for human consumption. And it's no wonder then that it's primarily food companies - Nestlé, Purina, Mars and Procter & Gamble - that produce pet foods sold around the world."
In their search for evidence of the added value of premium pet foods for pet health and longevity, the book's authors found almost no valid facts. No one today is demanding proof of health claims, and no company is willing to invest in extensive research to determine whether its products keep pets healthier and prolong their lives. Companies do claim to conduct research, but it is rarely conducted in a scientific manner, with comparable control and experimental groups.
While many consumers pay a lot of money for empty 'super premium' marketing, the book's authors recommend paying attention to attributes such as 'natural', 'organic', 'holistic', 'vegetarian' or 'kosher' that can affect an animal's health.
Nestle, Goddard and Nesheim conclude in their book that animals are likely to get all the nutrients they need from a commercial product in the right amounts, but it is important to monitor the origin and quality of ingredients, composition, meat ratio and other parameters that will determine the true value of a given food.
How to find your way around the cluttered marketplace of animal products?
Based on the above mentioned idea, Petgroot is creating the first independent pet food rating in the Czech Republic, which is available in a test version on the Petgroot.com platform. Here, any dog or cat owner will be able to test any of the products available on the market using a simple score.
Brody, Jane E.: The Truth About Cat and Dog Food, [online]. Dostupné z: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/01/health/01brod.html
State of Pet Health Report finds rise in chronic diseases in pets, [online]. Dostupné z: https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/2932-state-of-pet-health-report-finds-rise-in-chronic-diseases-in-pets
Rodham, K.: Just like humans, more cats and dogs are living with chronic health conditions, [online]. Dostupné z: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/how-cats-and-dogs-are-living-with-chronic-health-conditions-a7930816.html