Downeast Dog News
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PET FOOD MYTHS & FACTS – No. 1

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Mar 01, 2021

What we feed our pets matters. Unfortunately, there are many myths about pet nutrition. Even more alarming, the pet food industry lacks transparency. Sadly, some of these myths have become more prevalent lately. This is the first article in a series where I will expose the myths and reveal pet food facts as I understand them. You may find some of what I write alarming as I shine a light on the dark side of the pet food industry. [FMI – http://bit.ly/GAKS_Nut_Phil ]

MYTH – Only a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food.

This myth took flight in July of 2018 when the FDA issued a press release announcing that they were investigating links between certain dog foods and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This story was covered by every major news network, perpetuating many unfounded statements that became part of pet food mythology. Within a week, experts on animal nutrition were challenging the FDA conclusions. However, it was not until November of 2020 that the FDA concluded they were wrong and that no link between DCM and grain-free foods exists. [FMI - http://bit.ly/FDA-Grain-Free-SAFE]

FACT – Formulating a pet food requires knowledge, but it is far from being "rocket science." There is no legal or logical requirement that one must have a veterinary degree to formulate pet food.

The law requires that all pet foods sold in the USA meet requirements established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). There are individuals with advanced degrees in animal nutrition that are equally or more knowledgeable about nutrition than any veterinarian. These individuals have been formulating pet food that meets AAFCO requirements for years. However, even you can make safe and healthy food for your pets if you take the time to educate yourself. The suggestion that only a Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food is presumptuous at best. At its worst, it is patently dishonest.

By carefully sourcing your ingredients and using fresh whole foods to make your pet's food, it will probably be healthier for your pet than most commercial foods you can buy. However, you need to educate yourself so that you know what you are doing. Feeding your dog is not as simple as buying ingredients and putting them in a bowl. Preparing food for your pet also takes commitment and extensive time.

Books on the basic principles of pet nutrition are a great place to start. My favorites are:

Canine and Feline Nutrition - A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals, by Linda Case, MS, Leighann Daristotle, DVM, Michael Hayek, Ph.D. & Melody Foess Raasch, DVM

Dog Food Logic - Making Smart Decisions For Your Dog In An Age Of Too Many Choices, by Linda Case, MS

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, Ph.D.

Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats - The Ultimate Diet, by Kymythy Schultze,

Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack, by Richard Patton, Ph.D.

See Spot Live Longer, by Steve Brown & Beth Taylor

The Truth About Pet Foods, Randy Wysong, DVM

Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, by Steve Brown

Most pet food companies use computer software specifically designed to create balanced pet food formulas based on current science as established by the NRC and AAFCO regulations. One does not need a veterinary degree or a doctorate in animal nutrition to use these programs. Similar programs are available to the general public. I have recently purchased one called Pet Diet Designer.

Why would anyone tell you, "Never purchase pet food from a company that does not have a board-certified veterinary nutritionist on staff'? It could be due to a lack of knowledge. Perhaps they are unaware that for many decades, before the advent of commercial pet food, people saw to their pet's nutritional needs on their own. Sadly, it could also be for more nefarious reasons. The pet food industry, like all businesses, is about profit. There is nothing essentially wrong with profit; it's what allows all of us to earn a living. However, pet care is a multi-billion-dollar business becoming less competitive every year as megalithic corporations swallow small companies. By definition, a corporation's first duty is to their shareholders, NOT you or your pets.

As of 2018, only six companies account for 89.3% of the pet food market and 103 pet food brands. Two companies now control 71% of all pet food sales in the US and are also purchasing veterinary clinics. [FMI - http://bit.ly/PetFoodComp].They employ many of the 96 Veterinary Nutritionists in the world. It doesn't take a genius to see that insisting pet food be formulated by their employees could further monopolize the pet food and veterinary business. Is that what you want as a pet owner? Less control and fewer choices, which will undoubtedly lead to higher prices? It's not what I want, and in fact, it scares me. I hope it scares you too and that you choose to look out for your pets’ best interests and your best interests.

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Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop (greenacreskennel.com ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of ForceFreePets.com, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG's Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( shockfree.org ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at http://bit.ly/AM620-WZON every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at http://bit.ly/WfMwPodcasts/, the Apple Podcast app, and Don's blog: www.words-woofs-meows.com. The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.