The importance of a healthy pet diet

Setting the scene

According to a study commissioned by OnePoll and Lily’s Kitchen, one in five cat owners don’t know their pet is a carnivore. Alarmingly, the insight also revealed that pets’ diets were commonly supplemented with raw vegetables and salad, while common treats included plate scrapings, takeaways, cheese and even chocolate.

It’s no surprise that eating the wrong food can be detrimental to pets. One in five owners admit their pet has been diagnosed with medical conditions, such as skin problems and diabetes, due to a poor diet. A further 20% have had to make a trip to the vets after their pet ate something that disagreed with it.

Feeding human food and treats to pets is never going to be the best way to meet their nutritional needs, but it may come as a surprise to many that one of the biggest dangers to a pet’s health is actually poor quality, mass-produced pet food.

Quality vs price

When ingredients don’t supply ideal levels of nutrients, a pet can become chronically deprived of what it needs. Sometimes the issue is fairly specific, for instance, zinc-deficient diets have been linked to the development of skin lesions. At other times, poor overall ingredient quality can cause increased shedding, gassiness, chronically loose stools, intermittent vomiting, or even obesity.

Being sure to purchase pet food products from trusted manufacturers and reputable sources is obviously one way to help ensure that a pet is receiving the nutrients it needs to thrive. A 2007 scandal in China reported cowboy pet food manufacturers adding melamine and cyanuric acid to raw ingredients to make the ingredients appear to contain more protein than they actually did. These acids caused destructive crystals to form in pets’ kidneys and a subsequent lawsuit estimated that over 13,000 pets died as a direct result of eating the contaminated food.

While scenarios like this are thankfully few and far between, the fact remains that 20% of owners still opt for the cheapest food they can find, while a further 15% swap from brand to brand depending on price. While we should all try and be savvy when it comes to price, it’s the ingredients and their quality that should ideally be the determining factor in any pet food purchase.

Why protein matters

As with all foods, the nutritional value of a product is derived from the make up and freshness of the raw material and the nature of cooking and production. Protein is a vital component of a pet’s healthy and balanced diet. In addition to its key roles within the body, such as repairing and building muscle tissue and growing new skin cells, it provides energy and helps keep the immune system strong. Protein is also a key component in helping pets’ bodies to create essential chemicals like hormones and enzymes, that are needed for healthy body function.

But the type of protein is also important. Within the pet food industry, protein products have historically contained high levels of ash, due to the nature of the animal by-product raw materials used. The residual ash levels are derived from animal bones and contain essential minerals such as calcium and phosphorous and, although a safe ingredient, ash has minimal nutritional benefit.

One example of this investment is our new £8m processing facility at our dried product manufacturing site in Nottingham. This purpose built centre houses dedicated processing equipment for specialist poultry products with new lines that utilise the latest technology to process over 200,000 tonnes of poultry by-products every year.

The resulting high quality poultry meat meal, hydrolysed feather meal and poultry fat is used by some of the world’s leading pet food manufacturers in the production of their premium product lines.

Determining the best choices

The current economic climate means that consumers are increasingly money-conscious, focused on maximising the grocery budget for both their pets and their family. However, in addition to price, pet owners also need to be ingredient-aware. After all, the cheapest food may not be the best financial option if it results in a costly vet bill later down the line.  

There are plenty of products widely available which provide top pet nutrition without breaking the bank and when it comes to top quality ingredients, our advice is simple. Look at the ingredient list. Does it read like a menu or a chemistry experiment? If in doubt, we recommend pet foods that are made primarily from those pure ingredients that a pet owner not only recognises, but is likely willing to eat them self.

This feature was first published in the May 2019 issue of Pet Gazette

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