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Understanding Food and Treat Labels

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As pet owners, we all want to give our beloved cats and dogs the best nutrition we can. Luckily, there is much new information now as to how nutrition is used as medicine. Hippocrates quote “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” is the simplest way to say you are what you eat!
The veterinary and human medical fields are slowly starting to learn and realize nutrients are far more important than ingredients. For example, the protein of cooked egg is almost 100% bioavailable (meaning the degree to which the body digests, assimilates and absorbs food.) On the other hand, plant-based proteins found in pet food and treats look good in a computer to increase the protein percentage, but seriously lack most of the amino acids needed for a complete and bioavailable protein.
In many of our pets treats the binders, dyes and preservatives can be a serious health risk. A popular dog treat ingredient list contains: Wheat Flour, Beef, Soy Flour, Corn Syrup, Water Sufficient for Processing, Propylene Glycol, Liver, Animal Fat (BHA Used As A Preservative), Dried Cheese Product, Chicken By-Product Meal, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Salt, Phosphoric Acid, Vegetable Oil, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Garlic Powder, Sorbic Acid (Used As A Preservative), Potassium Sorbate (Used As A Preservative), Natural Smoke Flavor, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, BHA (Used As A Preservative), Citric Acid (Used As A Preservative).
Let’s break this list down:

  • Wheat and Soy flour are poor quality binders that as highly processed carbohydrates can cause glucose and insulin spikes in the body.
  • Corn syrup also is the worst offender of causing glucose and insulin spikes.
  • Propylene glycol which makes treats soft and chewy can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions, can have potential toxicity to the kidneys and liver, and possible neurologic and cardiovascular problems. It is also extremely toxic to cats!
  • BHA (and BHT) used as a preservative for fats is found to cause cancer in lab animals.
  • Titanium Dioxide particles are linked to increased oxidative stress, which causes a type of inflammation that can deactivate normal cell processes that control cancer cell development.
  • Chicken by-product meal may sound good but that can range from real meat to feathers and beaks.
  • Natural smoke flavor has a possible link to DNA damage.
  • Food dyes especially yellow 5, 6 and red 40 contain the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen. Most of the world has banned the use of these specific artificial dyes. Unfortunately, many American companies still freely use those additives.

Understanding Food and Treat Labels When buying your favorite furry friend food or a treat, take a closer look at the ingredient list and do a little research. Many people find their pets love these treats but it’s primarily because they are loaded with sugar. There is almost nothing found in the above treat that you could find in the wild as a natural food source. As a veterinarian I’m finding more and more of my patients with preventable illnesses that primarily are caused by the food and treats they are being fed. Removing these very un-natural and chemically laden treats and foods can have very immediate and long-lasting positive impacts on our pet’s health and well being.

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