Myth #1: By-products are poor quality ingredients
A by-product is any ingredient that is produced or left over when some other product is made. Broths and gelatin are examples of by-products. In pet foods, by-products come from “clean” animal parts such as liver, kidneys and other organs. Muscle meat is deficient in many nutrients, including calcium and other vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are abundant in meat by-products and boost the nutrient value of a pet food.
Myth #2: Corn is a poorly digested “filler”
Corn provides a good source of carbohydrates, protein and essential fatty acids in the diets of dogs and cats. Corn gluten meal is easy to digest, making its nutrients readily available to your pet. Corn gluten meal contains 60-70% protein with many essential amino acids and, when combined with other protein sources, can contribute to a highly digestible and nutritious diet. There are 5 grades of corn quality, of which human food traditionally uses grades 1 and 2. Quality pet nutrition companies also use grade 1 and 2 for their pet foods.
Myth #3: Grain-free or gluten-free diets are healthier
Properly cooked grains in pet foods are highly digestible and dogs and cats can digest the carbohydrates from grains with an efficiency of greater than 90%. Grains also contain fiber, which supports gastrointestinal health as well as essential fatty acids and other nutrients that contribute to a healthy skin and coat. Although allergies to proteins in grains can occur, less than 1% of dogs are sensitive to grains, far less common than animal protein sources.
Gluten allergies in dogs are very rare and has been reported primarily in Irish Setters. Just as wheat gluten is added to breads to enhance their texture, a small amount in pet food helps canned formulas, kibbles and treats hold their shape.
Myth #4: Senior pets need a low-protein diet to protect against kidney disease
This myth was based on rodent research done in the 1940s that has since been disproven. More recent studies show that higher protein levels do not adversely affect the kidneys. Protein requirements actually increase by about 50% in older dogs, while their calorie needs tend to decrease. Increased protein can help slow age-related loss of lean body mass and support a healthy immune system. Phosphorus restriction is important once dogs or cats develop kidney disease.
Myth #5: A raw food diet is the most natural diet for cats and dogs
Bones in raw diets can be hazardous to a pet’s health when fragments fracture teeth or damage the intestinal tract. Raw diets made of mostly meat may be lacking in important nutrients. Calcium deficiency is a common problem with raw food diets and vitamin A toxicity can occur if large amounts of raw liver are fed. Raw diets are more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, which can sicken pets and family members alike. In the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine’s (CVM) study released in 2012, they found that 47 of 196 raw pet foods sampled contained Salmonella or Listeria. The CVM released a statement that it is concerned about the public health risk of raw pet food diets.
It can be difficult to evaluate advertising statements made by pet food manufacturers. Hopefully the above information can help to select the best food to feed your pet.