In the first three months of this year, there have already been half a dozen pet food recalls. A few years ago, 600 pets died and more than 3,000 were sickened in an ongoing, mysterious outbreak linked to jerky treats made in China. A few years before that, thousands of pets died from kidney failure after eating tainted pet food and several major companies had to recall more than 5,000 pet food products due to melamine contamination.
Examples like these understandably lead pet owners to worry about what they are feeding their pet. Each year, more than $50 billion worth of pet products and pet services are sold, and half of that goes to pet food. With all the choices that are available these days, from organic and all-natural commercial foods to home cooked or frozen foods, the decision about what kind of food to buy for your pet can be baffling. Food nutrition experts say pets can flourish on many diets, though they all require the same nutrients: carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids. Generally speaking, if your pet eats a variety of healthy meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, and grains, you will have a healthy pet.
Some pet owners go the extra mile and make their pet’s food. Many of the homemade pet foods include raw foods. This raw food diet is quite controversial. Proponents argue that raw food diets are healthiest for pets as this is what dogs and cats would eat in the wild. Opponents feel a raw diet is dangerous and can easily become contaminated. The FDA has stated that feeding raw meat to animals puts the public at risk since not only might your dog or cat get sick from Salmonella or E. coli in raw food, but you too could get sick while preparing their meal.
A major issue surrounding cat food is whether to feed dry kibble or wet food. I spoke with Mike Palmer, owner of Premier Pet Supply, who advocates for a wet diet for cats. According to Palmer: “Dry kibble is a man-made creation that usually misrepresents an ideal ratio of proteins and moisture that is required to sustain a long, healthy life. Unfortunately, a majority of these dry food diets are way too high in carbohydrates and way too low in water content. The issue is that cats are strict carnivores and also have a low thirst drive. A cats’ normal prey contains approximately 70-75 percent water. Dry foods only contain 7-10 percent water whereas canned foods contain approximately 78 percent water. Canned foods therefore more closely approximate the natural diet of the cat and are better suited to meet the cat’s water needs.” If you still choose to feed your cats dry food, be sure to monitor their water intake. There are water fountains on the market that simulate a running faucet that may entice your cat to drink more than they would from a water bowl.
One thing to keep in mind when feeding your pet is that pet food companies must include feeding directions on their labels. However, according to the organization Vet Street, one set of feeding guidelines cannot account for the different nutritional needs among individual pets. They say that feeding guidelines provide a good starting point but may overestimate the needs of some pets, leading to weight gain. Therefore, pet owners may have to adjust the feeding guidelines with help from their veterinarian.
Whether you feed commercial or homemade, many pet owners credit better ingredients with helping their animals live longer and make less trips to the veterinarian. Here are a few guidelines that experts recommend when choosing a pet food:
Look for the named meat or fish to be the first ingredient (chicken, turkey, beef, herring, salmon, etc.) and avoid highly processed meats.
Look for whole grains (rice, barely, oatmeal) and fruits and vegetables (potatoes, carrots, peas, apples, sweet potatoes, etc.) and avoid grain remnants, such as highly processed flours.
Look for named fats from quality sources (chicken fat, sunflower oil, herring oil, etc) and avoid fats from non-specific sources.
If you’re looking for a healthy commercial food to feed your pet, some great brands are Halo, Weruva, and Wysong. Lemos Pet Supply in Santa Barbara is a great local store that can help you decide which food to feed your pet.
If you do decide to switch your pet to a new food, veterinarians recommend transitioning to the new food gradually since changing foods abruptly can lead to vomiting or diarrhea. For example, if your pet usually eats 1 cup of food, start by replacing ¼ cup of food with the new food and increase this by ¼ cup every three days. If your pet develops diarrhea, stretch the transition out over a month.
Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet has been poisoned by food. Signs of poisoning include:
Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea or vomiting
Other common signs that can suggest kidney distress or failure include:
Increased amount of urine
For more information on any pet food recalls, visit
For more information on reading pet food labels, visit
If you have a pet, then you appreciate the love and companionship they provide you, so please return the favor and make sure you are feeding them healthy and well-balanced meals.
Adoptable Pet of the Week
My name is Kobe, and I am a four-year-old doberman/cattle dog mix. I am looking for my forever home with a family that wants to take me on hikes, runs, beach walks, and give me some good love. I get along with kids, other dogs, and love people. I would prefer to be the only dog in the household because I’m a dominant guy, but this isn’t a requirement. I am pretty obedient with the right person who will set some boundaries. I love to sit for you when asked and look up with a goofy smile on my face. In fact, I always look like I’m smiling, I’m a happy-go-lucky guy! Come see me in action at Dog Adoption and Welfare Group or call (805) 681-0561 to find out how you can adopt me!
To inquire about adopting a dog, visit DAWG in Santa Barbara. DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not for profit dog rescue/adoption organization located at 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, call 805-681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs atsbdawg.org All of the dogs have been spayed/neutered, micro-chipped, are current on their shots, and have flea/tick/mosquito protection. We ask for a minimum adoption donation of $250 for young dogs (under three years), $150 for adult dogs, and $125 for seniors (dogs 8 years old and over).
For more information on our available dogs, call (805) 681-0561, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or come by during open adoption hours, Thursday-Monday 12noon-5 p.m.
Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions, www.animaladoptionsolutions.com