Have you ever studied the ingredients in your pet’s food to determine whether it is providing the right nutrition? Do you know what goes into the making of your beloved furry friend’s dinner time meal? These are the questions Ethical Living magazine ask and answer in their recent in-depth feature on the ethical issues around dog and cat food.
“In South Africa, there are around 22 different brands of pet food, from the very cheap to the super expensive, as well as a few lesser-known organic and veterinary brands,” comments Peter Townshend, editor of Ethical Living magazine. “This raises the question: ‘How do I choose the best pet food to ensure my pets are healthy?’”
The starting point is understanding your pets’ nutritional needs.
Did you know…
• Dogs are omnivorous – which means they are able to utilise both carbohydrates and proteins provided that these are given in the correct format
• Up to 50% of a dog’s food intake can be carbohydrates but a minimum of 5.5% of a dogs diet must consist of fats
• A 15kg dog of good health and regular fitness requires 3 857.65kJ daily, as well as 12 essential minerals including vitamins A, D and E and particularly Omega 3
• Dogs can follow a vegetarian diet, but do require a minimum of 10% protein within their diet
• Cats are far more sensitive to what they eat and require specific vitamins and minerals for good health
• Cats are obligate carnivores and need animal-based protein. Unlike dogs, a high-carbohydrate diet can lead to serious health problems in cats
• Cats absorb the bulk of their water needs through their food, so canned wet food is always better than dry kibbles
Unfortunately, the new labelling laws in South Africa do not apply to pet food and the guidelines set by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) are not very helpful in terms of nutritional information, such as protein sources or preservatives. To avoid your pets ingesting harmful preservatives, give preference to canned pet food or look for products with a shorter shelf life. Pet food may also contain harmful toxins, as evidenced by numerous pet food recalls in recent years.
From an ethical point of view, the production of pet food carries a high environmental cost. However, even more concerning is the lack of ethics among the companies that produce these foods, including Procter and Gamble and Nestlé, whom Ethical Living has featured in their boycott pages.
“Given these facts, Ethical Living recommends extreme caution when using regular pet food brands. The production of the meat by-products can be extremely cruel and the food itself may be contaminated. Instead, organic pet food is recommended,” says Townshend. “Organic dry dog food brands can be found at your local pet or health shop. Also look for homemade treats at organic and local markets. When it comes to cats, unfortunately Ethical Living could not find any organic dry cat food brands, so rather prepare free-range livers, chicken and ethically-sourced fish and try using only animal-based fats in their food to maintain their nutritional needs.”
For more information visit www.ethicalliving.co.za, contact 011 788 6369 or pick up the latest copy of Ethical Living magazine.