Are you and your pets ready for a “pet food divorce?” Yes, I know it sounds rather dramatic! But after 25 years in the natural and holistic pet nutrition industry, I’ve seen too many examples of pet guardians tolerating lackluster or poor results from their pet foods.
But the truth is that “breaking up is hard to do” when the largest pet food manufacturers invest so heavily in mass media advertising that they “brainwash” consumers, and in so doing, they buy market share and brand loyalty. Marketing 101 tells us that virtually ANY product can generate hundreds of millions in sales if it’s pushed by tens of millions in advertising. In this case, though, we’re not talking about selling laundry soap or smart phones; the choice of what food to feed is the most important decision we can make for our pets’ health, vitality, longevity, and sheer JOY of living.
For those of us in the pet care business who are not just salespeople trying to make a buck, but who are advocates for animal health and happiness, it is frustrating to see how many animals out there are being fed mediocre or poor quality foods, with the expected poor results. These foods are sometimes called “commercial” or “grocery” pet foods.
But it’s not only grocery and mid-priced foods that can fail to make your pet thrive. Even pet foods sold as “superpremium” or “all natural” can be wrong, or become wrong, for your pet. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean “great quality,” and a food that’s working well for one pet may not be the right choice for YOUR companion. “One size fits all” doesn’t work in pet food.
So, if it’s broke, let’s fix it. Check out this list of indications that the food and treats your pet eats aren’t working for them as they should. Any of these is reason enough to consider kicking your current kibble to the curb; but if you find that your pooch or kitty is suffering from several of these foodrelated maladies, it’s definitely time to send that “it’s not you, it’s me” breakup text, and GET A PET FOOD DIVORCE.
FOUR GROUNDS for a PET FOOD DIVORCE
1. FOOD REJECTION or “FINICKYNESS”: Your dog or cat starts being picky or even completely rejecting a food that they’ve eaten heartily in the past; a little bit of fussiness isn’t reason to dump a food that has worked well, but if your pet constantly rejects the food and starts to gives you that “what in the heck are you trying to feed me” look, it’s time to consider a food change.
2. SKIN and COAT PROBLEMS: If your pet experiences any of these negative changes in skin and coat results, don’t just accept it as “par for the course:”
- a. Hair loss or excessive and constant shedding regardless of the season;
- b. Coats that were soft and lustrous get dull, lifeless, “stiff,” or greasy;
- c. Your pet gets a sudden case of the “itchies” that has them scratching all day and night, keeping your pet AND you awake!
- d. You start to see “hot spots,” such as skin irritations, sores, or patches of dryness, and your pet becomes obsessed with chewing and scratching these spots
3. ENERGY DIPS and SPIKES:
- a. Decreased energy levels; this could be food related or signal more serious health problems
- b. EXCESSIVE energy; yes, we want our pets to have high spirits! But if a dog or cat’s personality seems to change from “spirited but manageable” or “laid back and mellow” to HYPER and hard to control, you need to examine and potentially reconsider your food and treat choices since high levels of carbohydrates from grains and other sources are not optimal energy sources for carnivores such as cats and dogs. High carbs for pets can cause the same hyperactivity as sugar for kids.
4. STOMACH and STOOL PROBLEMS The draining symptoms of alternating diarrhea, constipation, and vomiting are all signs of canine or feline irritable bowel disease (IBD). Pets experiencing IBD are some of the saddest situations that I see as a nutritionist. IBD sucks away life energy and vitality from your best friends. If it goes on for too long, it’s tough to bounce back. NO FOOD SHOULD CAUSE THESE SERIOUS DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS. Less serious, but not to be ignored, are loose stools or changes in the color, size, and consistency of the stool that persist more than a few days. This could indicate that something has changed in the food you are using or in your pet’s tolerance and proper digestion of the food.
If you have seen any of these signs, your food may be a mediocre quality, high carb food such as the most popular grocery brands. That’s just not the way our carnivores are meant to eat. Feeding this way is like trying to feed a wolf or lion like a horse or a cow. It ignores their innate biology and no matter how well-intentioned, it is a form of nutritional neglect. Replace low end grain- or carb-heavy kibble with meat based dry foods and you’ll see a major improvement in your pet’s overall health, energy, appearance, and maybe even their behavior. Putting only good things in your pet’s body helps bring the best out in your pet.
The pet food you buy may have been changed by the manufacturer. How does this happen without your knowledge? The reason that foods can “change out from under you” is that manufacturers can change their product and not change the label for up to a year or more in some cases. In some cases, the ingredient list may read the same. But companies concerned more with their bottom line than your pet’s health may have the same list of ingredients as before and be using lower quality versions of those ingredients.
Ingredients are NOT identified by grade, source, or quality on a pet food label. For example, “chicken meal” is a very popular dry food ingredient. Ideally it is made by taking mostly wholesome muscle and organ meats and removing most of the fat and moisture. But a lower quality version that contains more bone and less nutritious components would still be called “chicken meal.” If the manufacturer switches to a lower grade, you won’t be able to tell by reading, only by feeding and seeing the results.
Your dog or cat could have developed an allergy or sensitivity to one or more ingredients: A dog or cat can eat the same food for years and do well with it, but then start showing the signs of sensitivities or allergies to the protein source or other ingredients. If a food that has always seemed to work well starts to cause skin and coat reactions, hot spots, or any allergic responses such as clogged ears, “weepy” eyes, or vomiting, your pet may have developed an allergy.
Your pet is changing, not the food: Changes in your pet’s body chemistry, metabolism, and digestive efficiency as they enter different life stages can also be the trigger that makes yesterday’s food wrong for tomorrow. Pay attention to the rhythm of your pet’s life stages, with particular attention to the transition between puppy or kitten and adult, and later in life from adult to senior status.
The bottom line is, don’t accept mediocre or poor results from ANY pet food. Why should you? The hard-earned money you invest in pet food and treats should be rewarded with good performance. Don’t be taken in by the “marketing buzz;” if a food isn’t working for YOUR dog or cat, you need to make a change. Take the initiative for your pet’s long term health and well-being.
FILE FOR PET FOOD DIVORCE! When foods or treats aren’t fulfilling your pet’s needs, be ready go out and find a healthy new pet food partnership! Start by visiting a trusted and experienced independent pet specialty store in your area. Search online for “natural and holistic pet food stores” and you should get good results. Read reviews to make sure you are dealing with a respected advisor, not just a place that happens to sell “natural” brands. If you don’t have good stores in your area, do research online, but make sure that the sites you visit for research are truly independent, and not thinly disguised advertising portals! Make a healthy change.