Important breaking news: Pets do not subsist on pet food alone

A dog quietly suffering from gastrointestinal issues
A dog quietly suffering from gastrointestinal issues
Photo: Aimee Levitt

Sometimes research provides groundbreaking information that can change our lives. Other times it confirms what we already know, but provides empirical evidence to bolster nagging. A study of pet feeding practices recently published in the British Medical Journals’ Vet Record definitely falls into the second category. A survey of 3,673 English-speaking pet owners in five countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S., and the U.K.) found that only 13% of dogs and 32% of cats ate pet food and pet food only.

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Are you shocked? Really?

Even the researchers didn’t seem to be. In the abstract of the paper, they conclude: “As an increased risk of nutrient insufficiency and associated conditions have been attributed to unconventional feeding practices, veterinarians must be aware of pet feeding trends and educate clients about the nutritional needs of companion animals.” Which seems like a lot of work to go through to get vets to tell humans to be careful about feeding their pets, but whatever works, I guess.

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The Toronto Sun spoke to Sarah Dodd, the lead author of the study, who said that one of the researchers’ biggest concerns was people feeding their pets raw food: “We have concerns, particularly for potential microbial contamination (harmful bacteria) and how that can affect not only the pets in the household but also the people.” She added that people are suspicious of conventional pet food because it’s processed, and they’ve been warned about the dangers of processed foods to humans.

Pet food, Dodd said, is different: kibbles contain a nutritional balance that can’t be duplicated by homemade food alone. And then she said the thing that vets always say: before you make any drastic changes in your pet’s diet, consult their vet!

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

My dog exists primarily on pet food, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t show up every time I’m pulling apart a cooked chicken for soup. He gets plenty of chicken, beef and pork as treats. I dont feed him any raw meat outside the freeze dried stuff they say is raw in his dog food.