Pet Food—Separating Fact from Fiction



February 10, 2021

You are what you eat, and so is your pet. Need help navigating the wild west of the organics, the human-grade, the pro- and anti-by-products? Bivvy is here for you!

Put Good in, Get Good Out

We’re busy people who love convenience. And when it comes to feeding our pets, that often translates into buying whatever pet food is on the shelf at our local supermarket or pet store.

To be fair, the good news is that anything sold “over the counter” has been cleared by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. But some of them are bare-minimum, and some of them are excellent quality. It’s important to do your research and make the selection that works best for your furry family member and your wallet.

Pet Food Ingredients to Avoid

Pet food in general is “feed-grade,” as opposed to “human-grade.” Feed-grade is of a lower quality and allows for more questionable things than what’s acceptable for humans. Again, anything that’s made it onto major store shelves has at least cleared the hurdle of meeting the minimum dietary requirements for your pet, but that can still leave room for some less-than-ideal components.

Avoid pet food labels that include BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. These can be carcinogens, and some of them are illegal to include in people food. And stay clear of toxins; mycotoxins are allowed for in tiny quantities in people food but are not as restricted in pet food. Yikes!

What’s the Deal with “Meal”?

Approach pet foods that list things like meat meal and bone meal in the ingredients with a bit of caution. These can have sketchy components. According to the National Agricultural Law Center, these can have as their source “dead animals from farms, ranches, feedlots, [and] animal shelters.” If those meat sources were euthanized, the drug used for euthanasia, pentobarbital, could still be in their systems.

Animal byproducts, aka “meal” but in its non-dried form, are a bit of a tossup. Some veterinarians say they’re fine. Some byproducts that sound nauseating to us, like liver, blood, bone, brains, stomachs, udders, and (cleaned) intestines, are delicious and nutritious to pets. Byproducts in approved pet foods don’t include some of the things we sometimes fear they do. Think hooves, horns, hair, and teeth.

The Raw Pet Food Craze

Typical pet food is cooked at a high temperature, to get rid of bacteria. But that’s the thing for proponents of raw pet food. Cooking out bacteria can also cook out the nutrients. While this trendy form of feeding can improve your pet’s stool, skin, coat, breath, and teeth, it can increase the risk of exposure to foodborne pathogens. The American Veterinary Medical Association actually discourages the unregulated feeding of raw pet food. Meaning, don’t be an amateur about it. Your pet’s strict dietary needs are serious business. If raw feeding appeals to you, consult a veterinarian, or use a recipe prepared by one. Raw food is not good to have in homes with young children or immunocompromised people and shouldn’t be served to very young pets or pets with certain diseases.

Wet Vs. Dry Pet Food

Wet and dry pet foods are made up of similar ingredients and are both nutritious; they’re just prepared in a different way.

If your pet has urinary or kidney disease, the extra hydration in wet can be good. If your dog has a low appetite, the tastier and smellier wet food can also be a good thing. And it’s easier on teeth.

Kibble is good for teeth in a different way, as it prevents tartar buildup. It’s usually cheaper, can be left out all day for grazers, and can be put into enrichment toys.

Look Out for Allergies

Pets, like us, can develop allergies to certain foods. In cats allergies most often manifest as itchy skin, but can also look like sneezing, coughing, and stomach problems. In dogs, they also can look like itchy skin, vomiting, diarrhea, gas, swelling in the face, and chronic ear or paw infections.

If any of these are an ongoing problem for your pet, talk to your vet, and find out whether a common allergen like a certain type of meat, eggs, grain, or dairy isn’t agreeing with them, and shape their diet accordingly. Testing the blood is a common way to check for food allergies. Allergies are within Bivvy dog insurance’s scope of coverage.

Bottom line? There’s no one-size fits all when it comes to your pet’s grub. To find the best food for your pet’s breed, age, and lifestyle, chat with your vet and fellow pet parents. Anything labeled “complete and balanced” will technically meet all the basic requirements.

And in addition to setting your pet up with good food, set them up for success with great pet health insurance. At Bivvy, our coverage costs less than $1/month. Enjoy your pet food quest! Bark appétit!