In our 20 years of service to you and your pets, we have experienced many changes in pet care. Total Pet’s existence is predicated on people wanting more and better information regarding advanced pet care. We believe in up-to-date science, not the marketing gimmicks that are so prevalent today in our big box stores and investment banker-run vet clinics.
The biggest change in pet care over the past 10 years has come in the form of pet food and treats. In the beginning there were high-starch, low-protein diets along with very high carbohydrate treats. This is the opposite of what an obligate carnivore needs. We have been on a mission for 20 years to get folks to believe that better pet food results in better pet health. Some people want to believe that all pet foods are the same and that price is irrelevant. Part of the reason this sentiment exists is that MOST KIBBLE LOOKS THE SAME. We see a food that costs $25 a bag and another that costs $50 a bag. Since they look the same in kibble form, it is very difficult to see that buying for price comes without a downside. People tend to buy what they think is a value, based on price-motivated purchasing. Companies like Purina and DelMonte produce grocery foods for humans and pets. With companies like this it’s all about price and marketing and the bottom line. They use all kinds of wacky gimmicks to make their bags and the food look like what they think people want. The marketing is not about quality in the bag but quality-appearance on the bag. Purina has Beneful Playtime Formula. What do you think that is about? Ninety percent of the treats these manufacturers make is junky food with negative nutritional value and a very high carbohydrate content. Don’t think for a minute that treats have no effect on nutrition just because it a “treat.” Poor treats supplementing a poor food makes for a terrible combination. The worst thing that ever happened to dogs was the production of wheat-based biscuits. People buy into food coloring, shapes, great photos of vegetables and steak. No matter how one evaluates these treats they are still nothing but empty calories with a negative value to your pet. We know there isn’t any substantial meat, veggies, or berries in a bag of treats, but we tend to believe what we want. Milkbone, as a treat, has become so common that it slipped into our everyday vernacular and our pet’s diet without thought as to the negative long-term impact they might have had on pets. Milkbone is no more milk than a bone. Milkbone is a cheap wheat-based treat shaped like a bone. How about Beggin Strips? “Bacon, bacon, bacon,” my foot. There isn’t any real bacon in Beggin Strips and even if there was, it wouldn’t be good for our pet. Bacon in any quantity is too high in fat for dogs. The dog in the commercial is just yelling for bacon; he won’t get it in Beggin Strips. There really isn’t more than some bacon flavoring with glycerin in Beggin Strips. The point is that everything we put into our and our pet’s mouths count towards our overall nutrition, no matter what it smells or tastes like.
Many foods and treats, especially the cheap ones, use glutens like corn and wheat. These are the great protein imposters. Glutens are left after extracting the carbohydrate from grain. Glutens are highly processed grain fragments and are relatively high in protein, but the protein is not nearly the same quality as animal protein. The great pet food recall of 2007 was based on companies that not only used a lot of glutens to make food cheaper but wanted to further cut costs by going to China to buy the gluten. We all know what happened after that. The Chinese companies wanted to make more money as well, so they cheated by putting melamine into our pet’s food. Competition for price drove some manufacturers to cut serious corners to compete with other companies (who were also cutting those same corners). This is a disease in our society today. If a company makes x amount of profits this year, they want to make x+y amount next year. Shareholders require that a business increase profits. And that’s the bottom line. Money. And more money. And their mantra, of late, is cheat but don’t get caught. The result was a lot of needlessly killed pets in the name of profit margin. They profited from using cheap, contaminated ingredients and pet owners paid the price. Obviously, they didn’t do it on purpose but they also didn’t ensure the quality of ingredients in their product. As is so often said in business when people are shirking responsibility, “Well, I told them we wanted quality. We have a contract.” Those same people just didn’t want to pay for it. Isn’t it ironic that in our desire to find “the cheap,” we end up paying more in the long run (vet bills) and our pets sometimes pay with their lives. Meanwhile, veterinarians put on angel wings and continue to sell poor-quality pet food under the guise of their professional degree and expertise… which will, in turn, cause you to spend more on vet bills for your nutritionally ailing pets.
Since dogs and cats are defined as obligate carnivores, I ardently believe that more quality protein is better than less protein. Too much protein does not cause kidney problems. People believe it because manufacturers that want to sell cheaper foods with less quality protein tell us that. A better protein profile in both treats and food is always better than poorer protein profile. Dogs and cats use protein to make their own sugar. They did not evolve using starch as a carbohydrate source of energy. Diets like Back to Basics (38% protein) and Wysong’s Optimal Diet (40% protein) – both boast about 70% to 80% animal protein – use no glutens and have little or no plant proteins. These are top quality foods. There are other great foods as well, but these are just two examples. They do cost money, but how do we determine what is “expensive.” Personally, I think a cheap, poorer quality diet that you are paying for with the health of your pet is a far greater expense.
I know I sound like I know everything about pet food, but don’t think for a minute that anyone knows everything about our pet’s nutritional needs. Food science is ever-changing and our knowledge base grows everyday. We constantly look for balance but it is a term that is not really attainable. The concept of balance changes for each pet at each stage of their life. We really don’t have an absolute answer. We barely know what complete is, no less the meaning of balance. Everything we offer our pets should seek to attain a closer proximity to complete and balanced. I feed variety. I feed high quality proteins. And I try to keep most starch out of my pet’s diet. When in question, I tend to feed “primitive” diets. BUYING FOODS ON PRICE ALONE WILL NOT GET YOU VALUE.
The long and short of it is that animal protein is expensive and that is why high-protein foods based on animal sources COST MORE. It is, however, much more digestible. It is my belief that foods using high levels of plant proteins cheat our pets. Are plant-based proteins cheaper by the pound? YES. Are they better value? NO. Plant protein is much cheaper and harder for short gutted animals like dogs, cats, and ferrets to digest. The hamburger or chicken we use for ourselves is roughly 15% protein with 75% water. On a dry-weight basis fresh hamburger or chicken contains 2.4oz of protein per pound of raw meat that costs $3 to $4 per lb. at 75-80% +/- moisture content. That, on a per pound dry-weight basis, makes beef for humans at $26.66 per lb. of protein a good value. That makes quality dry pet food a good value. The cost of plant protein is a fraction of that.
Quality animal-protein-based foods are more expensive but your pet will eat less because he can digest a greater percentage of the food. The price of the food is not always the number you see on your cash register receipt.
WHAT’S ACTUALLY IN BEGGIN’ STRIPS?
Ground wheat, corn gluten meal, wheat flour, ground yellow corn, water, sugar, glycerin, soybean meal, meat, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, bacon fat (preserved with BHA), salt, phosphoric acid, sorbic acid (a preservative), calcium propionate (a preservative), natural and artificial smoke flavors, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Yellow 6), choline chloride.
There are many treats like this. The ingredients speak for themselves. It is negative nutrition. And when there are many all-meat treats that your dog would love just as much (likely more) why settle for negative nutrition?