by Chris Jones
Anyone who ever loved their dogs would never knowingly feed them "4D" meat, would they? Yet, millions of well meaning, unsuspecting pet owners do just that every day! Not only that, but many quality conscious breeders are fooled into thinking their feed is the best quality available when it isn't.
What exactly is "4 D" meat? It is an FDA classification denoting a dead, dying, diseased and disabled meat source. These are meat sources condemned for human consumption. These sources are considered marketable for pet foods. Would you knowingly allow your pet to eat "by-products" such as feet, carcass, feathers, beaks? Have you been told this is what "dogs eat in the wild"? This simply is not true. Who would believe dogs would willingly choose to eat chemically preserved, contaminated sources of protein (or other foods, in their meals, such as rancid, moldy bakery products, over fresh alternatives? Would a dog in the wild choose to eat pus or diseased tissue? Of course not. Yet today, chemically processed, heat treated, pressure cooked protein of such sources are offered up for a pet's and maybe your show dog's daily rations!
The pet food production industry is motivated by profit. The cheapest meat sources and over processing needed to make tainted meat sources salvageable for pet consumption makes economic sense to some pet food manufacturers. This industry takes no pains to preserve the health or longevity of our pets. It is up to us as consumers to do our homework. We must educate and motivate the puppy buying and owning public to alternative sources of healthy diets for pets.
Speaking of chemicals, how many inspectors check to see if antibiotic therapy or pesticide useage stops at the 10 day before slaughter or before human consumption, as required in FDA regulations? If terrible tragedies such as the Ecoli epidemic are occurring in our human meat sources, how long will it be before such a terrible plight befalls the pet food industry? It is even possible that some dogs may have died from contaminated food sources and mistakenly been misdiagnosed as having had a "viruses" or a poisoning, or another more commonly expected ending. How many kennels may have suspected a "viral epidemic" when the source of their problem may have been their kibble, is anyone's guess!
A lot of attention has been focused on the pros and cons of the chemical Ethoxyquin. The question isn't just whether or not it has proven it's margin of safety. (Which in my mind it certainly hasn't by virtue of a very questionable study with extremely compromised results. Combine this with experiential data from breeders nationwide of various breeds and geographical locations and you have a very suspicious margin of safety at best.) Although Ethoxyquin was tested on a small compromised control group (that became mixed up) and even though the testing was done for a relatively short period of time, it's use as a preservative was still approved. The decision to allow your pet or breeding dogs to eat foods containing this chemical is up to you. The question you must ask yourself is why do I chose to use something questionable when other safer sources of preservation are available to me and for my pets? Is it right to tempt fate at the expense of your pets? Shelf life of the product is the manufacturer's reason for using ethoxyquin. What is your reason to continue to use it when the margin of safety is questionable at best? Your pets have no choice in the matter, you do.
What we really want for our pets are good quality, utilizeable protein sources. However, even some of the high grade commercial feed companies admit to including beaks and feathers into their kibbles as protein sources. Their rational, "everyone else does". They also cajole some people into thinking dogs in the wild would consume these materials. In the wild, dogs of prey only consume very nominal portions of these materials as they rip out the organ meats and entrails. Other predators further down the food chain would use these discards.
What is the rational for using chicken and turkey gullets?* These are full of undigestible and potentially harmful matter. To dogs and cats, gravel and stones can cause mechanical diahhrea and even intestinal blockages. (*These gullets are used in the poultry's digestion process.) Gravel and small stones obviously don't dissolve.Would you knowingly feed these to your dog? Of course not. Why are gullets even considered for dog food? They would be disgarded as not fit for human consumption. They contain some protein, that's why they are used in dog food(kibble). Personally, the most troublesome aspect of the poultry processing for dog food manufacturing (and this practice is commonly accepted in the industry) is that of leaving on the metal leg bands during the processing. Whenever I ask a salesman or processer why this is done, I am either met with silence or told someone will call me back. The more foreright people just admit, it is simply cheaper to do things that way. Other company's evaded the question by telling me how many "metal detectors" they have on their assembly line!! Using the usual rational, how do we explain away the finely ground up metal leg bands in the kibble and can??? Obviously metal leg bands are not found in nature. They are highly undesirable and non-essential component of dog food!
Whether beef or chicken protein is used, often these protein sources have had a mirad of antibiotics, steroids, growth hormones added to maximize profits for the farmers and ranchers who mass produce these meat sources. Because of these concerns, we have seen a number of new concerned dog food manufacturers emurge. These folks have found safer alternatives in range fed lamb, venison and even some fish and rabbit. Range fed animals fed on untreated ranges are much preferred to feed lot animals. Commercial feed lot conditions often show animals are raised with and in mass filth, disease and fear. Range fed and raised animals provide a much more humane and desirable alternative for healthy protein sources. Since these are not common practices and are not as economical to produce, the foods sourced from these methods are usually more expensive. They have to be. It costs a lot more to provide good clean areas, lots of room and good sanitation.
Another common protein source is soy. Not all breeds of dogs tolerate soy protein well. In some breeds it may not cause any problems and be a perfectly acceptable source of protein. The problem with soy, may not be the actual soy itself, but rather the fact it is processed in different ways. When soy beans are ground or pressed it didn't cause as many problems as it does nowadays when it may be chemically extracted instead. Some dog food distributors have reported a noticeable number of complaints and returns due to diahhrea occurring after a "new batch" of feed hits the market. This is believed to be due to the chemical residues contaminating the new batch of feed.
So, why do we buy and feed commercial products if they are such a poor choice for the maximum health of our dogs? One reason is ignorance. We don't know the sources of the ingredients. We wrongly assume the manufacturer's care as much as we do in regard to our pet's health. We may mistakenly believe there are federal regulations to guard our dog's health because we see vague statements on bags of food that indicate they have met certain standards. We don't understand these standards are so minimal, the protein source could be shoe leather and still pass these requirements! We don't question enough, we are too trusting. We don't investigate our own food sources as carefully as we should, therefore we are not as motivated as we should be to investigate the food sources for our canine companions. Another reason we stick with the commercial feeds is we are used to them. Our dogs eat them. It is a habit with our dogs and with us. The dogs seem healthy, so we assume all is well. If we felt the products were unhealthy but the dogs ate them and thrived, would we still feed them? Probably. The main reason we use these commercial feeds is convenience!
In these busy times even the one pet owner has become accustomed to the convenience of dog food in a can or a bag. The show and breeding kennel has a number of dogs to attend to and relies heavily on the convenience of the "balanced" and quick meal in a bag of kibble to manage time efficiently and be cost effective when feeding.
What are our other alternatives? Become an informed, educated consumer. Buy your pet food with care. You may choose to try and find a natural diet. This may take some study and time on your part. If you are committed to your dog's good health, you will find there are books and diets available. You can fix up quantities ahead of time and make your own "convenience" dog food. You can perhaps, add healthy meat sources to a vegetarian kibble. You can try a combination of convenience and home prepared food that appeals to both you and your pet. The optimal situation today is probably using the most natural high quality kibble/can combined with natural and healthy foods every day. In this way, you may maximize your dog's good health and provide him with a palatable and nutritious diet. Ultimately you will be rewarded with many more years of stamina, vigor and good health from your canine companions.
For more information about your dog's diet, please consider reading these books:
"Pet Allergies, Remedies for an Epidemic" by Alfred J. Plechner, DVM and Martin Zucker, published by Very Healthy Enterprises, P.O. Box 4728, Inglewood, Ca 90309.
"Reigning Cats & Dogs", by Pat Mc Kay, (a canine nutritionist), Oscar Publications, 1107 Fair Oaks Ave. #230, S. Pasadena, Ca. 91030.
"Natural Health for Dogs and Cats," by Drs. Pitcairn & Pitcairn, Rodale Press.