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Old April 27th, 2009, 01:38 PM
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Interesting article in the Metro news today


Pet food: A fickle beast, but worth looking into

April 27, 2009 5:08 a.m.

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Meg Smart once made her own dog food. Consisting of old leather boots, wood chips and motor oil, the professor of small animal nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan didn’t feed it to her pets, but she could have.

Canadians standards for pet food are slack enough that the boots’ nitrogen, wood chips’ fibre and carbohydrates and motor oils’ fat are legally suitable for pet food. Smart, who co-wrote Not Fit For a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food, is quick to point out most brands of pet food don’t rely on boots and motor oil, but her concern as that a lack of regulation means owners don’t know where the ingredients come from.

“It’s not so much the standard of the food, but that … you can source one lot of dog food (from) 20 different sources of ingredients. The quality control is hard to control,” she explains.

Smart is also concerned that owners are getting hoodwinked by big companies. “When they talk about premium and super-premium, there’s very little difference between the ingredients. They might have added a few herbs,” she says. “People shouldn’t be conned into feeling they need to buy the ‘holistic’ or ‘super premium’ for their pets. The other dog foods will probably do just as well.”

She studied veterinary prescription diets during a year sabbatical and found very little science to support their claims. One company’s specialized “kitten diets” sold via vets is identical to the company’s over-the-counter diets.

“The veterinary profession, probably unwittingly, has gone into bed with the industry,” the professor says, noting the pet food industry supports symposiums, education and research at the colleges. “It’s, ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back, too.’

“The industry says you can’t feed a homemade diet to your pets, that they’re not balanced and complete. We dispel the myth about ‘balanced and complete.’”

Smart has three dogs and four cats and buys food locally. “I know where they source their ingredients from,” she explains. She tries to buy food with ingredients sourced within 100 miles, which can be tricky in the Prairies. The idea is to maintain confidence in the food, a lesson bitterly learned by many pet owners in 2007, when contaminated Menu Food products killed a number of animals.

“I would buy nothing but Canadian-made products,” Smart says.

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