Thursday, November 3, 2011

Natural, Organic, Holistic and Human Grade Pet Foods

We all want the best food for our pets, and there are so many companies telling us what we should feed. Many companies boast having natural, organic, holistic or even human grade products. Well, what are the qualities of those products and are they really what the companies claim? What is the difference in those products? Let's look at the regulatory definitions of these four terms:

Natural - A feed or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur unavoidably in good manufacturing practices. 
Organic - organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to met USDA organic standards.** (Quoted from USDA)

Holistic - no legal definition, therefore, no regulation for the use of the term. 
Human Grade - The terms "human grade" or "human quality" have no legal definition. Claims on animal foods should not be false or misleading. A claim that something is "human-grade" or "human-quality" implies that the article being referred to is "edible" for people in legally defined terms. For a product to be human edible, all ingredients in the product must be human edible and the product must be manufactured, packed and held in accordance with federal regulations in 21 CFR 110, Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food. If these conditions exist, then human-grade claims may be made. If these conditions do not exist, then making an unqualified claim about ingredients being human grade misbrands the product.** (Quoted from AAFCO)

Given that there is no legal definition, and hence no legal regulation for the use of the terms, "holistic" or "human grade," I would use extreme caution when choosing a pet food product with those labels. Anyone can use those terms with no backing and assurance that the quality perceived is, in fact, the quality delivered.

The term "organic" is regulated by the USDA. However, companies can sometimes use this term in a misleading way. Pay close attention to whether the food is claiming to be "organic" or "made with organic" ingredients. The latter option can be claimed by a food that only has a few organic ingredients without the entire product being organic.

The more you know, the better prepared you can be in choosing a pet food. Take time to learn what ingredients mean, what labels mean and what is truth versus marketing strategy. Or, at least take the time to ask someone who knows what food is best for your pet.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How to choose the best pet food

Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of maintaining good health, for us or our pets. It is something that we do every single day that can affect the health of our pets for life. We can either feed the wrong things and make them sick, or feed the right foods and have them with healthy teeth, coats, intestinal health, and weight. The only question is: What do you look for in a good food and once you do find it, how do you really know for sure that it's a good food?

The world of pet nutrition can sometimes seem so unnavigable and confusing that there's not even a starting point in site. TV is telling you one thing, your vet is telling you another, the pet magazine even says something else! Every food claims to be better than the next: healthier, more natural, better quality, better tasting, etc. etc. etc.

So, how do you figure this thing out? Where do you go for solid information? Google? TV commercials? Your neighbor? The kid working at the pet food store?

I recently asked my Facebook friends why they chose the pet food that they did. Some of these responses are below:

"It is advertised to be good for them, but I really don't know that it is."

"I read the ingredients to make sure it has good stuff, and she loves the good stuff. She's worth the price!"

"Appealing flavor (to the dog), solid nutritional value and good bowel health - or is that good nutritional value and solid bowel health :-)"

"i listen 2 my vet :)"  [I love those comments, by the way!]

In the next few posts, I will address marketing strategies, different types of ingredients, information provided (or not) on pet food labels, and how to choose a food with solid nutritional value.

Hopefully, you can gain a clearer understanding of how to confidently choose a quality food for your pet and not feel so lost in the hype of good marketing.

Sarasota Animal Hospital

Saturday, August 27, 2011

All Work and No Play??? Nooo....

The Arch at sunrise from the hotel room.
I recently had the opportunity to take a trip to St. Louis, Missouri for continuing education hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association. This is one of the fun parts of my job! With the exchange of a few hours of learning and sitting in the classroom again, I got the chance to see somewhere new, eat some good food and see some old friends. It's a small price to pay! I had a great time at the conference and learned some newer approaches to diabetes, liver disease, urinary disease, obesity in cats and much more. But, I want to talk more about the off time, the time I spent outside of the classroom.

I had never visited St. Louis before. The conference was downtown, so I chose to book a hotel right by the Gateway Arch. One of my best friends from vet school went to the conference with me and we decided to share a room. We had a blast together and it seemed like we had an adventure every night! 

The first night, Friday, I got to catch up with some old friends that had recently moved to St. Louis from Florida. They showed me around and took me to eat at Blueberry Hill, where you can still catch regular performances by Chuck Berry.

The fire truck outside of our hotel.
Then, the second night, as soon as my friend and I walked through the front doors of our hotel after dinner, the fire alarm sounded. We all evacuated and waited for the fire department to give us the okay to enter again. Come to find out, one of the child beauty pageant contestants (our hotel was flooded with little toddlers and tiaras!) set off the alarm with her curlers and lost all of her dresses from water damage! Our room was just two rooms over and two floors down.

The U2 360 degree stage.
The most exiting day came on Sunday! This was the day that my husband wished that he had been there too! We had heard the locals talking all weekend about how U2 was coming to town to play in Busch Stadium. We watched as the gigantic 360 degree stage was erected and was amazed by its glory. Since my husband is a huge U2 fan and a studier of The Edge, I kept him up to date on the progress of the stage via picture texts.

My friend and I at the U2 concert.
The concert was Sunday night and the downtown area became flooded with people coming to watch the concert as my friend and I were trying to get dinner. We could hear the opening band perform as we ate dinner at the restaurant across from the stadium. We decided that we would stand outside of the stadium to listen to U2 play that opportunity of a lifetime! However, little did we know, on our way back to our hotel, a sketchy dude on the street corner would try to sell us his tickets...for the "bargain price" of $100 each!! Yeah, ok, that wasn't a deal. The concert had already started! We walked away when he wouldn't go below $50 for two. We decided to hit up the next guy we came to on the side of the street and we were actually able to swindle him down to $45 for two tickets to see U2!! We made it to the concert before U2 took stage and it was the most amazing concert ever!! It was a beautiful day!

Not much could top the cheap, excellent U2 concert! But our trip just kept getting better. By the next night, the water from the fire two nights ago had finally reached our room. We got moved to an upgraded room at no charge! That sounded good to us! By Tuesday night, we were both ready to get home and see our husbands again! We spent our last night in St. Louis with my friends from Florida again. They took us to have some authentic St. Louis barbecue.

The Mississippi River from our upgraded room.
We spent a lot of time walking around downtown St. Louis and site-seeing. We never actually made it up the Arch, but we were able to visit the museum and walked around the Arch. We saw the Mississippi River and even wandered into Illinois by mistake! We had a blast while learning a lot about our profession. Trips like this are refreshing because it allows us to get away, but more importantly, it increases our flame of passion for our careers. I couldn't wait to get back to work and share what I learned and implement some new techniques! Can't wait untill next year!

The old St. Louis courthouse and the Arch.