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ENTER CORN ... it's cheap, takes up lots of room in the bag of food and in the pet's stomach so it will "fill ‘em up", it's a good carbohydrate source so the pet will have some energy, it has a few amino acids in it so the corn will contribute to the protein totals on the guaranteed analysis list, and there's a cheap and steady supply of corn. So the pet food manufacturer makes a corn diet, adds some "meat and bone meal" (which has been cooked at least twice before it gets in the bag and may contain too much calcium) to "complete the amino acid profile" and adds a few other calculated substances so that COMPLETE AND BALANCED can be stamped prominently on the pet food label.
The natural world was set up in such a way that, in reference to dog and cat food, cheap ingredients based on plant products and resulting in cheap pet foods always turn out to be a poor choice when attempting to nourish a meat eater. Conversely, expensive substances such as eggs, meat, poultry and fish are far better choices when designing a good diet for meat eaters. NOTE: "Expensive" and "costs" are human terms and have no relationship to what Nature set up regarding what constitutes an ideal diet for a meat eater.
Throughout each of the nutrition texts referred to in this article, the authors repeatedly stress the importance of high quality, nutrient dense, and highly digestible pet food products. Yes, these products will cost the consumer more than the generic brands. We animal caretakers have an obligation to our animals to strongly favor good quality products and to stop choosing pet foods based upon price.
Dogs (and cats) are livelier and healthier when meat, poultry, lamb and fish are the foundation of their diets. In other words, we should choose to feed our pets meat and denounce the senseless practice of feeding them as if they were herbivores simply because that would be cheaper to do.
According to Canine and Feline Nutrition, page 174:
"In general, high-quality animal source proteins provide superior amino acid balances for companion animals, compared with the amino acid balances that are supplied by grain proteins. The protein in grains is not as balanced or available as the protein in high-quality animal sources…"
By "high-quality" they are referring to meat, poultry and fish products that are derived mainly from muscle and organ tissue rather than "meat and bone meals". Some types of animal-derived meals are not considered to be high quality because of the processing they undergo.
A few individuals express concern regarding feeding dogs and cats "high protein" diets. Blame is laid on "high protein" levels for a spectrum of disorders ranging from epilepsy to hyperactivity to kidney damage. Attempts to find a level of protein at which a diet becomes "high" in it are often met with a range of values; nutrition experts do not all agree what level constitutes a "high" level of protein in a dog (or cat’s) diet.
The data showing that excess protein causes renal damage are imaginative extrapolations of results derived from test animals that have renal deficits pre-existing and who are then fed levels of protein that induce uremic poisoning. Early studies that pronounced protein as harmful to dog kidneys were based on studies done on RATS! They weren't even done on dogs, and that research drove the pet food industry for years.
As it turns out, there are major differences in how the rat kidney (is a rat a meat eater, anyway?) metabolizes protein contrasted to how the canine kidney handles protein. I invite anyone to produce even one scientific experiment on dogs or cats that proves normal kidneys are harmed by feeding good quality, balanced rations that contain high levels of protein.
The more one peers into this pet food universe, the more one is impressed as to how much we have yet to learn. And much of what one learns is self-taught. Nutrition and pets -- very interesting topics and worthy of our sincere investigation.
Image: Melissa Gray / via Flickr