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Add Life to Your Pets

By Sandy Beck

If you shop at New Leaf Market Co-op, you are probably conscious about what you eat. Do the animals you love deserve anything less?

A gazillion brands of pet food—canned, dry and moist—fill the shelves of our local chain supermarkets, providing us with as many head-spinning choices as we are faced with on the human breakfast cereal aisle.

Slick Madison Avenue marketers spin out TV commercials and magazine ads that would have us believe commercially prepared pet foods, like Purina, will provide our beloved pets with a “carefully balanced, natural” diet.

More often than not, these commercial pet foods contain stuff we would never swallow. Poultry by-products? Beaks, feet, intestines, bones and other parts not generally consumed by humans. Animal fat? A by-product of mystery meat processing.

BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, a proven carcinogen that has also been linked to seizures in dogs, are added to preserve the shoddy mess. Manufacturers are not required to list ethoxyquin on labels if it is used to preserve the meat by-products or fat that the manufacturer added later, but it is still present. The chickens, cows and other animals whose bodies are used in commercial pet food were likely pumped up with antibiotics and growth hormones. Cheap fillers, such as corn, wheat, gluten and soy offer no nutritional value and are often difficult for pets to digest.

What should you look for in pet food? Dogs and cats are not vegetarians. A protein source, meat or meat meal (meat with the water removed), should be the first ingredient. Brown rice, barley and oats are quality grains. Food containers should be vacuum-sealed or contain only natural preservatives such as vitamin C (ascorbate), vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), and oils of rosemary, clove or other spices. Fats, such as omega 6, linoleic acid from chicken fat, sunflower oil, and omega 3 from flaxseed are desirable fats that promote healthy skin and relieve inflammation.

Fortunately, all the pet food brands New Leaf Market Co-op carries contain high-quality ingredients: Whole Earth Farms, Castor & Pollux, NutriSource, Solid Gold and Natural Planet.

A few years ago, we adopted Buddy, a sweet Lab mix from the Tallahassee-Leon Community Animal Service Center (animal shelter). His eyes were glazed and his coat was dry and flakey. After only one month on a diet of Solid Gold dry dog food, Dream Coat—a blend of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids and vitamins by Halo, Solid Gold’s Sea Meal, and a lot of love, Buddy’s dry skin was just a bad memory. His coat had a new sheen and his eyes sparkled. Solid Gold comes in vacuum-sealed, foil bags that preserve the freshness of the ingredients and potency of the nutrients without artificial preservatives.

Rather than adding saturated animal fats, Solid Gold uses the same flaxseed oil, canola oil and salmon oil we include in our own diets. All meat and fish are free from growth hormones and antibiotics. Other natural ingredients include highly digestible and nutritious grains—brown rice, millet and barley; sweet potatoes; blueberries; and cranberry meal to promote healthy urinary tracts.

We add a little plain, non-fat yogurt (to keep his intestines pumped with friendly bacteria) and whatever steamed or raw vegetables we’re having for dinner. Because Buddy is now a “senior citizen,” we also give him the same glucosamine and chondroitin supplement we take for our stiff joints.

I have enjoyed the companionship of dogs, cats, birds and other non-human animals all my life. I can’t imagine living without them.

Whether you already have a four-legged family member or are planning to add one (please consider our local animal shelter or a rescue group), the decision to adopt a pet is a commitment for the life of the animal. Just how happy and healthy that life will be depends on, to a great extent, what you feed him—high quality, nutritious food blended with a lot of love and affection.

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