Last week Manel and I decided to watch Pet Fooled, a documentary on the pet food industry which is available on Netflix. Most of what Pet Fooled explained didn’t surprise me: I already knew that a great quantity of dog food is made of low-quality ingredients which in many occasions are not even appropriate for a dog’s diet.
The documentary is based on the pet food recall that began in 2007 when many pets died or got ill due to renal failure. Initially pet food companies refused to do anything about it, stating that it had nothing to do with their food, but later on it turned out that several foods prepared by these companies had been sourcing wheat gluten from the same Chinese manufacturer. However, the wheat gluten was in reality wheat flour which had been tainted with melamine and cyanuric acid.
Although this incident is serious enough, the situation is aggravated by the fact that legislation in the USA is lenient to say the least. Most of pet food manufacturers are part of or take part in the meetings of AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), where they can influence or decide what is appropriate as pet food. To make matters worse, many veterinarians are unaware of the bad quality ingredients in these foods, and recommend them to their clients.
The documentary seems to advocate for feeding raw food to the dogs, instead of kibble. Kibble was created during World War II because tin was reserved for ammunition, and manufacturers had to find another way to sell pet food in a different package. The main issues with kibble are that it’s processed at very high temperatures and that it has very low moisture content, making it less than ideal for pets.
However, there are no serious studies proving the benefits of raw food or kibble. Some veterinarians are against raw food because of the pathogens and bacteria that may be in the raw food, and the fact that these bacteria and pathogens may end up in the dog’s stool. However, as some of the interviewees mention, at this point in time there are no studies which prove the benefits of raw food.
My Opinion on the documentary
I really enjoyed watching the documentary. It served as a reminder of all the crap (excuse the word) that there is in dog food and showed all the manipulation made by the big manufacturers and the vulnerable position that we and our dogs are in. I certainly recommend watching it to all dog owners.
What I felt was lacking was a more balanced point of view. Perhaps there wasn’t a way, but while watching it both Manel and I felt like it was a full-front attack against the pet food industry. When someone is so against someone else, it feels like there may be a hidden agenda and that you’re not being told the whole story.
Again, do not let this drawback deterr you from watching the documentary, and I still think it’s very worthwhile, but I believe this is something that should be noted.
My Opinon on Dog Diets and Impact on Our Lives
In terms of raw foods vs kibble, I do believe that raw food is better in terms of nutrients and appropriateness, but at the same time, I’m not really sure it’s the solution. I think that the best option would be to feed a cooked, home-made, balanced diet. I do believe that there is a higher proportion of bacteria and pathogens in raw food, and if these elements end up in dogs’ stools, I think there would be a higher risk of disease transmission between dogs (and maybe their owners?). Plus, I hate the sight of raw meat, so I don’t think I’d be able to feed it to my dog. Take this opinion with a pinch of salt though: I’m not a veterinarian or a nutritionist so I’m talking from a layman’s point and my own experience and preferences.
The documentary also motivated Manel and I to strive to find a good food for Nix. We’re currently feeding her a veterinarian diet because she went through a diarrhoea stage (again) of unkown cause at the end of June, but when the bag of kibble is finished we’re thinking of either feeding her home-made food or trying Acana or Orijen. We hadn’t tried any of these because the puppy formulas contain chicken and we think she may be a bit allergic to it. However, she’ll be at least 17 months old by the time we’re done with it, so we’d probably get away with an adult formula.
In addition to this, we’ve also just purchased in e-book format Canine Nutrigenomics, a book on feeding dogs the right foods for them. I guess that once I’ve finished reading it I’ll write a review here.
If you’d like to read more on the topic, you can try the following links:
- Pet Fooled Official Website
- 2007 Pet Food Recalls @ Wikipedia
- Truth About Pet Food – run by Susan Thixton, a pet food safety advocate, it’s a source of news regarding the quality of pet foods, including information about ingredients, food recalls, reviews and regulations, among others. It’s focused on the US.
- 10 Secrets That the Pet Food Industry Is Trying to Hide From Consumers – A summary of main ten messages or lessons to be learnt from Pet Fooled
Finally, I’d like to recommend this video by Dr. Karen Becker, who gives a generic rating to pet foods, from best to worse. I think this video is a must-see if you want to know what to feed your dog. She emphazises the fact that the most important thing for the nutrition of your dog is a balanced diet, so do not prepare home-made meals if you have no clue what a balanced diet for a dog is. Amidst the horror stories, I believe this point was not emphasized enough in the documentary.
To write this article, I checked the following sources: