So, a few weeks ago I adopted a one-year old Lab-Husky mutt from YELP, a no-kill dog shelter in Baton Rouge. The first week or so was a learning experience occupied mostly with teaching him not to nip at our feet during play and getting little Jackson acquainted with a big (and he says scary) dog.
All was going well until I started reading the ingredients list on his dog food. I never thought about reading a pet food label before. I always assumed animals could eat anything and if their stomachs didn’t agree, they’d spit it up (except chocolate and grapes, of course).
First, there’s no such thing as “vegetarian” dog food, or at least not in any store I’ve been to. All of the major dog foods contain “chicken by-product meal,” “beef tallow,” and “beef soy flour.” Now, I had a debate with my roommate about this one: he says dogs are not meant to be vegetarians, I countered that dogs are often seen munching on grass to calm their bowels. Neither of us had ever done any legitimate research on it before because we never needed to. So I did some research.
Turns out, like with people, animals who are vegetarian or vegan outlive their omnivore counterparts by as much as 8 years, on average. For a dog, that’s doubling its life span.
A meat “by-product” is “organs and parts either not desired or condemned for human consumption. Includes: bones, blood, intestines, lungs, ligaments, heads, feet and feathers.” These come from animals suffering from the four D’s: Dead, Dying, Diseased and Disabled. And we don’t think it’s OK for dogs to eat grapes or chocolate, but we feed them this crap?
Then there’s this other stuff in dog food: “mixed tocopherols,” mostly consisting of butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydrocytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (a “less-toxic” version of antifreeze), and ethoxyquin.
All of these are known carcinogens. According to the USDA and EPA, “the long term build-up of these chemicals have been thoroughly studied and may ultimately be harmful to your health.” Yet, using antifreeze as a preservative in dog food (to preserve the diseased and dying animal parts chopped up in the food) is perfectly legal.
The problem I’m having now: finding a place that sells dog food without all this stuff in it. For now, Bounty will be dining with us.
For further reading:
The Animal Protection Institute, “What’s Really in Pet Food.”, January 29, 2002.
Kerns, Nancy “Choose the Best Dry Food.”, The Whole Dog Journal, February 2000, 13-17.
The Animal Protection Institute, “Selecting a Commercial Pet Food. “, October 25, 2001.