PART II: WHAT’S IN MY PET’S FOOD?
In the last blog, we talked about some of the more “curious” ingredients that find their way into our pet’s food.
Getting into the nitty gritty of pet food ingredients, really makes a pet parent think about what you want your pet to ingest, as well as the word “natural”. As you know, we at the store take pride in the fact that we offer food, treats, and supplements that are as natural to your pet’s diet as possible, but understanding that natural doesn’t always necessarily SOUND natural is an important thing to understand while reading a pet food ingredient list. (And that just because something started off as natural, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been chemically altered.)
And to that end, knowing that “natural” doesn’t always mean “best” for your pet, is good to know too. There’s a reason why there is a legal distinction between “natural”, “organic”, and “holistic” on pet food labels. “Natural” can be rather open ended, so just as we always say in the store, it’s not about what the best food is, it’s about what’s best for your pet. And it’s YOUR job to know that!
So let’s keep educating ourselves. In the second part of our list you’ll find more natural ingredients, some chemical additives (might I remind you that even “natural” products are chemicals ex. vinegar), and some ingredients you may recognize from your own diet. Read it, be informed, and as always decide what is right for you and your pet.
These guys know they’re getting good stuff!
Potassium sorbate: Derived from sorbic acid (from ash tree berries), and more commonly synthetically produced, potassium sorbate is a food preservative, antioxidant, and humectant used in wet pet foods. It is one of the most commonly used preservatives in pet food, and generally does not have any reactions or side effects when administered correctly.
Sodium phosphate: A general term referring to a phosphorus or phosphoric acid additive in pet foods. Phosphorus is an essential element for all life, and balance of phosphorus is very important in a pet’s diet, as it aids maintaining balance between acidity and alkalinity in a pet’s body. A proper balance of calcium to phosphorus is vital to a dog or cat’s bone and nerve health.
Both naturally derived and synthetic sodium phosphate is used in pet food, though there is some debate as to the digestibility of synthetic sodium phosphate.
Sodium Tripolyphosphate: A controversial ingredient that many premium pet food companies are phasing out or not using at all. Touted as a dental additive to reduce tartar buildup in pet’s food, sodium tripolyphosphate or STPP has many more applications used across both human and pet food industries.
Most commonly food grade STPP is used as a chemical food preservative. It pulls water to food, especially meats and seafoods, making it appear “plumper” and heavier. Very often STPP is used to make older, “less fresh” meats and seafood appear fresh when it is not, by improving its look and texture. Many food companies will advertise or promote their food as being “STPP Free” or “dry” (not being soaked in STPP).
Industrial grade STPP is also found in cleaning agents such as detergents, soaps, and toothpaste. It can also be found in paint.
Dogs Naturally Magazine quotes the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States as saying, concerning phosphates:
Polyphosphates are legally permitted additives that are widely used to aid processing or to improve eating quality of many foods, particularly meat and fish products. The main value of polyphosphates lies in improving the retention of water by the protein in fish.
And Food and Water Watch reports:
In large quantities, STPP is a suspected neurotoxin, as well as a registered pesticide and known air contaminant in the state of California.
With all the concerns over STPP, many pet owners are making the move to remove it from their pet’s diet.
Sorbic acid: An antimicrobial food preservative generally regarded as safe. See potassium sorbate. In rare cases, long term overexposure or unintended overdoses (generally not found in food) of sorbic acid or potassium sorbate, can cause allergic reactions or nutrient absorption issues.
Tapioca starch: A highly digestible grain free and gluten free starch found in many pet kibbles, especially for dogs. A starch of some form must be used to bind kibble. It is a good alternative to potato, especially if a dog has a potato sensitivity. Because it is a relatively “novel” starch compared to potatoes or wheat, many “hypoallergenic” dog foods use tapioca instead.
A decent source of iron, tapioca is generally low in nutrients. However, tapioca is high on the glycemic index so pets who need to be wary of such, take heed. If your pet suffers from yeast issues, tapioca may not be the best option (chickpeas would be a better choice). Also, due to it’s high calorie content, tapioca may be a good choice for underweight pets, but a less desirable choice for overweight pets.
Taurine: An amino acid derived from muscle meat. With a meat based, balanced diet, dogs can synthesize taurine, but cats cannot. CATSCANNOT. While cats on a raw, meat based diet can get adequate taurine from the proper balance of muscle and organ meats (not the simplest thing, and just to be safe, I always supplement my cat’s raw food with pure, human grade, taurine) and a rotation of different animal sources, cats eating kibble or canned food must eat such foods supplemented with taurine.
Now, due to many unfortunate cat (and some dog) deaths in the 1970’s because of lack of taurine/real meat in pet food, legally all cat food must have taurine in it.
When we tell you that cats must eat cat food, and cannot share your dog’s food, it is not because we are trying to sell you two foods, it is because your cat and dog have different nutritional needs. Cats without adequate taurine in their diet will eventually suffer from blindness, dilated cardiomyopathy, and even death.
Tocopherols (often Mixed tocopherols): Considered a safer, more natural choice, it is the most commonly used preserved in premium pet foods. It is a mix of tocopherols found in vitamin E and is often combined with ascorbic acid and/or rosemary.
Vegetable glycerin: A colorless, odorless humectant used in pet food as a binder, emulsifier, preservative, and sweetener. It is little to no nutritional benefits, and is generally regarded as safe.
Vegetable glycerin is preferred in pet foods, as opposed to glycerin, as some glycerins are a byproduct of biofuels and can have residual Methanol. Methanol is a poisonous liquid used in making formaldehyde.
Brandy will help herself to some good eats if I’m not careful!
I hope this clears up some things for you. This is sort of the “next level” ingredient label reading, I know all our customers are ready for.
And as always, if you have questions, always ask us! It’s our business to be able to guide you to the best choice for your fluffy family member.
~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger
As always, check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet or body care. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.