(Originally posted here: in response to the prevailing negative consumer attitudes – specifically towards Hill’s Science Diet which is getting a bit more flak than it probably deserves despite the valid concerns regarding misleading pet food labels)
Right now the whole industry is in an uproar about additives and what constitutes “health” in both animals AND people. There is a tremendous amount of finger-pointing and assumptions and general spread of mis-information on all sides, as well as a lot of faulty logic and jumping to conclusions which only serve to fuel ire. I find it rather distressing to see so many accusations and anger directed at Hill’s lately because there are quite a number of unexamined issues at stake, and were it really the worst kind of food that wasn’t supplying enough for our pets to thrive on, then I guess I was somehow blessed with an animal that thrived on garbage. I am by no means about to defend any brand just because I use it, but please be cautious before assuming that all fault lies in the manufacturers lap for every story about “food related” malaise in people’s pets.
There is always a mob mentality after anything gets “exposed” (like this recent brouhaha concerning commercial pet foods) and then every possible tangentially related or associated issue is turned into a scandal and a witch hunt. People talk about how their pet suddenly got diarrhea when they started feeding Science Diet, but they don’t mention that almost any pet will show gastrointestinal issues upon switching foods, especially if you just one day run out of the usual stuff and buy whatever is readily available! It should always be done very gradually by mixing with the food they are accustomed to until it is replaced, but if you suddenly just change up the diet, of course they may vomit or have diarrhea! Even a sudden switch to those highest priced “premium foods” is likely to be just as problematic as any if it isn’t done gradually.
And not every animal will do well on those premium foods either. Just as nutritional needs differ for different people. The bottom line is something my grandmother used to say: “One man’s food is another man’s poison” and that holds true for pets as well. If your pet is healthy (good energy, strong teeth, good coat, good spirits) and shows every indication of well being while being fed whatever you are using, then stick with it. IF something changes, then look to what in the environment has changed as it is probably unlikely to be the food they have done well on until that point. There are exceptions to this, of course, like when something becomes unusually tainted, but if your pet won’t eat it, that is often a sign that maybe they ought not to if everything else is normal. Many times bacteria can develop on even dry kibble AFTER packaging while sitting on store shelves or even when sitting unopened at home if conditions are right. This bacteria can be the source of potential illness, and anyone who might have this as the true reason behind their pets illness who also happens to feed the particular media scapegoat brand is sure to blame the food despite however long their pet might have been thriving previously.
And to the people screeching about “corn and fillers”: the order of ingredients listed doesn’t actually tell the whole story about the amounts of stuff in the formula. There are few articles that give a clue as to how these labels should actually be interpreted (one source is the warning under the topic “ingredient list” here: http://www.candckennel.com/Pet%20care%20Articles.html#petfoodlabels )
The problem is that since the industry is so poorly regulated that it can take an equation that starts to look like differential calculus to come up with any real sense of what stuff and in what percentage the foods actually contain! The articles that get a lot of attention are often a good deal of alarming stuff based on incomplete information and pseudo science (but this holds true from both sides of every argument, and as to the whole issue of corn in general being a nutritional source: I don’t have any degrees in nutritional science or the optimal nutritional needs of dogs, but I do know I can’t keep my mutt from eating the sweet corn in my garden despite going to extremes of fencing it off! There might be some reason he is so intent on getting at it, but its probably not because its useless to his system.)
I am loathe to believe the hype (good OR bad) about ANY particular brand without doing the research myself. I cannot say that Science Diet is great for every animal, but I can say that my large dog lived to 14 years in excellent health with minimal vet visits until he died peacefully of old age and he ate science diet for almost the entire time with the exception of the first year during which he ate Puppy Chow (which I have also been told is no good by various “experts”). I also had a cat that lived 22 years and visited the vet only twice (once as a kitten when she was mauled by the nieghbors dog and once to be fixed after her first and only litter) despite having been fed nothing but the very same low cost large kibble we fed the German Shepherd dogs we had. So I cannot stress enough that we need to pay attention to the environment that the pet is in and not be so quick to judge the food as the cause of illness just because someone else has decided its bad.
Nature probably knows best, but the fact is that Nature has kind of been shoved out of the picture by man on nearly every forefront. Even the food we feed our food is altered by chemical and salt fertilizers and pesticides, so its pretty hard to argue that a raw diet is any better considering what that raw food has been exposed to. Even organic gardening in the backyard is subjected to the water (which has been shown to contain all sorts of prescription med residues) and air pollution that is inescapable in any but the most remotely isolated location. My grapes experience herbicide damage every year, despite the fact that I use none, and I have no idea what source is causing the leaves to pucker for about a month each spring before it seems to return to normal. There are simply too many factors involved to be sure of where some of these health problems originate, but if anything I would start focusing on the big Pharm companies that have their hands in everything from agriculture to flu-shots before deciding that this brand of pet food is so much better than that. The whole recall in 2007 should have taught us that much when it became apparent that there were only a handful of suppliers for hundreds of brands which contained the same bad stuff. If you really want to find out what in the bag of dog food, you need to look at what ingredients are in the ingredients and what those sources are as well!
Make up your own mind only after hearing arguments from proponents on both sides of any issue rather than be swayed by extremist and/or unfounded statements that may be made in passion but without due consideration, and always when it pertains to information consider the source and what they may have to gain by influencing your choices. Too often we go by whats on the surface and later pay the price for our own hasty judgment. Its truly depressing that people don’t know how to actually think and process stuff on their own anymore and are so quick to jump in with any mob mentality no matter how stupid it is. (Heh-heh, its probably because of what WE’RE eating!!)