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Pet Nutrition, Reading The Fine Print

Published Aug 18, 2021  |  Author: Dr. Laura Catena  |  Topic(s): ,

dog eating apple one health mission

Nutrition is everything. What we eat either helps us or harms us. Everything we consume – food or drink – has an effect at our cellular level. Our lifestyle choices affect our health – this includes not only what we consume, but also how much we move, stress management, and even what we think about. More information now than ever supports how our thoughts affect our body and overall health and well-being.

Regarding nutrition, I am constantly looking at labels. Labeling and marketing of pet food, as well as human food, is unfortunately intentionally misleading and is harmful to the unknowing consumer. So, even if we are reading labels, we have to delve further to understand exactly what the product contains.

For example, let’s discuss natural flavorings that are commonly listed on ingredient labels. Many consumers think that natural flavorings are solely from a natural food source and are healthful; this could not be further from the truth. More often than not, natural flavorings are a concoction of chemicals that can contain up to 100 ingredients. These ingredients are not required to be labeled by the FDA – they are mystery ingredients. Natural flavorings are practically the same exact thing as unhealthful and harmful artificial flavors. The natural flavor is derived from a natural source – but it is vital to keep in mind that there are other ingredients added to the base natural flavor. Again, there can be upwards of 100 different chemical concoctions that are added to this “natural” base flavor and the marketing is intentionally misleading and discreet.

There is not a one size fits all answer when it comes to what food is best to feed your pet. My general recommendations are to feed an organic based diet that does not contain any natural or artificial flavorings. I recommend feeding non-GMO, and food that is free of corn and soy. It’s important to feed a pet food that meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for maintenance. Ingredients that are sourced as sustainably and locally as possible are other important considerations as well.

I’m a huge supporter of supplementing our pet’s diets with fresh fruits and veggies that are safe for our dogs to consume (please always check with your veterinarian about specifically which fruits and veggies are safe). Some examples: bok choy, apples, blueberries, flaxseed, carrots, sweet potatoes, and spinach – to name a few.

The bottom line is each pet is unique. You want to feed your pet a healthful diet but you also want to make sure that your pet enjoys what he or she is consuming. Not all diets may meet the guidelines above, but you can choose what is most important to you. Supplementing the diet with safe and healthful foods is always encouraged. It’s really important that your pet is thriving on the diet. After all, food is medicine, not just for our furry family members but also for ourselves.

Personally, I try to eat a WFBP (whole food plant-based) diet for myself. This way of eating works well for me because it is a healthy way of eating. It also is not harmful to the environment, and as an animal lover, I choose not to consume animal products. There are so many options of what we can choose for ourselves as well as our pets, and it’s important that you feel comfortable with your choices, whatever those may be! Here’s to healthy eating to everyone!


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Dr. Laura Catena is the Founder and President of The ArmOR Hand Gloves.

She graduated from The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine and is a small animal veterinarian. Dr. Catena developed The ArmOR Hand Animal Handling Gloves after a life-threatening injury she endured while working emergency medicine. She is a member of the Women's Business Enterprise National Council and an animal welfare advocate.

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