Daily Bulletin


The Conversation

  • Written by Daily Bulletin
imageAre our pets becoming captive to an industry that is harming them?Stephen Bowler/Flickr, CC BY

Fast food giant McDonald’s has been under a cloud in recent years as its US customers turn to alternatives. In this “Fast food reinvented” series we explore what the sector is doing to keep customers hooked and sales rising.


Commercial dry foods are the ultimate “convenience food” for pets. They are manufactured by the same companies that make such foods for humans, specifically Mars (Masterfood, Uncle Bens, Royal Canin), Nestle (Nestle-Purina, Friskies), and Proctor and Gamble (Iams and Eukamuba). The other big player (Hills) is owned by Colgate Palmolive.

These convenience food giants don’t just make staple diets, but also expensive treats (beef and chicken jerky and desiccated liver) that cost more per gram than fillet steak.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) has endorsed overseas policy guidelines that recommend feeding commercially prepared dry and canned food to cats and dogs. This is in stark contrast to how veterinarians and animal nutritionists feed carnivores in zoos.

Why the difference?

In zoos, big cats (lions, tigers, etc.) and wild dogs (dingoes, wolves) are fed predominantly fresh meat on the bone, to mimic what occurs in nature. Typically, whole chicken or turkey carcasses and portions (usually limbs) of cows and sheep comprise the major portions of the ration. Fresh meat, some offal and fresh bones are all normal food constituents in nature.

This ration requires vigorous mastication, as is the case when a carnivore dines in nature. Eating such tucker is hard work but clearly pleasurable. When finally satiated, carnivores generally have a long nap. For ethical reasons, we cannot reproduce the thrill of “the kill” when keeping carnivores in captivity, but we can certainly reproduce the enjoyment of a “natural feed”. Tearing apart flesh and stripping it off the bone is a physiologic way to “floss”, reducing plaque and calculus which otherwise build up on teeth. The mouth and digestive system of carnivores has adapted over millennia to this type of diet.

Cats, like their larger relatives, are hypercarnivores – carnivores who have evolved through natural selection to eat the flesh and bones of prey animals exclusively. The only carbohydrate normally eaten is in the liver and intestinal tract of prey. Dogs are carnivores, although they have less stringent nutritional requirements. One might therefore think that the ideal food for cats and dogs would include regular portions of fresh meat on the bone.

Why then are most commercial foods for cats and dogs dry extruded rations based on plant carbohydrates, with added fat, minerals and hydrolysed protein? And why do most veterinarians recommend such diets?

imageDomestic cats, like their wild relatives, benefit from a diet of raw meat and bones.Image sourced from Shutterstock.com

Marketing machine

My view is that our profession has been misdirected by the exceptionally clever marketing of multinational pet food manufacturers. In the human arena, such companies are often called “big food” and “big soda”.

Dry extruded diets are clean, convenient, have a long shelf-life, are easy to serve and store. They don’t need to be bought fresh every few days. They contain a lot of goodness and are balanced for vitamins, minerals and macronutrients. Indeed, as a component of a balanced diet, “premium dry food” has much to offer (more for dogs than cats and particularly for growing animals). But they tend to be consumed quickly, with little effort. If they are fed without careful portion control, you quickly end up with a fat pet.

The coating with tasty oils makes this food irresistible, just like salted potato crisps are to us. But it doesn’t have the physical qualities to remove calculus from teeth and many have excess carbohydrate and insufficient protein, especially for hypercarnivores. Cats fed these diets exclusively have the propensity to develop diabetes, obesity and osteoarthritis.

Pet food manufacturers provide most of the money for nutritional research in companion animals. They thus control the research agenda, and the “evidence base” for canine and feline nutrition. They donate money and products and sponsor functions at veterinary schools, thereby subliminally influencing the feeding practices of impressionable young vets and their teachers. They fund also clinicalnutrition lectureships and residencies. University management appear unconcerned by this arrangement. Pet food companies also sponsor seminars, webinars and sessions at scientific meetings. They run advertisements in leading veterinary journals and are a major sponsor of the AVA.

The final masterstroke of pet food companies is that they enlist veterinarians to actually sell, and thereby endorse these diets, right in the waiting rooms of their hospitals.

It doesn’t need to be this way. The concerted efforts of a number of forward-thinking veterinary scientists have meant that Australasian pet owners probably feed more raw meaty bones as part of a balanced ration than in many countries overseas. This is commendable. But we have some way to go.

Richard Malik does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Authors: Daily Bulletin

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-convenience-food-industry-making-our-pets-fat-46387

Writers Wanted

Why this Queensland election is different — states are back at the forefront of political attention

arrow_forward

Cervical, breast, heart, bowel: here’s what women should be getting screened regularly

arrow_forward

Will I or won't I? Scientists still haven't figured out free will, but they're having fun trying

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News

KIERAN GILBERT: Kieran Gilbert here with you and the Prime Minister joins me. Prime Minister, thanks so much for your time.  PRIME MINISTER: G'day Kieran.  GILBERT: An assumption a vaccine is ...

Daily Bulletin - avatar Daily Bulletin

Did BLM Really Change the US Police Work?

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has proven that the power of the state rests in the hands of the people it governs. Following the death of 46-year-old black American George Floyd in a case of ...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer

Scott Morrison: the right man at the right time

Australia is not at war with another nation or ideology in August 2020 but the nation is in conflict. There are serious threats from China and there are many challenges flowing from the pandemic tha...

Greg Rogers - avatar Greg Rogers

Business News

AppDynamics Solves Visibility Gap Between Traditional Infrastructure and Cloud Environments

New Full Stack Observability Platform, Integration With Cisco Intersight Workload Optimizer and Cloud Native Visualisation Features Provide Cross Domain Insights and Analytics of Business Perfor...

Hotwire Global - avatar Hotwire Global

Why Your Small Business Should Bulk Buy Hand Sanitiser

As a small business owner, employee and customer safety is at the very top of your priority list. From risk assessments to health and safety officers, appropriate signage and proper briefing...

News Co - avatar News Co

How Phone Number Search In Sydney Can Help Your Business

To run a successful business, keeping track of your company and competitors are the major factors. With a lot of tools, available businesses have options to stay current. One way in which busine...

News Co - avatar News Co



News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion