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Natural Pet Food: Is It Really Worth The Cost?

By Dr. Andrew Jones

Should you be choosing a natural/organic pet food, or just feed a less expensive conventional brand? This question is on more pet owner’s minds in light of a recent Stanford University study which concluded that: “organic produce probably is no more nutritious than conventional produce.” This article will show you why you really should be feeding organic pet food, and highlight the flaws in the study. The surprisingly high incidence of dog and cat diseases will be shown, the link to diet and disease is revealed, and lastly you will be given a guide in choosing a healthy pet food.

The primary author, Dena Bravata claimed: “There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” So it now fine for you and your pets to eat pesticides? This study has one huge flaw, in the that it concludes that it is fine to eat toxins, such as pesticides and herbicides, so long as they don’t affect vitamin and mineral content. The researchers pointed out that 38% of conventional produce contains pesticide residue in comparison to 7% of organic produce. This was not considered significant as the chemical traces were supposedly safe, according to the ‘EPA’ (Environmental Protection Agency.) Currently there is much debate about the EPA limits, and in fact in 2010, an Cancer Panel appointed by President Obama recommended that people eat organic produce; they were of the opinion that the EPA research is lacking, and there is little national protection.

Our dogs and cats receive superior health care, supposedly marked advances in nutrition, yet appear to be getting more diseases more often. During my 17 years of veterinary practice, seeing more than 30,000 dogs and cats, I clearly saw increasing number of pets with cancer, allergies, and diabetes. According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, Canine Cancer affects one out of every three dogs. Of those, over half of them will die of cancer. Golden Retrievers have the highest incidence of cancer amongst all dog breeds. The breed’s average lifespan is now down to 10 1/2 years, and 60% of Golden Retrievers will die of cancer. Allergies are on the rise, and estimates suggest that up to fifteen percent of the canine population may suffer from inhalant allergy or atopic dermatitis. A Banfield Pet Hospital study called the “State of Pet Health 2011 Report” that looked at the incidence of diabetes in dogs and cats. They found that one in every 50 to 400 cats is diagnosed with diabetes. In dogs, it is quoted at one in every 200 dogs. And these data further reflect an increasing incidence. The study shows a 32 percent increase in diabetes mellitus in dogs from 2006 to 2010 and a 16 percent increase in diabetes mellitus in cats during that same time period.

Are cancer, allergies and diabetes primarily caused by pesticides and herbicides in your pet’s food? No. Clearly there are many causes; genetics, pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins, and diet, just to name a few. There isn’t just one simple cause and effect, as virtually all disease arises from many factors. This then begs an answer to the question…Should you buy your dog or cat a natural pet food? If you can afford to, I strongly suggest yes. There are a number of studies which link herbicides and pesticides to cancer; it’s hard to imagine that there is a safe level. Clearly something is causing increasing incidences of cancer, allergies and diabetes; toxins in pet food may be part of the explanation.

So then what makes a healthy pet food? Here are the basic guidelines that I advised my clients to follow, and I suggest you do so as well: Real meat, such as chicken, lamb, beef, bison, deer, or fish, as the primary ingredient. These are a sources of high-quality, highly digestible protein. Proteins are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction, repair and energy. Vegetables and fruit provide essential phytonutrients, antioxidants and enzymes, plus natural vitamins, minerals and fibers. As with us, vegetables and fruit have been shown to promote health and wellness. If there is a carbohydrate, it should be a complex carbohydrates, such as potato, sweet potato, brown rice, barley or oats. These are helpful in maintaining your dog’s energy level, but carbohydrates are not necessarily required for dogs, and definitely not required for cats. Lastly feed at least 25% of your dog’s food as canned, and 50% of your cat’s food as canned- this alone markedly helps reduce the incidence of diabetes.

The Stanford University organic produce study is seriously flawed in that it concludes that there is no harm in consuming small amounts of herbicides and pesticides. Certain dog and cat diseases, such as cancer, allergies and diabetes are increasing in prevalence, and diet is likely playing a role in this. It is prudent to avoid dietary toxins found in conventional pet food, and feed your dog or cat an organic pet food. Use the suggested basic guidelines in choosing a commercial pet food, including feeding canned food as a portion of your dog or cat’s diet.

Dr Andrew Jones

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Topics: Cat Care, Cat Health, Dog Care, Dog Health, Pet Care, Pet health | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “Natural Pet Food: Is It Really Worth The Cost?”


  1. sharon sharpstone Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 6:54 am

    I feed Orijen to my dogs, it may be expensive, but there is a old saying you get what you pay for.This is a good quality food with meat as its primary source with vegetables and fruit.

  2. Anne Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I feed my border collie a meat muffin made by Canine Life. He loves it. He also gets a enzyme and probiotic, fish oil, bee pollen and coconut oil.
    I have been thinking of raw, but am a bit nervous, though I must admit that the dogs I have seen on raw look amazing. Still on the fence, though I suppose once I got into the routine it would be just fine.

  3. Michelle Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Thank you for the info, I was wondering about that since the report came out. I have always fed good quality food, you’d swear they eat better than we do…lol. I feed Acana, raw and homecooked and feel the same as Sharon – you get what u pay for

  4. Sheila Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 9:53 am

    I feed my dog NRG, rotation of proteins and Natures Variety Raw, Go kibble as treats and a new version of cooked ( can get raw) called Complete. I rotate things around. I also do the muffin as a rotation. Also add some steamed veggies (plain) when I am serving them for dinner. I portion things out so as my dog will not get overweight. All cost more, but my dog seems to do well.

  5. Sheila Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Forgot to mention I also add Salmon or Krill Oil and she gets plain Yogurt too.I try to make sure that I don’t use things that contain preservatives etc.

  6. Rich Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 10:32 am

    Andrew The word seems to be getting out more as here in Mesa,AZ there are more and more NATURAL PET FOOD STORES opening up. The first store BARK AVENUE came here 15 years ago where I was purchasing my food. I am so happy to see the natural dog food ad’s on TV. Rich

  7. Marilyn Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 11:22 am

    There is another major reason to feed organic food. We can no longer afford NOT to buy organic. Soil is depleted of nutrients due to conventional farming methods (sowing the same crops in the same fields continuously requires chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as opposed to crop rotation and allowing fields to lie fallow). Pesticides and fertilizers run off into our water supply. Just this week I read about the poisoning of the Mississippi river from the huge amounts of pesticides sprayed on corn crops. Buying organic supports natural and sustainable farming methods. Buying conventional produce supports corporations like Monsanto that are genetically modifying food in order to survive spraying of toxic chemicals like Round Up (seeds are even called Round Up Ready), and then Monsanto owns the patents to seeds that must be purchased from them every year. Very soon they will control the global production of food and will therefore have a level of power that is unheard of. I have read that farmers can no longer even find non genetically modified corn to feed cattle – even most organic corn is genetically modified. The legacy we are leaving our children and grandchildren by ignoring this problem is just plain wrong. Buy organic, not just for your health, but for the health of the planet.

  8. Dee Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I feed my shi-tzu “Just-a Wee Bit” from Solid Gold, with the additon of some chopped up organic chicken breast. (He’s picky and spoiled) Nikko is now 13 1/2 and aside from deafness and cataracs he is pretty healthy. Grocery store dog food gave him hemorhagic gastro enteritis and I almost lost him twice before I switched him over to holistic dog food. I would never feed him anything else but holistic ever again!

  9. Gabi Sandoval Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I was told that you are not suppose to feed your
    cat any dry cat food, in your artical you say
    50%from a can and 50% dry, please let me know.
    I do not feed my cat any dry cat food or any
    can food with fish products (because of all the
    bad things they are finding in fish) My older
    cat Maggie has a loose stool she also drinks
    alot of water is it because she only eats can food she also takes a natural urinery table(one a day) but I don’t think thats it, because she had a infection and I start giving her this tablet and
    she hasn’t had a problem since. My cats eat
    half Wellness and half friskie. Gabi

  10. mike Says:
    September 7th, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    My slurry porridge recipe,
    Proportions may vary
    Pour 1 to 2 glasses of water into a blender.
    Add 1 to 2 cups of mince meat. Don’t get the pet mincemeat in packets from the supermarkets, they are so high in nasty chemicals. Rather go to the butcher or supermarket and buy the low grade human mince.
    Lennards sell cheap chicken mince for about $2 a kilo. It is ground up chicken bones, carcasses etc
    I then add a raw carrot, maybe a bit of raw brocolli, cut up 2 inches of celery, a few leaves raw spinach, ¼ beetroot, ¼ pear or apple.
    The main ones to avoid is onions and grapes
    I blend the whole lot up until it is like a purree porridge
    When it comes to feeding time I pour out a portion of the porridge, add bits of raw meat or chicken, liver heart etc, a chicken neck etc You may wish to add a raw egg and a dollop of youghurt.. small teaspoon of LSA from the health shop certainly goes down well.
    In the beginning you may have to add more mince meat to hide the vegetable flavour.
    In the beginning you may have to actually sit down with your pet and hand fed him the food until he gets used to it.
    If you are concerned about chicken necks getting stuck in their throats, just get 2 bricks and bash the neck between the bricks and then break them up

  11. Debby StClair Says:
    September 8th, 2012 at 4:56 am

    I have three large rescue dogs that I feed “Taste of the Wild”. It’s dry, organic. They also get fruits and veggies from my organic garden. Is this enough or do I need to add something else to their diet. The vet says they are healthy, and all three are very active. The only thing I worry about is their dental care. Trying to find something to keep them in good dental health cause getting there teeth cleaned at the vets is very costly. Any ideas??

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Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM
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