Reading Up on Pet Food

April 15, 2014 by Dana Smook
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What type of food does your pet eat? Do you know what’s really in that food?

In 2013, the news story every dog owner was talking about involved tainted jerky treats, which sickened nearly 3,600 dogs and killed hundreds. A newer article from the Washington Post brings up those bad memories again, saying the FDA is still trying to “nail down what might be behind the illnesses.”

Our furry children are our family, and many Americans are thinking harder about what they’re feeding their families, moving toward less processed, more organic options. So of course there are many questions surrounding the kibble our pets eat. Do all store bought pet foods provide the same nutritional value? How can we be sure the food we buy is safe? Should we go with dry or wet foods? You want to choose the very best nutrition for your pet at a price you can afford.

At Kanawha County Public Library, requests for books about pet nutrition and health are increasing. If you’re like me, you find the food aisles at your favorite pet store overwhelming, and maybe you are struggling to understand the choices there. Here are some resources that you can trust to help you navigate food choices for your dog or cat.

Online Resources

The Chemistry of Kibble,” by Mary Roach, featured in Popular Science.
While this article won’t help you choose a brand or type of food, it is an engaging peek into the pet food industry, written by a favorite author of nonfiction readers.

FDA and Pet Food” (Online video).
This is a video from the FDA which discusses roles the agency plays in regulating the manufacture of pet foods. The information is a little dry, but if you’re wondering just how much oversight there is over your pet’s food, this may answer some of your questions.

Choosing the right pet food” by Dr. Cynthia Maro, featured in the Ellwood City Ledger.
Here’s the short and sweet: what to look for in a pet food, from a veterinarian, written for the layman.

Books Available at Kanawha County Public Library

Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mine, by Marion Nestle
In 2007, reports of sick animals led to a massive recall of pet food. The “trail of tainted pet food ingredients” led officials to sources that involved human food supply. This expose highlights connections between pet food and human food manufacturing and identifies gaps in international food safety oversight.

Feed Your Pet Right, by Marion Nestle
Nutritionist Marion Nestle, author of Pet Food Politics and What to Eat, teamed up with veterinarian Malden Nesheim to create this guide on selecting healthy food for pets. The authors shine light on industry practices and marketing tricks to help pet owners objectively evaluate pet food labels and nutritional quality.

Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook, by Barbara Taylor-Laino
Not satisfied with commercially available foods? Frightened by the massive contamination scares of the last decade? This book includes recipes for feeding pets at every stage of life, including snacks and treats and suggestions for supplementing store bought pet food with homemade.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Liz Palika
You might scoff at the “Complete Idiot’s Guide” series, but these are excellent, highly researched reference books. This one is no different. While this book covers a range of topics, there is special focus on food and nutrition. You’ll find lots of excellent information here on how food can affect your pet’s health.

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