Food Safety and Your Pet

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In recent months, you may have heard of reports in the news about recalls and possible safety issues involving pet food.  And In July, 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the voluntary recall of a certain brand of canned dog food because it could contain small pieces of blue plastic. After reading about this and other recalls, I did a little investigating on my own.  Did you know the following about the food you feed your pets?

•    All pet foods must list the ingredients present in the food.
•    Pet food ingredients referred to as  ‘animal fat’, ‘by-product meal’, ‘meat and bone meal’, ‘meat meal’ (not ‘chicken meal’ or ‘turkey meal’ or any other specific named meat meal), and ‘animal digest’ are allowed to contain a rendered animal along with other waste animal material after the rendering process , which removes the fat and water from the product. Meat or poultry by-product meal contains parts of animals not normally eaten by people.
•    The term “by-product” is defined as “a secondary or incidental product deriving from a manufacturing process,” All of these less than appealing leftovers are clumped into one ingredient name – by-product. 
•    Closely scan the pet food or pet treat label and avoid this ingredient: Menadione Sodium Bisulfate. This is a synthetic vitamin K that has been linked to serious disease according to some sources.
•    Some consumers try to avoid pet foods with synthetic preservatives, such as Ethoxyquin which is suspected to be linked, in high doses, to liver damage and other health problems in dogs.
If you want to avoid commercial products, make your dog healthier and most likely save money, make your food. It’s easy! All you need is an oven, a knife, and a crockpot.  Lots of your dog’s skin and coat issues as well as allergies could clear up! When making your own dog food, you should first check with your vet to discuss any specific dietary needs or health issues that should be considered before making your own food. 

First, know what to avoid in any pet food:
Ingredients to Avoid
•    Chocolate
•    candy containing the sweetener Xylitol
•    grapes and raisins
•    macadamia nuts and walnuts and tree nuts
•    moldy foods
•    most mushrooms
•    mustard seeds
•    onions and onion powder
•    garlic (raw, cooked, and powdered)
•    yeast dough
•    avocado,
•    green tomatoes or tomato plant parts,
•    potato peels (ESP. green),
•    rhubarb leaves, persimmons
•    raw eggs
Beef is the number 1 meat allergy in dogs. Corn and soy are hard to digest also and wheat should be avoided as it can also cause allergies. Anything with lactose (milk, cheeses, yogurts, etc.) should be used mainly as treats as too much can trigger a lactose intolerance and/or allergy according to the  ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center website.
Generally, a dog’s diet should consist of about 1/3 protein (from meat, eggs or dairy products) and 2/3 grains and vegetables.

•    grain: brown rice, oatmeal, barley, quinoa
•    dairy: hardboiled eggs
•    protein: with meats, be as lean as possible.
o    Chicken (de-boned)
o    Deboned whitefish is a choice for dogs with sensitive digestion. If you are a fisherman- free food!
o    Fresh salmon (darker meat)
    If your dog has allergies to the above, try duck, venison, or bison. If you are a hunter or have a friend who hunts, maybe you can get some free venison or duck!
o    Vegetables and fiber: These need to be added to a pet’s diet slowly and carefully;  just like in people, too much fiber added quickly can be upsetting to a stomach.
    Green beans, peas, apples on occasion (w/seeds removed), blueberries, carrots, yams, sweet potatoes & pumpkin. All of these should be cooked with the rest of the ingredients.
For an easy dog food meal, putt a big hunk of venison (or whatever you pick) in a crockpot. Add some sweet potatoes and whatever else your dog may like. Keep it to the proportions listed above. Turn on your crockpot and a few hours later, it’s done!  Scoop the mix into portion size containers and freeze! (Keep only 3 days’ worth in the refrigerator)
Dog treats can be just as easy.  It is just a matter of cutting and drying the meat you choose (beef liver/chicken/beef) in your oven at 160 degrees. Just cut the pieces thinly, place on a baking tray spaced slightly apart, place in the oven and let it dry. Depending on how thick you slice them, 2 or 3 hours should be enough. Remember: you are taking out all the moisture. Dry until they are bendable for jerky or breakable for small training treats. Be sure to store them in the fridge. YOU might not like liver but try it for your dog. I bet you will have a shadow all day! If your dog likes apples or any other type of allowed food, you just do the same: slice thinly and dry.
For a cookie, make them appropriate to your dog’s size or in small pieces for a training treat. The “cookie” treats can be great fun if you have children to help you make them. Use your imagination. Just remember; your dogs do not need sugar.
•    1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
•    1/2 cup cornmeal
•    1/2 cup rolled oats
•    1 cup water, (add additional if dough is too dry)
•    1/2 cup oil
•    1 egg
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, blend together the dry ingredients. Add the rest. Mix the dry and wet ingredients completely -  go on, use your hands! Roll the dough out with a rolling pin until it is one-half to one-quarter of an inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the dough. Place them on a greased baking sheet about one inch apart. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the biscuits and bake them an additional 15 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Keep the biscuits refrigerated  and use them within three days. They may also be frozen for up to two months.
Use your imagination to change it up! Peanut butter works great; my dog’s favorite. Want meat flavored?  Save some of the juice from making dog food and use that instead of water. Try bacon and even the trusty liver.
Your pocketbook will be happy and your dog will be happy, shiny and healthy. And the bonus: if you have kids, keep them busy on these hot afternoons making cookies for dogs. But you know, cookies for the kids have to be the next treats made!