With the ever-increasing concerns with the origins of the foods we eat, people are becoming increasingly more conscious of the foods they are giving their pets, as well.
Spoiled Rott’n Pets and Their People has been serving Huntingdon County for more than a decade, specializing in healthy, natural pet food options for cats and dogs alike.
Owner Shelley Harman recommends a raw diet for pets.
She used to have to go out and buy fresh meat and personally add vitamins and nutrients, but her store now proudly carries frozen raw food options which have taken care of that step for her.
“It’s so much easier now. I can go to the freezer and take out a patty, and it already has everything in it,” Harman explained. “I don’t have to figure out how much greens or carrots I would have to put in it.”
She explained that a raw diet is much more beneficial for pets than kibble because, “dogs have been around way longer than kibble.”
“We created kibble because we’re lazy. We wanted something that was quick,” she said. “The best diet is a raw diet.”
A raw diet is much more like what these animals would have been eating in the wild and the things they ate before humans started mass producing the foods most people give their cats and dogs today.
Harman suggests looking for “made in USA” and ‘sourced in USA,” or “regionally sourced” on pet food packaging.
She explained that if a dog food contains lamb, that lamb is more than likely from Australia or New Zealand, and said that vitamins and minerals should be sourced here.
She also suggests not buying treats made in China, or raw hide treats.
Family-owned companies source their ingredients from different farms than the corporations.
Harman explained that a large corporation with many suppliers is likely to buy ingredients from which ever farmer is selling it cheapest, rather than being focused on quality, as she feels family-owned companies are.
Because not everyone feeds their chickens the same, she explained that the large corporation’s product may contain an inconsistent blend of chicken, including some which may have been given antibiotics while others have not.
If people want to stick with kibble, Harman suggests that they rotate the proteins which are included.
“Variety is the spice of life,” she said, explaining that just because a dog has been on a certain food its whole life, does not mean that it must remain on the same, in the same way that we would not enjoy eating only the same food every day of our lives.
“Switching brands is not a bad idea,” she explained, “because they might get different vitamins and minerals that the previous food did not include.”
Harman urges pet owners to read the labels on food and treat packaging and avoid BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin which, though they are common preservative ingredients in dog food, they are also used as rubber stabilizers and can cause cancer.
These compounds are found in popular brands including Pup-Peroni, Beggin’ Strips, and Pedigree dog food.
She also urges customers to, “stay away from animal byproducts, because they don’t have to tell you exactly what they are.”
Dogs, like humans, cannot digest corn, and corn is used as a, “cheap protein filler” in foods, Harman explained.
She also pointed out that corn can be split among several different names on the label, including corn gluten meal and corn millet.
This is done so that corn is not the first ingredient listed, which would be the most prevalent in the recipe.
This way, if someone chooses to only read the first couple ingredients on the bag, they may not realize how much corn, or other grains used to replace meat, may actually be in it.
Harman also does not think it is necessary to buy breed-specific dog foods.
“As far as I’m concerned, a German Shepard and a retriever can eat the same thing,” she said.
She then explained the size of a breed can determine what a dog needs to eat as a puppy, and how long it should be given the puppy recipe before upgrading to adult dog food.
“Large breed puppies grow differently, so they need a different fat to protein ratio than toy breeds,” she explained, “growing too fast can cause bone problems.”
Large dogs, such as great danes, may need to eat puppy food until they are around 18 months old, but it is dependent on how fast the dog has grown.
A smaller breed, however, may only need it for six to nine months, though most people will switch their dog over when it has reached one year old.
As far as cats are concerned, main coons grow slower and consequentially need a different fat to protein ratio.
A general rule of thumb for cats, Harman said, is “if they’re eating grain-free, they’re getting enough protein.”
Spoiled Rott’n Pets and Their People offers an individual nutritional counseling program that is available if an animal has health issues or if the owner is interested in feeding them a healthier food.
This is done at the individual level and can tailor nutrition advice to a dog or cat’s specific needs, including allergies or medical conditions.
She can also offer information on nutritional supplements such as goat milk.
Not every customer who comes to Harman for nutritional counseling is interested in completely changing his or her pet’s diet; some want to continue giving kibble and incorporate raw food into the animal’s diet.
“I have seen an increase in people who’ve done their research, and people who want to know what they should be doing instead, or they come to me when their pet has a problem,” said Harman.