“Commercial” pet foods
am often asked to explain what exactly is wrong with the “normal”
pet foods. Even when it is obvious from the health of the pet,
it may be difficult to say what it is about the food which makes
it unsuitable. Unlike for human food the law allows ingredient
listing on pet food to be generic.
The ingredient list may read something
like this” Cereals, animal derivatives, vegetable derivatives
. . . “ so it is impossible to know what is in it.
Why are manufacturers so vague? There
are two reasons that come to mind.
Firstly, if you knew precisely what you were feeding your pet
you would not buy the product.
The second reason is that this vague wording allows the manufacturer
to change the ingredients without having to change the labelling.
Why would a manufacturer want to change the recipe?
Because large manufacturers are constantly
on the lookout for cheap ingredients and it is more profitable
to purchase whatever happens to be available than to stick to
the same recipe regardless of cost.
As explained in the section on dietary
intolerance many health problems are caused by adverse reaction
to pet food ingredients. One needs to know what is in the food
and that the recipe will not change if food intolerance is to
The title of a food can be misleading.
A food may be called “Chicken and Rice” but a manufacturer
need only put 4% chicken and 4% rice into the formulation in order
to be able to do this. In Burns foods the brown rice and meat
make up over 80% of the total.
In general the price of the food
gives a clue as to the quality; good quality ingredients cost
more than poor quality ingredients. Protein from soya is a lot
cheaper than protein from fish or venison. Sometimes it is obvious
from its appearance that a food contains artificial colours.
In theory it ought to be possible
to tell from the condition of the pet whether its diet is right
for it. But this is fraught with difficulties. To the unpractised
eye it may appear that the pet is perfectly healthy but to the
expert there may be many signs that a problem is present
For example I encounter many dogs
which have a “doggy” smell, the coat may feel greasy
or unpleasant to the touch, the dog may be constantly moulting
or is somewhat itchy, or have tooth tartar. Owners may not notice
these symptoms or may assume that they are normal. Or they do
not realise that diet is responsible for the condition. Toy breeds
often have runny eyes where the tears stain the hair on the face;
it took me years to realise that this can be corrected by proper
Common pet health problems
John Burns Pet Health Management