We’ve all been there – low or no carb, keto, paleo, plant based, intermittent fasting, high-protein, low fat, juice cleanses, you name it, we’ve done it! Food trends come and go each year as we know, and while these trends can have great benefits for our own nutrition, health and wellbeing, these trends often subconsciously influence the way we view and what we feed our pets.
We spoke with Dr. Ben Porter, a veterinarian at premium pet nutrition brand, Royal Canin, about how our diet trends are affecting our pets. He explained that we’re seeing more and more human food trends make their way onto pet food shelves. “While we know pet owners always have their pet’s best interest at heart, cats and dogs have very different nutritional requirements to humans,” Dr. Porter added.
To help you make the best nutritional choices for your cat or dog, we’re taking a look at current human food trends infiltrating the pet food market and debunking the myths.
Grain Free options in pet food has stemmed from our human food trend of cutting out or limiting the intake of carbs. Because carbs are bad, right? Wrong.
Just like us, good-quality carbohydrates play an important role in energy production and therefore should be part of your pet’s diet. When you consider how active your pet is – think of the long bush-walks, chasing and playing at the park, and all of the car rides your beloved pooch gets to the enjoy – it’s easy to see how their energy production needs to be supported.
“As a pet owner, it’s important to know not all carbohydrates are equal. There is an assumption in the Grain Free pet food movement that pets cannot digest carbohydrates, but they can,” said Dr. Ben Porter.
“The outer husk of grains are in fact indigestible to cats and dogs, but can provide a valuable source of fibre when removed and refined. In addition to the fibre from the husks, grains like wheat, rice, rye, oats, maize and millet become an excellent source of energy and crucial vitamins helping provide complete and balanced nutrition for your pet.”
These sorts of grains are also rich in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids. They also provide other nutrients to your pet such as magnesium, iron and fibre.
The movement towards raw food for pets has come from human food trends such as paleo and plant-based food movements. It’s the idea of feeding your pet as close to what they would ‘naturally’ consume in the wild as possible.
“The challenge with raw feeding is creating a safe and nutritionally balanced and complete diet for your pet,” said Dr. Ben Porter.
“It is important to remember our cats and dogs today have been domesticated over hundreds of years from their wild ancestors. It’s often misunderstood that these wild ancestors would just eat meat and bones from different animals, but in reality, they would actually eat a wide range of ingredients and would consume other essential nutrients from what their prey had eaten.”
While the ingredients that are used to formulate a pet food are important, it is the tailored nutrient profile supporting your pets’ health and wellbeing that you should evaluate closely. For example, the quality of fish oil used will impact the level of the important Omega-3 & 6 fatty acids supporting skin and joints. The level of antioxidants included should be of sound scientific evidence to support your pets healthy aging and immune support. It is this unique balance of nutrients that is complicated to achieve without the expertise in animal nutrition and veterinary care.
“It’s often thought that feeding a kibble is bad for your pet as kibble is ‘processed’. However, premium dry pet food brands use superior technology ensuring high digestibility that is formulated for your pets rich in proteins, full of nutrients and meet all of their individual requirements.”
Vegan or Vegetarian
The origin of this movement needs no explaining. As humans, we’re becoming more and more conscious of what we’re consuming and the environmental and ethical impacts that go along with these products. This trend is influencing the foods we’re feeding our pets and we’re seeing a shift towards vegan and vegetarian options for both cats and dogs.
“Over the last two years, there have been a number of Vegan and Vegetarian pet food brands enter the market; these brands are capitalising on the significant shift to veganism and vegetarianism in the human food industry,” said Dr. Ben Porter. “However, cats and dogs have very different nutritional needs to humans, and feeding your pet a complete and nutritionally balanced vegan or vegetarian diet can be really difficult to achieve as there are essential nutrients like Taurine that are hard to replicate in non-meat sources.”
“Some pets have food allergies and intolerances to certain meat derived protein products and in these cases alternative sources of protein can be really beneficial, but this doesn’t have to be simply plant based proteins. Premium pet food brands are leading the way with innovation within the industry. For example, Royal Canin has a product called Anallergenic that derives protein hydrolysate from poultry feathers. It is the same process used to generate baby formulas for sensitive infants and has a similar impact in our pets by reducing the chances of allergic responses to other protein sources in their diet.”
Dr. Ben Porter Recommends
“At Royal Canin, we have always believed that nutrients matter over ingredients. This approach opens the path to many alternative solutions that bring additional benefits to pets while also ensuring that we can select ingredients that are less impactful from an environmental point of view and are more positive from a social perspective, as long as they provide superior nutritional benefits for pets.”
Dr. Ben Porter suggests pet owners speak with their consulting veterinarian before switching their pet to any vegan, vegetarian or alternative protein-based diets.
As you can see, our human food trends while often beneficial for us, are not always the right fit for our four-legged friends. As with any dietary change for your pet, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian prior to ensure suitability and always looking for ‘complete and balanced’ diet options.
For more information on Royal Canin’s premium range of products, please visit www.royalcanin.com.