Pets Chow Down!


He tilts his head up and gives you that pleading look. There’s only one thing on your pet’s mind: It’s time to eat. What are you thinking when you open that can or bag of cat or dog food?
You care as much about your pet’s health as you do your own, and that’s why you want what’s best for both of you. Whether you already feed your pet natural and organic meals or are considering it, the benefits are well worth it.
After all, what beast really wants to eat the sodium benzoate (a food preservative), BHT (butylhydroxytoluene, a controversial antioxidant additive), artificial colors, and other chemicals found in so many pet foods? “Some artificial ingredients have been associated with allergic reactions and inflammation in humans and animals,” says Nancy Scanlan, DVM, CVA, MSFP, executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. These problems can include skin irritations, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and colorectal cancer.
There are other reasons to go organic when choosing pet food. “A number of studies show that organic pet foods contain more micronutrients—vitamins and minerals than nonorganic ones,” continues Scanlan. “Grass-fed beef, from naturally raised cows, has more omega 3s and less bacteria and fat than feed-lot beef.”
When You Go Shopping
Look for pet-food packaging that flaunts the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic seal, assuring contents were produced without conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human or industrial waste contamination, genetically modified organisms, or growth hormones. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which inspects pet food manufacturing plants, defines “natural” as unprocessed, or not processed using synthetic chemicals, and not containing chemically synthetic additives.
Be sure to examine the food labels and note the first five ingredients; they should supply a product’s essential proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. “Make sure that list starts with fresh meat, and includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains,” recommends David Yaskulka, vice president, with Purely for Pets, a natural pet food producer. “Avoid ‘filler’ grains like corn and rice; and high-glycemic-index foods, such as potatoes.”
You can boost your pet’s diet with extra vitamins and minerals, omega-3 and other fatty acids, and herbal and homeopathic supplements. “In general, these are good for chronic problems, with symptoms such as skin and bowel problems; shortness of breath; and excessive water intake, urination, and weight gain and loss,” says Scanlan.
The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that dog food with omega-3 fatty acids sourced from fish oil and other marine sources can improve your pooch’s immune response, beautify his skin, and make his coat shiny. For cats, omega 3s can reduce pain from feline degenerative joint disease (DJD).  
Final Thoughts
Before feeding your furry friend anything new, check with your vet. Whether you’re serving him organic and natural food for the first time, or changing brands, make the switch gradually. Every day, for about 10 days, mix a little more of the new into the old, so your pet can get used to it, comfortably.
While he’s chowing down, advancements in natural and organic pet food are keeping his health in mind, with packaged foods that include added vitamins and minerals, and raw versus cooked ingredients.
With organic and natural pet foods becoming more accessible than ever, it’s getting easier to make good choices for your pet. You can be sure that his healthier body thanks you.