Did you know your pet’s food may include dangerous ingredients and harmful chemical compounds? Some of the most expensive brands, labeled “premium,” “natural,” “prescription diet” or even sometimes “organic” are often made from adulterated ingredients or contain carcinogenic and inflammatory additives.
High prices do not necessarily imply high quality. Illusive labels and deceptive marketing are used by many companies to disguise substandard food.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Cornucopia’s newly released report, Decoding Pet Food: Adulteration, Toxic Ingredients and the Best Choices for Your Companion Animals, reveals how the pet food industry is regulated, details specific ingredients to avoid and explains how to keep your pet healthy by choosing wisely at the pet food store and/or preparing their meals at home. Also included with this publication is an online shopper’s guide to help consumers differentiate between high quality, safe pet foods and their more risky alternatives.
Loose regulatory standards often protect the interests of companies that use lower quality ingredients and legislation and regulatory oversight for pet food is aimed at the feed industry. Current regulations allow for the use of animals “which have died otherwise than by slaughter” in pet foods. And, individual state regulations often allow for road kill, restaurant grease and spoiled meat to enter rendering facilities. These admissions pose significant risks to our pets, failing to ensure the quality and nutrient balance of their diets.
NEW REPORT shedding light on serious problems in #pet food industry regulations: https://t.co/NfwRkFXJ5a #dog #cat https://t.co/uEEIBJhxvk— Cornucopia Institute (@Cornucopia Institute)1450059649.0
Cornucopia’s research into the pet food industry reveals that many products stray from the natural, wild diets of cats and dogs. Protein, fat and carbohydrate ratios may differ significantly from the nutritional needs of your pet. The majority of both dog and cat food product formulations contain too many grains and starches. Though grains need not be avoided completely in pet food, cats and dogs are carnivorous and should have diets based primarily on meat.
This report outlines reasons to avoid brands listing ingredients such as corn, wheat, corn gluten meal, soybean meal and brewer’s rice. Consuming moldy grains is arguably the most detrimental health hazard in pet food ingredients due to the mycotoxins produced by the molds. In addition to grains, many products contain other questionable and/or unnecessary ingredients.
When shopping for your pet’s food, there are specific ingredients you should learn to avoid. Carrageenan, synthetic preservatives, meat and bone meal, bisphenol A (BPA) and forage fish are a few of the main culprits.
Food-grade carrageenan, a thickening agent often found in wet pet food, contains poligeenan (carrageenan of low molecular weight), a known carcinogen. Multiple studies show food-grade carrageenan causes intestinal inflammation in laboratory animals, with the potential to lead to cancer, even in small doses. Even some of the most expensive, “premium” brands of pet food, including, ironically, those prescribed to pets suffering from gastrointestinal disease, contain carrageenan.
Animal fat and animal meat and bone meal contain potentially harmful ingredients, including expired grocery store meat and animals that died of unknown causes on the farm. These ingredients are also associated with the presence of sodium pentobarbital, the compound used to euthanize animals. The FDA has found sodium pentobarbital in at least 30 different pet food brands, all of which contain products of rendering that are not species specific.
NEW REPORT and an accompanying buying guide, Decoding #Pet Food: https://t.co/YiCNWWGkYk #cats #kittens #dog #puppy https://t.co/HZK4OMbi8M— Cornucopia Institute (@Cornucopia Institute)1447947047.0
Other harmful additives include synthetic preservatives like BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin and propylene glycol. When looking at pet food labels, look for natural antioxidants such as tocopherols, vitamin C and flavonoids. These are a better choice over synthetic preservatives.
Unlike humans, who likely vary their diets with each meal, dogs and cats are typically fed the same food on a continuous basis—meal after meal, every day for a lifetime. Cumulative exposure to controversial substances may be a contributing factor to the most common causes of death for both cats and dogs: obesity, cardiovascular disease, GI diseases and cancer.
Low quality ingredients are often chosen by manufacturers over their healthier counterparts. The desire to maximize profit margins drives money into advertising and packaging rather than high quality ingredients. Ingredient labeling can be confusing. Monopolization of the market has resulted in a few multinational corporations owning almost all of the brands; nearly identical food is merely packaged differently.
So how does a consumer go about choosing a superior pet food? When it comes to feeding your four-legged friend the healthiest commercial food available, undoubtedly the best choice is a certified organic product. While the National Organic Program announced in 2002 that pet food could be certified organic and organic options do exist, there are currently no exclusively organic brands and many companies use deceptive labeling to disguise their non-organic formulas.
This report is a helpful catalyst to ensure a healthy diet for your companion, depicting what to watch for when companies get creative with marketing ploys and deceptive labeling. When it comes to cheap substitutes and false health claims, the pet food industry is no different than leading marketers of processed human food. Regarding our own health, many of us choose to look for the USDA organic seal to ensure acceptable quality and safety. Organic products offer a superior choice for our companion animals, too.
Take matters into your own hands by reading labels and choosing high quality ingredients. Also consider preparing your pet’s food at home from fresh, whole organic ingredients. Many chronic problems such as allergies, vomiting and skin issues can be solved with homemade pet food.
Making your own pet food allows you to control the quality of ingredients and often saves money. Fresh, real ingredients ensure that your pets’ food is lower in artificial or toxic additives. Dogs and cats have different nutritional requirements and the best diets for your pets are based on an understanding of the diets of wild relatives of cats and dogs.
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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