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ALTERNATIVE HEALTH

NATURAL VERSUS COMMERCIAL--DO INGREDIENTS MATTER?

By Kat Lacy

Are there more pet food companies today than there are pets? Sometimes, it seems that way, many of them endorsing their product as “all natural”. This raises many questions: What is “all natural” and what makes a food unnatural or commercial? Let us begin with the definition of natural.

Natural is defined as: In accordance with what is found or expected in nature, that is real-not artificial or manufactured. (partial definition from Webster’s Dictionary). We can now easily align this definition with pet foods. The following should apply: no chemical preservatives or dyes-these are manufactured; no by-products-these are not expected in nature; no useless fillers or fractionated grains, vegetables or meats-this again would not be expected in nature.

Your pet would never naturally graze on peanut hulls, sawdust, or bits and pieces of broken grains. Your pet would not selectively eat only the inedible portion of an animal, such as its hair, or the stalk of a corn plant and not the corn kernels themselves. And last of all, your pet would never wait until the meat is diseased and decaying before dining.

The above-mentioned guidelines are the core foundation for what the consumer should expect of a natural food. There are some other, very important guidelines to follow when deciding on what natural foods are best for your pet. The following are some suggestions:

· Chelated minerals, whole vegetables and/or fruits, and some healthful herbs. These ingredients will help replace or duplicate what is extracted during the processing and are body-available.

· Probiotics, enzymes and amino acids should also be found in your natural foods. Probiotics, such as lactobacillus acidophilus and a spectrum of others will help set up the flora of good bacteria in the intestinal tract, which is essential in the foundation of overall good health.

· Diversity is also important. Do you think it is natural for your pet to eat “lamb and rice” 365 days a year for 10 years? Would you? This lack of a diverse diet is what is believed to have caused an epidemic of allergic pets. Choose a few quality companies you can trust. A quality company is stable, has many years of experience, represents their products without exaggerated claims and will replace or refund if you are not satisfied. You will find that cycling through different diets will not only build a strong immune system, but will also satisfy a finicky pet.

· Last, but certainly not of least importance, is the packaging. Barrier-fresh packaging will reduce the amount of oxygen the food is exposed to. Less degradation occurs and fresher food is the result. The empty bags can also make great weed barriers for your garden.

You may find a natural food that meets all of these wonderful standards only to find it costs twice the price. Don’t panic! You will find your pet will gradually consume less, become more mentally alert, require fewer visits to the vet, become less malodorous, look magnificent, and best of all, love his master even more. Now, does that leave you with much of a choice?

Kat Lacy is the owner of Better Life Natural Pet Products in Las Cruces.

Note: This article first appeared in the Summer 1998 issue.

For more information on pet foods, see Pet Foods: Misconceptions and Myths
by Gigi Gaulin, D.V.M.

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