Top Shelf Pet Foods, If Only We Understood What They Are


I appreciated the story in the redeye by Leonor Vivanco, called Top Shelf Pet Food.  I enjoyed reading quotes from my friend, and Tree House Humane Society Development Director Jenny Schlueter, who I believe probably feeds her pets as well as she feeds herself, and truly cares – that’s great.

However, so many of the assumptions in the story may not be true. Because a product is “All Natural” means – what? Here’s what I would have added should the reporter have asked me to comment….

To a significant degree, “All Natural” means the product is marketed for people who seek to see the words, ‘All Natural.’ But what does that really mean? Well, that depends on the product. And is that product actually better for your pet?

Well, maybe…depends on what you are comparing that product to. Yes, an “All Natural” dog food is better for your pup than a diet of say only salty lunch meats. But how do you compare dog food brand A to dog food brand B? And because you are spending more for pet food, does that mean you are getting a better product? Or does that simply mean you are spending more?

Dr, Ernest Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. who I have great admiration for said  “The most important decision you make each day regarding your pet’s health is what you pour into that food bowl.” I disagree.

We are are still learning about what most helps our pets to live longer and healthier lives….all sorts of factors are impactful. For example, if a pet isn’t socialized, and/or a pet has perceived serious behavioral problems, that pet will likely land in a shelter and then likely be euthanized. So, behavior is actually far more related to lifespan than diet, for example.

But what role does diet play? Well, people make assumptions on the Internet all the time. I will be speaking at Blog Paws (a meeting of pet bloggers) about how sometimes bloggers make assumptions, stating them as fact.

Obviously, eating healthful is never a bad thing. But where do you draw the line in people? How many meals of hot dogs and fries meals are too much? Well, it seems the answer varies from person to person, the person’s age, whether the person exercises, the person’s overall health, the person’s existing weight, and that person’s genetics. So, how about what’s healthful for you pets? Probably, the answer has as much variance in pets as in people. Even defining what’s healthful remains unclear in many instances.

Here’s what Ward could have said that I would absolutely agree with: It’s not necessarily what you pour into the food dish that is as important as how much. Clearly, Ward is concerned about pet obesity, and rightly so! We have an increasing number of obese and overweight pets, and we know this impacts their quality of life and potentially their lifespans.  As for the quality of what we are feeding our pets – well, defining quality isn’t so easy.