Everything in moderation is healthy. Although this is often used in the context of human nutrition, I think it may be relevant for pets as we see novel ingredients and new superfoods coming into the food chain.
There is so much information out there about the next best food for you and/or for your pet — what you should add — or not — to your pet’s food and even how to make your own pet food. With Google at hand, you can become an instant nutrition expert.
For those adventurous enough to make their own pet food, you must consider that the food needs to be in complete balance, or sola dosis facit venenum — the dose makes the poison. The complete balance of nutrients is important, as is the total amount. An excessive nutrient can cause toxicity, or its deficiency can cause serious health issues.
Take zinc, for example. Zinc deficiency results in what is known as zinc responsive dermatosis, which causes symptoms such as hair loss and scaling and crusting of the skin around the face, head and legs. On the other hand, over-supplementation of zinc can result in interference of absorption of other nutrients and minerals like calcium, copper and iron.
What are superfoods, and what makes them so special?
They are typically of plant origin but can include some fish and dairy. They are called “superfoods” because they are thought to be packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, etc.
Some of these superfoods have found their way into pet foods, like blueberries, turmeric and coconut oil, to mention a few. Their inclusion rate is low and in moderation, and they are listed by the The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO, the pet food regulatory body). Other superfoods, like acai berry or garcinia cambogia, will not be seen in pet foods yet, because we do not know how they would affect your pet and, therefore, are not approved ingredients to be used in pet food.
As I work with pet food companies from all over the world, one thing I notice is the use of food to support well-being. It is a trend that just keeps growing and growing. Pet food companies know that the best way to keep our best friends happy and healthy is through using quality ingredients, the proper balance of nutrients, adequate amounts of vitamins, the proper ratio of fatty acids, the use of proteinated minerals, and sources of probiotics and prebiotics for digestive health.
Proteinated minerals have proven to provide shinier hair coats, and prebiotics and probiotics help to keep the bad bacteria out of the body. The result is a healthy digestive tract that is able to absorb all the nutrients that come flying past the intestinal villi, and take them right up into the body where they are needed.
Trends come and go, but choosing a pet food based on pet health rather than cost is something that will never go out of style. If only there was a magic ingredient, like the spring water in “Tuck Everlasting,” then I could dream about walking my dog down to his favorite spot by the river for the next 150 years…