Choosing the Right Pet Foods: A Q&A with Dr. Marty Becker #ad

DSC_0829 (2)Dog food ingredients

My Dogs Eat Better Than I Do! 

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I attended a live You Tube session with Dr. Marty Becker last week to learn more about how pet owners should choose ingredients for pet foods. Raised on a small farm in Idaho, Dr. Marty Becker was born “knowing” small and large animals. With over 25 books published and a globally recognized program, “Fear Free“, Dr. Marty Becker is a thought leader on a wide variety of topics – and when it comes to what to feed your dogs and the ingredients to look for, folks should listen to his advice. Dr. Becker is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and also at the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine at both Colorado State University and the University of Missouri.  (His full bio is at the end of this post).

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Dr. Marty Becker

As many of you know, I feed the dogs a raw diet – specifically a brand that I’ve researched extensively, Darwins. All three of my dogs eat Darwins lightly cooked. That said, a lot of my readers are curious about what to feed their dogs and the right ingredients. And I recognize many folks are not able to feed a home based diet (or Raw) to their animals so it was important to attend this live session and educate everyone. There are great nuggets of information below from Dr. Becker!

According to an article in Pet Food Industry’s current March 2017 issue, “Global pet care and pet foods sales are growing by nearly 5 percent per year, standing out from other consumer packaged goods industries.” (page 58). While the industry grows, it’s important to research the brands you’re feeding – there are SO MANY CHOICES. Enjoy these tips.

TIPS: It’s nutrients over ingredients!

  • Who makes it and where does it come from? Do your research! Where are the ingredients sourced? Is there someone on staff that has a masters in nutrition you can speak to? Are there Vets and Certified Vet Techs you can talk to on staff? There should be. Pet owners should also look at the manufacturing and ingredient quality standards of the brand to make sure they meet or exceed FDA and AAFCO standards.

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  • Sizzle vs. steak: Make sure you can determine what is marketing vs. the truth about a product. Don’t fall prey to marketing tactics.
  • Be proactive with your Vet: This is a picture of our Vet, Dr. Yung, at Frontier Vet Hospital in Oregon. Dr. Yung and I are talking about Bruiser and his disc disease. Dr. Becker emphasized the importance of being proactive with your Vet when it comes to nutrition and questions about brands! I always consult with Dr. Yung about what I’m feeding.

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Dr. Yung at Frontier Vet Hospital

  • Downsides of going grain free? People associate grain with allergies which is why grain free diets are top of mind. “Gram for gram, grain can deliver a lot of protein. And diets in fiber – can result in nicely formed stool,” Dr. Becker added to the discussion.
  • Big fan of probiotics! As you know, I write a lot about the benefits of probiotics for humans and animals. Dr. Becker talked about the benefit of probiotics when animals are taking antibiotics. Supplementing with probiotics is a must and more about why in a previous blog post I wrote.

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  • Pet food recalls – do your homework! When it comes to pet food recalls – Consider which pet food companies haven’t had recalls vs. the companies that show up over and over again!
  • Dr. Becker talked home based diets and noted that they are difficult. There are books that will show you how – but someone that makes a food that is 100% balanced and complete is not easy. He’s right. It takes research and you need to consult with an expert and nutritionist to do this right. This is why I opted to feed Darwins, it’s delivered to my door! As I previously mentioned, I did a lot of research and talked to the company about the impact of lightly cooking the meals as I’m more comfortable cooking for my senior dog, Bruiser. That said, for folks that are looking for the right ingredients and feed kibble, these tips are invaluable. 

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  • By-products in foods? What are they? How they are used? Dr. Becker talked about by-products as well. These consist of corn, gluten or nutrient rich sources like the spleen. According to the Pet Food Institute, “ingredients produced during the processing of food for human consumption, often referred to as “by-products” or “co-products,” are excellent sources of nutrition for cats and dogs.  While by-products, particularly animal by-products—the highly nutritious parts of chickens, cows, pigs or fish, for example, that are consumed first by animals in the wild—may not be preferred by Americans, they often are considered delicacies by others around the world.”  Again, if you have questions, call the brand you’re feeding and ask about the by-products found in their foods. 

Additionally, by-products can provide more essential nutrients than regular muscle meat (which can be lacking in calcium and Vitamin A) but are naturally provided in by-products from the bones and liver. Many pet food manufacturers use high-quality by-products – such as beef, chicken or pork that may include hearts, livers, kidneys, lungs and spleens – and is considered a part of sustainable food sourcing.

  • Water fountains for cats and dogs? A circulating water bowl can be a perfect dog water fountain or cat water fountain for your home. Dr. Becker talked about how important this is for cats. When water sits out for a long period of time, it can become stale and unappetizing to pets. The less water your pet drinks, the less hydrated your cat or dog becomes. I’m investing in one I found on Amazon, pronto.

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The idea of flowing water for animals is emulated with the water fountains!

Resources:

Disclaimer:  I only share information that I believe in and already fit into our doggie lifestyle and routine. I was compensated for this post and was invited to attend a Live Session via You Tube with Dr. Marty Becker. #ad

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About Dr. Marty Becker: Dr. Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” has spent his life working toward better health for pets and the people who love them. He is the resident veterinary contributor on “Good Morning America” for 17 years, a founding member of Core Team Oz for “The Dr. Oz Show,” and a member of the Dr. Oz Medical Advisory Panel. His books include three New York Times best-sellers — one of which is the fastest-selling pet book of all time, Chicken Soup for the Pet-Lovers Soul. He has been a contributor to Parade magazine, Reader’s Digest and AARP.com. Animal Radio hosts him monthly as their Chief Veterinary Correspondent.

Dr. Becker is an adjunct professor at his alma mater, the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and also at the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine at both Colorado State University and the University of Missouri. Additionally, he has lectured at every veterinary school in the United States, and is on the advisory board of World Vets, an international veterinary and disaster relief programs to help animals. He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital because he loves veterinary medicine, pets and the people who care for them. Connect with him on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrMartyBecker.

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There are 37 Comments

  1. They key thing you wrote: “Do your research! Where are the ingredients sourced?” I cannot tell you how ,any brands I e talked with who will not tell me, clearly, where they source their food. Like you, we’re Darwin’s fans, and are just starting to grind our own dog food. We truly want to know where everything we feed our dogs come from. Great piece!

  2. Pamela says:

    I used to make homemade food for my dogs using recipes from Dr Pitcairn’s Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (recommended by my vet). It was an amazing lesson for me in the difference between good food and amazing food.

    I love the idea of something like Darwins. But living on a boat with limited refrigeration, it’s not an option. I’ve liked supplementing Honey’s diet with freeze dried raw food and human food.

    BTW, glad to see a vet reinforcing the advice to stay away from food made in China. Of course, we have to make sure we have strong safety rules in place here too. Some would like to do away with them.

    • Thanks so much for commenting – I think adding freeze dried food and human food is a great way to supplement! I’m with you on China — I stay clear away from those as well.

  3. Nichole says:

    Sounds like you got some great information from the webinar!

  4. Lots of great info here! Choosing a diet that’s right for your pets isn’t easy. There are so many choice out there, and unfortunately many of them have questionable ingredients. I have a homemade fed raw diet in the past but am not currently because I just couldn’t keep up with it. I’ve been looking into Darwin’s though, and now that I know you also feed it and that you like it, I think I’ll give it a try. Thanks for all the helpful info!

  5. Very interesting and informative information. I enjoyed meeting and talking with Dr. Marty Becker at GPE this year for a few minutes.

  6. The Dash Kitten Crew says:

    I do not like made in China products, and I agree our cats need a balanced diet. Our senior cat loves a sort of 50/50 raw diet. manufactured food. Here in New Zealand we produce several ranges that are ‘safe’ and well researched for their benefit for cats too. Dr Becker is in a position to encourage change and it is good to see him doing so.

  7. Bryn Nowell says:

    First, HOW COOL that you had a chance to “meet” and hear from Dr. Becker! He’s an amazing resource and I’m super jealous. This is a really helpful post for folks as they research their options for their pets. It can be overwhelming and sometimes information is contradictory, so hearing it from such a reputable source will help many people, I’m sure. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Sonja says:

    My little one refuses to eat raw – so we have a “made fresh” every meal approach. It works he is SO healthy my vet can’t get over it.

  9. hmmm FDA and AAFCO decides on the regulations (which are actually allow a pet to live, but not thrive) but do not enforce unless a true recall. Named “by-products” such as beef liver or chicken heart is good, but just “by-products” is anything and everything. Nutrition is the cornerstone of health so it’s worth the effort you mention about doing your research. Real food, baby.

  10. Cathy Armato says:

    First off, I love Dr. Becker! I have his book The Healing Power of Pets sitting on my bookshelf among my most favorite books. He is awesome, and this is a great post. I stay away from “by-product MEAL” in food but I know by-products can be nutritious. My issue is that they aren’t regulated very well and can pretty much include all sorts of stuff – there are different grades of by-products. I shy away from them because I just can’t always be sure where they came from. Thanks for providing information on that and on these other topics, great job!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  11. Completely disagree with Dr. Becker thinking grain-free isn’t necessary. Dolly has food allergies diagnosed at an early age and grains are the first thing we gave up. Highly doubt that grains are necessary in a dogs diet and would need to see more proof of that.

    • Thanks so much: I asked Dr. Becker if he’d like to expand on this and will close the loop here with a response. There are many folks in this thread that also have dogs with grain allergies and they stay clear of them.

  12. Kamira says:

    Great informative and insightful post. I definitely think there would be less vet visits for pets if the quality of our pet foods included real foods, real nutrients and no chemicals. I bet there would be less incidents of cancers too. Definitely pet parents have to do their research and look out for their pets because big corporations looking to make big profits don’t have Fido’s best interest in mind.

  13. Ruth Epstein says:

    Layla eats home cooked foods with grain free supplement (Grandma Lucy’s Macanna mix which has all the superfoods) and her allergies have gone, I will not give her anything with grains plus my vet told me that for a dog that is the age of 10 plus which she is, she is incredibly healthy so am sticking to what we do

    I also feel that what is good for some dogs might not be good for others, it is like people, each to his own, and we should all respect that

  14. Katie Allan says:

    I definitely think researching a brand before you feed is important. Echo does not tolerate grains at all- he will literally throw them up. Our vet highly recommends either a raw or balanced homemade diet. We are currently using Sojos. I tried to make it myself, but like you said, it is very difficult!

  15. Thank you for this informative post. Research and know what you are feeding your pet and where it is from is so important. The fresh water point is excellent. And pet food recalls – great tip! I’m alerts for recalls and it’s scary just how many top brands are recalled. I’m Pinning this over on my “Bark About” Pinterest board!

  16. Carol Bryant says:

    I met Dr Marty when he spoke at the BlogPaws Conference last year. I also just hung out a bit with him at Global Pet Expo and we did a selfie. He is such a treasured resource and a smart man!

  17. Interesting point about water fountains. I’ll have to look into getting one. Mr. N doesn’t drink a whole ton.

  18. I love how you said “Do your research!” So many see a commercial and think that’s good food. We all know better than that. My boy actually does have a grain allergy so he we do grain-free for both of them. But I do agree, it’s not always the grain.

    Great post!

  19. Susan says:

    HELP I don’t eat meat and I find it very difficult to handle or cook it Is there a healthy diet that doesn’t include meat???

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