For 159 years, commercial pet food has been a big part of the pet industry. It originated from England, all thanks to James Spratt who created a simple dog biscuit made with beef blood, vegetables, beetroot, and wheat. Shortly, it became an instant hit and numerous pet-food suppliers decided to create their own version of it and joined the commercial pet-food industry. After a century and a half, the pet-food business is thriving.
Crunching the Numbers
According to the UK Pet Food market research report, there are an estimated £2.7 billion total values sales of dog and cat food in the UK back in 2018. It grew by 13.2% from 2013 to 2018. On the other hand, in 2018 US’s initial tally of the estimated total sales of dog and cat food has reached $27 billion as stated in new market report research firm Packaged Facts.
However, how well do pet owners really know about the ingredients in the food we give to our pets?
The Dangers of the Unknown
There has been a wide variety of response by dog and cat owners to the question. Over 62% of pet owners in the UK admitted to a poll conducted by a specialist food manufacturer that they do not have a clue what is in the pet food they are feeding their pet.
More than half are oblivious to the dangerous ingredients that some pet food contain. The predominantly used dry pet food by some pet-food suppliers usually contain meat derivatives, sugar, artificial additive, and other processed ingredients. These can have potentially harmful effects and may endanger the health of their beloved pets. Animal aggression, obesity, and allergies are a few health issues that these ingredients can cause.
On the other hand, less than 15% of these surveyed pet owners have acknowledged the fact that some of the pet food may contain distressing components such as:
- Synthetics – Synthetic vitamins in pet food can be toxic to pooches and felines. It can cause vitamin toxicity if the pet consumes too much of it.
- Bone ash – It is not necessarily dangerous for animals to consume; however, an excessive amount of it can cause urinary issues.
- Feathers – This ingredient is commonly seen in feather meals. Research showed that some of them contain up to ten different drugs like antidepressants, fungicides, an antihistamine. It can be harmful to pets with allergies.
By this data alone, it shows that there is more than what meets the eye.
Vigilance Equals Prevention
Health risks caused by pet food containing dubious ingredients can be easily averted. By being cautious and well-informed, pet owners can make a great difference in choosing the right nourishment for their furry friends.
- Consider your pet’s breed, health constitution, and age. This step is crucial because the breed and life stage that your pet is in can affect the amount of pet food and nutrients they require. For example, lactating dogs and pups need more calories in their diet and older dogs are usually less active, and they will benefit from a lower calorie diet.
- Be cautious with pet food and treats containing artificial colours. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has produced a list of artificial colouring that proves to be harmful to humans, namely: Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 2, and Yellow 6. These can cause tumours, allergies, and other health problems on humans. There is not much research about how artificial colours can affect pets and not all of them are believed to be dangerous; however, there is no harm in keeping an eye on it.
- Do not hesitate to ask your vet. If you are still unsure of what pet food to choose, you can always consult your vet. They are the best source of information. They can elaborate on the nutrients that your pet needs in their current health condition and age.
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Despite the lack of awareness, 40% of UK pet owners are actively looking for healthier pet food choice for their pets. Since over a third of UK pets are enduring health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and skin conditions, it is important that we do our research before committing to a new pet food brand.
Pet owners in the US are also gradually making positive, health-conscious decisions when they buy pet food. One out of three pet owners is millennial, who caused the growth of pet ownership between 2007 and 2015. They are the main drivers of this change and awareness concerning pet food since they are getting increasingly health-conscious.
In an online survey conducted by Packaged Facts, it shows that 69% of them would likely choose natural ingredients over mainstream pet food brands. Additionally, 75% of them acknowledged that product safety is highly important when considering what kind of pet food they should buy.
This shift caused both cat-food suppliers and dog-food suppliers to step up their game. It pushed pet-food suppliers to be vigilant in pinpointing ingredients that may cause safety issues to their pet consumers. It became a norm for some suppliers to withdraw products that proved to be contaminated.
Other pet-food suppliers are starting to use ‘clean’ labels, which endorses pet-food components obtained in a harmless, sustainable, and ethical manner.
‘Today’s pet owners are looking for ingredients that support overall health and help manage health conditions, but they are also looking to avoid ingredients that they feel are unsafe or that have been raised/harvested/created in a way that is socially, ethically, or environmentally irresponsible,’ the report noted.