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Feed Your Pet Right . . . with Ol’ Roy?

A few weeks ago we told you about a new dog and cat nutrition book, Feed Your Pet Right, by Marion Nestle and Malden C. Nesheim. We’ve since had the privilege of reading a review copy kindly sent by the publisher and want to share our thoughts with you.

Like you, we continue searching for truth, integrity and quality in commercial pet food. Before reading this book, we had no idea that there are no mandatory minimum regulations for pet food. Manufacturers’ compliance with suggested government guidelines is strictly voluntary. That’s scary.

Feed Your Pet Right is a great book if you want to learn things like how to decipher pet food labels and understand terms like “Crude protein” “Complete and Balanced” and “Guaranteed Analysis.” Written by two extremely knowledgeable writers from the halls of academia, the book is crammed with literal facts behind what goes into kibble, treats and homemade diets. Nestle and Nesheim also give an unbiased look at how packaging, marketing and sales pitches can affect pet food choices we make.

The book filled our head with facts, but we were highly disappointed when the authors asserted that there is very little difference between a bag of Ol’ Roy and a bag of Orijen.

Although they do advocate for foods with higher sources of protein, whole meats and unprocessed grains, they take a fundamental approach toward animal nutrition.

The authors seem to believe that premium foods are a marketing gimmick. Because if foods like Kibbles and Bits contain nearly the same amounts of proteins, fats and added nutrients found in a box of Honest Kitchen (technically, most foods do meet the minimum voluntary nutritional requirements), their thinking is that just about any old food will give your dog the nutrients he needs to thrive, and it doesn’t really matter what part of the animal the food came from.

The authors say

“Canning and processing into kibble are great levelers and we are hard-pressed to argue that anyone should pay more for products that we find virtually indistinguishable.”

We were stunned when we read this, and we have to respectfully disagree. Because while the authors did a great job of examining studies, reports and sharing anecdotal evidence about the effects (or lack thereof) of commercial kibble, neither one of the authors has a dog or cat in their lives.

Sorry, but there is nothing like firsthand experience of seeing the effects of food on a dog or cat you live with every day. We think that writing a book like this without having an animal in your life is akin to writing a book on parenting when you don’t have kids.

Jerry’s Story: From Skippy to Innova

When we adopted Spirit Jerry as a puppy back in 1998, we didn’t know any better, and fed him supermarket-grade kibble.

After a year or so, our healthy puppy started having seizures. They scared the crap out of us.

His old-school vet wanted to put him on phenobarbitol, but we refused to accept his claim that “Oh Shepherds are just prone to seizures.”

Instead, we did our research, read respected authors like Ian Billinghurst and Dr. Pitcairn, and learned what’s really in pet food.

Horrified that we could have been contributing to poor Jerry’s health decline, we stopped feeding him commercial crap and switched him to a combination of premium kibble, home cooking, and raw.

Miraculously, he never had another seizure again. His fur became shiny and beautiful. He never had fleas. And he never, not once, needed a teeth cleaning or had bad breath.

This kind of firsthand experience is something that perhaps can’t be “scientifically proven,” but it’s the truth we experienced and hope that others can learn from. For the authors to claim that it doesn’t make a difference whether we feed our dogs Purina or Stella and Chewy’s is crazy.

Feed Your Pet Right doesn’t advocate for one diet or another, and it does take an unbiased look at other diet options. But while it claims to be a book that will teach you about how to find the best diet plan for your dog, it’s not so much a handbook as it is an academic paper from two highly intelligent authors lacking firsthand experience of the effects of commercial foods and diets on a dog or cat.

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