A while back, we watched Pet Fooled, a documentary on the unregulated pet industry and the confusing discussion around the pet diet.
It follows Dr. Karen Becker and Dr. Barbara Royal, two prominent integrative wellness vets, who along with other individuals, provided important insights into the dark side of the pet food industry and more crucially, what kind of diet is actually good for our pet.
No matter which camp you are on in the pet food discussion (raw, dry, wet, homecooked, etc.), this documentary is a must-watch. That's because it sheds light on pet food problems that the average pet owner may not be aware of.
It also lays down arguments that would hopefully help you decide with more confidence what food is the best for your pet.
The Pet Fooled trailer
10 things that you will learn after watching Pet Fooled
1. Every animal needs biologically appropriate food to thrive
That's the underlying message throughout the documentary. Unlike snakes, dogs and cats would eat food that's biologically inappropriate to survive. But that can be detrimental to their health over time.
2. Dogs and gray wolves share 99.9% of the DNA
So what food is biologically appropriate for dogs?
According to Dr. Becker, the differing 0.1-0.2% of the DNA between dogs and gray wolves is caused by selective, controlled breeding. And that led to dog breeds having their specific phenotypic traits (the outer appearance).
Apart from that, dogs and gray wolves are more similar than they are different. Dr. Becker says, "Despite the fact that we have bred dogs to have certain characteristics, we have not bred out of them their Canis lupus DNA."
In other words, despite looking different, dogs still have the same nutritional requirements as carnivorous gray wolves - fresh raw meat.
Unfortunately, it's worth noting that not enough research has been done to conclusively determine what food is right for pets. It would cost years and millions of dollars, and both the government and big corporations have no incentive to take it on.
3. Your pet's health is heavily dependent on diet
Dr. Royal has witnessed major health problems, such as diabetes, kidney disease, and overweight in her patients and she strongly thinks that those diseases could be linked to a bad diet.
4. Don't blindly trust pet food companies
Major pet food companies, such as Mars PetCare and Nestlé Purina PetCare own most of the pet food brands you find in the market, especially those in your local supermarkets.
That gives an illusion of choice. Unfortunately, most of those foods are the same in that they contain ingredients that are unhealthy and low quality. The reason for that boils down to economics. Big players are putting cheap rendered products and fillers into the bags and would tell you anything to make you think otherwise.
5. Major pet food companies have influence over vet students
How about vets, you say? While vets may have the best intentions, the nutrition courses they take in vet schools are influenced by the same pet food giants. That's the reason why, quoting the film, "a lack of education surrounding raw diets exists heavily on traditional vets."
6. Don't be fooled by beautiful packaging
The colourful cheery packaging with keywords like "wholesome", "natural", and "packed with flavour" may mislead you into thinking that what you are buying is healthy for your pet. Don't. Read the ingredients on pet food labels.
Some pet food companies may put biologically unnecessary ingredients into the bag because they are cheap. It is your job to at least ensure that the biologically unnecessary ingredients do not outweigh what your dog or cat biologically needs - meat.
Also, words on pet food packaging may not mean what you think. For example, in the US, food with the phrase "with delicious meat" on the bag only has to have 3% meat in it. A bag that says "beef flavour", for example, may contain little to no meat. Yet, manufacturers are allowed to put an image of a succulent piece of steak on the bag.
7. Avoid by-product and meat meal
What's by-product? It's what leftover after an animal is slaughtered and all the edible parts have been removed for human consumption. It's a way to recycle animal carcasses. You should know that pet food companies don't have to disclose the sources of these by-products.
The images of juicy meat pieces on the packaging may, in reality, be what's leftover of animal carcasses instead.
8. Kibbles can be detrimental to your pet's health
Because they are void of moisture and are processed in possibly very high heat (killing most nutrients and making the food potentially carcinogenic), kibbles are generally not recommended in the film.
With that said, there are higher quality kibbles and lower quality kibbles. If you can only afford to feed your pet kibbles, try to feed higher quality ones and throw in fresh meat once in awhile as a snack.
9. The AAFCO-approved foods do not guarantee quality and safety
If you are a pet owner, you will often see "AAFCO-approved" on pet food packaging. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association that develops and implements standards and regulations for the manufacturing, labelling, distribution, and sale of animal feeds. They also establish what it means for pet food to be "complete and balanced."
However, the film tells us that AAFCO is a non-governmental association with no regulatory authority. It is also potentially influenced by major pet food companies. Yes, the same companies selling sub-standard pet foods. Knowing that would potentially change how you judge a packet of pet food that says "AAFCO-approved" or "Complete and balanced".
10. It's not about perfect. It's about knowing
Towards the end of the film, Dr. Royal aptly said, "It's not about perfect. It's about knowing." The most important point is not about what you choose to feed in the end but that you have made a conscious choice.
You can watch Pet Fooled on Apple TV.