Pet parents are often left wondering why their four-legged friends get so excited about eating brown, bad-smelling pellets. The evolving pet food industry has found that animals will eat almost anything as long as it smells and tastes good—even if the ingredients are unsavory!
Fortunately, commercial pet food isn’t all bad. Pet parents can suss out the unhealthy food by scanning ingredients lists for chemicals that make food highly addictive. Your vet can also point you toward pet food that’s packed with high-quality protein, fruits and vegetables.
Addictive ingredients found in pet food
Many brands have discovered palatants that make their products appetizing to pets. Unfortunately, many of these palatants can have detrimental effects for your pet’s health.
Here are some of the most commonly used ingredients that can make kibble highly addictive to cats and dogs:
- Kokumi: Researchers discovered kokumi in Japan only a few decades ago. This chemical gives food a rich, thick texture that’s highly appealing to taste receptors in the mouth. Naturally found in yeast, scallops and cheese, kokumi is now often added to commercial pet food to make it more palatable.
- Corn: Don’t be fooled by the fact that corn is a vegetable. The starchy plant is loaded with carbohydrates that brands use as a filler in their products. Dogs have evolved over millennia to acquire a taste for sugar and carbs, which makes corn a cheap and effective way to make dogs like processed food. Unfortunately, pet foods high in carbs can lead to chronic health problems like obesity and diabetes.
- Pyrophosphate: Pyrophosphate has the ability to augment the flavor of amino acids in protein sources. Since dogs and cats are carnivorous creatures, protein is one of the main ingredients in pet food. As a result, many brands throw pyrophosphate into the mix, as well. The problem with pyrophosphate is it can make pet food highly addictive, which contributes to the obesity epidemic among pets.
- Propylene glycol: This chemical is lauded for its ability to absorb water and preserve the freshness of processed pet food. Due to its water-absorbing capabilities, propylene glycol is also a key ingredient in “pet-safe” antifreeze! While safe in small amounts, too much of this chemical can predispose your pet for illness later in life. Propylene glycol makes kibble extremely dry, which can make your pet constipated and lead them to experience other unpleasant gastrointestinal issues.
- Potent smells: Dogs and cats heavily rely on their sense of smell. That’s why many brands have found ways to improve the aroma of pet food. They do so by adding chemicals called putrescine and cadaverine. Both naturally occur when proteins break down in dead animals. In other words, pets love their food because it smells like rotting flesh! Scientists extract putrescine and cadaverine from the entrails of unknown animals, leaving pet parents to question the quality of these animal by-products.
Not all commercial pet food is evil
These palatants have become commonplace in the pet food industry, but that doesn’t mean you have to avoid dry kibble altogether. The companies that beef up products with chemicals are more concerned about turning a profit than your pet’s health. The whole purpose of palatants is to make their pet food the most appetizing option on the market. Nutrition comes as an afterthought, if at all.
But there’s good news! Plenty of healthy pet food brands prioritize a well-balanced, healthy product that gives your fur baby a comprehensive blend of essential nutrients. They cut out the palatants and carb fillers, replacing them with high-quality animal protein, fruits and vegetables. Ethically sourced pet foods will list the specific type of animal used, whether that be chicken, beef, turkey or fish. No mystery meat here!
Shopping for the right pet food is no easy task. Clever marketing can make it difficult to tell the difference between healthy and not-so-healthy brands. A brief consultation with your vet can help you make an informed decision about your pet’s diet. They know all of the best brands and can even give recommendations tailored specifically to your pet’s dietary needs and health history. Having an expert by your side is the surest way to weed out the chemical additives and get to the good stuff.
As a loving owner, you want what’s best for your pet. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you just realized Fido has some extra chemicals in his food bowl! It’s never too late to turn around your pet’s health through diet. By slowly transitioning to less-addictive pet food, you’re setting up your four-legged companions for a longer, healthier life.