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By Dr. Marty Becker
By-products: They’re what’s for dinner. At least if you’re a dog or cat, although my wife Teresa and I have been to some pretty fancy restaurants that served what many people would consider by-products. Liver, anyone?
Pet food ingredients and pet nutrition in general can be confusing for pet owners, but by-products get a bad rap that’s not always deserved. Let’s chew on the subject to find out more about them.
First, what are by-products that are used in pet food? By-products are the co-product of food ingredients, including portions of an animal that are less commonly used in the U.S. human food supply but can provide essential nutritional benefits. Some examples of by-products include clean animal parts like the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, spleen, corn gluten meal and tallow. Doesn’t sound that different from what you’d see African wild dogs eating on Nat Geo WILD.
I’ll be the first to say that some of those things don’t seem appetizing to the human palate. However, by-products are incredibly nutrient-dense and highly palatable to animals. In fact, cats and dogs in the wild instinctively eat these organs first because they bring a wealth of nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals to the table. So it’s not a bad thing to feed by-products in your pet food so long as it is part of a complete and balanced diet.
I asked my colleague Dr. Tony Buffington, a veterinary nutritionist, if by-products have any benefits for pets. Here’s what he had to say.
“Properly produced by-products can provide a wide range of essential nutrients for pets and can be a safe and economical use of biological material.”
That’s a benefit to both humans and other animals, he notes.
Now, depending on the source and the processing, the nutrient content of by-products isn’t always reliable. Poor processing can allow by-products to become contaminated. Improper processing can also result in less availability of nutrients. That’s why it’s important to know the manufacturer’s reputation.
Pet owners can ensure their pet’s food is safe and healthy, whether it includes by-products or not, by checking to make sure manufacturers meet or exceed FDA and AAFCO standards. For example, going directly to a manufacturer’s website to learn more about what safety and quality standards they are employing such as testing raw materials for impurities and nutrient content or working with food scientists, veterinary professions and nutritionists to develop products. Any meat and poultry by-products from farm animals should originate at facilities certified by the USDA or equivalent authority.
“Avoiding all these potential problems is the responsibility of pet food manufacturers using by-products,” Dr. Buffington says. “Their success depends on the vigilance and integrity of the company.”
In general, pet owners should research the quality and safety standards of the company that makes their pet food. It’s important to know who makes your pet’s food, where it’s made, and what steps does the manufacturer take to ensure the quality and safety of their food. Here are a few tips for pet owners to learn more about their pet food:
- Look beyond the ingredient list on the package and check the quality of the manufacturing and how stringent are the quality standards of the company making the food.
- Go to your pet food manufacturer’s website. See if they own their factories, is their food made in the United States, and what steps do they take to ensure their pet foods meet or exceed FDA and AAFCO standards for safety and quality;
- Call your pet food manufacturer and ask them about their manufacturing process, their quality and safety standards and the ingredients they use in their foods. They should be able to explain why they use any ingredient and the nutritional benefits;
- Talk to your veterinarian. They understand pet food nutrition and can provide recommendations on pet foods that are safe and healthy for your pets.
1Feed your dog some treats; dogs love treats.
2Never yell at your dog for doing something bad, if they did something wrong show them what is right.
3Get them toys or make them using socks or other material lying around in your home.
4Walk your dog. Take your dog out to a fun place. A park, a lake, a pet store, etc. Don’t walk your dog to the veterinarian, or it may become afraid of walking.
5Exercise Your Dog. Different dogs need different amounts and types of exercise. A beagle may need less exercise than a German Shepherd, etc. Exercise keeps your dog fit, healthy and playful.
6Talk to them. Being an exact dog speaker is basically impossible but you can have an approximate guess of what your dog says. This boosts the relationship you share with your dog.
7Love Your Dog. Pet him, hug him, and spend some time with him. This will certainly make your beloved pet feel loved.
The way you pet a dog can make you his favorite person — or the human he’s always trying to avoid. Certain red-flag petting tactics send most dogs running in the other direction, while other petting strategies will have a dog tail-waggin’ happy in your hands. Whether you’re petting your own dog or one you’ve just met, here are some strategies for better petting, including petting styles to avoid and those to employ.
Start With a Proper Greeting
The first rule of petting is never pet a dog who doesn’t initiate contact. This is especially important to enforce with children, who will often approach a dog who is lying down, cornered in a room or actively trying to get away.
Rather than reaching out and touching the dog, invite him to make the first contact by squatting down so you are closer to his level; with a reserved or fearful dog, turn your body to the side to make yourself less threatening. If you’re dealing with a confident dog, you can invite him to approach you by bending over slightly, patting your legs and backing up while coaxing with your voice.
Avoid hovering over the dog when greeting him; this can be perceived as a threat. Instead, turn your body slightly to the side and make minimal eye contact at the first greeting (eye contact can also be interpreted as a threat). Instead, allow the dog to approach you first. With a shy dog, pretend to ignore him and look away for the first few moments until he discovers you’re safe to approach.
Ready, Set, Pet
A friendly dog will approach with his ears held back slightly and his tail held out at medium height behind him, with a wide sweeping wag. When the dog sniffs your body, he is gathering information about you, not necessarily inviting you to pet him. If he backs away or acts leery or jumpy, don’t pet him. If he exhibits a loose, wiggly body posture with relaxed eyes and mouth as he moves toward you or if he initiates brief eye contact, he is most likely indicating friendliness and a desire for interaction.
Once the approach has been made, pet the dog slowly in areas where he is comfortable being touched. A dog who enjoys petting will usually lean toward you or actively seek contact with you when you stop petting him. If the dog attempts to move away or displays signs of discomfort, such as licking his lips or showing the whites of his eyes, give him some space.
Best Spots to Pet
Most dogs are comfortable being petted on the chest, the shoulders and the base of the neck. When petting these areas, reach in from the side, rather than moving your hand over the top of the dog’s head. Individual dogs also have specific spots where they like to be petted; common areas are the base of the tail, under the chin or on the back of the neck where the collar hits. Most dogs dislike being touched on top of the head and on the muzzle, ears, legs, paws and tail. Slow petting, similar to gentle massage or light scratching, can calm a dog down. Place your hand on an area where the dog enjoys being handled and gently move your hand or fingers in the same direction the fur lies. Petting should be calming and therapeutic for both dog and person, both reaping the mutual benefits of shared contact. When you pet a dog in a relaxed, slow and gentle manner, he is likely to lean in tight for more.
Certain types of petting are uncomfortable for most dogs. Patting, a common way many small children pet dogs, is generally disliked. Slapping a dog’s side in excitement can be agitating or frightening to some canines. Vigorous, fast or hard petting is also more likely to overstimulate a dog.
When a dog rolls over on his back, it is often seen as an invitation to rub his belly. In fact, it is just the opposite: In canine greeting situations, submissive or fearful dogs may roll over as an appeasement gesture to placate a threatening dog. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid petting a dog who is lying on his back in a greeting situation.
Hugs can also be threatening to a dog because they hinder his ability to move away. Children — even those who spend time with a pet who tolerates hugs — should be taught never to hug a dog; this type of interaction makes most dogs anxious and can result in injury to the child. Kissing a dog is also not a good idea; remind children to keep their faces away from the dog’s face, again in order to avoid a bite. Children should be taught to always handle even the calmest dogs in a gentle, nonthreatening manner. And, of course, children and dogs should only interact with adult supervision.
Never attempt to pet a dog who is chained up or is behind a barrier, such as a fence (even an invisible fence), or inside a car. When a dog is trapped in a specific area, he is more likely to bite as a method of self-protection. And always be sure to ask before you pet a dog on a leash — it keeps you safe and is good manners, too.