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Veterinarian addresses common petfood myths

Because pet owners can receive misguided information on the Internet about what they should be feeding their pets, Dr. Trish Kirby, a veterinarian, is dispelling some common myths about petfood ingredients and selecting the best petfood.

Dr. Kirby says a common myth is that pet owners believe they should avoid all petfood diets that include by-products. However, she says by-products are nutrient-rich organ meats that may contain a better quality protein than other muscle meats. She says some other food by-products are vitamin E, beef bouillon and vegetable oils.

Another common belief among pet owners, Dr. Kirby says, is that corn is a filler used in cheap petfoods. She says corn actually provides protein and carbohydrates, as well as contains antioxidants such as beta-carotene and vitamin E, as well as essential fatty acids that keep the skin and fur healthy.

It is also not necessarily true that petfoods labeled as "natural" or "organic" are healthier. Dr. Kirby clarifies the term "natural" as meaning a petfood is free of chemically synthesized ingredients, thought she says many key micronutrients, such as some vitamins, are actually synthesized. Diets marketed as "natural" will often also say "with added vitamins, minerals and other trace elements," she says. Foods labeled as "organic," Dr. Kirby says refers to the way the food is raised and regulated by the US Department of Agriculture, whereas the term "holistic" is used solely as a marketing tool with no real regulated definition.

Additionally, Dr. Kirby cautions that raw petfood is no necessarily healthier than store-bought petfoods. Raw petfood diets, the vet says, are often times not nutritionally balanced, and so do not meet all of a pet's nutritional needs. More importantly, she says, these raw petfood diets can be contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli, which can sicken both humans and animals.

Finally, Dr. Kirby says that pet owners should realize that no pets are the same, so it is best to consult your veterinarian about the specific nutritional needs of your pet to select the proper diet.

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