animals

I am a dog lover. Some people who know me might even say I’m a dog fanatic. (I like cats too, by the way. I don’t currently have one, but I have in the past and I’m sure I will again.) My husband and I consider our dog an integral part of our family, and we try to make sure we’re giving her the best sustenance and care that we can. Unfortunately, many pet foods are extremely low quality and don’t provide the proper nutrition to help pets live long and healthy lives. And some foods can even be harmful.

Remember, a couple of years back, when a bunch of pets got painful kidney stones, and some died, because of melamine in their food?  (Click here and here to see current recalls and alerts.) Contaminants and chemical additives aren’t the only problems to be concerned about. Many popular pet foods are essentially junk food—the equivalent of feeding yourself low-grade fast food and nothing else, every single day.

For some good overviews of the problems with many dog foods, and what types of foods to look for, you should read the following articles from DogFoodAnalysis.com (link 1; link 2), and the following articles by Dr. Weil, who’s not a vet, but rather an MD and a dog lover (link 1; link 2).

My dog’s vet recommends Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul and Natural Balance. Dr. Weil feeds his dogs Acana Pacific. And the Dog Food Analysis site has given its highest rating (6 stars) to certain product lines within the following brands: Innova EVO, Wellness Core, Instinct, Orijen, Taste of the Wild, Horizon Legacy, Artemis Maximal, Blue Wilderness, and Go Natural Grain Free Endurance. You can look up the DogFoodAnalysis review and rating of the food you’re currently buying for your dog by using the site’s Search bar. Many products that are marketed as healthy and beneficial, such as Purina’s “Beneful,” have received very bad reviews because they contain such low-quality ingredients. In fact, most of the dog foods that were reviewed ended up getting only a 1-star rating!  (Bear in mind that some of the reviews on the site are a couple of years old, so some brands may have changed their ingredients since then.)

Some specialty stores, such as Pet Food Express (in the San Francisco Bay Area), have a large selection of some of the higher-quality food brands. But keep in mind that not all pet foods that are expensive (or that advertise themselves as healthful) are actually high-quality. Do your research to make sure you know what you’re getting.

Related Post: Flea and Tick Treatments that Won’t Poison Your Pet

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April 7, 2010
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If you haven’t seen it already, I’d recommend watching The Cove.  I’m not the only one who thinks it’s a good film. It has won dozens of film awards, and it was recently nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. (You can get it on Netflix, iTunes, or On Demand cable, or buy the DVD.)

The Cove is suspenseful and riveting—reminiscent of a spy flick like Ocean’s Eleven—but it’s a documentary about real events: the authorized but carefully concealed killing of more than 20,000 dolphins (each year) in Taiji, a small town in Japan. The film has a brief segment of disturbing footage, but it is not overdone; and there’s beautiful and humorous footage, as well, to balance out the drama and tension.  For more information about the dolphin slaughter, or to take action against this practice, go to TakePart.com/TheCove. (Note: Mass dolphin killings also happen in Denmark’s Faeroe Islands.)

The film also tells the compelling story of the personal, moral transformation of Ric O’Barry, the man who captured and trained the dolphins who were featured in the 1960s TV show Flipper, the popularity of which spurred the more widespread capture of dolphins to be used for human amusement and entertainment. After recognizing the folly and tragedy of these practices, O’Barry has dedicated his life to saving dolphins and releasing them from captivity.  For information on the captivity of dolphins for marine parks and swimming-with-dolphins programs, check out this Humane Society webpage.  And click here to see a funny and relevant cartoon from The New Yorker.

A third important issue—an environmental issue—comes up in the film, as well: the high levels of mercury that are found in dolphins and in some types of fish, such as tuna. Mercury exposure can cause severe neurological impairment (EPA mercury webpage).  For more information on mercury contamination in seafood, marine life, humans, and the environment at large, go to this NRDC webpage or GotMercury.org.

Towards the end, the film briefly touches on the issue of overfishing, which turns out to be one of the primary causes of the dolphin slaughter tragedy that the film has exposed. According to O’Barry, the dolphin-killing fishermen say they consider dolphins “pests” that are eating all of “our” fish. The fishermen use this to justify the slaughter, when in fact it is humans’ fishing practices (such as industrial-scale trawling operations), our high levels of fish consumption, and water pollution—as well as the damming of rivers, in the case of certain species of salmon—that are responsible for the steep decline and imminent collapse of many fishery stocks. For information on which types of seafood to avoid buying (due to overfishing and/or contamination issues), see the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch site and download their Pocket Guide.

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February 11, 2010
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