What\'s in your pet food
Special Report: What's in your pet food
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Millions of packages of tainted pet food were pulled from store shelves in March. Thousands of pet owners were affected. Cats and dogs are dying or terminally ill.
It happened to Katie Gregoire of Framingham. She says her cats, Harley and Oliver, ate some of the problem pet food.
"They have chronic kidney disease," said Gregoire.
The scare put many pet lovers into a panic and left them wondering just what they've been feeding their beloved animals.
"Honestly, I never thought about it, never even looked at the ingredients," said Gregoire.
If you did take a look, you may have trouble making sense of what you see. Words like "meat and bone meal" and "by-product" are common on pet food labels, and knowing what those phrases really mean leave some sick to their stomach.
"Spinal cords, hooves, internal organs, basically anything that a person is not going to eat," said Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute.
There is an industry group called AAFCO that works with the FDA and sets voluntary guidelines for all pet food makers in the U.S.
Under AAFCO standards, "meat and bone meal" is allowed to contain "blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings," if they "...occur unavoidably in good processing practices." But that same provision never specifies what "good processing practices" are.
By-product, as in chicken or beef by-product, can include "lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone" and even "fatty tissue."
"It's pretty horrifying," said Gregoire.
Even though these ingredients sound very unappetizing and even disgusting to some, the FDA says they are not dangerous for your pet.
The FDA tells 7NEWS, "any ingredients such as meat, poultry, grains and their by-products are considered safe 'foods'..."
"These animals, while they may not sound desirable to us to consume, they are safe to be consumed, and they can safely be consumed by animals," Dr. John de Jong, a veterinarian, said.
And the Pet Food Institute, which represents pet food manufacturers, says they, "...hold their ingredient suppliers to strict specifications..."
But animal activists say pet owners aren't getting the whole story.
"There's really no guarantee about the quality of the ingredients," said Wilder.
The best thing you can do for your pet is check the label.
At the top of the ingredient list, look for foods that have good sources of animal protein, like chicken, beef, fish, turkey and not their by-products.
Check for natural preservatives, like Vitamin E.
And always look for brands that clearly say they meet AAFCO standards.
That way you'll always know "What's in Your Pet Food."
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