By Cheryl Hurd
The healthy food choices you make for your family are just as important when it comes to your pets. When you browse the local farmers’ market or organic produce aisle, it is easy to identify the fruits and vegetables that will make their way to the dinner table.
But what is really in that brown kibble or canned meat-like substance you pour into your pet’s bowl?
The packaging may make overtures of optimal health with special blends to accommodate age, weight or other needs of your pet, but a closer look at the ingredient list can raise questions.
Is this really good for pets? What does natural mean? Is organic the right choice? Add to the confusion the latest food concern — genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — and pet food shopping can stop you dead in your tracks.
GMOS REQUIRE RESEARCH AND UNDERSTANDING
The owners of Pet Headquarters in Prescott Valley, Kimberlee Sheridan and Gary Beebe, are passionate about educating their customers on pet nutrition. On a recent visit to their pet food store that specializes in “healthy, wholesome and holistic food,” Beebe welcomed customers by name, consulted with them on the dietary needs of their pets and helped increase their understanding of GMOs.
Scientists have been altering the genetic makeup of organisms for years in an effort to create crops that resist pests or become more resistant to herbicides—most commonly corn and soy. Questions have been mounting about the health impact of these and other genetically engineered plants that permeate our food chain, whether directly or indirectly.
Currently there is a movement across the United States — one of the world’s leading producers of genetically engineered crops — seeking labeling of foods that include GMOs.
As the push for GMO labeling increases, people on both sides of the issue volley information about the pros and cons of genetically engineered food sources, with health concerns and consumers’ right to know at the core.
At Pet Headquarters, they have taken research into their own hands, questioning and challenging suppliers until they have answers about the food sources. The result — some shelves clearly marked GMO free with green check marks.
HEALTHIER CHOICES, HEALTHIER PETS
According to Beebe, pet owners who switch to healthier foods are seeing improved health in their pets.
Dr. Caroline O’Sullivan DVM MS of Holistic Veterinary Care and Acupuncture Center in Prescott Valley says, in her opinion, nutrition is a fundamental element of holistic medicine and is one of two major sources of healing. She suggests when buying food, seek out options that are “as close to the Earth as possible” with limited processing and limited chemicals. “Be aware that there are byproducts, fillers, chemicals, preservatives and then, of course, genetic modification at the base, whether through corn, soy, or the corn and soy that the chicken or cow ate before being slaughtered. I think it absolutely affects our health and the health of our pets.”
O’Sullivan has been practicing holistic veterinary medicine for five years and sees the benefits among patients whose owners shift the diet away from genetically engineered and processed foods and toward organic foods and home cooking. “Their overall state of health is improved,” she says.
O’Sullivan and Beebe agree that pet owners should do their own research until they fully understand what is in the food and how it impacts pet health.
“You have to be a critical thinker,” O’Sullivan says. “You are your pet’s only advocate.”