Q. "Healthy" pet foods seem to be getting a lot of attention lately. How long has this genre of food been around?
Dr. Foster: Some Healthy varieties of pet foods have been around longer than 10 years, but it's really been in the past two to three years that they've become in high demand. In fact, until now, many pet food owners have not even had easy access to Healthy foods.
Q. What has changed in the last few years to make Healthy foods popular?
Dr. Foster: Recent research showing the health benefits of feeding Healthy foods has significantly helped increase the popularity of Healthy foods among pet owners. Just as studies focused on human nutrition have illustrated the fact that eating higher quality food is better for us - studies indicate the same is true for pets. The old adage "you are what you eat" is just as true in pets as it is in humans - if your pet eats a Healthy food and lives a healthy lifestyle, it's more likely to be healthy.
Q. What is the difference between a Healthy food, a premium or super-premium food, and regular mass-market foods in grocery stores?
Dr. Foster: Healthy foods represent an evolution in quality. Higher quality ingredients are used - such as whole fruits and vegetables, real meat as one of the first two ingredients, and specific vitamins and minerals for the particular lifestyle of the food. Healthy foods also contain no artificial preservatives, colors, or by-products.
With some foods, you're more likely to see higher percentages of filler ingredients that don't offer as much nutritional value. So, you have to feed more of it to get the same nutrition. You're also likely to see artificial preservatives like ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT, as well as by-products. Essentially, it's the quality of the ingredients used that differentiates pet foods.
Q. Isn't pet food all about protein? And the more there is, the better the food?
Dr. Foster: No, not at all. That's a common misconception. Too much protein can actually be detrimental to some pets since it can put stress on compromised kidneys. Remember that the organs most likely to fail in older dogs and cats are the kidneys. We've learned that there are optimum levels of protein that should be given to pets at particular stages of their life. The level of protein a puppy or kitten needs, for example, is considerably different than the level for senior pets.
Q. Are Healthy foods the only "good" foods available?
Dr. Foster: Pets are like people - some do fine on one food, while others do not. There are a number of good foods on the market - and there are other foods we would never recommend. In general, though, we feel that the majority of pets will do better with a premium Healthy food, than with a lesser quality food.
Q. When you say they'll "do better," what do you mean?
Dr. Foster: Pets that receive optimum nutrition generally have better overall body condition, including healthier skin - which is a critical system in pets - a softer and healthier hair coat, improved muscle tone, better disease resistance, and a higher activity level.
Q. So what does the future hold for Healthy pet foods?
Dr. Foster: I think it's going to be very bright. Pet owners are becoming increasingly familiar with the benefits of feeding their pets Healthy foods, and the popularity and scope of Healthy foods continues to grow - which is great because that means more pets are eating healthier food and benefiting from this better nutrition.
From our standpoint, we'll continue to develop new formulas in the Healthy classification for more focused needs and life stages so that all of our customers' pets can benefit from a Healthy food, even those with more specific health problems.