Since 1993, there have been many changes in the pet food industry. New brands appear, it seems, almost on a weekly basis, each claiming to offer superior benefits and exotic ingredients. The industry and internet are beset by “experts” making misleading claims. For example, grain-free, breed specific and individually tailored nutrition are flawed concepts, designed and promoted to mislead the public. We live in an age of misinformation and the pet food industry is not immune from that. There is very sophisticated and expensive marketing and players with very deep pockets have come into the industry, looking for mighty profits.
But, and this is the point of today’s lesson, what HASN’T CHANGED is that pets are still afflicted by similar health problems as before. There may be some changes, but not for the better; I’m thinking of the increase in overweight and obese pets of all types, not just dogs and cats. I have no figures on the incidence of pet ill health but from speaking to many pet owners over the years I am sure that there is as much, if not more, ill health in pets as before. (Except on pets fed on Burns of course!)
On the back of this, there have been substantial changes in the provision of veterinary services. When I graduated, a vet wasn’t allowed to work for someone who wasn’t a qualified vet. The reason for this, I believe, is that the professional judgement of the vet might be compromised. That has all changed; the veterinary profession is rapidly being bought up by a very small number of investors and the provision of animal care shows every sign of being dominated by financial interests. There’s a good likelihood that, wherever you live, your vet services are now being provided by a remote financial institution. If there wasn’t big money to be made, the investors wouldn’t be interested. The UK vet sector is forecast to almost double in value between 2021 and 2026. Rich pickings.
For me, the sad fact is that if pets were fed properly, they would avoid most of the common health problems affecting our pets. This doesn’t only mean the right brand of food, it also means feeding the right amount. Here, pet owners themselves have a responsibility. The humanisation of pets is to treat them as family members, having several meals a day and over-indulgence which can negate the value of good quality food.
Between 1978 and 1993, when I encountered a health problem in a pet, I explained to the client/owner that I thought that the problem was caused by incorrect nutrition, i.e. poor quality food. When I explained this to pet owners, they would ask which food I recommended. In my opinion, there was no pet food of sufficient quality available at that time that I could recommend as being capable of providing the health benefits that I was looking for. There were lots of pet food brands but very few “quality” brands. Consequently, I advised the pet owner to stop the petfood and instead to feed a home-cooked diet of boiled brown rice, vegetables and meat, (approximately one third of each). There was nothing scientific or carefully balanced about this approach but the results were obvious: health problems disappeared and, unlike with drug treatments, the problem didn’t come back. Of course, very few people wanted the work and inconvenience of cooking for their pets, and who can blame them? That’s why Burns Pet Nutrition came to be.