Monday, September 01, 2008

Pets on a bad diet can develop behaviour problems, says top vet leading Jamie Oliver-style crusade

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 12:31 PM on 31st August 2008

Pet owners are putting their animals' lives at risk by giving them food packed with additives and chemicals, according to a new campaign.

TV's Vets in Practice Joe Inglis heads the Campaign for Real Pet Food, which starts tomorrow, to do for dog food what Jamie Oliver did for school dinners.

It is to highlight that the effect of a poor diet on children such as obesity, food allergies and hyperactivity is also a problem for family pets.

Joe Inglis

Joe Inglis, who is launching a campaign to improve pets' food, with his dog Jack in Hyde Park, London

Mr Inglis, who also looked after the animals on Blue Peter for four years, wants the law to force pet food manufacturers to list detailed ingredients on packaging so owners know what they are giving pets.

He said: 'I passionately believe that pets deserve good quality, natural food - and pet owners deserve openness and honesty from pet food manufacturers.

'As a practising vet I know that diet is the number one factor in pets health, and pet owners really need to understand what is in their pets foods if they are going to feed them healthily.

jamie oliver

TV chef Jamie Oliver started a revolution for better school food

'This campaign can make a real difference, and by changing the way people think about their pets diets, we can help to make all of our pets healthier and happier.'

The campaign is being backed by high-profile supporters including Dragons Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, fashion designer Bruce Oldfield and Little Britain actor Anthony Head.

Ms Meaden, who has 23 pets, told the Independent on Sunday: 'With so much emphasis on 'we are what we eat', it's about time we knew exactly what we were feeding our pets, too.'

There are 7.3 million dogs and 7.2 million cats in the UK and the pet food market is worth 1.6 billion a year to manufacturers.

But European laws do not require pet food manufacturers to declare what is actually in their products.

That leaves vague generic terms such as 'meat and animal derivatives', 'cereals', 'derivatives of vegetable origin' and 'EC permitted additives.'

Some pets have dietary intolerances and allergies to certain proteins so campaigners say it is important these are specified in the ingredients so owners can avoid them.

Also protein used in pet food, another cause of dietary upsets, changes from batch to batch depending on the price of the different ingredients.

Dog trainer and behaviourist Carolyn Menteith, who has over 20 years experience and is also supporting the campaign, said: 'Even those owners who know that they should be feeding their dogs healthily, naturally and appropriately, often struggle to decipher the ingredients list of most dog foods.

'In order for owners to make the best choices for their dogs, food labelling needs to be as transparent as we are now demanding from our own food, so that people can clearly see what they are putting in their dog's bowl.'

The campaign says meat and animal derivatives could mean chicken, rabbit, fish or game and many people would not be comfortable feeding these ingredients to their pets.

Some proteins, such as chicken and fish, are better for pets as they are easier to digest and produce fewer waste products than others, such as beef.

In the same way, the term EC permitted additives covers a list of around 4,000 chemicals with the potential to harm animals eating them.

Artificial colours such as E102 (tartrazine), E110 (sunset yellow) and others have been shown to cause hyperactivity in children and have recently been banned for human consumption by the Food Standard Agency.

It is highly likely that this effect is also seen in pets.

By using the term EC Permitted Additives manufacturers can hide the exact additives they use, so it is impossible for a pet owner to make an informed decision about the food.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: 'If manufacturers are so confident about the additives they use, and their effects, why don't they name them rather than use this woolly general term?

'The Campaign for Real Pet Food wants to help pet owners, understand what is really in their pets food, highlighting that pet food ingredient lists should be open, honest and understandable.'

But a spokesperson for the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association told the Independent on Sunday there was no evidence pet food caused behavioural problems in animals.

She said: 'The use of additives in pet food is strictly regulated by the EU. The authorisation process is rigorous and food/pet food additives are regularly reviewed to ensure safety.

'There is no peer-reviewed scientific evidence currently available, or that we are aware of, to suggest a link between behaviouiral problems in pets and additives in pet food.'

Mr Inglis plans to run a trial with a group of 30 hearing dogs for the deaf later this year.

He will fed half on a natural diet during their training over several months and half will be given food with additives. Their behaviour and performance will then be assessed.

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