Pets deserve better food standards: expertSmall privately held companies can manage their services, and their reputations, in ways that large publicly held companies cannot. There's a lesson here that goes beyond my personal interest in Kateva's diet.
To make a point about pet food, veterinarian Meg Smart brewed up a pot of leather boots, wood chips and motor oil.
"It would pass (Canadian) standards," she said about her concoction.
Smart, a nutrition expert from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, will be featured on a CBC documentary about the pet food industry on Thursday night.
"It's a complex system," said Smart about the industry. "Most diets aren't out there to harm animals. Most are adequate."
But many pet foods aren't adequate. In the spring of 2007, pet owners across North America watched as nearly 50,000 of their cats and dogs fell ill because of tainted food . Menu Foods, a Toronto-based manufacturer, recalled all of their products containing contaminated wheat gluten, an ingredient the company imported from China.
Smart said these companies made a mistake and would never knowingly produce a dangerous product, but the ingredients used in the food may not be carefully monitored.
"I'd like to see a set of requirements, like for humans . . ." said Smart. "Or else, people have no way of knowing what they're feeding their pets."
Today, very few regulations exist for pet food. Leather boots contain enough nitrogen to pass Canadian standards. Wood chips contain enough fibre and carbohydrates. Motor oil contains enough fat.
Pet food ingredients are controlled and monitored by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, but they only monitor food manufactured in Canada. Most of the pet food Canadians purchase, around 85 per cent, is manufactured in the U.S.
So, what are you feeding your pet? Smart recommends people read food labels carefully because some pet food is well made.
Jason Skotheim has operated Horizon Pet Nutrition in Rosthern since the company started in 2004. He said his company is making sure the ingredients in their product are top quality and locally grown.
"We're trying to make this food like a Hundred Mile Diet for your dog," said Skotheim, referring to the popular diet book for humans.
His company sources all its ingredients and stays completely away from wheat gluten in favour of whole grains.
"Pets are part of the family unit," he said. "We want to make a premium pet food that people can trust."
Skotheim refers to small pet-food companies like Horizon as a cottage industry in Canada. Despite their competition from pet-food giants like Del Monte, Mars and Procter & Gamble, Horizon's business continues to grow.
Smart uses Horizon dry pet food for her dogs, but she says commercials are misleading when they say the food is recommended by veterinarians.
 I think that 50,000 number is suspect, though we'll never really know. The Wikipedia summary reports a US-only fatality rate in the hundreds, and I believe that was largely cats. Their urinary pH seemed to cause a greater formation of the melamine/cyanuric acid crystals and renal failure. Really though, there's no money to study this sort of thing.