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PET FOOD SPECIAL : Feeding Tips

June 22, 1995|Kathie Jenkins

* Never buy dry pet food that is more than 4 months old. Although there is no legal requirement, many companies have started dating their bags. If the food is not dated, buy from a store with a high turnover rate. "If fat gets rancid," says pet nutritionist Dr. Leland Shapiro, "it can be hazardous to the animal."

* Don't feed your pet table scraps. "In the old days we ate a lot of fat," says Shapiro. "Today we know fat is bad for us. We cut the trimming off of our meat, the skin off our chicken, and we give it to our dogs. Everything that is bad for us, we've been stuffing down their throats. It's no wonder [pets] have so many more health problems today."

* Avoid commercial foods that contain ethoxyquin. Many specialists in veterinary medicine feel that the preservative is hard on animals' immune systems. Even Dr. David Dzanis of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine admits the government agency has received complaints of allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems and cancer due to ethoxyquin. Still, Dzanis says, "There is little available scientific data to support these contentions, so there is no sound scientific basis to warrant a change in the regulatory status of ethoxyquin at this time."

* If your veterinarian gives you advice on diet or is selling pet food, ask whether he's actually taken any courses in nutrition. "They didn't teach nutrition when I went to school," says Dr. Richard Pitcairn, who graduated from UC Davis in 1965. "Until recently," says licensed animal nutritionist Dr. Leland Shapiro of Pierce College, "no veterinarian was required to take any nutrition classes. That's why I instigated a basic nutrition course that all of our premed students are required to take."

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