Today's pet food shop aisles are a neo -Noah's ark of food made from exotic proteins from different animal species. Mainstream pet foods nowadays contain meats that, a decade ago, would have been viewed as very exotic. Pet foods with kangaroo, rabbit, venison, ostrich, bison, brushtail, and alligator are now easily purchased at most pet stores.
Exotic pet foods with kangaroo, rabbit, venison, ostrich, bison, brushtail, and alligator are now easily purchased at most pet stores. They are often marketed as more “natural”, less likely to cause or able to alleviate allergies, or even healthier than those containing less exotic and expensive ingredients such as pork, chicken, or beef.
These promises, however, come with quite a hefty price tag.
So, are you getting value for your money or just bragging rights to the most exotic pet food?
For healthy dogs and cats, there is not much benefit in including exotic proteins in pet food. Exotic proteins are not healthier than the more traditional meats. Consistent, high-quality sources of exotic proteins can also be hard for production companies to find, and this can negatively affect the quality and availability of exotic pet foods and their overall cost.
Most of the animals used for exotic pet food are not raised on a large scale locally for human consumption. They are imported from other countries in small batches. Where available locally, harvests of these meats may also be seasonal, potentially leading to big periods of unavailability or prolonged storage time. This can cause backordered pet food for many months, and a trickle down effect of unhappy distributors, retailers and pet parents.
In addition to a potential shortage, the nutrient levels in exotic meats may vary or have less available information compared to what is commonly found in commodity meats like beef, chicken, pork, and turkey. This in turn means that pet food production companies need to pay closer attention to auditing these suppliers than usual. Testing ingredients and finished diets would also be more of a task for them.
What about food allergies?
Another concern is that exotic proteins in pet food had only one role - use in food for pets with confirmed or suspected food allergies to other common ingredients. Food allergies in pets develop due to regular exposure to certain ingredients. Those things in their daily diet rather than specific foods like in people.
Generally, food allergies are not so common in pets. Most skin and gastrointestinal signs attributed to allergies to food are caused by other factors in their diet like fiber and fat differences or the environment. For pets that do have allergies, diagnosing if it's a food allergy and what specific foods they are allergic to is not an easy feat.
Often, it means feeding a pet on a diet containing an extremely limited number of ingredients. This should ideally consist of a single protein and single carbohydrate source which the pet has never consumed before. (novel ingredients) .
Until recent years, it was not likely that pets would be fed bison, kangaroo, venison or duck. These exotic proteins were mostly used for these allergy diet trials. Now, however, with the number of pets being fed pet food diets containing these ingredients, it is becoming more difficult to make or find diets containing novel ingredients for the purpose of diagnosing and treating food allergies in pets.
Feeding pets on exotic proteins will not prevent food allergies. Exotic proteins in pet food are no more or less allergenic than the more common foods. They are just, till recently, rarely present in pet food, thus making allergies to them uncommon.
Due to the high cost of exotic proteins, most pet food diets that contain these proteins that you can purchase at your local pet store will also contain more ordinary proteins. In fact, they will also usually have multiple protein and carbohydrate sources.
A chicken and alligator pet food diet has no superiority over a chicken diet with regards to the potential development of food allergies in pets and will actually eliminate alligator as an option in the event that a pet does develop an allergy while on that diet.
Several studies have recently suggested a high rate of contamination with common proteins, even in exotic meat pet food diets purchased over the counter that do not have other proteins listed on the ingredient list. This is potentially from sharing machinery in pet food manufacturing plants that make the more traditional pet foods. It is for this reason that over-the-counter exotic meat pet food diets should never be used to feed dogs if you suspect they have a food allergy because they can complicate their diagnosis.
This could also lead to eliminating proteins that could have otherwise been useful for testing. Instead, working with a vet on a strict diet trial with a keen eye on contamination from other proteins and fewer ingredients would be the best approach.
There’s always a product out there being sold off as new, cool or even healthier. It’s the same for the pet food industry too. We suggest ignoring and avoiding pet foods with exotic meats. They aren’t helping pets, but are likely hurting the wallet!
Avantis is one of the best pet food manufacturers and distributors. We offer both premium and economy pet food brands- Pure, Comet, Avantispet and Comet- that provide complete nutrition and a balanced diet to pets.
Our Pure brand of cat and dog food is a hypoallergenic pet food brand that is healthy, natural and wholesome for cats and dogs.
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