We believe that A.G.E.s should be a major concern to pet owners when choosing the food they feed their four-legged companions.
Our pet companions are a part of our families, they help reduce our stresses, ease loneliness, and encourage us to live lifestyles that are more active. Where would we be without them? We all want what is best for our pets; we strive to keep them fit and healthy in order to extend their time with us. To this end, as pet owners we are highly motivated to find the “best” food for our pets.
The global pet food market is projected to be worth over 128 billion dollars by 2024. Manufactured pet foods are affordable, convenient and are advertised to contain all the nutrients dogs require. 87% of dogs and 67% of cats consume at least some form of processed food. Dry pet food (kibble) is the highest selling product, followed by wet and canned pet food as well as snacks & treats (15). All these products are highly processed in and effort to extend shelf life, cut production costs and combat microbes. However, growing evidence suggests that the consumption of these diets may have serious detrimental effects on animal wellbeing. Pet food manufacturing processes can degrade nutrient content, and additives included in pet foods can be hazardous to health. The implications of chronic health conditions among our pets is extensive; resulting in more disability, lower health related quality of life, spiraling health costs and shortened lifespans. In fact, evidence strongly suggest that dogs of several breeds suffer from more chronic health conditions and have shorter lifespans than that of their recent ancestors.
The accumulation of too many A.G.E.s in the body is associated with the development of sustained inflammation in tissues and organs. A growing number of credible research studies have associated this inflammation with a significant role in causing multiple chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, cancer, and declining cognitive function.
A.G.E.s are naturally found at varying levels in all foods including pet food, but the highest levels by far are found in ultra-processed foods. These are exactly the kinds of foods that dominate the pet food industry. A.G.E.s are formed by a series of chemical reactions that occur when excess sugars come into contact with fats and proteins. The high heat, dehydration, and irradiation practices used during cooking and food manufacturing cause the chemical reactions between sugars fats and proteins to occur much more rapidly. This significantly increases the levels of A.G.E. formation, particularly in processed foods.
Recently, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention released a report indicating that around 60% of cats and dogs are overweight (16). Overeating provides more sugar, fat and protein than the body actually needs. The excess sugar, fat and protein not used by the body is then free to produce higher levels of A.G.E.s, which may increase the risk of chronic disease development. One fact that has not been stated until now is that A.G.E.s actually taste fantastic; the burnt and charred areas of foods and the crunchy tasty bits actually contain the highest A.G.E content. For this reason, manufacturers directly add A.G.E.s during processing to improve the taste, smell, and color of animal pet food. To put this all into some sort of perspective, it is estimated that domestic dogs may eat as much as 100xs more A.G.E.s than humans (17).
As is the case for humans, a nutritious naturally sourced and balanced diet is essential to keeping all pets healthy. However, largely because of misinformation and a lack of comprehensive research, especially in animals, controversy exists as to what that actually consists of.
While research studies are sparse, initial studies do support that A.G.E. accumulation in animals is associated with the increasing prevalence of inflammatory tissue together with its negative health consequences on atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes and declining cognitive function. However, by being aware of what A.G.E.s are, and how they contribute to chronic disease, we can make small changes to reduce the amount of A.G.E.s we are exposing our pets to each day.
If you prepare your own cooked pet food:
Despite the supporting evidence for their detrimental effects, there is a lack of the critical cause and effect research necessary to allow pet owners to make informed decisions on what they feed their pets. This research is also urgently needed to force changes in pet food manufacturing and governmental policy.
Diet is likely be the most significant modifiable risk factor for chronic disease development, health complications and mortality in pets. Bridging the knowledge gap and taking advantage of progress in the human research field regarding the detrimental effects of diet on health can significantly improve the nutritional quality of the foods we feed our animal companions. It is our goal to encourage dietary changes to help lower the A.G.E. levels in our pet’s food so that they may live a happier, healthier, longer life with their loving families.