By Mary Oquendo
They say that an entrepreneur is someone who solves problems for profit. As pet groomers, the main problem we solve is dirty pets. However, we all do that. How can we differentiate ourselves from the other groomers in our area? Solve another problem.
We can do this by educating our clients on important topics that concern the well being of their pets. One such topic is how diet impacts a pet’s health.
If you were to do a Google search on the effect of food and people, you would find hundreds of independent research papers linking poor nutrition to chronic medical conditions. If you were to do that same search for pets, you would find few independent studies. As a holistic groomer, my goal is not to simply tell my clients what they should be feeding their pets, but rather to give them the tools to make their own decisions based on their needs.
It’s all about the label
The following terms have been “defined” by AAFCO. AAFCO (Association of Animal Feed Control Officials) is a non–governmental and self–regulating agency. Some states may enforce their guidelines.
• Human–Grade Ingredients: The manufacturer must meet the requirements of federal regulation 21 CFR 110 Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Practice, or Holding Human Food. It means it is safe for people to eat.
• Natural: It is loosely defined as not having any artificial flavors, colorings, or preservatives. And it can be used even if only one ingredient meets those criteria.
• Organic: In order to use the USDA (United States Department Of Agriculture) seal, the product must be 95% organic exclusive of water and salt. If the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients, they can specify which ingredients are organic on the label.
• Premium or Holistic: Totally unregulated.
• Grain Free: Also not regulated. It does not mean free of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates could include added sugars and potatoes.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) regulates the Made In USA label. The rule states that all or virtually all of the components must be produced and assembled in the United States.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates labels in four instances. As an example I will use a chicken product:
1. Chicken for Dogs.
This must contain 95% chicken including water for processing. Not including water, the percentage must be at least 70%. If it were Chicken and Liver For Dogs, then the combination of chicken and liver must be that 95% and as chicken is listed first, the percentage of chicken should be higher than liver.
2. Chicken Dinner for Dogs.
The chicken content must be anywhere between 25–94% chicken. They can use a similar name such as entrée, platter, or formula. Chicken and Liver Dinner For Dogs follows the same rule as in 1. Whichever ingredient is listed first must have the higher percentage.
3. Chicken with Cheese for Dogs.
The cheese must be at least 3% of the product.
4. Chicken Flavored Dog Food.
There has to be a detectable amount of chicken in this food.
Now we can see where some confusion could come in. Chicken for Dogs is radically different than Dog Food with Chicken.
Ingredient listing on the label is not the same as products for people. People product ingredients are listed by volume. Pet food product listings are by weight. Proteins such as chicken and beef are going to be heavier than any of the other added ingredients. That’s why it’s important to know those four distinctions in product names.
Some manufacturers may disguise lesser quality ingredients with special names that sound good. I direct my clients over to
www.dogfoodproject.com where they can look up ingredients to see what they really are.
Food discussions often come up when a client wants to talk about poor quality appearing coat. I begin the conversation like this:
“Skin is the largest organ in the body. If there is a problem going on elsewhere, the pet’s body is redirecting resources away from the skin to where the problem is located. Poor quality coat can be the first sign of an underlying chronic medical condition or poor or incorrect nutrition. Your veterinarian can make the distinction.”
That opens the dialogue regarding proper nutrition, while making it clear I am not making a veterinary diagnosis. From there I discuss various “premium” quality pet foods and where they can purchase them. I discuss how to gradually introduce new food to prevent gastric upset. I explain a pet can have an allergy to any food, including a human grade protein.
My clients always ask how I feed my own dogs
I personally take the easy way when it comes to raw food. I am not preparing anything. I am just going to open up a package knowing it is fully complete. However, that is also the expensive way to feed pets a raw diet. For those clients interested in learning how to properly prepare and introduce a raw diet to a pet that is currently being fed a commercial diet, I send them to www.keepthetailwagging.com. It is a great resource for owners just starting out feeding a raw diet to their pets.
Taking the time to educate clients on the benefits of nutrition and how it benefits their overall health and longevity shows them we are willing to go the extra mile for them. When we become the go–to person for our clients, they become loyal clients. And isn’t that what we all want? ✂