Pet owners that regularly purchase commercially prepared pet foods may have come across several soy-related products in the list of ingredients. They are quite common in both feline and canine food and may come in the form of wet, semi-moist, and dry formulations. Soy is even present in several formulas and prescription diets often recommended by vets, and is also likely that you may have come across some labels with clear indications that a particular recipe is completely free from soybean, which may have alarmed you! Hence the question, is soy safe in pet food? Continue reading to find out.
What is Soy?
Soy is a plant-based protein that belongs to the legume family alongside other foods like peas, beans, peanuts, and lentils. It is originally from the Eastern part of Asia, but the plant is cultivated in commercial quantities globally as a relatively cheap source of protein, widely used in human and animal diet. Vegetarians and vegans benefit from soy as an alternative to animal protein; however, it is important to understand that there are people who are allergic to soybeans.
Soy constitutes part of pet’s food, but it may not be explicitly listed on the label for ingredients. The manufacturer may decide to list it as textured vegetable protein, vegetable broth or TVP. Some may list it as soy germ meal, soybean meal, soy grits, soy flour, soy isoflavones, and soy protein concentrate.
Why is Soy Added to Cat and Dog Foods?
The reason for including soy in pet food is not far from financial considerations. Commercially prepared pet food, especially for the feline, and canine population needs to come with complete nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, fats, as well as micronutrients, like minerals, and vitamins.
It is true that we can get protein from veggies and meat, but animal-based protein is highly expensive. So by using soy in place of meat, manufacturers of pet food will cut down on cost, and still be able to come up with a bulky product that is rich in protein.
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The Side Effects of Soy in Pet Food
A couple of issues are associated with including soy to pet food. According to many experts, the quality of protein in soy is not high enough for cats as they are obligate carnivores, and thus, their protein should come solely from meat. There are even claims that some components of soy may be unsafe, and thus impede the digestion of protein, thereby leading to some chronic deficiencies.
While some vets don’t even recommend soy-containing foods for dogs, this is a much bigger problem for cats as their gut physiology and metabolism is channeled towards a meat-only diet. Secondly, both felines and dogs are predisposed to allergies, which may be triggered by what they eat. In dogs, allergies that come as a result of food condiments are pegged at 10 percent; however, the number is a notch higher in felines.
Talking about cats, both sexes are susceptible to allergies, which can become evident at a very young age like five months. Conversely, allergies may surface when the kitty has grown up to 12 years. However, the age range for most allergies in the feline population is between two and six years. A cat that may have been consuming a particular food without issues for years can suddenly develop allergies from the same food.
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The symptoms come in the form of hair loss, itchy skin, miliary dermatitis, as well as excessive scratching, which will always recur. In such situations, you can call on the vet who will assist with a diagnosis, and consequently get to the root cause of the allergy.
The allergens that are common are allergies to lamb, beef, corn, seafood, dairy products, soybean as well as wheat gluten. As it has been established that felines get minor benefits from soy, it would not be a hardship to completely eliminate it from their food. However, when it comes to dogs, avoiding soy is not a must unless your vet specifically advises against it.
Foods to Look For When Feeding Your Pet With Soy
The list of foods that contain soy are endless, they include:
- Edamame: Edamame is soybean harvested when they are still sweet and fresh and can be eaten as main veggies or snack after cooking with salt. It comes with zero cholesterol but is rich in fiber and protein.
- Meat Alternatives: Meat alternatives that come with tofu or soy protein can be used to imitate real meat. They come in the form of sausages, burgers, hot dogs, as well as bacon. The fat content is lower than what you would get in meat; it has zero cholesterol with an abundance of iron, protein, and B vitamins.
- Miso: This is majorly used by the Japanese; it is a salty soy paste very rich in essential nutrients like sodium and soy protein.
- Soymilk: Soybean milk is produced from soybeans, but you need to process it by soaking and grinding before extracting the milky richness. Though it lacks vitamin D and calcium, it is high in B vitamins and proteins.
- Soy Nuts: Soy nut is what you get when you soak and bake soybeans until they become brown. They’re very rich in isoflavones and protein.
- Tempeh: This is a tender and chunky product from soybean made from fermenting whole soybeans with grains like millet or rice and shaped into a bar or cake with a nutty or smoky flavor.
- Textured Soy Protein: Textured soy flour is used in making textured soy protein; it retains almost all the dietary fiber of the beans and has 70% protein.
- Tofu: Also called soybean curd, tofu has low sodium but high in B vitamins and protein. It is a smooth, soft product from soy, produced by curdling hot fresh soymilk and coagulant. It has two types; water-packed tofu – this variety is extra-firm, firm and soft. The second is Silken tofu –this variety is extra-firm, firm, soft and has reduced-fat.
- Whole Soybeans: This is the soybeans that ripen into dry beans in the pod and are rich in dietary fiber and protein.
If your dog or cat is not sensitive to soy, feel free to feed them a little bit of any of these foods from time to time. Most soy-based products are high in protein and low in fat, so they can be a beneficial addition to your pet’s diet. However, if your pet is sensitive or allergic to soy products, avoid these at all costs!