Everything you wanted to know about pet food but didn't think to ask, including pet food politics and marketing practices, the science behind pet food and the reliability of pet food claims are just a few elements of the new book "Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat" (Free Press) by two Cornell professors. The book is also a research-based guide to selecting the most healthful foods for cats and dogs.

Its authors: Cornell Provost Emeritus Malden Nesheim, Ph.D. '59, who served at Cornell as a professor of animal nutrition for about 15 years, as director of the Division of Nutrition Sciences for about 15 years and as provost for six years. And Marion Nestle, a visiting professor of nutritional sciences at Cornell, the Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of "What to Eat."

book cover

"The idea for this book originated as an extension of Marion's book, 'What to Eat,' which addressed common questions about human food choices using supermarkets as an organizing principle," Nesheim said. "The book did not cover the pet food aisle, which in most supermarkets is extensive and loaded with products whose labels differ greatly from those on foods for humans and are indecipherable to most people. We were curious to know what those products were and what their labels meant. 'What to Eat' is a guide to how to think about human food choices. 'Feed Your Pet Right' is a guide to how to think about food choices for cats and dogs."

The book includes information on the costs and benefits of raw, kosher, vegetarian, "ancestral," "prescription" and "hairball control" diets as well as cooking food for pets; analyses of pet food products, including natural, premium and organic pet foods; industry regulations (as well as lack of regulations); how companies influence government oversight; the story behind pet food labels; nutrition in veterinary education; the ethics of doing research on animals and pets in product development; and basic ingredients and sources of ingredients. The authors also describe their conversations with pet food manufacturers and observations from visiting several plants and how some companies refused to answer their questions or allow them to tour facilities.

The book concludes with the authors' recommendations for pet owners, the pet food industry, government regulators and veterinarians.

"The authors have used their knowledge of nutrition, food marketing and more and taken a fresh look at how we feed our pets," says veterinarian Marty Becker, host of "The Pet Doctor With Marty Becker" on PBS, on the book jacket. "The result is a thought-provoking book that provides a solid foundation for the important discussion with a family's veterinarian on how best to feed dogs and cats."