Alfalfa in Pet Food

As a pet owner, it is important to be able to understand the ingredients in your pet’s food and why they are included in the food recipe.  With that in mind, we are restarting our alphabetic series on pet food ingredients, starting with the letter A and alfalfa.

What is Alfalfa?

According to Wikipedia, alfalfa is a perennial flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae, cultivated as an important forage crop in many countries around the world. Alfalfa is native to warmer temperate climates and has been cultivated as livestock feed since at least the era of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Common names for Alfalfa

The most common alternative name for alfalfa is lucerne.  Alfalfa’s most common scientific name is Medicago sativa.

Why is Alfalfa included in pet food?

Alfalfa is a nutritional powerhouse containing many vitamins and minerals as well as enzymes and phytonutrients (natural chemicals in plants that act as antioxidants).

Common benefits or risks of Alfalfa

Alfalfa is a relatively high protein plant that supplies Vitamins A, C, E, and K.  It can help combat vitamin deficiency, and is often used to help with diabetes and thyroid conditions.

Although alfalfa is a source of protein, it should not be used as a primary protein source in your pet’s food.  Both dogs and cats require meat based proteins and their associated amino acid profiles.  Also, because of their shorter digestive tracts, dogs and cats are able to easily digest plants.  Check to make sure that alfalfa is not in the top 10 ingredients if you have any doubts.

Miscellaneous facts about Alfalfa

Alfalfa seems to have originated in south-central Asia, and was first cultivated in Persia.  Alfalfa is purported to be an effective herbal treatment for arthritis, rheumatism, and gout.

One ounce of alfalfa contains about 8 calories and over 1 gram of protein.

Sources and further reading

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