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Choosing a Healthy Pet Food

Commercial pet foodNavigating the seemingly endless choices of pet foods can be very daunting at best.  But fear not!  With these helpful tips, you will be able to quickly cross off your list many undesirables, and cut through the marketing hype to make the best possible purchasing choice you can.

The Pet Food Industry - A Quick Glance

Pet food is a $1.6 billion/yr. industry, and the major pet food companies in the US are subsidiaries of gigantic multinational food corporations.  In reality, there are only a few big players in the pet food business:

Nestle's   Del Monte   MasterFoods   Proctor & Gamble   Colgate-
Fancy Feast
Mighty Dog
Beneful One
Tender Vittles
Purina Veterinary Diets
Gravy Train
Kibbles ’n Bits
Wagwells 9Lives
Cycle Skippy
Nature’s Recipe
Milk Bone
  Royal Canin Pedigree
Goodlife Recipe
Sensible Choice
  Hill’s Science Diet
Prescription Diets
Nature’s Best

This is by no means a complete list of pet food manufacturers:

  • International Companies
    There are several large international players such as Champion Petfoods (a Canadian manufacturer who owns the Acana and Orijen brands).

  • Private Labelers
    There are 3 main private labelers who produce dozens of private label pet food brands for companies such as WalMart (Ol' Roy) and Kroger/Ralph's/Fred Meyer/QFC (President's choice).

  • Smaller Manufacturers
    Aside from the big players, there are a countless number of smaller pet food manufacturers, some of which are available nationally, and some only in their local geographical area.

Many commercialized pet foods have become the subject of serious pet food recalls, especially dried kibble.  All 3 private label companies have been involved in pet food recalls that caused the sickness and/or death of many pets (which included Ol' Roy and President's Choice, among many others).(1) 

When choosing any pet food brand, look to see if there has been any pet food recalls, and understand the nature of the recall to best determine if the food should be avoided.

Learn about pet food recalls...

8 Important Tips On Choosing Healthy Pet Foods 

Let's take a look at the 8 tips that can help ensure you are making the best possible food choice for your furry friend:

Important Things to Be Aware Of

By-Products & 4D Animals

The term "4D animals" refers to animals that are (D)ead, (D)iseased, (D)ying, or (D)isabled that have been banned for human consumption, but are a convenient way for the agricultural industry to use them legally in pet foods.  This is because the FDA considers them "legitimate" food items.  Slaughterhouse waste includes intestines, udders, heads, hooves, ligaments, fat trimmings, lungs, feathers, and sometimes diseased and cancerous animal parts.  Some by-products are nutritious, while some should never been part of either the human or animal food chain.  If you are surprised there are no laws or regulations preventing 4D use, don't be.

FDA failure to protect human & pet food...

Better brands of pet foods do not use by-products, which is why they are often more expensive.  Low quality food is cheap, although there are now several very expensive dog foods (including "veterinary diets") filled with absolutely terrible ingredients that should never be fed to pets.  If you don't believe it, take a peek at their ingredient lists and see just how bad they are.

Recalled, Expired, Diseased, & Contaminated Items

Yes, it is true, even though the thought of it may turn your stomach.  The public is generally unaware that the FDA allows the following items to be legally used in pet foods:

  • Recalled foods
  • Expired foods
  • Meat from diseased animals
  • Foods contaminated with bird, rodent, or roach excrement
Canned vs. Dried

wet dry foodDried kibble is much more popular than wet food, simply because it is cheaper to buy and more convenient to use (especially when taking road trips or vacations).  Wet food contains water and is heavier than dried food, which makes it more expensive to ship.  Depending on the ingredients and how they are processed, one is not necessarily better than the other.  

A popular argument for dried kibble is that wet food contributes to plaque build-up and more dental problems.  But the quality of the dog food is much more important when it comes to dental health. Carbohydrates are a main source of dental plaque accumulation on our pet's teeth, present in both types of food in varying quantities.  Wet food is not crunchy and cannot help scrape a dog's teeth, but any healthy pet diet should include appropriately sized fresh, raw bones when supervised which addresses this issue.

Why bones are so important  pawprint  Pet dental care

The Word "Meal"

The term “meal” means that the ingredient has been rendered (heavily processed for industrial use).  During rendering, raw materials are boiled in a vat for several hours.  This separates fat, removes water, and kills viruses, bacteria, and parasites.  The high temperatures used in boiling also destroy many of the nutrients and food enzymes, and denature the protein in the food.



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