Written by Rose DiLeva VMD, MS, CVCP, CVA. Posted in Ask The Vet.

All companion animals should be provided with clean, fresh water every day (ideally filtered water or spring water). The water bowel is best if made out of stainless steel or ceramic since some dogs and cats do have allergies to bowls made of plastic and this can cause inflammation, irritation and lesions around the mouth and chin.

All pets should receive their food once or twice a day (my preference is twice a day) at approximately the same time. Free choice food left down all day is a NO NO. This allows the pet to pick throughout the day and eventually will lead to an overweight animal. It also interferes with the digestive process that begins in the mouth.

When your pet hears you open the can of food or sees you opening the food container, they automatically start to salivate and get the digestive enzymes in the mouth flowing. This is the beginning of digestion. Your pet will get used to the time they have to eat and will acclimate accordingly. I recommend leaving food down no more than one-hour, and then pull up what they have not finished. Food left down longer than this will start to accumulate bacteria and spoil.

Make sure to check the expiration date of all canned and dry pet foods. You may see a statement saying “best if used by” and then a date. Most dry food has a shelf life of a year and most canned food a shelf life of two years. Make sure the food that you chose is within the recommended date listed. Generally, products using natural preservatives such as Vitamin E or C will have a shelf life a couple of months shorter than those using the artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. My personal preference is to stay away from the artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. Their safety/toxicity levels presently are questionable to say the least.

Storage of both dry and canned food is important as well. Food is best stored at room temperature. Temperatures above 90 degrees F or below 50 degrees F can cause changes in the palatability of the food. After canned food has been opened it should be stored in an airtight container, refrigerated and then used within three days. After this the food becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and the bacterial count rises which causes rancidity. The best thing to do for dry food is to keep it in the original bag or container and then put that inside another larger, airtight container.

Read the ingredient label on every bag and can of food you purchase. Ingredients are placed from the greatest to the least amount on the label. The first three ingredients is what more than 70% of that product is made of.  So a food that claims to have apple, broccoli and carrots in it, may have it, but it may be in such small amounts that it is barely negligible.

Be careful of the use of the words “by-product”. If your label says meat-by-product, beef by-products, chicken by-products, lamb by-products or any by-product at all, it does not contain meat. Nothing but scraps of insignificant nutritional value. A by-product is a secondary product deriving from a manufacturing process, a chemical process or a biochemical pathway, and is not the primary product being produced.

Animal sources of by-products include, but are not limited to, dried blood and blood meal from slaughterhouse operations, chicken necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, feathers from poultry processing, manure from animal husbandry, poultry litter swept from the floor of chicken coops, fetal pigs, collagen from the boiled skin and other parts of slaughtered livestock.

The definition of meat-by-products by the Association of American Feed Control Officials is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to lungs, spleen, kidney, liver, blood, brain, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. By-products may legally contain what we call 4D animals, the dead, dying, diseased and disabled, also, road kill, and euthanized cats and dogs, with their collars.

Meat by-products are commonly found in lower grade pet foods and some of the larger name brands as well.

Be careful. Read the label of ingredients on your pet’s food. It could be the difference between a healthy, happy pet and a sick, unhappy one.


Dr. DiLeva is a 1987 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine. She practices alternative and conventional veterinary medicine. Dr. DiLeva is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and a certified veterinary chiropractitioner. She can be reached at her Animal Wellness Center in Chadds Ford, Pa at 610-558-1616 for appointments, speaking engagements and telephone consultations. Her web site is

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