The Scary Truth About Pet Foods

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

What are we really feeding our Pets?

A:    The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar per ?year industry. More than 95% of United States companion animals derive their nutritional needs from a single source; that source is commercial pet food. The quality of pet food is extremely variable. There are literally hundreds of pet foods on the market and they range in quality of ingredients. Some contain grains and by-products, others contain human grade meats. This is where the importance of reading the pet food ingredients label comes into play. 

Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, considered unfit for human consumption, and similar wastes to be turned into profit. This waste includes, but is not limited to, intestines, udders, hooves, heads, esophagi, tongues, and very possibly condemned and cancerous tissue. I can attest to the condemned and cancerous tissue.

While in veterinary medical school, I worked as a Veterinary Medical Officer for the Department of Agriculture. I had the opportunity to see first hand how and where the condemned tissue and meat went. All cancerous tissue and tissue termed “not fit for human consumption” was placed in a large vat and picked up by a rendering plant to be made in to pet food. This practice made me sick. I certainly do not want my pets to eat some other animal’s cancerous meat!

One of the main reasons why this occurs is because the pet food companies have been bought by huge multinational companies. The Pet Food Institute, which is the trade association for pet food manufacturers, has acknowledged the use of by-products in pet foods as additional income for processors and farmers. It provides a place for their waste products to go and ensures more profit.

Cat’s and dogs are mainly carnivores and they get the best nutrition on a meat based diet. They are meat eaters. Knowing this it is important to read the label of ingredients carefully. The ingredient list tells us what is in the can or bag of food. Ingredients are listed in decreasing order of weight. Generally, about 80% of what is in a commercial pet food is contained in the first three ingredients listed. As I tell my clients, make sure there is a meat named in those positions, namely chicken, beef, pork, venison, duck, or rabbit. You do not want it to say meat by-products, chicken by-products or chicken meal, for example. The better brands of pet food, namely those labeled “natural”, “organic” or “super-premium” do not use by-products. Many commercial pet foods contain mainly grains, by-products or meal. This is not the best formula for your companion animal. Don’t be fooled by fancy packaging that shows chickens, carrots, peas, apples and other vegetables on the front. If you look at the label carefully, you may notice that the carrots are in the tenth position on the label. Believe me, that means there is very little carrot in that food. Manufacturers are very clever in how they package and market these pet foods

Nestlé’s bought Purina

(Fancy Feast, Alpo, Friskies, Mighty Dog, Dog Chow, Cat Chow, Puppy Chow, Beneful, One, ProPlan, Tender Vittles, Purina Veterinary Diets).
 Del Monte, bought Heinz  (Fancy Feast, Alpo, Friskies, Mighty Dog, Dog Chow, Cat Chow, Puppy Chow, Beneful, One, ProPlan, Tender Vittles, Purina Veterinary Diets).
 MasterFoods bought Mars, Inc.,  Royal Canin, Pedigree, Waltham’s, Cesar, Sheba, Sensible Choice, Goodlife Recipe, Excel).
 Colgate-Palmolive. bought Hill’s  Science Diet (Hill’s Science Diet, Prescription Diets, Nature’s Best).


 According to the AAFCO (Association of  American Feed Control Officals)  meat by-products can consist of  “the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat derived from slaughtered mammals, including, but not limited to: lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomach and intestines, freed from their contents”. Notice that in this definition it says “other than meat”.  So basically, according to this definition, meat by-products do not contain meat. It’s another way to fool the consumer.

Corn or corn meal is basically a low cost filler that is found in many dog foods. Dogs do not digest corn; it passes right through them providing little or no nutritional value. Preservatives are necessary to keep commercial pet food fresh. The better quality pet foods use natural preservatives such as Vitamin C or Vitamin E, rosemary or cloves. Other pet food manufacturers use BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxtolune), ethoxyquin, propyl gallate or propylene glycol. Please avoid these latter compounds. Many veterinarians believe that they are associated with skin problems and other diseases.

 The bottom line is that as the owner of a companion animal you need to be aware of what is in the food you are feeding your pet. Read the labels and become knowledgeable. Make sure your dog or cat gets a protein source that is from meat. Buy a higher quality pet food. Just because a pet food is expensive does not mean it is better. If you’re interested, purchase the book Home prepared Dog and Cat Diets by Donald R. Strombeck. It gives a number of well balanced home prepared diets with variety.




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