If your dog or cat asked you what’s for dinner, could you answer? Ads for pet food show pictures of real meat, fruit and veggies but be very careful. Most pet foods in grocery stores contain ingredients that have been rejected from the human food chain. Considering the low quality or even toxicity of some commercial pet foods, how do you select one? Start by reading and understanding the label.

Meats (protein)

Everyday slaughterhouses process animals that are condemned due to disease. This meat is then sprayed with chemical disinfectants to kill bacteria. This sub-human grade meat and its by-products may be used in some pet foods. There are also many foods that use soybean and cereals as a primary protein source. These are difficult for our pets to digest and therefore the nutrition is poorly absorbed.

Grains

Grain is the main ingredient in most dry pet foods. In low quality pet foods these may be mouldy, rancid or have high levels of herbicides and pesticides. While some plant sourced carbohydrates are necessary, high concentrations in many foods can cause health problems. Some carbohydrates such as corn husks, wheat mill run, rice by-products and soy grits and provide absolutely no nutritional value to our pets.

Fats

Sometimes rancid and always unfit for human consumption, restaurant grease is the most common source of fats in the pet food industry. Discarded fats from rendering plants are also commonly used. Most premium quality pet foods use human-grade fats.

Fillers

Although the bulk of ingredients in pet food are grains and meat, fillers are common. Most fillers are leftovers of the human food industry, and their nutritional value is questionable. Avoid ingredients like peanut hulls, soybean meal, brewers rice and corn gluten meal.

Chemicals

Pet food manufacturers only need to list the ingredients they add. If chemicals are added to ingredients at the slaughterhouse or rendering plant, they may not be listed. Some chemical preservatives are linked to serious pet health conditions, and are not necessary given natural alternatives like Vitamins E & C.

When you begin to understand what goes in your pet’s food, it becomes easier to make healthy choices for them. Consider these:

Premium Kibble & Canned Food

Find a pet supply store that specializes in high quality foods and talk to a knowledgeable staff member. A premium pet food manufacturer will ensure the ingredients they put into their formulas are human grade, fresh, pesticide free, insecticide/herbicide free and antibiotic free. Premium foods are vitamin and mineral fortified at higher levels than grocery/utilitarian foods and have trace minerals that are more bioavailable to your pet. Simply stated, the higher the cost of the ingredients, the easier the food will be digested. Chicken meal, lamb meal, fish meal, eggs and high quality mineral packages are higher quality than soybean, whole corn, bone meal, by-products, colors, sugars and poor quality fats. A high concentration of these cheaper ingredients provides only marginal nourishment for our pets. Consequently, a pet requires much more of that formula. Therefore, the cost of feeding a premium food is actually less than feeding a lower quality food!

Raw Foods

This natural diet consists of bones, ground meat, vegetables, fruit and other whole foods. The theory behind feeding raw food is that our pets’ ancestors ate raw meat and bones. Cooking also kills many of the nutrients that they require. For those people who don’t have the time to do adequate research on proportions, supplements and then develop their own recipes, some of the commercially available thaw-and-serve raw diets are great.

When it comes to pet food – there really is a difference and it IS important to the health of your pet!