Choosing the best diet – know what you are feeding

Do you know what your pet is really eating?  It is so important these days to look beyond the marketing hype and actually read the ingredient list – you may be shocked at what you see!

Here is an example of the ingredients in a typical grocery store food:
CORN, SOYBEAN MEAL, BEEF & BONE MEAL, WHOLE WHEAT, ANIMAL FAT (BHA USED AS PRESERVATIVE), CORN SYRUP, WHEAT MIDDLINGS, WATER SUFFICIENT FOR PROCESSING, ANIMAL DIGEST (SOURCE OF CHICKEN FLAVOR), PROPYLENE GLYCOL, SALT, HYDROCHLORIC ACID, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, PEAS, CARAMEL COLOR, SORBIC ACID (USED AS A PRESERVATIVE), CHOLINE CHLORIDE, SODIUM CARBONATE, MINERALS (FERROUS SULFATE, ZINC OXIDE, MANGANOUS OXIDE, COPPER SULFATE, CALCIUM IODATE, SODIUM SELENITE), VITAMINS (VITAMIN E SUPPLEMENT, NIACIN, D-CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE, VITAMIN A SUPPLEMENT, RIBOFLAVIN SUPPLEMENT, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, VITAMIN D3 SUPPLEMENT, VITAMIN B12 SUPPLEMENT, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, FOLIC ACID, BIOTIN), DL-METHIONINE, CALCIUM SULFATE, CARROTS, GREEN BEANS, WHEAT FLOUR, TITANIUM DIOXIDE (COLOR), YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6, RED 40, BHA (USED AS A PRESERVATIVE), BLUE 1.

Notice that this diet is primarily grain with a bit of meat flavoring. Five of the ingredients are actually the colors red, yellow, and blue – do you think your dog really cares what color the food is? This is all part of the marketing game.  There are a few vegetables and a whole bunch of synthetic vitamins and minerals.

This one is from a ‘better’ dry food:
Chicken Meal, Millet, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols), Pumpkin Seed, Yeast Culture, Spray Dried Chicken Liver, Dried Egg Product, Alfalfa Nutrient Concentrate, Montmorillonite Clay, Dried Kelp, Spray Dried Porcine Plasma, Dried Tomato, Almonds, Dried Chicory Root, Dried Carrot, Dried Apple, Menhaden Fish Meal, Dried Pumpkin, Dried Apricot, Dried Blueberry, Dried Spinach, Dried Broccoli, Dried Cranberry, Parsley, Dried Artichoke, Rosemary, Dried Mushroom, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Bifidobacterium bifidium Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Bacillus coagulans Fermentation Product, Dried Pineapple Extract, Dried Aspergillus niger Fermentation Extract, Dried Aspergillus oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum Fermentation Extract

There are more real-food ingredients, but the second ingredient is millet, which is used as a binder and filler.  The first ingredient is chicken meal, so we really don’t know what is in that one.

Here is one from a ‘high-end’ dry food:
Deboned chicken, deboned turkey, chicken liver, chicken meal, catfish meal, turkey giblets, whole red lentils, whole pinto beans, pollock meal, chicken fat, whole green lentils, whole green peas, whole chickpeas, whole blue catfish, whole eggs, rainbow trout, pollock oil, lentil fiber, natural chicken flavor, chicken cartilage, turkey cartilage, choline chloride, whole pumpkin, whole butternut squash, mixed tocopherols (preservative), dried kelp, zinc proteinate, kale, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens, turnip greens, whole carrots, whole apples, whole pears, freeze-dried chicken liver, freeze-dried turkey liver, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, copper proteinate, chicory root, turmeric, sarsaparilla root, althea root, rosehips, juniper berries, dried lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, dried bifidobacterium animalis fermentation product, dried lactobacillus casei fermentation product.

There is more meat in this one, but also red lentils, pinto beans, lentil fiber, green lentils, green peas, and chickpeas.  None of these are necessary in the diet of a carnivore, and can, in fact cause disruption in the normal digestion and absorbtion of nutrients.

Here is the list from a balanced raw diet:

Free-Range Meat (74.58%): Chicken Meat, Chicken Necks  (including bone), Chicken Gizzards, Chicken Livers, and Chicken Hearts.

Organic Vegetables (24.64%): Yams, Romaine Lettuce, Carrots, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Celery, and Parsley.

Special Nutrient Mix (0.78%): Organic Flaxseed Oil, Sea Salt, Inulin, Cod Liver Oil, Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Vitamin E, Manganese Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Iodine.

This list is primarily unprocessed, whole-food ingredients. There are a few supplements added to provide complete nutrition.

Look at the difference in these ingredient lists.  If you did not read them, you would have no idea what your pet was eating, and the difference is immense!

Here are some recommendations in choosing a food for your pet:

  1. The best diet will contain fresh whole foods with minimal processing.  This will include raw or lightly cooked products.
  2. The next best diet would be lightly processed such as dehydrated, freeze-dried, or oven-baked.  This type of processing will still lose nutrient value, but is more convenient and can be a good option to mix with some raw food in the diet.
  3. Canned food has the benefit of a higher moisture content, and does not typically contain the fillers that dry food does.  Still, read the ingredients carefully and I do not recommend feeding this as the only food type in the diet.
  4. Kibble is last on the list due to the level of processing that damages nutrients and can even cause toxicity.  Because of the need to hold the pieces together, there will always be some sort of carb or filler.  Although there is some variability in the quality of kibble ingredients, I do not recommend that any kibble constitute a majority of your pet’s diet.