Pet Food

Choosing the right pet food

Choosing The Right Pet FoodChoosing the right food for your dog is important, with both short and long-term consequences. Your dog’s health depends on you and the nutrition you provide; get familiar with the ingredients in pet food. Many veterinarians have come to believe that the best foods for a dog are those that are closest to his ancestral diet: raw meat, in all different cuts and varieties, and a sprinkling of herbal or vegetable matter. But for many of us, providing that kind of diet is inconvenient and expensive. For those of us who have gotten used to the ease of feeding dried fog food out of a bag, this can help you become an informed consumer.


  1. Superior sources of protein. This means either whole, fresh meats or single-source meat meal (for example, chicken meal rather than poultry meal).
  2. A whole meat source as one of the first two ingredients (chicken) or chicken meal, for instance). A meat source in two of the top three ingredients also helps indicate the food is high in meat. Ingredients are always listed in descending order of weight, i.e. the ingredient responsible for the greatest amount of weight in the bag is listed first. If a label reads, “beef, ground yellow corn, rice, corn gluten meal,” it appears that there is more beef than anything else in the sack, but the total weight of the ground yellow corn plus corn gluten meal may outweigh the beef.
  3. Whole unprocessed grains, vegetables, and other foods. Whole unprocessed grains, vegetables, and other foods have a great chance of having its nutrients and enzymes intact.

Look for foods that have whole meat (listed simply as lamb, chicken, beef, etc.) in the top three ingredients. Look for whole foods like rice, wheat, eggs, and foods that are kept fresh with natural preservatives like vitamin C and E (often listed as mixed-tocopherols).

Meat is the most important and natural source of protein for canines. The only exception might be for dogs that have been proven to be allergic to all meat proteins. Pets need enzymes essential for every biochemical bodily function, vitamin C is critically important, vitamin E is an antioxidant needed to detoxify.

No matter what the commercials say, dog food does not contain “all the nutrients your dog will ever need.” Don’t buy any pet food that contains “meat” meal, “meat & poultry by-products," bone meal, animal fat, or tallow.


Meat by-products. These “second-class” products are not handled as carefully as whole meat. Meat by-products - the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines.

Poultry by-products - must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera.

Poultry by-products meal - Poultry by product meal consists of the ground, rendered clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

Animal by-products meal - the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents...This ingredient definition is intended to cover those individual rendered animal tissue products that cannot meet the criteria as set forth elsewhere in this section.

Fats or proteins named generically - for example, animal fat, poultry fat or meat meal as opposed to the better quality beef fat, chicken fat or lamb meal. The generic term indicates that the ingredient is actually a mixed bag of ingredients, coming from a number of sources.

Food fragments - brewer’s rice, corn gluten, etc., this item is the least odious on this list. Most foods contain at least one fragment, as makers economize where it least hurts the food.

Artificial preservatives are used to prevent food from turning rancid. These include BHA, BHT, (especially) ethoxyquin, potassium sorbate, sodium nitrate, these are known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction.

Artificial colors, Sweeteners - added to attract dogs to unappealing food; Propylene glycol-( a first cousin to anti freeze), toxic when consumed in large amounts; causes the fatal destruction of red blood cells. This is added to some “chewy” foods to keep them moist.

Recommended Reading:

Food Pets Die for: Shocking Facts About Pet Food

NEW EDITION Food Pets Die for: Shocking Facts About Pet Food

By Ann N. Martin, foreword by Shawn Messonnier, DVM

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats

Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats

By Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D. & Susan Hubble Pitcairn

Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs

Give Your Dog a Bone: The Practical Commonsense Way to Feed Dogs

By Dr Ian Billinghurst, B.V.SC, B.Sc.Agr., Dip. Ed.