January 20, 2017

What Is Your Dog Eating? 

Are there quality ingredients in your pet’s food?

by Rob Fischer

Recently, our daughter came home to find their dog Boo with his head fully immersed in a 2-pound bag of Sour Patch Kids candy. Their daughter had left the bag where the dog could get it. Boo had consumed all two pounds of the candy and was licking the sugar from the bottom of the bag when they found him!

Fortunately that night, Boo regurgitated all two pounds of the Sour Patch Kids—many of them still intact. (I don’t even want to know why our granddaughter had a 2-pound bag of Sour Patch Kids!)

dog food additivesUnfortunately, the problem is that dogs being what they are will eat just about anything. And we easily make the mistake in thinking that if our dog rushes to its food dish at mealtimes then what we’re feeding them must be good for them, right? Wrong!

Because we live with the same dilemma when it comes to human food, it should come as no surprise that many pet foods are full of unhealthy additives.

Dog Food Additives

  • BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) – These are chemical preservatives that have been linked to cancer risk in various animal trials.[1]
  • Menadione – This is a synthetic form of vitamin K also referred to as vitamin K3. In reality, dogs need very little vitamin K and most of what they need is produced by bacteria in their own intestines.[2] This additive may cause liver toxicity and damage to cell membranes.[3]
  • Meat byproducts – These can include animal organs, blood, bones, fat, and beaks—and not much meat. While it sounds gross, these are not necessarily unhealthy for a dog, but the muscle meat has been removed. Also, when the word “meals” is coupled with “byproducts,” there may be other less savory ingredients included from the meat industry including out-of-date meat, restaurant grease, and diseased meat.[4]
  • Corn products – This often appears as “corn gluten” on ingredient labels. This is typically feed corn scraps and cannot provide your dog with the nutrition it needs.[5]
  • Sweeteners – Sugars of all kinds are addicting and not good for you or your pet. You’re more likely to see sugar, fructose, glucose, corn syrup and the like in poor quality dog foods because dogs like the sugar.[6]
  • Ethoxyquin – This is a chemical preservative used in pet food that can cause liver problems.[7]
  • Artificial colors and flavors – These aren’t any better for dogs than they are for humans.[8]
  • Grains – Grains are not bad for your pet, but when grain is the main ingredient in their food this is evidence of inferior food and your dog is not getting all the nutrients it needs. “They will survive, but they won’t thrive” on grain-laden foods.[9]

Does Your Dog’s Diet Reflect Yours?

Often referred to as “the Standard American Diet” or SAD, the typical American eats a lot of processed food high in sugars and low in nutrients. This has made us obese and has brought on diseases such as: diabetes, arthritis, cancer and heart issues.

Unfortunately, we’ve passed our poor eating habits on to our pets. As a result, most dogs and cats are overweight and developing diabetes, cancer, and heart problems just like us. And many veterinarians can’t help us when it comes to good nutrition for our pets. We’ve all heard the disturbing news that medical doctors receive little or no training on nutrition. The same holds true with veterinarians.[10]

The daily nutritional needs of dogs and other pets are not altogether different from humans. They need a variety of proteins, vitamins and minerals. However, the big difference with dogs is that we typically feed them the same food for every meal, every day. For this reason, nutrition is all the more important in the food we give them.

Our daughter’s dog, Boo, serves as a good example of this. They were feeding him what most would consider a higher end dog food, but it still contained lots of grains and fillers. As a result, over the course of time, Boo developed diabetes. He lost a lot of weight, so that all his ribs were showing. He grew lethargic, drank water all day long and became incontinent. The vet wanted to put him on insulin shots twice a day.

Our daughter did some research and instead of going the route of daily insulin shots, she simply changed his food to a high protein, truly natural dog food. Within the space of a few months, Boo gained his weight and energy back and is no longer incontinent! He’s nine years old now and is as spunky as ever.

Other Pet Food Options

5 tips for high quality pet foodSimilar to the logic behind the Paleo diet for humans, many are turning to raw pet food. The reasoning is that dogs in the wild would never be eating cooked or processed food. Raw pet food consists of various raw meats, fruits and vegetables. Some of these raw food preparations are also fortified with vitamins and minerals.

However, there is a danger of bacterial poisoning with commercially prepared and even homemade raw dog food. Some dog owners have begun making their own raw dog food using meat, poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables. But vets also warn that making it yourself does not guarantee that your dog will get the nutrients they need. Nutritional deficiencies appear more readily with dogs and cats than with humans because pets’ diets are less varied.[11]

One good option to ensure your pet is getting what they need is to feed them a high quality commercial dog food and supplementing it with carrots, meat, or any green leafy vegetables you might be cooking for yourself. Canned pet food also typically contains more meat than dry food and is generally better for your pets.[12]

5 Tips for Choosing a High Quality Pet Food[13]

  1. Select a food that has a “nutritional adequacy statement.” Pet food manufacturers earn the right to display this statement based on nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.
  2. Switch pet foods every few months. Varying their diet like this can ensure that your pet is getting all the nutrients it needs.
  3. Buy grain-free foods. These foods are more expensive because they’re made with higher quality ingredients. These foods are also more filling, so your pet will probably eat less of them.
  4. Read the ingredients and beware of promotional gimmicks. Be sure what your pet is getting. What byproducts, fillers, sugars, artificial additives, etc. are listed in the ingredients? Use the same care that you would buying food for your own consumption. Remember, words like “natural” mean absolutely nothing in advertising.
  5. If you choose to go raw, learn how to handle it. Raw food can be great for your pet if stored properly and used within a safe time period. But you can also unwittingly poison your pet if raw food becomes spoiled.

Would you like more help? Go to www.dogfoodadvisor.com/best-dog-foods/ for seven criteria and their choice of the ten best dog foods.

Dogs and cats can be wonderful companions and provide us with much joy. Make sure your pet is getting the nutrition it needs to thrive and live a long and happy life!

Whether you’re trying to weed through commercial dog food ingredients or understand natural remedies for pets, we’ve got you covered!  So dig into this doggone topic and separate pet fact from fiction… 


Rob FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes ghostwriting, creating curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, and training courses. He has written over a dozen books and serves as an editor for a nationally known copywriter.





[1] Rebecca Straus, “5 Terrible Ingredients in Pet Food,” Rodale’s Organic Life, June 17, 2016, http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/home/5-terrible-ingredients-in-pet-food.
[2] Dr. Tom Cameron, “The Controversy Over Menadione in Dog Food,” Dog Food Advisor, nd, http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/menadione-in-dog-food/.
[3] Rebecca Straus.
[4] Rebecca Straus.
[5] Rebecca Straus.
[6] Rebecca Straus.
[7] Catherine Guthrie, “Rethinking Pet Food,” Experience Life, May 2014, https://experiencelife.com/article/rethinking-pet-food/.
[8] Catherine Guthrie.
[9] Catherine Guthrie.
[10] Catherine Guthrie.
[11] Catherine Guthrie.
[12] Catherine Guthrie.
[13] Catherine Guthrie.

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