Article: Dog food: good or bad?: Food discusion, continued

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Image Dog food: good or bad?
By Lance Gardner on October 5, 2010

I would not feed that even to my dog! Believe it or not, you may very well be feeding some very bad stuff to your critters, and not even know it. So how do we go about choosing a good dog food?

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Dec 23, 2010 6:01 PM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
We have been having a very informative discussion on dog food on the last thread, so I thought it would be good to start a new thread to keep it going. Ann posted some articles at the end of the last thread, which I have copied over to here to keep us going. Remember, our main concern is to take good care of our furry friends, so keep the discussion congenial, at least towards each other. Feel free to blast the disreputable pet food manufacturers, however. Hurray! We probably can't do that, either, as much as we may want to, but we can continue to discuss what may be the best types of food to use or avoid, and why we think so.
We came from here:
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Dec 23, 2010 6:01 PM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
The first article Ann posted:
Get The Facts:
What’s Really in Pet Food
Updated May 2007

Information on reprints »
Download a PDF of this article »

Plump whole chickens, choice cuts of beef, fresh grains, and all the wholesome nutrition your dog or cat will ever need.

These are the images pet food manufacturers promulgate through the media and advertising. This is what the $16.1 billion per year U.S. pet food industry wants consumers to believe they are buying when they purchase their products.

This report explores the differences between what consumers think they are buying and what they are actually getting. It focuses in very general terms on the most visible name brands — the pet food labels that are mass-distributed to supermarkets and discount stores — but there are many highly respected brands that may be guilty of the same offenses.

What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption,” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, heads, hooves, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts.

The Players

The pet food market has been dominated in the last few years by the acquisition of big companies by even bigger companies. With $15 billion a year at stake in the U.S. and rapidly expanding foreign markets, it’s no wonder that some are greedy for a larger piece of the pie.

Nestlé’s bought Purina to form Nestlé Purina Petcare Company (Fancy Feast, Alpo, Friskies, Mighty Dog, Dog Chow, Cat Chow, Puppy Chow, Kitten Chow, Beneful, One, ProPlan, DeliCat, HiPro, Kit’n’Kaboodle, Tender Vittles, Purina Veterinary Diets).
Del Monte gobbled up Heinz (MeowMix, Gravy Train, Kibbles ’n Bits, Wagwells, 9Lives, Cycle, Skippy, Nature’s Recipe, and pet treats Milk Bone, Pup-Peroni, Snausages, Pounce).
MasterFoods owns Mars, Inc., which consumed Royal Canin (Pedigree, Waltham’s, Cesar, Sheba, Temptations, Goodlife Recipe, Sensible Choice, Excel).
Other major pet food makers are not best known for pet care, although many of their household and personal care products do use ingredients derived from animal by-products:

Procter and Gamble (P&G) purchased The Iams Company (Iams, Eukanuba) in 1999. P&G shortly thereafter introduced Iams into grocery stores, where it did very well.
Colgate-Palmolive bought Hill’s Science Diet (founded in 1939) in 1976 (Hill’s Science Diet, Prescription Diets, Nature’s Best).
Private labelers (who make food for “house” brands like Kroger and Wal-Mart) and co-packers (who produce food for other pet food makers) are also major players. Three major companies are Doane Pet Care, Diamond, and Menu Foods; they produce food for dozens of private label and brand names. Interestingly, all 3 of these companies have been involved in pet food recalls that sickened or killed many pets.

Many major pet food companies in the United States are subsidiaries of gigantic multinational corporations. From a business standpoint, pet food fits very well with companies making human products. The multinationals have increased bulk-purchasing power; those that make human food products have a captive market in which to capitalize on their waste products; and pet food divisions have a more reliable capital base and, in many cases, a convenient source of ingredients.

The Pet Food Institute — the trade association of pet food manufacturers — has acknowledged the use of by-products in pet foods as additional income for processors and farmers: “The growth of the pet food industry not only provided pet owners with better foods for their pets, but also created profitable additional markets for American farm products and for the byproducts of the meat packing, poultry, and other food industries which prepare food for human consumption.”1

Label Basics
There are special labeling requirements for pet food, all of which are contained in the annually revised Official Publication of AAFCO.2 While AAFCO does not regulate pet food, it does provide model regulations and standards that are followed by U.S. pet food makers.

The name of the food provides the first indication of the food’s content. The use of the terms “all” or “100%” cannot be used “if the product contains more than one ingredient, not including water sufficient for processing, decharacterizing agents, or trace amounts of preservatives and condiments.”

The “95% Rule” applies when the ingredient(s) derived from animals, poultry, or fish constitutes at least 95% or more of the total weight of the product (or 70% excluding water for processing). Because all-meat diets are not nutritionally balanced and cause severe deficiencies if fed exclusively, they fell out of favor for many years. However, due to rising consumer interest in high quality meat products, several companies are now promoting 95% and 100% canned meats as a supplemental feeding option.

The “dinner” product is defined by the “25% Rule,” which applies when “an ingredient or a combination of ingredients constitutes at least 25% of the weight of the product (excluding water sufficient for processing)”, or at least 10% of the dry matter weight; and a descriptor such as “recipe,” “platter,” “entree,” and “formula.” A combination of ingredients included in the product name is permissible when each ingredient comprises at least 3% of the product weight, excluding water for processing, and the ingredient names appear in descending order by weight.

The “With” rule allows an ingredient name to appear on the label, such as “with real chicken,” as long as each such ingredient constitutes at least 3% of the food by weight, excluding water for processing.

The “flavor” rule allows a food to be designated as a certain flavor as long as the ingredient(s) are sufficient to “impart a distinctive characteristic” to the food. Thus, a “beef flavor” food may contain a small quantity of digest or other extract of tissues from cattle, or even an artificial flavor, without containing any actual beef meat at all.

The ingredient list is the other major key to what’s really in that bag or can. Ingredients must be listed in descending order of weight. The ingredient names are legally defined. For instance, “meat” refers to only cows, pigs, goats and sheep, and only includes specified muscle tissues. Detailed definitions are published in AAFCO’s Official Publication, revised annually, but can also be found in many places online.

The guaranteed analysis provides a very general guide to the composition of the food. Crude protein, fat, and fiber, and total moisture are required to be listed. Some companies also voluntarily list taurine, Omega fatty acids, magnesium, and other items that they deem important — by marketing standards.

Pet Food Standards and Regulations

The National Research Council (NRC) of the Academy of Sciences set the nutritional standards for pet food that were used by the pet food industry until the late 1980s. The original NRC standards were based on purified diets, and required feeding trials for pet foods claimed to be “complete” and “balanced.” The pet food industry found the feeding trials too restrictive and expensive, so AAFCO designed an alternate procedure for claiming the nutritional adequacy of pet food, by testing the food for compliance with “Nutrient Profiles.” AAFCO also created “expert committees” for canine and feline nutrition, which developed separate canine and feline standards.

While feeding trials are sometimes still done, they are expensive and time-consuming. A standard chemical analysis may also be used to make sure that a food meets the profiles. In either case, there will be a statement on the label stating which method was used. However, because of the “family rule” in the AAFCO book, a label can say that feeding tests were done if it is “similar” to a food that was actually tested on live animals. There is no way to distinguish the lead product from its “family members.” The label will also state whether the product is nutritionally adequate (complete and balanced), and what life stage (adult or growth) the food is for. A food that says “all life stages” meets the growth standards and can be fed to all ages.

Chemical analysis, however, does not address the palatability, digestibility, or biological availability of nutrients in pet food. Thus it is unreliable for determining whether a food will provide an animal with sufficient nutrients. To compensate for the limitations of chemical analysis, AAFCO added a “safety factor,” which was to exceed the minimum amount of nutrients required to meet the complete and balanced requirements.

In 2006, new NRC standards were published; but it will take several years for AAFCO’s profiles to be updated and adopted, let alone accepted by the states.

The pet food industry loves to say that it’s more highly regulated than human food, but that’s just not true. Pet food exists in a bit of a regulatory vacuum; laws are on the books, but enforcement is another story. The FDA has nominal authority over pet foods shipped across state lines. But the real “enforcers” are the feed control officials in each state. They are the ones who actually look at the food and, in many instances, run basic tests to make sure the food meets its Guaranteed Analysis, the chart on the label telling how much protein, fat, moisture, and fiber are present. But regulation and enforcement vary tremendously from state to state. Some, like Texas, Minnesota, and Kentucky, run extensive tests and strictly enforce their laws; others, like California, do neither.

The Manufacturing Process: How Pet Food Is Made
Dry Food

The vast majority of dry food is made with a machine called an extruder. First, materials are blended in accordance with a recipe created with the help of computer programs that provide the nutrient content of each proposed ingredient. For instance, corn gluten meal has more protein than wheat flour. Because the extruder needs a consistent amount of starch and low moisture to work properly, dry ingredients — such as rendered meat-and-bone-meal, poultry by-product meal, grains, and flours — predominate.

The dough is fed into the screws of an extruder. It is subjected to steam and high pressure as it is pushed through dies that determine the shape of the final product, much like the nozzles used in cake decorating. As the hot, pressurized dough exits the extruder, it is cut by a set of rapidly whirling knives into tiny pieces. As the dough reaches normal air pressure, it expands or “puffs” into its final shape. The food is allowed to dry, and then is usually sprayed with fat, digests, or other compounds to make it more palatable. When it is cooled, it can be bagged.

Although the cooking process kills bacteria in the ingredients, the final product can pick up more bacteria during the subsequent drying, coating, and packaging process. Some experts warn that getting dry food wet can allow the bacteria on the surface to multiply and make pets sick. Do not mix dry food with water, milk, canned food, or other liquids.

A few dog foods are baked at high temperatures (over 500°F) rather than extruded. This produces a sheet of dense, crunchy material that is then broken into irregular chunks, much like crumbling crackers into soup. It is relatively palatable without the sprayed-on fats and other enhancers needed on extruded dry food.

Semi-moist foods and many pet treats are also made with an extruder. To be appealing to consumers and to keep their texture, they contain many additives, colorings, and preservatives; they are not a good choice for a pet’s primary diet.

Wet Food

Wet or canned food begins with ground ingredients mixed with additives. If chunks are required, a special extruder forms them. Then the mixture is cooked and canned. The sealed cans are then put into containers resembling pressure cookers and commercial sterilization takes place. Some manufacturers cook the food right in the can.

Wet foods are quite different in content from dry or semi-moist foods. While many canned foods contain by-products of various sorts, they are “fresh” and not rendered or processed (although they are often frozen for transport and storage). Wet foods usually contain much more protein, and it’s often a little higher quality, than dry foods. They also have more moisture, which is better for cats. They are packaged in cans or pouches.

Comparing Food Types

Because of the variation in water content, it is impossible to directly compare labels from different kinds of food without a mathematical conversion to “dry matter basis.” The numbers can be very deceiving. For instance, a canned food containing 10% protein actually has much more protein than a dry food with 30% protein.

To put the foods on a level playing field, first calculate the dry matter content by subtracting the moisture content given on the label from 100%. Then divide the ingredient by the dry matter content. For example, a typical bag of dry cat food contains 30% protein on the label, but 32% on a dry-matter basis (30% divided by its dry matter content, 100-6% moisture = 94%). A can of cat food might contain 12% protein on the label, but almost 43% on a dry-matter basis (12% divided by its dry matter content, 100-72% moisture = 28%). Dry food typically contains less than 10% water, while canned food contains 78% or more water.

Pet Food Ingredients
Animal Protein

Dogs and cats are carnivores, and do best on a meat-based diet. The protein used in pet food comes from a variety of sources. When cattle, swine, chickens, lambs, or other animals are slaughtered, lean muscle tissue is trimmed away from the carcass for human consumption, along with the few organs that people like to eat, such as tongues and tripe.

However, about 50% of every food animal does not get used in human foods. Whatever remains of the carcass — heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments, fat trimmings, unborn babies, and other parts not generally consumed by humans — is used in pet food, animal feed, fertilizer, industrial lubricants, soap, rubber, and other products. These “other parts” are known as “by-products.” By-products are used in feed for poultry and livestock as well as in pet food.

The nutritional quality of by-products, meals, and digests can vary from batch to batch. James Morris and Quinton Rogers, of the University of California at Davis Veterinary School, assert that, “[pet food] ingredients are generally by-products of the meat, poultry and fishing industries, with the potential for a wide variation in nutrient composition. Claims of nutritional adequacy of pet foods based on the current Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutrient allowances (‘profiles’) do not give assurances of nutritional adequacy and will not until ingredients are analyzed and bioavailability values are incorporated.”3

Meat or poultry “by-products” are very common in wet pet foods. Remember that “meat” refers to only cows, swine, sheep, and goats. Since sheep and goats are rare compared to the 37 million cows and 100 million hogs slaughtered for food every year, nearly all meat by-products come from cattle and pigs.

The better brands of pet food, such as many “super-premium,” “natural,” and “organic” varieties, do not use by-products. On the label, you’ll see one or more named meats among the first few ingredients, such as “turkey” or “lamb.” These meats are still mainly leftover scraps; in the case of poultry, bones are allowed, so “chicken” consists mainly of backs and frames—the spine and ribs, minus their expensive breast meat. The small amount of meat left on the bones is the meat in the pet food. Even with this less-attractive source, pet food marketers are very tricky when talking about meat, so this is explained further in the section on “Marketing Magic” below.

Meat meals, poultry meals, by-product meals, and meat-and-bone meal are common ingredients in dry pet foods. The term “meal” means that these materials are not used fresh, but have been rendered. While there are chicken, turkey, and poultry by-product meals there is no equivalent term for mammal “meat by-product meal” — it is called “meat-and-bone-meal.” It may also be referred to by species, such as “beef-and-bone-meal” or “pork-and-bone-meal.”

What is rendering? As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, to render is “to process as for industrial use: to render livestock carcasses and to extract oil from fat, blubber, etc., by melting.” In other words, raw materials are dumped into large vat and boiled for several hours. Rendering separates fat, removes water, and kills bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms. However, the high temperatures used (270°F/130°C) can alter or destroy natural enzymes and proteins found in the raw ingredients.

Because of persistent rumors that rendered by-products contain dead dogs and cats, the FDA conducted a study looking for pentobarbital, the most common euthanasia drug, in pet foods. They found it. Ingredients that were most commonly associated with the presence of pentobarbital were meat-and-bone-meal and animal fat. However, they also used very sensitive tests to look for canine and feline DNA, which were not found. Industry insiders admit that rendered pets and roadkill were used in pet food some years ago. Although there are still no laws or regulations against it, the practice is uncommon today, and pet food companies universally deny that their products contain any such materials. However, so-called “4D” animals (dead, dying, diseased, disabled) were only recently banned for human consumption and are still legitimate ingredients for pet food.

Vegetable Protein

The amount of grain and vegetable products used in pet food has risen dramatically over time. Plant products now replace a considerable proportion of the meat that was used in the earliest commercial pet foods. This has led to severe nutritional deficiencies that have been corrected along the way, although many animals died before science caught up.

Most dry foods contain a large amount of cereal grain or starchy vegetables to provide texture. These high-carbohydrate plant products also provide a cheap source of “energy” — the rest of us call it “calories.” Gluten meals are high-protein extracts from which most of the carbohydrate has been removed. They are often used to boost protein percentages without expensive animal-source ingredients. Corn gluten meal is the most commonly used for this purpose. Wheat gluten is also used to create shapes like cuts, bites, chunks, shreds, flakes, and slices, and as a thickener for gravy. In most cases, foods containing vegetable proteins are among the poorer quality foods.

A recent fad, “low-carb” pet food, has some companies steering away from grains, and using potatoes, green peas, and other starchy vegetables as a substitute. Except for animals that are allergic to grains, dry low-carb diets offer no particular advantage to pets. They also tend to be very high in fat and, if fed free-choice, will result in weight gain. Canned versions are suitable for prevention and treatment of feline diabetes, and as part of a weight loss program, as well as for maintenance.

Animal and Poultry Fat

There’s a unique, pungent odor to a new bag of dry pet food — what is the source of that smell? It is most often rendered animal fat, or vegetable fats and oils deemed inedible for humans. For example, used restaurant grease was rendered and routed to pet foods for several years, but a more lucrative market is now in biodiesel fuel production.

These fats are sprayed directly onto extruded kibbles and pellets to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable. The fat also acts as a binding agent to which manufacturers add other flavor enhancers such as “animal digests” made from processed by-products. Pet food scientists have discovered that animals love the taste of these sprayed fats. Manufacturers are masters at getting a dog or a cat to eat something she would normally turn up her nose at.

What Happened to the Nutrients?

Cooking and other processing of meat and by-products used in pet food can greatly diminish their nutritional value, although cooking increases the digestibility of cereal grains and starchy vegetables.

To make pet food nutritious, pet food manufacturers must “fortify” it with vitamins and minerals. Why? Because the ingredients they are using are not wholesome, their quality may be extremely variable, and the harsh manufacturing practices destroy many of the nutrients the food had to begin with.

Proteins are especially vulnerable to heat, and become damaged, or “denatured,” when cooked. Because dry foods ingredients are cooked twice — first during rendering and again in the extruder — problems are much more common than with canned or homemade foods. Altered proteins may contribute to food intolerances, food allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Additives in Processed Pet Foods

Many chemicals are added to commercial pet foods to improve the taste, stability, characteristics, or appearance of the food. Additives provide no nutritional value. Additives include emulsifiers to prevent water and fat from separating, antioxidants to prevent fat from turning rancid, and artificial colors and flavors to make the product more attractive to consumers and more palatable to their companion animals.

A wide variety of additives are allowed in animal feed and pet food, not counting vitamins and minerals. Not all of them are actually used in pet food. Additives can be specifically approved, or they can fall into the category of “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS).

Anticaking agents
Antigelling agents
Antimicrobial agents
Color additives
Curing agents
Drying agents
Essential oils
Flavor enhancers
Flavoring agents
Grinding agents
Leavening agents
Pelleting agents and binders
Petroleum derivatives
pH control agents

Chemical vs. Natural Preservatives

All commercial pet foods must be preserved so they stay fresh and appealing to our animal companions. Canning is itself a preserving process, so canned foods need little or no additional help. Some preservatives are added to ingredients or raw materials by the suppliers, and others may be added by the manufacturer. The U.S. Coast Guard, for instance, requires fish meal to be heavily preserved with ethoxyquin or equivalent antioxidant. Evidently, spoiling fish meal creates such intense heat that ship explosions and fires resulted.

Because manufacturers need to ensure that dry foods have a long shelf life (typically 12 months) to remain edible through shipping and storage, fats used in pet foods are preserved with either synthetic or “natural” preservatives. Synthetic preservatives include butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), propyl gallate, propylene glycol (also used as a less-toxic version of automotive antifreeze), and ethoxyquin. For these antioxidants, there is little information documenting their toxicity, safety, interactions, or chronic use in pet foods that may be eaten every day for the life of the animal. Propylene glycol was banned in cat food because it causes anemia in cats, but it is still allowed in dog food.

Potentially cancer-causing agents such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are permitted at relatively low levels. The use of these chemicals in pet foods has not been thoroughly studied, and long term build-up of these agents may ultimately be harmful. Due to questionable data in the original study on its safety, ethoxyquin’s manufacturer, Monsanto, was required to perform a new, more rigorous study. This was completed in 1996. Even though Monsanto found no significant toxicity associated with its own product, in July 1997 the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine requested that manufacturers voluntarily reduce the maximum level for ethoxyquin by half, to 75 parts per million. While some pet food critics and veterinarians believe that ethoxyquin is a major cause of disease, skin problems, and infertility in dogs, others claim it is the safest, strongest, most stable preservative available for pet food. Ethoxyquin is approved for use in human food for preserving spices, such as cayenne and chili powder, at a level of 100 ppm — but it would be very difficult for even the most hard-core spice lover to consume as much chili powder every day as a dog would eat dry food. Ethoxyquin has never been tested for safety in cats. Despite this, it is commonly used in veterinary diets for both cats and dogs.

Many pet food makers have responded to consumer concern, and are now using “natural” preservatives such as Vitamin C (ascorbate), Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), and oils of rosemary, clove, or other spices, to preserve the fats in their products. The shelf life is shorter, however — only about 6 months.

Individual ingredients, such as fish meal, may have preservatives added before they reach the pet food manufacturer. Federal law requires fat preservatives to be disclosed on the label; however, pet food companies do not always comply with this law.

Danger Ahead
Potential Contaminants

Given the types of things manufacturers put in pet food, it is not surprising that bad things sometimes happen. Ingredients used in pet food are often highly contaminated with a wide variety of toxic substances. Some of these are destroyed by processing, but others are not.

Bacteria. Slaughtered animals, as well as those that have died because of disease, injury, or natural causes, are sources of meat, by-products, and rendered meals. An animal that died on the farm might not reach a rendering plant until days after its death. Therefore the carcass is often contaminated with bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. Dangerous E. Coli bacteria are estimated to contaminate more than 50% of meat meals. While the cooking process may kill bacteria, it does not eliminate the endotoxins some bacteria produce during their growth. These toxins can survive processing, and can cause sickness and disease. Pet food manufacturers do not test their products for bacterial endotoxins. Because sick or dead animals can be processed as pet foods, the drugs that were used to treat or euthanize them may still be present in the end product. Penicillin and pentobarbital are just two examples of drugs that can pass through processing unchanged. Antibiotics used in livestock production are also thought to contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans.
Mycotoxins. Toxins from mold or fungi are called mycotoxins. Modern farming practices, adverse weather conditions, and improper drying and storage of crops can contribute to mold growth. Pet food ingredients that are most likely to be contaminated with mycotoxins are grains such as wheat and corn, and fish meal.
Chemical Residue. Pesticides and fertilizers may leave residue on plant products. Grains that are condemned for human consumption by the USDA due to residue may legally be used, without limitation, in pet food.
GMOs. Genetically modified plant products are also of concern. By 2006, 89% of the planted area of soybeans, 83% of cotton, and 61% of maize (corn) in the U.S. were genetically modified varieties. Cottonseed meal is a common ingredient of cattle feed; soy and corn are used directly in many pet foods.
Acrylamide. This is a carcinogenic compound formed at cooking temperatures of about 250°F in foods containing certain sugars and the amino acid asparagine (found in large amounts in potatoes and cereal grains). It is formed in a chemical process called the Maillard reaction.4, 5 Most dry pet foods contain cereal grains or potatoes, and they are processed at high temperatures (200–300°F at high pressure during extrusion; baked foods are cooked at well over 500°F); these are perfect conditions for the Maillard reaction. In fact, the Maillard reaction is considered desirable in the production of pet food because it imparts a palatable taste, even though it reduces the bioavailability of some amino acids, including taurine and lysine.6 The content and potential effects of acrylamide formation in pet foods are unknown.
Pet Food Recalls

When things go really wrong and serious problems are discovered in pet food, the company usually works with the FDA to coordinate a recall of the affected products. While many recalls have been widely publicized, quite a few have not.

In 1995, Nature’s Recipe recalled almost a million pounds of dry dog and cat food after consumers complained that their pets were vomiting and losing their appetite. The problem was a fungus that produced vomitoxin contaminating the wheat.
In 1999, Doane Pet Care recalled more than a million bags of corn-based dry dog food contaminated with aflatoxin. Products included Ol’ Roy (Wal-Mart’s brand) and 53 other brands. This time, the toxin killed 25 dogs.
In 2000, Iams recalled 248,000 pounds of dry dog food distributed in 7 states due to excess DL-Methionine Amino Acid, a urinary acidifier.
In 2003, a recall was made by Petcurean “Go! Natural” pet food due to circumstantial association with some dogs suffering from liver disease; no cause was ever found.
In late 2005, a similar recall by Diamond Foods was announced; this time the moldy corn contained a particularly nasty fungal product called aflatoxin; 100 dogs died.
Also in 2005, 123,000 pounds of cat and dog treats were recalled due to Salmonella contamination.
In 2006, more than 5 million cans of Ol’ Roy, American Fare, and other dog foods distributed in the southeast were recalled by the manufacturer, Simmons Pet Food, because the cans’ enamel lining was flaking off into the food.
Also in 2006, Merrick Pet Care recalled almost 200,000 cans of “Wingalings” dog food when metal tags were found in some samples.
In the most deadly recall of 2006, 4 prescription canned dog and cat foods were recalled by Royal Canin (owned by Mars). The culprit was a serious overdose of Vitamin D that caused calcium deficiency and kidney disease.
In February 2007, the FDA issued a warning to consumers not to buy “Wild Kitty,” a frozen food containing raw meat. Routine testing by FDA had revealed Salmonella in the food. FDA specifically warned about the potential for illness in humans, not pets. There were no reports of illness or death of any pets, and the food was not recalled.
In March 2007, the most lethal pet food in history was the subject of the largest recall ever. Menu Foods recalled more than 100 brands including Iams, Eukanuba, Hill’s Science Diet, Purina Mighty Dog, and many store brands including Wal-Mart’s. Thousands of pets were sickened (the FDA received more than 17,000 reports) and an estimated 20% died from acute renal failure caused by the food. Cats were more frequently and more severely affected than dogs. The toxin was initially believed to be a pesticide, the rat poison “aminopterin” in one of the ingredients. In April, scientists discovered high levels of melamine, a chemical used in plastics and fertilizers, in wheat gluten and rice protein concentrate imported from China. The melamine had been purposefully added to the ingredients to falsely boost their protein content. Subsequent tests revealed that the melamine-tainted ingredients had also been used in feed for cows, pigs, and chickens and thousands of animals were quarantined and destroyed. In early May, scientists identified the cause of the rapid onset kidney disease that had appeared in dogs and cats as a reaction caused by the combination of melamine and cyanuric acid, both unauthorized chemicals. The fallout from this recall is ongoing as of May 2007 so please be sure to check the FDA website for the most recent updates.
Nutrition-Related Diseases

The idea that one pet food provides all the nutrition a companion animal will ever need for its entire life is a dangerous myth.

Today, the diets of cats and dogs are a far cry from the variable meat-based diets that their ancestors ate. The unpleasant results of grain-based, processed, year-in and year-out diets are common. Health problems associated with diet include:

Urinary tract disease. Plugs, crystals, and stones are more common in cats eating dry diets, due to the chronic dehydration and highly concentrated urine they cause. “Struvite” stones used to be the most common type in cats, but another more dangerous type, calcium oxalate, has increased and is now tied with struvite. Manipulation of manufactured cat food formulas to increase the acidity of urine has caused the switch. Dogs can also form stones as a result of their diet.
Kidney disease. Chronic dehydration associated with dry diets may also be a contributing factor in the development of kidney disease and chronic renal failure in older cats. Cats have a low thirst drive; in the wild they would get most of their water from their prey. Cats eating dry food do not drink enough water to make up for the lack of moisture in the food. Cats on dry food diets drink more water, but the total water intake of a cat eating canned food is twice as great.7
Dental disease. Contrary to the myth propagated by pet food companies, dry food is not good for teeth.8 Given that the vast majority of pets eat dry food, yet the most common health problem in pets is dental disease, this should be obvious. Humans do not floss with crackers, and dry food does not clean the teeth.
Obesity. Feeding recommendations or instructions on the packaging are sometimes inflated so that the consumer will end up feeding — and purchasing — more food. One of the most common health problems in pets, obesity, may also be related to high-carb, high-calorie dry foods. Both dogs and cats respond to low-carb wet food diets. Overweight pets are more prone to arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. Dry cat food is now considered the cause of feline diabetes; prevention and treatment include switching to a high protein, high moisture, low-carb diet.
Chronic digestive problems. Chronic vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and inflammatory bowel disease are among the most frequent illnesses treated. These are often the result of an allergy or intolerance to pet food ingredients. The market for “limited antigen” or “novel protein” diets is now a multi-million dollar business. These diets were formulated to address the increasing intolerance to commercial foods that pets have developed. Even so, an animal that tends to develop allergies can develop allergies to the new ingredients, too. One twist is the truly “hypoallergenic” food that has had all its proteins artificially chopped into pieces smaller than can be recognized and reacted to by the immune system. Yet there are documented cases of animals becoming allergic to this food, too. It is important to change brands, flavors, and protein sources every few months to prevent problems.
Bloat. Feeding only one meal per day can cause the irritation of the esophagus by stomach acid, and appears to be associated with gastric dilitation and volvulus (canine bloat). Feeding two or more smaller meals is better.
Heart disease. An often-fatal heart disease in cats and some dogs is now known to be caused by a deficiency of the amino acid taurine. Blindness is another symptom of taurine deficiency. This deficiency was due to inadequate amounts of taurine in cat food formulas, which in turn had occurred due to decreased amounts of animal proteins and increased reliance on carbohydrates. Cat foods are now supplemented with taurine. New research suggests that some dog breeds are susceptible to the same condition. Supplementing taurine may also be helpful for dogs, but as yet few manufacturers are adding extra taurine to dog food.
Hyperthyroidism. There is also evidence that hyperthyroidism in cats may be related to diet. This is a relatively new disease that first surfaced in the 1970s. Some experts theorize that excess iodine in commercial cat food is a factor. New research also points to a link between the disease and pop-top cans, and flavors including fish or “giblets.” This is a serious disease, and treatment is expensive.
Many nutritional problems appeared with the popularity of cereal-based commercial pet foods. Some have occurred because the diet was incomplete. Although several ingredients are now supplemented, we do not know what ingredients future researchers may discover that should have been supplemented in pet foods all along. Other problems may occur from reactions to additives. Others are a result of contamination with bacteria, mold, drugs, or other toxins. In some diseases the role of commercial pet food is understood; in others, it is not. The bottom line is that diets composed primarily of low quality cereals and rendered meals are not as nutritious or safe as you should expect for your cat or dog.

Pet Food Industry Secrets

The 2007 Menu Foods recall brought to light some of the pet food industry’s dirtiest secrets.

Most people were surprised — and appalled — to learn that all Iams/Eukanuba canned foods are not made by The Iams Company at all. In fact, in 2003 Iams signed an exclusive 10-year contract for the production of 100% of its canned foods by Menu.

This type of deal is called “co-packing.” One company makes the food, but puts someone else’s label on it. This is a very common arrangement in the pet food industry. It was first illustrated by the Doane’s and Diamond recalls, when dozens of private labels were involved. But none were as large or as “reputable” as Iams, Eukanuba, Hill’s, Purina, Nutro, and other high-end, so-called “premium” foods.

The big question raised by this arrangement is whether or not there is any real difference between the expensive premium brands and the lowliest generics. The recalled products all contained the suspect ingredient, wheat gluten, but they also all contained by-products of some kind, including specified by-products such as liver or giblets.

It’s true that a pet food company that contracts with a co-packer can provide its own ingredients, or it can require the contractor to buy particular ingredients to use in its recipes. But part of the attraction of using a co-packer is that it can buy ingredients in larger bulk than any one pet food maker could on its own, making the process cheaper and the profits larger. It’s likely that with many of the ingredients that cross all types of pet foods, those ingredients are the same.

Are one company’s products — made in the same plant on the same equipment with ingredients called the same name — really “better” than another’s? That’s what the makers of expensive brands want you to think. The recalled premium brands claim that Menu makes their foods “according to proprietary recipes using specified ingredients,” and that “contract manufacturers must follow strict quality standards.” Indeed, the contracts undoubtedly include those points. But out in the real world, things may not go according to plan. How well are machines cleaned between batches, how carefully are ingredients mixed, and just how particular are minimum-wage workers in a dirty smelly job going to be about getting everything just perfect?

Whatever the differences are between cheap and high-end food, one thing is clear. The purchase price of pet food does not always determine whether a pet food is good or bad or even safe. However, the very cheapest foods can be counted on to have the very cheapest ingredients. For example, Ol’ Roy, Wal-Mart’s store brand, has now been involved in 3 serious recalls.

Menu manufactures canned foods for many companies that weren’t affected by the recall, including Nature's Variety, Wellness, Castor & Pollux, Newman's Own Organics, Wysong, Innova, and EaglePack. It’s easy to see from their ingredient lists that those products are made from completely different ingredients and proportions. Again, the issue of cleaning the machinery out between batches comes up, but hopefully nothing so lethal will pass from one food to another.

Animal Testing

Another unpleasant practice exposed by this recall is pet food testing on live animals. Menu's own lab animals, who were deliberately fed the tainted food, were the first known victims. Tests began on February 27 (already a week after the first reports); animals started to die painfully from kidney failure a few days later. After the first media reports, Menu quickly changed its story to call these experiments “taste tests.” But Menu has done live animal feeding, metabolic energy, palatability, and other tests for Iams and other companies for years. Videotapes reveal the animals’ lives in barren metal cages; callous treatment; invasive experiments; and careless cruelty.

Although feeding trials are not required for a food to meet the requirements for labeling a food “complete and balanced,” many manufacturers use live animals to perform palatability studies when developing a new pet food. One set of animals is fed a new food while a “control” group is fed a current formula. The total volume eaten is used as a gauge for the palatability of the food. Some companies use feeding trials, which are considered to be a much more accurate assessment of the actual nutritional value of the food. They keep large colonies of dogs and cats for this purpose, or use testing laboratories that have their own animals.

There is a new movement toward using companion animals in their homes for palatability and other studies. In 2006, The Iams Company announced that it was cutting the use of canine and feline lab animals by 70%. While it proclaims this moral victory, the real reasons for this switch are likely financial. Whatever the reasons, it is a very positive step for the animals.

Finally, it is important to remember that the contamination that occurred in the Menu Foods recall could have happened anywhere at any time. It was not Menu’s fault; the toxin was unusual and unexpected. All companies have quality control standards and they do test ingredients for common toxins before using them. They also test the final products. However, there is a baseline risk inherent in using the raw materials that go into pet foods. When there are 11 recalls in 12 years, it’s clear that “freak occurrences” are the rule, not the exception.

Marketing Magic

A trip down the pet food aisle will boggle the mind with all the wonderful claims made by pet food makers for their repertoire of products. Knowing the nature of the ingredients helps sort out some of the more outrageous claims, but what’s the truth behind all this hype?

Niche claims. Indoor cat, canine athlete, Persian, 7-year old, Bloodhound, or a pet with a tender tummy, too much flab, arthritis, or itchy feet — no matter what, there’s a food “designed” just for that pet’s personal needs. Niche marketing has arrived in a big way in the pet food industry. People like to feel special, and a product with specific appeal is bound to sell better than a general product like “puppy food.” The reality is that there are only two basic standards against which all pet foods are measured: adult and growth, which includes gestation and lactation. Everything else is marketing.
“Natural” and “Organic” claims. The definition of “natural” adopted by AAFCO is very broad, and allows for artificially processed ingredients that most of us would consider very unnatural indeed. The term “organic”, on the other hand, has a very strict legal definition under the USDA National Organic Program. However, some companies are adept at evading the intent of both of these rules. For instance, the name of the company or product may be intentionally misleading. Some companies use terms such as “Nature” or “Natural” or even “Organic” in the brand name, whether or not their products fit the definitions. Consumers should also be aware that the term “organic” does not imply anything at all about animal welfare; products from cows and chickens can be organic, yet the animals themselves are still just “production units” in enormous factory farms.
Ingredient quality claims. A lot of pet foods claim they contain “human grade” ingredients. This is a completely meaningless term — which is why the pet food companies get away with using it. The same applies to “USDA inspected” or similar phrases. The implication is that the food is made using ingredients that are passed by the USDA for human consumption, but there are many ways around this. For instance, a facility might be USDA-inspected during the day, but the pet food is made at night after the inspector goes home. The use of such terms should be viewed as a “Hype Alert.”
“Meat is the first ingredient” claim. A claim that a named meat (chicken, lamb, etc.) is the #1 ingredient is generally seen for dry food. Ingredients are listed on the label by weight, and raw chicken weighs a lot, since contains a lot of water. If you look further down the list, you’re likely to see ingredients such as chicken or poultry by-product meal, meat-and-bone meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, or other high-protein meal. Meals have had the fat and water removed, and basically consist of a dry, lightweight protein powder. It doesn’t take much raw chicken to weigh more than a great big pile of this powder, so in reality the food is based on the protein meal, with very little “chicken” to be found. This has become a very popular marketing gimmick, even in premium and “health food” type brands. Since just about everybody is now using it, any meaning it may have had is so watered-down that you may just as well ignore it.
Special ingredient claims. Many of the high-end pet foods today rely on the marketing appeal of people-food ingredients such as fruits, herbs, and vegetables. However, the amounts of these items actually present in the food are small; and the items themselves may be scraps and rejects from processors of human foods — not the whole, fresh ingredients they want you to picture. Such ingredients don’t provide a significant health benefit and are really a marketing gimmick.
Pet food marketing and advertising has become extremely sophisticated over the last few years. It’s important to know what is hype and what is real to make informed decisions about what to feed your pets.

What Consumers Can Do
Write or call pet food companies and the Pet Food Institute and express your concerns about commercial pet foods. Demand that manufacturers improve the quality of ingredients in their products.
Print out a copy of this report for your veterinarian to further his or her knowledge about commercial pet food.
Direct your family and friends with companion animals to this website, to alert them of the dangers of commercial pet food. Print out copies of our Fact Sheet on Selecting a Good Commercial Food. (You may also download this fact sheet as a pdf.)
Stop buying commercial pet food; or at least stop buying dry food. Dry foods have been the subject of many more recalls, and have many adverse health effects. If that is not possible, reduce the quantity of commercial pet food and supplement with fresh, organic foods, especially meat. Purchase one or more of the many books available on pet nutrition and make your own food. Be sure that a veterinarian or a nutritionist has checked the recipes to ensure that they are balanced for long-term use.
If you would like to learn about how to make healthy food for your companion animal, read up on "Sample Diets," which contains simple recipes and important nutritional information.
Please be aware that Born Free USA is not a veterinary hospital, clinic, or service. Born Free USA does not and will not offer any medical advice. If you have concerns about your companion animal’s health or nutritional requirements, please consult your veterinarian.
Because pet food manufacturers frequently change the formulations of their products and Born Free USA would not have conducted the necessary testing, we are unable to offer endorsements for particular brands of pet food. Many of our staff choose to make their own pet food or to purchase natural or organic products found in most feed and specialist stores but we cannot recommend brands that would be right for your companion animal or animals.

For Further Reading about Animal Nutrition
Born Free USA recommends the following books (listed in alphabetical order by author), many of which include recipes for home-prepared diets:

Michelle Bernard. 2003. Raising Cats Naturally — How to Care for Your Cat the Way Nature Intended. Available at
Chiclet T. Dog and Jan Rasmusen. 2006. Scared Poopless: The Straight Scoop on Dog Care. Available at ISBN-10: 0977126501, ISBN-13: 978-0977126507.
Rudi Edalati. 2001. Barker’s Grub: Easy, Wholesome Home-Cooking for Dogs. ISBN-10: 0609804421, ISBN-13: 978-0609804421.
Jean Hofve, DVM. 2007. What Cats Should Eat. Available at
Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, and Susan Hubble Pitcairn. 2005. Dr. Pitcairn’s New Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. Rodale Press, Inc. ISBN-10: 157954973X, ISBN-13: 978-1579549732. Note: The recipes for cats were not revised in this new edition and date back to 2000; they may contain too much grain, according to recent research.
Kate Solisti. 2004. The Holistic Animal Handbook: A Guidebook to Nutrition, Health, and Communication. Council Oaks Books. ISBN-10: 1571781536, ISBN-13: 978-1571781536.
Donald R. Strombeck. 1999. Home-Prepared Dog & Cat Diets: The Healthful Alternative. Iowa State University Press. ISBN-10: 0813821495, ISBN-13: 978-0813821498. Note: Veterinary nutritionists have suggested that the taurine and calcium are too low in some of these recipes. Clam juice and sardines are poor sources of taurine; use taurine capsules instead.
Celeste Yarnall. 2000, Natural Cat Care: A Complete Guide to Holistic Health Care for Cats; and 1998, Natural Dog Care: A Complete Guide to Holistic Health Care for Dogs. Available at
The books listed above are a fraction of all the titles currently available, and the omission of a title does not necessarily mean it is not useful for further reading about animal nutrition.

Please note: Born Free USA is not a bookseller, and cannot sell or send these books to you. Please contact your local book retailer or an online bookstore, who can supply these books based on the ISBN provided for each title.

Who to Write
AAFCO Pet Food Committee
David Syverson, Chair
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
Dairy and Food Inspection Division
625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155-2538

FDA — Center for Veterinary Medicine
Sharon Benz
7500 Standish Place
Rockville, MD 20855

Pet Food Institute
2025 M Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20036
202-367-2120 fax


Association of American Feed Control Officials Incorporated. Official Publication 2007. Atlanta: AAFCO, 2007.

Case LP, Carey DP, Hirakawa DA. Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals. St. Louis: Mosby, 1995.

FDA Enforcement Reports, 1998-2007.

Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al., eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. 2002. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute.

Logan, et al., Dental Disease, in: Hand et al., ibid.

Mahmoud AL. Toxigenic fungi and mycotoxin content in poultry feedstuff ingredients. J Basic Microbiol, 1993; 33(2): 101–4.

Morris JG, and Rogers QR. Assessment of the Nutritional Adequacy of Pet Foods Through the Life Cycle. Journal of Nutrition, 1994; 124: 2520S–2533S.

Mottram DS, Wedzicha BL, Dodson AT. Acrylamide is formed in the Maillard reaction. Nature, 2002 Oct 3; 419(6906): 448–9.

Pet Food Institute. Fact Sheet 1994. Washington: Pet Food Institute, 1994.

Phillips T. Rendered Products Guide. Petfood Industry, January/February 1994, 12–17, 21.

Roudebush P. Pet food additives. J Amer Vet Med Assoc, 203 (1993): 1667–1670.

Seefelt SL, Chapman TE. Body water content and turnover in cats fed dry and canned rations. Am J Vet Res, 1979 Feb; 40(2): 183–5.

Strombeck, DR. Home-Prepared Dog and Cat Foods: The Healthful Alternative. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1999.

Tareke E, Rydberg P, Karlsson P, et al. Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs. J Agric Food Chem, 2002 Aug 14; 50(17): 4998–5006.

Zoran D. The carnivore connection to nutrition in cats. J Amer Vet Med Assoc, 2002 Dec 1; 221(11): 1559–67.


Pet Food Institute. Fact Sheet 1994. Washington: Pet Food Institute, 1994.
Association of American Feed Control Officials. Official Publication, 2007. Regulation PE3, 120–121.
Morris, James G., and Quinton R. Rogers. Assessment of the Nutritional Adequacy of Pet Foods Through the Life Cycle. Journal of Nutrition, 124 (1994): 2520S–2533S.
Tareke E, Rydberg P, Karlsson P, et al. Analysis of acrylamide, a carcinogen formed in heated foodstuffs. J Agric Food Chem, 2002 Aug 14; 50(17): 4998–5006.
Mottram DS, Wedzicha BL, Dodson AT. Acrylamide is formed in the Maillard reaction. Nature, 2002 Oct 3; 419(6906): 448–9.
Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al., eds. Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th Edition. 2002. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute.
Seefelt SL, Chapman TE. Body water content and turnover in cats fed dry and canned rations. Am J Vet Res, 1979 Feb; 40(2): 183–5.
Logan, et al., Dental Disease, in: Hand et al., eds., Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, Fourth Edition. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute, 2000.


Information on Reprints:
Born Free USA receives many requests to reprint all or portions of our "What’s Really in Pet Food" report in newsletters, on websites, and elsewhere.

Permission is usually granted under the following conditions:

Full acknowledgment is made to Born Free USA as the source of the material.
Born Free USA’s copyright is preserved.
Our URL — — is included in the reprint.
Under no circumstances is the reprint to be used for fundraising of any kind.
We appreciate a copy of the final piece if possible
If you are using the report in a book or other item that will be sold for a profit, we ask you to consider donating a percentage of the sales to Born Free USA. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, so contributions made to us are tax-deductible.
Please email or write first for permission so that we can track your requests. Thank you.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Dec 23, 2010 6:02 PM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
The second article Ann posted:
Label Information 101
Interpreting Pet Food Labels
This article will give you a quick overview about what the labels on a pet food tell you - and more important what they don't tell you. It is based on the FDA consumer information provided by the Center for Veterinary Medicine (parts are quoted in the grey boxes) and has my own comments added below. I have chosen not to simply link to that page and let it speak for itself, since it cites overly long examples but leaves out some relevant information entirely and is also outdated in some respects.

What is the AAFCO?
Before getting into the specifics, I would like to outline what the often-mentioned Association of American Feed Control Officials is. This group regulates the pet food industry, and while the board consists of state and federal representatives, it is not a government body and also includes people directly involved in the industry. According to the definition on their website, the AAFCO "provides a mechanism for developing and implementing uniform and equitable laws, regulations, standards and enforcement policies for regulating the manufacture, distribution and sale of animal feeds", but if this process includes business insiders, they are likely to protect their own interests first before anything else.

Their decisions are also the reason why pet food manufacturers (even if they wanted to) still can't use a more honest, descriptive labeling system, with less opportunity to make a product look better than it actually is, thus effectively protecting those companies that sell poor quality food. Manufacturers who use quality ingredients don't have anything to hide - they will proudly display e.g. chicken meal, whole grains and fresh vegetables. Those who are using ingredients like chicken byproduct meal, brewer's rice and corn gluten meal would have a hard time justifying the price of their foods.

Information on the label
Product Name
The product name is the first part of the label noticed by the consumer, and can be a key factor in the consumer's decision to buy the product. For that reason, manufacturers often use fanciful names or other techniques to emphasize a particular aspect. Since many consumers purchase a product based on the presence of a specific ingredient, many product names incorporate the name of an ingredient to highlight its inclusion in the product. The percentages of named ingredients in the total product are dictated by four AAFCO rules. [...]
If a food is named specifically, e.g. "Beef Dog Food", the named ingredient must not be less than 95% of the total weight if the water required for processing is excluded, no less than 70% if the water is included in the calculation. If more than one ingredient is named, e.g. "Beef and Liver Dog Food", all of them combined must not be less than 95% (or 70% respectively) and they must be named in descending order of content by weight. This description is used almost exclusively for canned foods.

If a food name includes the word "dinner" (or similar ones like "formula", "nuggets" etc.), e.g. such as in "Lamb Formula", the named ingredient must not be less than 25% of the total weight. If more than one ingredient is named, e.g. "Lamb and Rice Formula", all of them combined must not be less than 25% and they must be named in descending order of content by weight.

Watch out:
Since the named ingredients are only required to make up 1/4 of the total product, they may not even be descriptive of the main ingredients! The manufactur er is not technically lying about what is used, but if you don't look closely, you may not be getti ng what you intended to buy.

Ingredient list example where "Lamb and Rice Formula" is correct but misleading:
Ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, lamb, brewers rice...
Example of truthful use:
Lamb, ground rice, barley flour, fish meal...

If the name of a food includes the phrase "with [ingredient]" (e.g. "with beef"), the named ingredient must not be less than 3% of the total weight.

Watch out:
The mentioned ingredient is only required to m ake up 3% of the total product, so it will not be descriptive of the product at all! Unless you take a close look at the ingredient lists of such foods, you are very likely to be deceived.

Ingredient list example for "Product X With Real Lamb and Rice":
Ground yellow corn, chicken byproduct meal, wheat, animal fat, corn gluten meal, lamb , rice, natural poultry flavor, salt, minerals, vitamins...

Last but not least, if a name only includes the word "flavor" or "flavored", no specific percentage is required at all, but a product must contain an amount sufficient to be able to be detected.

Watch out:
If you buy a "flavored" product, you are guaranteed to find only a minute amount of the flavoring ingredient in it, while the predominant ingredients are not mentioned in the name at all.

Ingredient list example for "Product X with Liver Flavor":
Ground yellow corn, poultry byproduct meal, brewers rice, soybean meal, beef tallow, corn gluten meal, brewers dried yeast, digest of beef liver, natural flavors, salt, vitamins, minerals...

Net Quantity Statement
The net quantity statement tells you how much product is in the container. There are many FDA regulations dictating the format, size and placement of the net quantity statement. None of these do any good if the consumer does not check the quantity statements, especially when comparing the cost of products. For example, a 14-ounce can of food may look identical to the one-pound can of food right next to it. Also, dry products may differ greatly in density, especially some of the "lite" products. Thus, a bag that may typically hold 40 pounds of food may only hold 35 pounds of a food that is "puffed up." A cost-per-ounce or per-pound comparison between products is always prudent.
This bit of information is important when you are comparing food brands that are sold in differently sized bags. Depending on the quality of the food, a 33 lb bag of one brand may be more expensive than a 40 lb bag of another, but the smaller bag may contain a more concentrated food of which you have to feed a lot less.

Watch out:
If a particular brand is sold in bags of different sizes, the smaller the size, the higher the price per pound.

Example: Brand X comes in bags of 5, 10, 20 and 40 pounds.
A 5 lb bag costs $8, the price per pound is $1.60
A 10 lb bag costs $13, the price per pound is $1.30
A 20 lb bag costs $21, the price per pound is $1.05
A 40 lb bag costs $32, the price per pound is $0.80

As you see, you are paying twice the amount per pound when you buy the smallest bag. If you are concerned about freshness and still want to save money, consider buying a vacuum food sealer to split the content of one large bag into several smaller ones. There is no need to refrigerate or freeze vacuum packed dog food, just store it in a dark, cool and dry place.

Manufacturer's Name and Address
The "manufactured by..." statement identifies the party responsible for the quality and safety of the product and its location. If the label says "manufactured for..." or "distributed by...," the food was manufactured by an outside manufacturer, but the name on the label still designates the responsible party. Not all labels include a street address along with the city, State, and zip code, but by law, it should be listed in either a city directory or a telephone directory. Many manufacturers also include a toll-free number on the label for consumer inquiries. If a consumer has a question or complaint about the product, he or she should not hesitate to use this information to contact the responsible party.
This is pretty straightforward and requires no further explanation.

Ingredient List
All ingredients are required to be listed in order of predominance by weight. The weights of ingredients are determined as they are added in the formulation, including their inherent water content. [...]
Ingredients must be listed by their "common or usual" name. Most ingredients on pet food labels have a corresponding definition in the AAFCO Official Publication. [...]
"Listed in order of predominance by weight" refers to the weight before processing. This is important to know when you are comparing products with different moisture content. Even in dry foods this can be a difference of 4%, or even more if dry and semi-moist kibble are mixed in the same bag. More important though, manufacturers can use this rule to make their product look better than it actually is by using little tricks like ingredient splitting or use of better quality ingredients that still retain a lot of water, but the dehydrated versions of less desirable components.

Watch out:
A good rule of thumb to distinguish the major components of a food is to look for the first named source of fat in the ingredient list. Anything listed before that, and including it, make up the main portion of the food, other items are present in much smaller amounts to add flavor, function as preservatives or because of their dietary benefits (e.g. probiotics, vitamins and minerals).

Food A has the following ingredient list (first source of fat marked green):
Ground yellow corn, meat meal, chicken fat, ground wheat, chicken byproduct meal, dried beet pulp, flaxseed, salt, vitamins, minerals...
Food B has the following ingredient list (first source of fat marked green):
Turkey, chicken, chicken meal, ground barley, ground brown rice, potatoes, ground white rice, chicken fat, herring, apples, carrots, cottage cheese, sunflower oil, alfalfa sprouts, egg, garlic, probiotics, vitamins, minerals...

This is important to know when looking for ingredients that may not necessarily be harmful but should only be present in small amounts in a quality product (beet pulp, corn gluten meal etc.).

A "common or usual name" may be very obvious when looking at such ingredients like "lamb" or "ground corn", but won't be common or usual for the average consumer, who has never read the definition of ingredients like "hydrolyzed chicken protein", "digest of poultry byproducts" or "corn distillers grains with solubles".At this point I find it important to mention that the AAFCO does not provide a lot of relevant information for consumers on its website. Any non-AAFCO members interested in their publication (which contains the definitions and specifics for all feed ingredients) have to pay $50 to obtain a copy. How many people do you know who would order this publication just for the purpose of choosing a new food for their companion dog? If it was viewable online, the situation would be different.

Watch out:
Ingredient lists can be manipulated in various ways to make a product look more attractive than it really is. On the other hand, a plain, honest ingredient list may also make a quality product look worse than one of lesser quality with cleverly formulated ingredients, unless you know what you are looking for.

Food A has the following ingredient list:
Lamb, brewers rice, brown rice, poultry fat, rice flour, beet pulp, rice bran...
Food B has the following ingredient list:
Brown rice, chicken meal, chicken fat, fish meal, flax seed meal...

Even though product A lists lamb as first ingredient, the meat still includes about 75% water. Once the moisture is removed to reach the final percentage of about 10%, the lamb meat will have shrunk to 1/4 of the original amount, while relatively dry ingredients like the different rice components will not change much. Product B lists rice as first ingredient, but since chicken is added in already dehydrated meal form, the amount will not shrink any further. Together with the fish meal the product may contain an equal amount of animal protein and rice and is pretty much guaranteed to contain more meat than product A.

Reversing this technique, let's look at examples:
Food C has the following ingredient list:
Chicken, chicken byproduct meal, brown rice, oatmeal, corn meal, chicken fat...
Food D has the following ingredient list:
Chicken meal, chicken byproducts, brown rice, oatmeal, corn meal, chicken fat...

Product C lists chicken as first ingredient (again, this still includes about 75% water) but the much less desirable chicken byproducts in dehydrated meal form - the finished product will contain much less "real" chicken than byproducts. Product D has chicken meal as first ingredient, and the byproducts as second, which will lose 3/4 of their weight by the time the food reaches its final moisture content. Product D contains a larger amount of better digestible animal protein.

To recognize whether a food even includes any real meat, you need to know the ingredient definitions. Some animal proteins in "meal" form are of high quality, including for example the whole carcasses of slaughtered chickens minus feathers, heads, feet, or entrails; while ones like "beef & bone meal" are made from any leftovers after the quality cuts of meat have been removed for human consumption. Here are two example ingredient lists of foods that do not contain a quality meat source whatsoever, despite the pretty images on the bag:

Food E has the following ingredient list (animal protein sources marked bold):
Ground yellow corn, wheat middlings, meat & bone meal, soybean meal, digest of poultry byproducts & beef, poultry fat, brewers yeast, yeast culture, salt, vitamins, minerals...
Food F has the following ingredient list (animal protein sources in bold):
Ground yellow corn, beef & bone meal, soybean meal, digest of chicken byproducts, animal fat, poultry byproduct meal, brewers rice, salt, vitamins, minerals...

Guaranteed Analysis
At minimum, a pet food label must state guarantees for the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. The "crude" term refers to the specific method of testing the product, not to the quality of the nutrient itself.

Some manufacturers include guarantees for other nutrients as well. The maximum percentage of ash (the mineral component) is often guaranteed, especially on cat foods. Cat foods commonly bear guarantees for taurine and magnesium as well. For dog foods, minimum percentage levels of calcium, phosphorus, sodium, and linoleic acid are found on some products. [...]

Since this website is limited to the topic of dry food, I will leave out most of the material relating to canned and semi moist foods. If you are interested in those, please refer to the FDA document.

The guaranteed analysis is given on an "as is" or "as fed" basis. In order to compare products with different moisture content you will have to calculate percentages for both products at an equal moisture content.

Watch out:
Before comparing products by their weight, cost, content of protein, fat, and fiber, make sure they have the same content of moisture. If they differ, you need convert the values for all products to an equal percentage.

3 Products list 22% protein, 12% fat and 4% fiber "as fed". Product A contains 10% moisture, product B 12% and product C 14%. Note that the more moisture the food contains, the less nutritious dry matter is present - meaning you pay for extra water and get less nutrients:

Product "as fed" Contains dry matter
Product A 22% protein, 12% fat, 4% fiber, 10% moisture 90%, or 900 g per kg, or 14.4 oz per pound
Product B 22% protein, 12% fat, 4% fiber, 12% moisture 88%, or 880g per kg, or 14.1 oz per pound
Product C 22% protein, 12% fat, 4% fiber, 14% moisture 86%, or 860g per kg, or 13.8 oz per pound

I'll leave it up to you to calculate the differences in feeding costs per month or year.

Furthermore, it lists the minimum levels of crude protein and fat and the maximum levels of fiber and water. "Crude" means the content regardless of quality or digestibility, leaving you without any means to determine the true quality of the product from this analysis. A chunk of meat and a handful of ground up feathers are both sources of protein, chicken fat and discarded restaurant grease both provide fat. Which would you rather pay for, but much more important - which would you rather feed your dog day in and day out?

Watch out:
Different sources of protein and fat vary in digestibility and content of valuable nutrients required to maintain good health. The amount of food your dog has to eat (and conversely the amount of cleanup to do, food to buy and money to spend) strongly depends on the concentration of nutrients present in a product. Approximate digestibility values (not the "biological value", which is a completely different concept) for protein (based on information published by T.J. Dunn, Jr. DVM):

Egg whites and whey protein 100%
Muscle meats (chicken slightly higher than beef or lamb) 92%
Organ meats (heart, kidney, liver) 90%
Fish, whole soybeans (not leftover fragments!) 75%,
Rice 72%
Oats 66%
Yeast 63%
Wheat 60%
Corn 54%
Note: The above does not refer to the total digestibility of the item, but specifically to the percentage to which the protein part can be utilized.
Various meat and bone meals and byproduct meals range from about 45% to 80%, depending on the content of bone vs. more digestible parts.

The biological value of proteins indicates how complete a protein source is in regards to content of the essential amino acids. Combining ingredients that complement each other results in an appropriate balance of amino acids. To achieve this, not all ingredients are required to have high individual biological values. Example: if the main protein source of a food is high in biological value but has a low content of one particular amino acid, the secondary source only needs to fill that gap to create the required balance. I am not able to quote a suitable source for the BV of different protein sources, since most tables that are published are relevant for the essential amino acids for humans (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine), dogs also require arginine in their diet - humans synthesize it in the liver.

While fats are the main source of energy in a dog food, they also supply essential fatty acids, prevent dehydration and serve as carriers for fat soluble vitamins. Chicken fat, sunflower oil, various coldwater fish oils and flax oil/seed are rich in nutrients, while cheaper ingredients like animal fat, beef tallow, and lard (though very palatable to dogs, who just love the taste) lack significant and balanced amounts and are often of questionable quality.

An interesting side note: Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for example are still not recognized as essential nutrients by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profile. It is interesting that they are often referred to by dieticians as "essential fatty acids" though and increased supplementation often solves many health problems. Go figure.

Nutritional Adequacy Statement
[...] A "complete and balanced" pet food must be substantiated for nutritional adequacy by one of two means.

The first method is for the pet food to contain ingredients formulated to provide levels of nutrients that meet an established profile. Presently, the AAFCO Dog or Cat Food Nutrient Profiles are used. Products substantiated by this method should include the words, "(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Dog/Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles." This means the product contains the proper amount of protein, calcium, and other recognized essential nutrients needed to meet the needs of the healthy animal. The recommendations of the National Research Council (NRC) were once used as the basis for nutritional adequacy, but they are no longer considered valid for this purpose.

The alternative means of substantiating nutritional adequacy is for the product to be tested following the AAFCO Feeding Trial Protocols. This means that the product, or "lead" member of a "family" of products, has been fed to dogs or cats under strict guidelines and found to provide proper nutrition. These products should bear the nutritional adequacy statement "Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition." [...]

These two phrases do not really tell you anything about a product, except that it contains the minimum of nutrients the AAFCO deems appropriate to keep your dog alive and that he will survive while eating it. The dictionary defines the word adequate as "sufficient to satisfy a requirement or meet a need" - now ask yourself if you want your dog to survive or to be healthy and thrive? I also find it alarming that the recommendations of a group of people including business insiders are favored over those of a neutral body of scientists with solid backgrounds in animal nutrition who do not have a vested interest in profits from selling food products.

Watch out:
If a product analyzed in an AAFCO laboratory meets the respective standards established by this organization, it is considered "complete and balanced" without actually being tested in feeding trials. Your dog is not a laboratory and neither are the nutritional requirements of different dogs, let alone different breeds, 100% the same.

Just so you can form your own opinion, here are the AAFCO requirements for their feeding trials, passing which is often used as a major point of advertising especially for low quality foods:

Only a minimum of 8 dogs is required as a valid "test group".
There are no restrictions regarding breed or sex.
Of these 8 animals, only 6 are actually required to complete the 26-week trial. The reasons for which an animal might drop out are losing too much weight or other negative side effects.
During the trial, the only food available to the test animals is the food being tested. Water is freely available at all times.
At the beginning and end of the trial the test dogs must pass a physical examination by a veterinarian. The veterinarians evaluate general health, body and hair coat condition.
At the end (but not at the beginning) of the trial, hemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum alkaline phosphatase, and serum albumin are measured and recorded.
The diet being tested fails if any animal shows clinical or pathological signs of nutritional deficiency or excess.
The maximum permissible weight loss during ther trial is 15% of the starting body weight. Specific minimum values for the blood tests are given, and applied to the average result of all participating animals that finished the trial.
There you have it - wouldn't you have expected much more stringent rules, like larger sample groups, a time frame that is longer than just 6 months (for a food your dog might well be eating his or her entire life?), less permissible weight loss for a food that is supposed to be a maintenance diet? 15% is a loss of 7.5 pounds in a 50 lb dog, and unless more than 25% of the test subjects drop out from malnutrition, in the eyes of the AAFCO there is no problem with the product. Feeding trials are also not conducted under conditions that even remotely emulate the environment of a family pet, as they are mostly conducted in kennels of research facilities. A dog who sits in a kennel run all day surely has different nutritional requirements than one who is included in much of it's owners activities and gets a moderate to high amount of exercise every day.

Furthermore, if one particular food in a product line proved to meet the AAFCO standard, the company is allowed to include the nutritional adequacy statement on other products of the same line that provide equal or greater concentrations of all the nutrients. Breed specific health concerns, like for example orthopedic problems in large breeds, hypoglycemia in toy breeds, copper sensivity in Bedlington Terriers, zinc deficiencies in Alaskan Malamutes and other genetic and metabolic differences are not taken into consideration by AAFCO.

Feeding Directions
Feeding directions instruct the consumer on how much product should be offered to the animal. At minimum, they should include verbiage such as "feed ___ cups per ___ pounds of body weight daily. [...]"
This piece of information is a valuable tool for a quick general comparison of different foods, but the content of fiber and ash should not be overlooked. Kibble size and density also vary a lot between different brands.

Watch out:
Please take these recommendations only as very basic guidelines. How much you have to feed depends on whether your goal is weight maintenance, weight loss or gain; the individual dog's age, breed, metabolism, and activity; and of course also environmental conditions. Manufacturers can over- or understate amounts depending on whether their goal is to sell more food or to make their product look more economical than a competitor's.

Calorie Statement
[...] until recently, calorie statements were not allowed on pet food labels. New AAFCO regulations were developed to allow manufacturers to substantiate calorie content and include a voluntary statement.

If a calorie statement is made on the label, it must be expressed on a "kilocalories per kilogram" basis. Kilocalories are the same as the "Calories" consumers are used to seeing on food labels. A "kilogram" is a unit of metric measurement equal to 2.2 pounds. Manufacturers are also allowed to express the calories in familiar household units along with the required statement (for example, "per cup" or "per can"). Even without this additional information, however, consumers can make meaningful comparisons between products and pick the product best suited for their animals' needs. As with the guaranteed analysis, the calorie statement is made on an "as fed" basis, so corrections for moisture content must be made as described above. [...]

The caloric content of a food gives a good idea about the digestibility of a product, but it should always be taken into consideration along with the guaranteed analysis. Fat provides more than twice the amount of energy per weight unit than protein or carbohydrates, so if a food is slightly higher in fat content, it will automatically provide more energy.

Watch out:
Caloric statements can be found in three different values:

Gross Energy - The amount of energy in a food product on an "as fed" basis.
Digestible Energy - The amount of energy available to the dog after the amount lost in feces has been substracted, and
Metabolizable Energy - The amount of energy available to the dog after the amount lost in feces, urine and gaseous products of digestion has been substracted. This is the most common value used.
It is easily possible to compare "apples and oranges" unless the Metabolizable Energy (ME) of all compared products is taken into consideration.

Example 1:
Manufacturer A lists the following product information:
Gross energy 1,950 Kcal/lb, digestible energy 1,700 Kcal/lb and metabolizable energy 1,550 Kcal/lb.
The competitor B only lists the metabolizable energy content of 1900 Kcal/lb.
Manufacturer B offers the more nutritious food, but manufacturer A distracts from the lower relevant value by providing all 3.

Unless you have a dog who loves eating and tends to overeat, feeding a more concentrated food is the better economic solution and also cuts down on the cleaning up you will have to do, since less waste is excreted.

Example 2:
Two products both list 24% protein, 14% fat, 3% fiber and 10% moisture.
Product A contains 2,700 Kcal/kg metabolizable energy, product B contains 3,600 Kcal/kg.
Product B is clearly the better quality food with more digestible ingredients, you need to feed much less of it per day compared to product A to supply the same amount of energy.

Another detail you need to know is that the amount of Kcal per cup isn't really a good basis of comparison, since a cup is a measurement for volume, not for weight. Depending on size and density of the kibble, one cup may hold under 3 ounces(~85 grams) to over 4 ounces (~113 grams) of food. If you can't locate the amount of Kcal per pound or kilogram on a product bag or manufacturer website, email or call to find out.

Other Label Claims
Many pet foods are labeled as "premium," and some now are "super premium" and even "ultra premium." Other products are touted as "gourmet" items. Products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products.

The term "natural" is often used on pet food labels, although that term does not have an official definition either. For the most part, "natural" can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product. [...]

"Natural" is not the same as "organic." The latter term refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown or animals were raised. There are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods (for humans or pets) at this time, but the United States Department of Agriculture is developing regulations dictating what types of pesticides, fertilizers and other substances can be used in organic farming.

While it is true that many terms used to market a pet food are not legally defined, the manufacturers of quality brands go out of their way to supply their customers with additional information, such as using hormone free animal products, pesticide free grains, providing the USDA grades of ingredients, avoiding genetically modified products and so on. To put the quoted FDA article into date perspective, as of Oct. 21, 2002, products labeled as organic require certification by USDA-accredited certifying agents unless the operation qualifies for exemption.

Watch out:
Manufacturers are not required to include substances in the ingredient list that they did not add to the product themselves. Products they obtain from their suppliers may still contain undesirable ingredients such as synthetic preservatives and/or other additives. A prime example is fish meal, which, according to US Coast Guard regulations, must be preserved with Ethoxyquin if it is not destined for human consumption.

So while terms like "human grade", "human quality", "table quality" etc. may not be legally defined, they still provide some information about the quality of certain ingredients and the way they are handled before they end up in the food product. If words like "hormone free", "organic" etc. are used, it is not likely that such ingredients are feed grade or low quality.

[...] The pet food label contains a wealth of information, if one knows how to read it. Do not be swayed by the many marketing gimmicks or eye-catching claims. If there is a question about the product, contact the manufacturer or ask an appropriate regulatory agency.
It is correct that the pet food label contains a wealth of information, but it can be very misleading to anyone who has not read up much on the topic - and to be honest, would you unless you have a reason? Almost every single element of the label information is of ambiguous nature and seems to favor the interests of the manufacturer over those of the consumer. Unfortunately, until a more truthful, customer-friendly labeling system is implemented, the majority of pet owners will be swayed by marketing gimmicks and eye-catching claims because watching cute commercials requires less effort
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Dec 23, 2010 6:37 PM CST
Name: Ann
North Central Fl
And for those of you who would rather have the links to these two articles, here they are:
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Will Rogers
[Last edited Dec 23, 2010 6:39 PM CST]
Quote | Post #518624 (4)
Dec 23, 2010 6:46 PM CST
Name: Ann
North Central Fl
I'm sorry for taking up so much space by copying these 2 articles Lance but if I had to pick 2 & ONLY 2 articles on the in's & out's of dog food these would have to be the 2. They are the most comprehensive overall. I would have put the links but you know 9 out of 10 don't follow the links or mean to then they get lost doing something else etc., etc.
I sincerely hope everyone reads both of these ALL the way through. It takes time, I know, but explains so very much in a way that I could spend hours upon hours trying to do & not come close.
As far as meal, Lance & everyone, even named meals can be bad....depending on different factors. On where the protein comes from & how it was raised, to what parts are used, to how it is handled at the slaughterhouse all the way through to the processing plant & how EXACTLY it is processed WHICH is covered in these 2 articles. I do not deny that a particular named meal is & can be good but there are so many factors involved that we can't say they are ALL good.
And finally, I agree wholehearted;y with Lance about the trust issue!!!!! And these 2 articles cover that subject pretty well too. If everyone will read them then I imagine it will be quite an eye opening experience for many. They expose how we are being duped at nearly every crook & turn. And you will understand why I am so concerned about digging deeper than just reading what the ingredients label states. When picking a dog food it is important to go back to the very beginning & follow the trail through to it's completion.
It's hard, time consuming, frustrating, confusing & will make you cross eyed! But we OWE it to our pets.
Most Sincerely,
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Will Rogers
Jan 21, 2011 5:11 PM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
I am trying out a new dog food online delivery company called Their prices seem reasonable, and they have many brands including Orijen and Acana.
They also have a promotion whereby I get $50 credit if you use this link to access their site and decide to do an order with a delivery schedule, which means automatic re-shipment at whatever interval you choose.
I mention this because some have wondered about how to obtain quality dog food, and this site seems like the most reasonable priced one I have found so far, especially since their shipping is a flat $5. PetFoodDirect is around $10/large bag of dog food, which can add up quickly. I included the link provided to me so I can save some money, of course, but feel free to get to the site anyway you want to. I am not endorsing this company, just passing on some information. If anyone has any experience with them, pass it on.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Sep 9, 2011 6:38 AM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
Quite a while since this thread has had any activity, maybe the long articles above scared everyone away! I hope not, though.
Recently I had a shipment of Acana Provincial Grasslands Grain Free Dry Dog Food canceled because the manufacturing facility had some sort of inspection and delay in processing. Anyone know anything about this? The shipping company assured me it was essentially routine, but an interruption in production sounds a bit more major than that.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Sep 9, 2011 8:02 AM CST
Name: Ann
North Central Fl
Here's your answer.

I am not afraid of Acana or Orijen either one. The test for salmonella turned out to be negative. Do not let this scare you. Acutally, it's a good thing --- shows us that someone is minding the store sometimes.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Will Rogers
Sep 9, 2011 10:02 AM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
Thanks Ann. I hope my next shipment will arrive with no problems. Good to know that the company is on top of it. I know lab contamination can happen, as I have worked in labs and been surprised by some of what I would consider not always clean techniques, although my field involves more analytical chemistry than microbial contamination. The Salmonella could have come from anywhere along the way.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Aug 21, 2013 7:22 AM CST
Name: Lance Gardner
coastal plain Virginia
Question authority, guide in wisdom
In the continuing saga of dog food and related problems, it seems there will always be problems. Here is some recent information provided by Elena, one of our dog cubit administrators, on recent reports about Pedigree:

Pedigree dog food may be endangering your pet

Pedigree dog food may be endangering your pet, yet no recall despite over 300 complaints from customers

Tuesday, August 20, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: Pedigree dog food, pet deaths, customer complaints

(NaturalNews) If you own pets, it is probably worth your while to take a closer look at what you are feeding them to determine whether or not it is actually safe. A recent review of the consumer watchdog website,, reveals that popular dog food brand Pedigree has received hundreds of complaints in recent days about injuries and deaths potentially caused by its dog food lines, and yet neither Pedigree nor the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued any formal recalls of Pedigree dog food products.

Rapid tooth decay, loose and discolored stools, severe vomiting, seizures, major gastrointestinal upset, and death are among the many complaints posted by Pedigree customers with regards to the health of their pets after eating Pedigree dog food. One woman from Phoenix, Arizona, for instance, recently posted a complaint about how her Pomeranian died in her sleep just days after eating Pedigree dog food and suffering a seizure. Another woman says her dog, also a Pomeranian, died just one day after eating Pedigree.

"My male who was the only one who ate the food took sick within hours of eating this, vomiting, lethargic and then continued with no appetite and less and less energy," writes Bonnie from Labrador City, Newfoundland, about the consequences of feeding her dog Pedigree's Nutrience dog food. She goes on to explain that within 29 hours, and with no other explanation other than the dog food, her 10-year-old dog Ripley was found dead.

Numerous reports of people's dogs throwing up bile and passing discolored and loose stools litter the feedback page for Pedigree, indicating a common thread that deserves further investigation. Others report that their otherwise healthy dogs developed a pattern of not eating shortly after consuming Pedigree, including one woman from Junction City, Kansas, who says her dog went from eating fine, to not eating, to throwing up regularly. Within three weeks, her dog was dead.

"I took her to the vet and they said she had what she believed was a dog flu, so we gave her antibiotics and began to force feed her," writes Heather about the traumatic experience. "She progressively got worse, wasn't drinking or taking down the meds or the food. She began pooing black and within 24 hours she was dead in the hallway."

Hundreds of dog owners share heartbreaking stories about harm caused by Pedigree
Not only Heather's story, but hundreds of other similar stories can be seen posted just within the past few weeks at, suggesting that something is very seriously wrong with the Pedigree dog food brand. Sadly, many other popular dog food brands have a similar string of negative reviews at as well, which means it may be time to seek out holistic or otherwise independent dog food brands that use tested ingredients and operate on a smaller scale.

Since no formal recalls have been issued at this point in time, our suggestion is to simply avoid all Pedigree products moving forward and switch to a safer, healthier dog food brand with a more positive track record of safety. has compiled a helpful list of its top tested dog food brands, with explanations as to how winners in each category were chosen, which you can access here:

You can also see reviews for other pet food brands at by visiting:

Sources for this article include:

Learn more:
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation. The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations.
Dogs; Family Fun Unplugged; Perennials, Annuals, Veggies; Happy Birthday Wishes
Aug 21, 2013 8:00 PM CST
Name: Ann
North Central Fl
Thank you Lance & Elena for this valuable information. I don't feed Pedigree but I'm sure people out there who do will be grateful for this information.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went."
Will Rogers

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