The Truth about the Ingredients in Pet Food
By John B.Symes, D.V.M. (aka "DogtorJ")
A client came into the exam room the other day with two Boston terriers,
one that was about three years old and looking pretty healthy and the other being eight and the main reason for
the office call. The latter was having both digestive and skin issues and had been for quite some time. They came to get a
second opinion because previous treatments had been less than successful.
As I am prone to do, my first question concerned what they
were feeding. They told me that they were feeding a popular brand, the commercials for which are all too familiar to anyone
with a television. You have seen it: The vegetable and whole grains falling from the sky, leading all who are watching to
believe that this food was a very healthy blend of all of the things we have come to accept as nutritious and necessary for
us all. But sadly, most people are like these new clients in that they have never really read the ingredient label for this
or any food and simply go on the perceived quality of the food. Marketing is quite effective, isn't it?
I promptly told them that this particular food...unbeknownst to
them...was one of the worst dog foods ever made. Once they put their teeth back into their mouths, I explained. They had not
yet gotten my "food lecture" for which I have developed such a reputation. (Good or bad, I'm not sure but I have
been told that I have a reputation now.) I quickly ran them through the "big 4"- gluten (wheat, barley, rye), dairy, soy and
corn- and explained food intolerance using celiac disease as the model. Thankfully, they did not get the deer-in-the-headlights
look that I so often get as I launch into this medical soliloquy. They, in fact, asked very intelligent questions and then
proceeded to relate what I had said to their own health, something that excites me to no end. We could have spent hours on
their medical history and afflictions but they left armed to deal with them in a more effective manner.
But when I printed out the ingredient label of this popular grocery
store brand dog food, they excited me even more when they got visibly angered at what they saw. And they should get
mad! We all should when we see that the marketing of these foods is barely- if at all- within the limits of the law
when it comes to truth in labeling. It is certainly waaaay outside the realm of decency.
Here is the ingredient list. Remember that we are trying to avoid
all wheat, barley, rye, soy, and corn. Also keep in mind that the ingredients must be listed in order of concentration in
the food, with the highest levels listed first. Also keep in mind that the more ingredients there are in the food, the higher
the "dilution factor", meaning that the use of multiple grains, for example, will artificially elevate the meat or meat by-products
to a position toward the front of the list. In other words, if they used only corn, then corn would be first. But, if
they use corn, wheat, barley and soy, then something like chicken by-products may be higher in concentration than each
of those individually but not if they used corn alone.
So now, here are those ingredients:
yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal
fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, sugar,
sorbitol, tricalcium phosphate, water, salt, phosphoric acid, animal digest, potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, sorbic
acid (a preservative), L-Lysine monohydrochloride, dried peas, dried carrots, calcium carbonate, calcium propionate
(a preservative), choline chloride, added color (Yellow 5, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 2), DL-Methionine, Vitamin
E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium
pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, copper sulfate, biotin, garlic oil, thiamine hydrochloride, pyridoxine hydrochloride,
thiamine mononitrate, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity),
calcium iodate, sodium selenite.
First of all, note the main (animal) protein sources and their placement
on the ingredient list. Again, by label regulations, the most abundant ingredient is listed first and the least is shown
last. But, we must also take into account the "dilution factor", which is a false elevation of the concentration of an ingredient
due to the use of multiple similar ingredients that accomplish the same goal (e.g the use of multiple grains to artificially
elevate the amount of meat in a particular formula).
With this in mind,we see that the first animal protein source is
chicken by-product meal, not chicken or chicken meal. Chicken by-products are the ground, rendered parts of the chicken carcass,
such as necks, breast bones, feet, and intestinal tract, not to include feathers, except in the small quantities
that may unavoidably occur unavoidable in processing. Basically, it is what is left after the meat has been removed.
The next animal protein source is beef, which is the eighth ingredient and well behind the corn, wheat, soy and rice. In fact,
the beef is listed after the animal fat. So, for a basically carnivorous animal such as a dog, how does this food stack
up to its natural diet? Not too well.
Secondly, I want the reader to see is the positioning
of the dried peas and dried carrots relative to the other ingredients.
In this particular food, the commercials for which show vegetables and
whole grains falling from the sky and the bags prominently display peas and carrots, these vegetables are listed after
such things as sugar, salt, water, and added minerals. The fact is that there is more sugar and more salt in this food than
peas and carrots. There is more water in this dry food than peas and carrots. There is even more L-Lysine monohydrochloride
in this food than peas and carrots. So, how many vegetables can possibly be in this pet food? Yet,
the commercials and bag lead one to believe that this formula is a healthier choice for your pet because of the vegetables it
contains. Does this really meet the qualifications of what we like to think is "truth in labeling"?
The sad truth is that this food, like so many others, is loaded
with the things that are doing harm to our pets (and many of us) while being devoid of truly healthful ingredients. Our pets
need the phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables as badly as we do if, maybe even more so if we base things on the quality of
the ingredients listed above.
Let's try another food. This one is a popular formula among
breeders and sold in the grocery stores and pet marts. The name of the formula includes the words "with Lamb and
Rice". I suppose from reading the ingredient list that the use of the word "with" is a legalism and justifies the placement
on the formula's list. The reader can decide.
Here is the ingredient list:
Ground Whole Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal,
Wheat, Meat and Bone Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with BHA/BHT), Natural Poultry Flavor, Wheat
Flour, Lamb, Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Wheat Gluten, Potassium Chloride, DiCalcium
Phosphate, Vegetable Oil (Source of Linoleic Acid), Carmel Color, Dried Beet Pulp, Titanium Dioxide, Vitamins (Choline Chloride,
dl-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate [Source of Vitamin E], L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate [Source of Vitamin C*], Vitamin A Supplement,
Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Biotin, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement [Vitamin B2], Vitamin D3 Supplement,
Vitamin B12 Supplement), Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide), Added FD&C and Lake Colors (Yellow
6, Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5).
Look familiar? The thing to see here is the placement of the lamb
and rice. Note that the lamb comes after natural poultry flavor. How much lamb can there be in this food? Once again,
the grains make up the bulk of this food and even with five different ingredients derived from grains, there is still more
natural poultry flavor ("chicken squeezin's" as one client termed it) in this food than lamb or rice. Also note the
use of artificial colors in both of these food formulas. Do the dogs really care what the color is?
But what about cat foods? (errrrrrh). Yes, most cat foods are even
worse, especially when it is taken into consideration that this species is considered an obligate carnivore. They
eat meat. The biggest decision of the free-roaming domestic cat would be whether they will have a squirrel, a mouse,
a rabbit or a bird for dinner. Can't you just see them "stalking" some corn? And yet, the vast majority of commercial dry
cat foods are loaded with the "big 4".
Here is the ingredient list of one of the most popular dry cat foods
at the grocery store:
Corn meal, Poultry by-product meal, Corn
gluten meal, Animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), Powdered cellulose, Salmon
meal, Animal liver flavor, Soybean hulls, Malt extract, Calcium carbonate, Phosphoric acid,
Salt, Choline chloride, Potassium chloride, Taurine, Vitamin E supplement, Zinc sulfate, Ferrous sulfate, Manganese sulfate,
Parsley flakes, Niacin, Added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2)...
...and other vitamins and minerals as seen in the other formulas.
In this formula, note that the salmon meal is listed after powdered
cellulose. Also, note that the parsley flakes come after zinc, iron, and manganese. This is the case in a food about
which the manufacturer's Website print advertising boldly states that our formula "contains a special blend of ingredients-
including the wholesome grains and garden greens she craves." Do cats really crave grains? (Only if they have become
addicted to them from eating gluten-based cat foods.) Isn't it a major stretch to call this amount of parsley "garden
After the big pet food recall, this same pet food giant came out
with their "naturals" line. Let's take a look at it:
Chicken meal, Corn gluten meal, Soybean
meal, Brewer's Rice, Animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), Poultry by-product meal, Corn
meal, Chicken, Salmon, Ground Whole Wheat, Soybean hulls, Malt extract,
Brewer's Dried Yeast...
......and other vitamins and minerals as seen in the other formulas.
The good news is that this food has an "upgraded" protein source in
the form of chicken meal but is the ingredient list quickly deteriorates into the usual fare of unnatural and
downright harmful "big 4" components. At least this one does not contain dairy products like so many others contain. We took
all of the dairy our of pet food almost twenty years ago and for very good reason. Why it is making a comeback in a number
of misguided manufacturer's formulas is almost beyond me. But this blunder is understandable when we grasp that they
decided to start making pet foods wheat-based twenty years ago in the face of current veterinary knowledge clearly
stating that wheat was the number two food allergen behind dairy. Perhaps they, too, were deceived by the crazy
notion that lactose is the real culprit in milk.
The good news is that there are other pet food formulas that are
much better than those above. One simply needs to read the labels and read them carefully, taking the ingredient list rule
of diminishing quantity in mind. Also, look for key words like "lamb", "lamb meal", "chicken" and "chicken meal" rather than
the by-product version of those components. Then look for a food that is devoid of the "big 4"- all gluten (wheat, barley,
rye, dairy , soy and corn). If the food also contains significant quantities of veggies and fruits then the manufacturer
is at least making an attempt to create a balanced formula. The bad news is that the kibbling process (production of
dry food) makes it very hard for delicate phytonutrients to survive. As it is still necessary to add fresh fruits and vegetables
to the pet's diet to make it more appropriate, I would never opt for a food with added vegetables if that formula
still contains any of the "big 4". It would be much better to get a "clean" food (one devoid of the big 4) and add fresh (raw
or steamed) vegetables and fruits. We can give them any of the fruits and veggies that we eat except for grapes, raisins,
I truly hope that this helps people sort through the jungle (or
quagmire) we call the pet food industry. I also hope that it motivates- even angers- the reader into doing something proactive
in the way of contacting pet food manufacturers or sharing this vital information with friends, contacts, and
loved ones who have pets.
It is time for this situation to change. ("It's way past time",
many would say). The pet food giants have had their time of taking full advantage of our nutritional ignorance. Whether the
manufacturers are simply ignorant or incredibly greedy is another topic altogether. But we as consumers do not have
to be so unknowledgeable in these matters. Nutrition is not as hard to understand as some would think. We simply have
to eliminate the bad things and consume the good things. It takes a little thought and research to do the former and some
willpower to do the latter but it can be done. For the pets, it is easy: Buy dog food A instead of dog food
B (or better yet, home-cook for the pet) and we're off and running. For those people who are afflicted, it is
a bit more complicated...but still very do-able.
We do have the destiny our health and that of our pets in our own
hands. That should be good news.
John B. Symes, D.V.M. (aka "Dogtor J")
www.manna4pets.com - Life's Abundance Pet Foods
* Read- "Food Intolerance- Man and Animals
versus Gluten, Casein, Soy, and Corn OR How We Won the Battle of Helm's Deep"
I hope you enjoyed your time here and got something important from your stay. It is
my goal to help all of mankind navigate through the jungle of medical information now available on the Internet and find the
truth about the origins of what we call "disease" as well as discover the natural solutions for these conditions.
We do have our health's destiny in our own hands more than we've ever
imagined, certainly more than most have ever been told. Think naturally and the answer will come.
Click here to go back to the Site Map to read more related articles on Dogtorj.com.
Become a member of the Friends of DogtorJ Email Club !
You can now go to the new site!
The New DogtorJ.com is done! Yes, the time has finally come for this homemade Website to go the way of the
buffalo. I know that you all join me in looking forward to using a site that is better organized and more accessible....prettier,
too! I've even corrected most of those annoying typos (I hope).
Feel free to check it out now at www.dogtorj.com. I am still working hard to populate all of the pages so don't worry if a link does not work. They should
all be active in the near future. In the meantime,
this current site will remain on-line until I get all of the bugs worked out.
Let me know what you think! It's not too late to make some changes.
I would still like to hear
from you personally, though.
I used to have a nice little form in this space that would
allow readers to send me a quick comment or testimonial. Unfortunately, as the Interent goes, I started getting
50-100 junk emails through this form and had to remove it.
So, until the new Website is up and running (soon!), I will have
to ask people to formulate an Email of their own and send it. I do want to hear from you so I would really appreciate
it if you could take the time to do this.
Simply title your Email "Visitor Comment" and include your name, occupation, comment/testimonial and
return Email address (if you want to be contacted) and send it to:
dogtorj @ dogtorj.com (Just remove the spaces on each side of the @ sign)
Please do not use this form to ask medical questions. See
the Contact section for instructions for sending DogtorJ an Email inquiry concerning a medical
be getting a major facelift in the very near future. Yes, the time has finally come for this homemade Website
to be taken over by someone who actually knows what they are doing. I know that you all join me in looking forward to having
the site better organized and more accessible. It'll be prettier, too!
This is taking place for a number of reasons, the most of important
of which will be revealed in the upcoming months. Yes, the book is finally in the works but there will be a
major awareness project to go along with it.
So, please stay tuned. Anyone who would like to get on my mailing list can do so by simply using the visitor's comment area (like the one above)
found at the bottom of each page.
Onward and upward!