Choose the Best Cat and Dog Food


Tags: cat, dog, food,

DogThere are so many types of pet food in stores these days. What should I look for in the list of ingredients, and what should I look out for? 

The search for healthy commercial pet foods is complicated. There is no one-size-fits-all diet for humans, and the same is true for pets. Older dogs and cats have specific dietary needs, as do puppies and kittens. Cats need more protein than dogs. Extra consideration also should be given to pets that are pregnant, overweight or have other health conditions. That said, there are some ingredients in commercial pet foods that are consistently recommended, and some that are consistently discouraged.    

Experts say the best foods will have an ingredients list that begins with a high-quality protein. Examples of good protein are simple to spot: chicken, salmon, beef, etc. Protein “meals,” such as chicken meal or lamb meal, can include ground animal parts that aren’t actually considered meat, but nonetheless are decent sources of protein. Some say they present a more accurate picture of a dry food’s protein content. Take chicken, for example: Pure chicken meat naturally contains water. Though this water is eventually lost in the processing of the food, it may still appear at the top of the list due to its initial weight. In chicken meal, the water has already been removed, therefore its place on the list is a more reliable indicator of its volume in relation to the other ingredients. That’s where this gets tricky: A food that lists chicken meal as a second ingredient and a grain as the first may actually have more total protein than a food with chicken meat as the first ingredient. High-quality pet foods tend to list a primary protein meat followed by a protein meal within the next few ingredients.

Some pet guardians are turned off by meat byproducts. This is the stuff that finds its way into pet foods because it’s considered unfit for human consumption — these are simply animal parts that would otherwise be inedible. Some animal byproducts and byproduct meals can contain feet, undeveloped eggs, intestines, blood, bones, brains and more. (Watch for “meat and bone meal” or “beef and bone meal” — these are technically byproducts.) Some experts say that byproducts from specified animals are safe and perfectly acceptable sources of protein and amino acids, but many pet owners choose to avoid them altogether. At the same time, some say that including byproducts in pet foods allows us to use more of the animal, and waste less.

Another category of pet-foot ingredients that some find undesirable is digest. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, the definition for animal digest is “material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and un-decomposed animal tissue.” It goes on to say what digest can’t contain, but is otherwise very mysterious about what is included. As with byproducts, there’s “chicken digest,” and then there’s “animal digest.” One is distinctly more transparent than the other.

White or brown rice, barley and oats are better than the various processed versions of these grains, such as brewer’s rice and oat hulls. These, along with peanut hulls and other processed grain “hulls,” “meals” and “flours” aren’t dangerous, but they’re less nutritious. Many pets are allergic to corn and wheat, but because corn is so inexpensive, low-quality foods tend to contain a hefty dose of it.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters