Linda Arndt ~ Canine Nutritional Consultant

Questions To Ask A Pet Food Company


Here are some important questions you can ask the dog food companies in your search for a quality commercial kibble. This information is not on the bag so you must communicate directly with the dog food company or check their website and ask very specific questions.

Search Lesson: to do a search on a dog food company, type in then run a search on the dog food company name. Type it in quotes so it is very specific and gets you to the main website.

I want to share with you a horrifying excerpt from a 1992 article by staff writer John Eckhouse, San Francisco Chronicle, who was involved in a two-part expose entitled "Pet-food labels baffle consumers" and "How dogs and cats get recycled into pet foods." He writes:

"Each year millions of dead American dogs and cats are processed along with billions of pounds of other animal materials and road kill by companies known as renderers. The finished products - tallow and meat meals - serve as raw materials of thousands of items including cosmetics and pet foods". The article goes on to state "There were the usual denials by pet food executives. Yet federal and state agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and medical groups such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the California Veterinary Medical Association confirm that pets, on a routine basis, are rendered after they die in animal shelters or are disposed of by health authorities and the end products find their way into commercial pet foods."

Once I got over the initial emotional shock and disgust of the idea of pets consuming other dead pets, I tried to be objective. After all, protein is protein. So why should this matter? But the fact is, it DOES matter. Barring the whole idea is "pretty darn disgusting to most people",the real problem is the fact that the toxic chemicals used to euthanize animals" survives the rendering process without undergoing degradation". In other words, they don't break down and remain in the meat meal! It is the cumulative effects of these intact toxins that are going into dog foods and they have a lasting effect on our living pets in terms of disease, longevity, reproduction, etc. I have never been convinced all these so called "food" allergies are due to actual foods. I believe they are due to the "toxins" in the foods themselves. This is why, in most cases, when we switch to a better kibble, homemade diet or a natural diet the animal’s problems clear up. There are only a few commercial products I recommend and they are listed in the Blackwatch Feed Programs.

Questions to ask:

Protein: What kind, grade and quantity of meat sources are used. Ask if they use the "4-D meats" (dead, diseased, disabled, dying) or do they use organically raised or human grade USDA meat sources. You want meat/poultry meals, not fresh whole meat because they are counting the water weight with fresh meats and you actually get less protein. If the first ingredient reads LAMB or BEEF for example, that means it is whole meat and with water included they are allowed to list it first on the panel, when infact it means you are feeding a grain based food. Because without the water this puts the lamb or beef way down on the list of ingredients, below the grains!

NO By-Products, if a company uses by-products, they are using inferior quality protein sources. This is an absolute NO NO. Also it needs to read a specific protein meal such as "chicken meal or pork meal or beef meal, you do not want it to read "meat meal", it could just about anything! You get more protein in a specific named "meal", than in fresh meats. So a protein source should be the first thing listed on a food label and it should have other proteins such as, chicken, fish, beef, lamb, eggs, pork, venison, duck, listed elsewhere on the label. Multi-protein diets make better muscle mass, and remember the heart is the largest muscle in the body

Carbohydrates: What kinds and grade of grains - you want whole grains and they should not be listed as the first ingredient on the bag. NO fractionated grains, they must be intact, whole grains for the best nutritional benefits.

Vitamins: Are they ingredient borne (from the actual ingredient) and do they use additional vitamins put on after processing. Are they natural vitamins from whole food concentrates or synthetic vitamins. Yes, recent studies indicate there is a major difference between synthetics versus natural. (An example: beta carotene (Vitamin A) will convert to vitamin A if the body needs it. Beta carotene is a natural source of vitamin A. Most vitamin labels state vitamin A is synthetic unless stated as beta carotene. It is easy to overdose on vitamin A whereas beta carotene is only converted to vitamin A by the body if needed.)

Minerals : They MUST be chelated or sequestered to insure good growth and immune function - words such as chelated, proteinated, sequestered need to be on the bag.

Preservatives : Do they use ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT preservatives? Ask them this…" even though they may not be listed on the bag, are any synthetic preservatives still in the food if I run a lab test?" Watch them side step this one! If the fats are purchased from another source other than the dog food company, they do not have to list ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT on the dog food bag. How do they preserve their foods ? Ask, is your fish meal ethoxiquin free?

Vitamin C: What is their stand on vitamin C as a nutrient in dog foods. It needs to be in there!

Probiotics: Probiotics are "friendly", living organisms - good bacteria. Yogurt has "friendly living" organisms but for dogs prone to bloat, I like to recommend additional concentrated forms of a combination probiotic/digestive enzyme product such as 4 in 1 Probiotics, BakPakPlus or Filling N The Wholes (see CORE 4 Kits).

Good bacteria are needed for major bodily functions

  • to fight off bad bacteria and fungus levels (pathogenic)
  • to boost the immune system function
  • to aid digestion by reseeding the gut and help prevent bloat or stop bloat in the process by restoring the pH balance of the gut
  • to help to make an environment conducive to reproduction

Digestive Enzymes - Ask them if they use digestive enzymes on their foods. The good companies work to put these back on the food.

Other Enhancers - Ask them if there is any additional salt, sugars, food coloring or synthetic flavor enhancers in the food

Soy - Is soy used as a protein source in the food?Soy beans, flour as a main source of protein in a kibble is not acceptable in a diet. Soy especially in the form of "sprouted materials" have tremendous benefits to a diet because of antioxidant properties.

Digestibility - Ask them for the percent of digestibility in the diets.

And don't fall for that "small" stools or "infrequent stool" line either. Animals, like humans are supposed to have frequent, formed stools through out the day (2-4 to be on the healthy side). Small stools are not an indication of a highly digestible diet and quality nutrition. The whole idea and sales pitch of a small stool is a marketing tool and definitely in the best interest of the animals digestive health.

Philosophy: Ask what sets their dog food apart from all the other dog foods. Go with your gut reaction…you can tell if they are doing a sales pitch or if the company is really dedicated to your animals health and well being. These questions are simply a starting place in your own personal investigation.Remember, just because you read it on the internet, does not make it necessarily true.

For a list of better foods see Blackwatch Feed Programs.

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