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Selecting a Food for Your Dog or Cat

When considering what pet food to feed your companions a number of factors should be considered. With the seemingly endless array of foods in the marketplace, you should be able to limit your choices considerably with the following information.

Identifying the Manufacturer

A food manufacturer that employs board-certified nutritionists and conducts American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) feeding trials to demonstrate the competencies of their diets, and actually manufacturer its own food in its own facilities may have more quality control interests and ability than one that doesn’t. Companies that conduct research on animal nutrition may have more insights into animal health than those that don’t.

Although it may not sound expected, a significant portion of the dog food products out there do not follow these guidelines. Some companies purchase food manufactured by another company and put their label on the bag. Blue Buffalo as an example is produced by as many as five or six other food manufacturers. On the other hand, one food manufacturer may provide foods for 30 other food distributing companies. Diamond Pet Foods is such a manufacturer. When problems happen in such a facility, the scope of the recall is massive.

Looking for the words on the bag “manufactured by” the same name as the label indicates the company made its own food. The wording “manufactured for” or “distributed by” indicates a more segmented history for the food.

There is no regulation requiring manufacturers to test their products for salmonella. Some wait for others to find it rather than testing their own food lots.

What’s on the Label?

The ingredient list on a food bag is unfortunately being found to be less reliable than is desired. A recent study of 52 dog foods discovered 20 of them contained ingredients not on their list. Also others had ingredients specifically advertised not to be present. Additionally, some foods didn’t even have the food protein present that was advertised. This has obvious significance when investigating/treating for allergies. Prescription foods for food ingredient intolerances are found to be such more reliable in their adherence to the advertised ingredient list. Recently five dog foods claiming to be composed of venison were analyzed to find that four of them also had beef, corn and soy – none of which were on the label. Only Royal Canin’s Venison & Potato had exactly what was on their ingredient list – venison and potato.

Fad Diets

As in human nutrition, “FAD” diets are becoming common place in pet nutrition circles. Not long ago lamb and rice was advertised as the only hypoallergenic food. More recently, corn-free diets were advocated, insinuating something was wrong with corn as a food ingredient. More recently this has come to encompass “grain-free diets that may claim to lack corn and wheat, but still use barley, rice or oats (even though these are also grains). Now “gluten-free” is even entering the dog food industry.

The interesting thing is there is no scientific study supporting any of these claims about food ingredients. It should be noted that dogs are not wolves (in the limited respect their genetics offer, one third of those differences relate to digestion/metabolic function. Dogs do have the adaption to digest grains/starches. Their omnivorous habits require complex carbohydrates for maintenance of the stool form.

Of course this list should also address “raw diets”. As already mentioned, the digestion abilities of dog and wolves differ. One might also ponder if a diet successful for a shorter term wild existence is appropriate for a longer-term domestic animal of different genetics. In addition, is that “raw diet” actually the same as the “wild diet” that would include all body parts and organs not simply “raw meat”. In reviewing scientific evidence, 60% of products used/promoted as “raw diets” were nutritionally imbalanced (too much phosphorous, not enough calcium, too little vitamin A, too much vitamin D among the more obvious).

In addition, raw diets create significant concern for salmonella contamination. Various studies find 20-40% of raw diets to be contaminated (the same percentage as raw chicken purchased for human consumption). Listeria was present in 30%. It should be noted, the dogs and cats are not likely to be affected by the salmonella contamination. The same is not true of the humans in contact with that dog food or the dog now shedding the salmonella organisms in its stool.

Those interested in vegan diets for their dogs are encouraged to investigate a formulation/recipe with veterinary nutritionists input to create a properly balanced diet. Most “online” diet recipes for any purpose are not complete and balanced. Cats cannot be fed a vegan diet because certain nutrients they require only come from animal sources.

As a final comment to the question “What do the doctors of Lakeside feed their dogs and cats?”



Purina Dog Chow

California Natural Venison & Rice (Food allergies)

Purina Pro Plan

Hills’ Prescription I/D (Pancreatitis)


Purina One

Hill’s Prescription C/D (Urinary problems)