Apr 18 2017

Pet Food Ingredients: The good, the good enough and the not so good.


The good news is that you can read a package label, understand it and not stress out about feeding a normal, healthy pet. The less good news is that you need to know about the ingredients.

Things to know:

1.Definitions: Nutrients- the elements and molecules that must be consumed to maintain a healthy body.  Ingredients- the food items used to supply the nutrients.

2. Most ingredients supply multiple nutrients in different amounts

3. Some ingredients are put in the food as an aid in marketing the food as well as provide nutrients.

4. “Quality” means how digestible the food item is, not what kind of nutrients it contains.

These are the basic nutrients:

  1. Water
  2. Proteins- supply amino acids (and energy for cats)
  3. Carbohydrates-supply energy
  4. Fats- supply energy and essential fatty acids
  5. Vitamins- supply key structure and energy productions components.
  6. Minerals- structural(bone) ,enzyme components and muscle nerve function

 Non- nutrient

 Additives may be used to achieve other effects

-Fiber (a nutrient for herbivores) can be used for digestive problems and weight loss

-Citrate controls urine crystals etc.

For now I will stick with ingredients and not bore you with the guaranteed analysis- % protein, fat, etc.

What you see when you read the ingredients:

– Animal’s milk & eggs

– Protein, fat, vitamins, minerals

– Meat

– Meat “meal”= dehydrated meat

– Meat and bone meal

– By-products= parts that are not the main product for example for a meat chicken (non egg layer) the   by-products are everything except the meat. Some are highly digestible as mentioned last week.

– Fat- beef tallow, chicken fat, pork fat. Etc.


– Grains- carbohydrates, protein, oils, fiber, vitamins, and minerals

– Roots , stems, and leaves (vegetables)- carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

– Fruits- same as vegetables

– Glutens- proteins concentrated from plants such as wheat and corn gluten

Vitamin and mineral supplements added to ensure a balanced diet

– Preservatives- natural- Vitamin E + selenium

Not natural- can’t be in products labeled “natural”= BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin


– Yucca Schigigera- for arthritis and stool odor reduction

– Hemp seed oil – anti-inflammatory fatty acids

– Flax seed- aid in weight loss

Ethoxyquin- preservative used to stop oxidation (rancidity) in pet food. At high experimental doses toxicity to organs has been observed , but at FDA approved levels in pet food no toxic effects have been seen. The wild card is how much is in the vendor’s ingredient before it comes to the pet food manufacturers.

Propylene glycol- Not to be confused with the toxic chemical in antifreeze- ethylene glycol. To add to the confusion, antifreeze used in boats and other vehicles used in wildlife areas contain propylene glycol because it is non toxic. This has been illogically used as “proof” that it is toxic- because it is in antifreeze! That said ingestion of large quantities can make cats sick.

Cat food should not contain propylene glycol as they can’t metabolize it like dogs can. The FDA considers it “generally” safe, but people and pets with hypersensitivity or liver or kidney disease may want to be cautious with exposure because of the numerous food and cosmetics that contain it. That said at the amounts seen in food, no adverse effects are expected in feeding this to normal pets. Still not sure? You aren’t paranoid to avoid it.

-William I. Wiatt D.V.M.

pethospo | Pet Food

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