How To Tell What's In Your Pet's Food

How To Tell What's In Your Pet's Food

For pet owners, choosing the right brand of food can feel like the ultimate challenge. Walk into any pet store and there are multiple aisles loaded with different types of food. When facing a wall of colorful bags with attention-grabbing graphics, it can be difficult to determine which brand is right for you and your pet. It’s important as a pet owner to understand what’s really in your pet’s food. Read on to take a look at some of the common ingredients found in pet food. 

Ingredients to Watch Out For 

Protein

We all know that our pets need protein to survive. The amino acids found in protein sources are essential to our carnivores’ diets and help keep hair, nails, skin, muscles, and cartilage healthy.  Common proteins used in pet foods include meats and plant ingredients. Most brands offer a choice of chicken, beef, fish, and some other meat flavor. Others may use corn gluten or soybean meal to provide extra protein. Amino acids1 from meat sources tend to be more abundant and more beneficial than the amino acids found in plant protein sources. 

Unless you are feeding your pet raw meat and are aware of exactly what you are feeding them, it is likely they are eating various parts of animals that you may not have considered. Many kibble brands use processed product from animal tissues, or animal by-product meal, or unprocessed parts of the animal other than the muscle, also known as meat by-products. 

The pet food industry uses many parts of animals that humans would not traditionally consume as a way to help the production be a more sustainable practice. However, these meals are produced by sometimes rendering (or processing) dead animals from farms, ranches, feedlots, and other facilities, according to the National Agricultural Law Center2. It’s important to investigate what kind of protein is in your pet’s food and where it is coming from. 


Chemicals and Preservatives

Many food brands resort to using chemicals and preservatives to extend the shelf-life of the products. Three common preservatives found in pet foods are Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), and Ethoxyquen3. BHA and BHT are known carcinogens and can cause organ damage. Ethoxyquin is illegal to use in human foods in the United States but can be legally added to pet foods. This preservative often presents itself on labels as “fish meal” rather than the true name of the chemical. 

When looking for food for you pet, it’s best if there are no preservatives included, and natural options like Vitamins C and E are safer.3

Corn Meal

Fillers are products added to pet food to create more mass. A common filler is corn meal, or corn gluten meal. Corn meal is a by-product of processing corn (syrup and sweeteners) that is often used as an inexpensive protein source and a kibble binder for pet foods. While it can act as a source of protein, it is less nutritionally complete than true meat proteins. It has less of the essential amino acids dogs need but can inflate the amount of protein reported on food bags. 


Feeding pets high quantities of corn gluten meal can result in the animal developing severe corn allergies over an extended period of time4. Corn is one of the most common allergens for dogs and cats alike. 

Artificial Flavors and Colors

We tend to buy our pet’s food based on what flavors we know they like. For a food bag to be labeled as a certain flavor, it simply means your pet can detect that flavor while eating the food. However, the flavor can come from any source: from the actual meat itself, from meat meal or by-products, or from other animal products or products produced in a laboratory. Many pet food brands create “proprietary” flavorings, meaning they developed flavors themselves and are not required to provide details about on the packaging. 


To avoid artificial flavorings or coloring, purchase high quality foods from food manufacturers that you can trust. You can do your own research or speak with your holistic veterinarian about what they would recommend.  

Other Ingredients

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates for pets are found in similar ingredients as for humans. Some brands use starches and fibers to fill the kibble and add mass that will help your pet feel full; However, carnivores biologically do not need carbs, especially the ones added in kibble and most processed pet foods. Carbs that turn to sugars are not beneficial to your pet’s diet or digestion. Better options for digestive aid include organic yogurts, kefir, or tripe, as these add good bacteria of probiotics and prebiotics. Similar to humans, sugars from carbs actually create a spike in insulin levels, which can make your pet feel sluggish or run down. 

Fats

Fats tend to have a poor reputation when it comes to food ingredients, but are actually beneficial for pets. Animal-cell membranes are comprised of fats and fat is the primary form of stored energy in the body. It even provides more energy than carbohydrates or proteins. Fat helps bodily functions, such as body temperature and inflammation control, stay regulated. Common fats found in pet foods are Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are important for blood clotting and inflammation reduction, while Omega-6 fatty acids help maintain skin and coat integrity. 

Sometimes, food companies may use soybean, flaxseed, and wheat germ oils as a substitute for other fat sources as a means of reducing cost. Pets cannot adequately convert the fats from these ingredients into usable forms of Omega-3, making these ingredients less beneficial to our pets’ diets. 

Recommendations

Feeding raw foods is a great way to get your pet the ingredients, vitamins, and minerals they need to live a healthy life. You can look into freeze-dried raw foods that are rich in vitamins and other nutrients to support healthy functioning. 

The freeze-drying process locks in vital nutrients without adding heat to cook the raw meat, thus savoring the valuable components that would otherwise be lost. Freeze-drying is a minimal process that preserves the taste of meat ingredients without losing nutritional value. 

Momentum Carnivore Nutrition’s freeze-dried raw treats, meal bars, and seasonings are an excellent option for incorporating raw, real foods into your pet’s diet. Our freeze-dried raw foods are packed with flavor and nutrients that are preserved from high-quality meats during the freeze-drying process. All of our products are free from unnatural fillers, artificial flavors, or excess calories, so you can feel good about feeding them to your furry friend! 

Be Aware

Overall, it’s important to be aware of what ingredients are in your pet’s food. Pets benefit from carnivorous, nutritionally dense diets that help support healthy development and functionality. Feeding raw foods is always a great option, but for those who cannot afford to feed raw all the time, there are pet food brands that produce high quality, nutritionally beneficial foods that are safe for pets. 

Always speak with your holistic veterinarian before switching food brands and ask about any ingredients that you may be unsure of. Your vet likely has a range of brands they recommend for healthy growth and development. 

References:

  1. https://wildearth.com/blogs/news/the-10-amino-acids-your-dog-needs/
  2. https://nationalaglawcenter.org/state-compilations/meatprocessing/
  3. https://www.petsafe.net/learn/pet-food-the-good-the-bad-and-the-healthy
  4. http://acupetvetcare.com/nutrition/corn-gluten-meal-pets-food/