Be Careful of Fillers in Your Pet’s Food

June 5, 2013

Fillers are ingredients that help hold dry pet food together.  They also help manufacturers keep the cost down by taking up weight in the food.  Unfortunately, they often do so to the detriment of our cats and dogs.  There are good fillers and not so good.  Some aren’t really bad for pets – just useless calories that they don’t need.

One of my biggest no-no’s in pet food is corn.  Many brands of dry kibble contain corn in one or more forms.  Corn is a major problem for my Weimaraner, and I believe it was one of the causes of hot spots on my Great Dane, Ginny.  Some pet food manufacturers use this ingredient to substitute for real meat as the protein source.  Corn is also used to take up space in place of healthier grain choices.  Dogs cannot easily digest corn, and it makes no sense to include it in their food (unless you are a manufacturer whose main concern is the financial “bottom line.”)

Fillers are used by pet food companies to increase weight and bulk in a product at a much lower cost.  Many lower-priced dog and cat foods will contain some kind of filler.

The right kind of filler should act to create normal stools in the animal.  Bad fillers will only irritate the colon.

Bad fillers can contain toxins that can harm pets.  Remember the melamine scare in 2007?  More recently some pet foods were recalled because of aflatoxin on corn used as a filler in some products.

The other side of this coin is that some pet food manufacturers argue that corn contains many valuable nutrients.  In a Royal Canin Technical Report (, Brent Mayabb, DVM, writes, “The use of corn in pet foods allows us to incorporate starch, protein, fiber, and fatty acids all from one source….Corn is an excellent source of energy because it contains approximately 80% carbohydrates.”  He goes on to say that “at Royal Canin, we do not add ‘fillers’ to our diets.  Corn has superior value – fillers have no nutritional value….”

Ok, I won’t argue Dr. Mayabb’s assessment of corn having nutritional value, but I still do not believe it is worthy of being used as a replacement for a good quality protein source.  Personally, I am not feeding a food with 80% carbs to my pets.

Many fillers do not contain any nutritional value, including wheat gluten, Brewer’s rice and soy flour., and my pets won’t be eating those either.

Other materials that are often added to pet food to increase its bulk include citrus pulp, cottonseed hulls, peanut hulls, corn cobs and even weeds and straw.

Know what your pet is eating.  Read the label and research any ingredient that you cannot identify.  The choice is yours.  It is possible to choose dog food containing only ingredients that will benefit your pet’s overall health.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Caesa April 27, 2017 at 9:58 pm

Hi I’ve read your short article. I’ve found this article helpful. I would like to know the food brand that you’re feeding your cat with since I’ve been using royal canin kitten (my girl is 8 months old) and she goes to the toilet like 3 times daily ( i feed her 3 times daily too) which i don’t think that’s quite normal because she doesn’t really eat that much, she eats only small portion.


Carol North May 19, 2017 at 9:15 pm

I’m not really sure how to respond to your note. Every cat is different and has different bathroom habits. Only your veterinarian can tell you if what you see is not normal. As for Royal Canin, read the ingredients and then read the BARKS & MEOWS page on this website and decide for yourself if the food is right for your kitty. How old is your cat? Adult cats only need to be fed twice a day. Kittens need more. Some cats do fine with a small amount of canned food twice a day and a bowl of dry kibble available whenever they want it. Again, your vet is the expert on that.

Cats are fickle creatures. The food they like one week may be frowned upon the next. We have changed foods several times with our 2 cats. At the moment, they are eating a Rachel Ray Nutrish Salmon & Brown Rice dry food and a Wellness canned cat food.

Hope I helped.



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