Category Archives: Cats & Dogs – How Food Affects their Health

Environmental Impact of Pets and What to Do about It.

Pets impact the environment.
Most of us don’t realize how our pets impact the environment or the damage dogs and cats cause to our world. As much as we love our pets, we should help them decrease their environmental footprints.

Yesterday, I walked down my very long street, passing numerous dogs and their owners along the way. The ones I passed carried poop bags to clean up after their pets. But in the short time I walked, the odor of several poop piles emanated from the grass beside the sidewalk. I live in a community that stresses the importance of pet responsibility where biodegradable poop bag stations are placed in convenient locations for residents to use.  Simple for dog owners to clean up after Fido quickly and easily, right? Obviously not, because some people abdicate their responsibility to our community and to the environment.

Dog poop isn’t the only way that dogs and cats negatively impact the environment.  Consider these suggestions to help keep your pets from destroying our planet.

Dogs Impact the Environment.

Always Clean Up after Your Dog

It doesn’t matter how well-cared-for your pet is, dog poop is toxic. Pet waste contains E. Coli and other harmful bacteria, such as fecal coliform bacteria, which causes kidney disorders, intestinal disorders, cramps and diarrhea in humans. The Center for Disease Control confirms that pet waste can spread parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, ringworm and Salmonella. Think about this if you leave dog poop in your own yard. Every time it rains, the poop washes away and ends up in lakes and rivers via local storm drains.  Carry a bag with you when you walk your dog. Shovel your own yard to keep it safe for playing children.

Quality Pet Foods Create Less Waste

It is a fact that cheap dog and cat foods contain waste products, chemicals, and many ingredients of little or no nutritional value.  Whatever is in the food the pets eat will impact the location where his waste ends up. Ultimately, those chemicals may end up in our water systems. A high-quality pet food containing only natural ingredients not only is safer for the environment, the animal will excrete less poop.

Leash Your Dog and Keep Fluffy Indoors

Dogs running around off-leash create havoc. They dig up flower beds and get into garbage, as well as leave their waste all over. This is unfair to the dog as well as the environment. Keep dogs in fenced yards or on leash.

Cats love flower beds because the ground that has been dug up for plantings is soft enough for them to cover their own waste. If your flower bed became a cat’s bathroom, you understand the problem. Remember the bacteria in pet waste!

Cats kill birds. Felines are responsible for billions of deaths of birds and mammals in the United States each year. The domestic cat has also contributed to the extinction of 33 species of wildlife worldwide.  Outdoor felines are the primary host for toxoplasmosis, a nasty disease that causes serious health issues for pregnant women and anyone with a compromised immune system. Cats spread that disease and others, such as ringworm or hookworms, when they use children’s sandboxes for their bathrooms. Indoor cats live longer than those allowed to roam at will.

Spay or Neuter Your Pet!

If you have ever owned a female canine in heat, you know that your yard turned into a wailing wall of unhappy, lovesick male dogs or cats wanting to romance your female pet. They pee and poop in your yard or your neighbor’s yards and lift their legs to spray on anything nearby. They howl at all hours of the day or night. The noise and stench from the animals drive everyone crazy. If you are living with the intact female attracting all those guys, you are dealing with other problems.

Medically, it’s better for your female dog or cat to be spayed before her first heat. Mammary cancer risks increase with each “heat.”  Neutering a male dog before the age of 6 months eliminates the chance of testicular cancer and decreases the risk of prostate cancer.  Why take the chance. Protect your pet’s health by neutering him as soon as the veterinarian believes he is old enough.

What happens to all those puppies and kittens that will result, should Fluffy or Fido escape? Millions end up in shelters and are eventually euthanized because of the lack of enough people to adopt them. Those numbers would decrease, if pet owners would spay or neuter their dogs and cats. If you want a puppy or kitten, adopt from a shelter. You will save a life,  won’t contribute to more unwanted pets, and your pet won’t impact the environment in a negative way.

Choose Pet Toys Carefully!

Choose eco-friendly toys so dogs don't destroy the environment.Many toys sold in stores are made of man-made materials laced with chemicals. When your pet grows tired of the toys or destroys pieces of them, they may end up in a landfill somewhere – another attack on the environment.  Eco-friendly toy choices satisfy both pets and the environment.

You can easily make your own dog or cat toys or buy them. The only toys I purchased for my large dogs were balls, disks, Nylabones® and Kong® toys. I primed the Kong® toys with peanut butter to keep the dogs busy when we left them alone. Dogs never tire of playing chase with a ball.  I made tug toys out of men’s athletic socks and filled them with polyfill stuffing. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to be environmentally conscious, and your dog won’t care what it cost.

Our cats own a few commercial toys but they don’t destroy their toys, making them long-lasting options. I sew little snakes and an octopus with dangly legs from fleece and fill them with catnip. One of my cats sleeps with all of her catnip toys but if you prefer to buy toys for your kitty, plenty of eco-friendly options are available. For some cute environmentally-safe pet toys, click here.

Go Green with Fluffy’s Litter

Cats impact the environment.If you want to reduce your cat’s carbon pawprint, begin with a biodegradable litter box.  Amazon carries a good supply and you can access them here and eco-friendly cat litter here.  Rethink that clumping clay litter. The clay sediment in it is permeated with a silica dust, considered carcinogenic.  The sodium bentonite used as a clumping agent in the product can poison cats through ingestion over time as they clean themselves.  Yes, it makes for easier cleanup for you, but it’s definitely harmful to your pet.  Be careful with cat litter with fragrance. Some cats really dislike that and will stop using the litter box because of the odor.  We ran into that problem with our Lucy and now only use fragrance-free litter.

Cats and dogs can be responsible inhabitants on the planet with a little help from their human friends. Following just these few simple suggestions will help you do your part to protect our environment, as well as help Fido and Fluffy to be good citizens.

The Single Best Reason to Avoid Pet Foods with Grains: Mycotoxins

Mycotoxins in grains can contaminate pet food.

Mycotoxins are chemical substances derived from fungi and infect grain crops worldwide, wreaking havoc with livestock or any animal that eats food containing the infected grain.  The environment is ripe for mold growth when corn is stored outside in all kinds of weather.  All grains are subject to this kind of weather contamination, and our pets may suffer for it.

In a study conducted by BIOMIN Mycotoxin Survey, more than 8,000 samples were analyzed from more than 75 countries. The most common mycotoxins of concern to pet owners include deoxynivalenol (DON), fumonisins (FUM), and zearalenone (ZEN). The reason for pet owners to be concerned is that such mycotoxins are on the rise in corn and other grain crops and have been found in concentrations high enough to harm pets.

In a more recent study from January to June, 2017, BIOMIN conducted more than 33,000 analyses on finished feed and raw commodity samples from 63 countries covering common grains like corn, wheat, barley, corn gluten meal, soybean meal and others. Overall the mycotoxins, DON and FUM were found in 81% and 71% of samples studied.  Of all samples, 94% contained at least one mycotoxin and 76% contained at least 2 or more mycotoxins. North America faces a severe risk of mycotoxin contamination with five mycotoxins above the risk threshold.

DON was reported in wheat in 9 states in July, 2017.

The states reporting DON in wheat are:

  • Alabama
  • Texas
  • Missouri
  • Georgia
  • Virginia
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland

Mycotoxins may be found in cornTexas was the first state in 2017 to report mycotoxins in its corn crop. According to Neogen’s Monday Mycotoxin Report for August 14, 2017, Thirteen percent of corn is in poor to very poor condition – almost double that of 2016 – while 60 percent is in good to excellent condition. This is 14 points worse than in 2016.

How Mycotoxins Affect Pet Food

Far too often, we hear of pets becoming ill from eating moldy pet food. If you have ever opened a bag of moldy dry dog or cat food, you should recognize it immediately. The aroma is “off,” and the appearance likely has changed color. Pet owners will know that food is bad. But sometimes a food can be affected by toxic substances and not smell or look bad and that is where the real problem begins.

What Mycotoxin Poisoning Will Do to Pets

Depending on the amount ingested and type of mycotoxin, poisoning may cause panting, weakness, loss of coordination, increased heart rate, vomiting, fever, seizures and even death in cats and dogs. Should your pet exhibit such symptoms, seek professional veterinary help at once. Mycotoxin poisoning is considered a medical emergency.

How to Avoid Mycotoxin Poisoning in Your Pets

Be aware of what your dog or cat eats. Throw out pet food once it becomes outdated. Clean your pet’s dishes. Avoid commercial pet foods containing such grains as corn, wheat, barley, sugar cane and sugar beets, peanuts, cottonseed oil, rye and sorghum. This includes any offshoots of a grain, like corn gluten or corn meal.  You will find plenty of grain-free pet foods for both dogs and cats on the market. Stick to those to avoid problems.

The above statistics may seem boring to read, but they offer important information to pet owners. Consumers today are focused on improving their own diets and that trend has spilled over to the pet food industry. We love our pets and want them to remain healthy, and we are learning that grain-free means more nutrients and fewer fillers in dog or cat food.

Are You Buying Healthy Dog & Cat Food?

In light of all the recalls and law suits in recent years involving commercial pet food, we all have a right to worry and wonder if the food we purchase for our beloved dogs is a healthy choice. We have certainly learned that just because a manufacturer swears their food is the best and contains only healthy, pure ingredients, it doesn’t make it so. Let’s take a look back at the beginnings of commercially-manufactured pet food.

The History of Commercial Dog Food

Throughout history, dogs belonging to wealthy people ate better than most humans. Farm dogs also ate well because they were expected to work hard. As the Industrial Revolution took over, a middle class was created and pets became more likely for ordinary folks. More pets created a need for veterinary medicine. Many of those experts believed that since wild dogs ate meat, domesticated dogs should not. But that line of thought began to change in 1860 when James Spratt, an electrician and lightning rod salesman, created a dried dog biscuit he called a “Patented Meat Fibrine Dog Cake.”

In 1908, the F.H. Bennet Co.  began making biscuits shaped like bones, and they also made the first commercial puppy food. The company packaged different sizes of kibble for different dog breeds.

Nabisco bought out Bennet’s company in 1931 and renamed the biscuits “Milkbones,” and thus began the real growth of dog biscuit popularity.

Ken-L-Ration was introduced to the United States in 1922 as the first canned dog food and was basically horse meat. By 1941, canned dog food held 90% of the pet food market, but World War II changed that as Government rationing of food brought back dry dog food. In 1950, Ralston Purina used a cooking extruder for cereal production. Their pet food division borrowed the extruder and tested it for several years for making dry dog food and introduced their product as Purina Dog Chow.

The rest is history as more companies jumped on the commercial pet food bandwagon. By 1975, there were more than 1500 dog foods on the market.

Expansion of the Extruder in Pet Food Production

In today’s manufacturing world, an improved version of the extruder is still making dry pet food. First, the raw dry and wet ingredients are mixed into a dough and then fed into a machine that steams or hot water cooks the ingredients at very high temperatures. Some say this destroys many of the nutrients in the food, as well as the taste.  As the product is released from the pressure of this machine, it expands into hot, soft kibble. The food then goes into dryers to harden. Synthetically-flavored nutrients are sprayed on the kibble, as well as powdered or liquid flavor-enhancers. The kibble is dried again and is then ready for bagging.

While it doesn’t sound like the most appetizing food for a pet, there is more to the story. The process above is part of the rendering process.

What Really Goes Into Those Bags of Dry Dog Food

Some dog food products that go through the rendering process are actually nutritionally sound. They are often rendered on human pet food assembly lines where only human-grade ingredients are included and strict sanitizing methods are used. These foods are usually manufactured by high end companies and are priced a bit higher than the average dry pet food because the cost is higher to produce them.

To understand how important it is for consumers to avoid the lower-priced, rendered pet foods, you must understand the rendering process. Rendering companies contract with local businesses, like veterinary clinics or restaurants, even supermarkets, farmers or zoos, to send trucks on certain schedules to pick up their waste. Such waste includes euthanized pets from the veterinary clinics, old and/or spoiled meats from the supermarkets, dead farm or zoo animals. Restaurants store their old fats and cooking grease in large drums that sit outside for weeks at a time in all kinds of weather to become rancid and smelly. The trucks from the rendering companies go to the businesses with whom they have contracts and pick up those items. They also contract with cities or counties to pick up road kill. Wildcatters operate their own trucks and do the same pickups and then sell the contents to the rendering companies.

The trucks all deliver their contents to the rendering companies and empty them into huge vats. This includes the styrofoam and plastic packaging on the grocery store meats, collars and metal tags on dead animals and whatever else might be left on the items picked up.  Keep in mind that animals euthanized by veterinarians will contain whatever drug was used to kill them. Pentobarbitol is usually that drug. All of this material that is dumped into the vats is then rendered into pet food by pulverizing the entire mess and cooking at high temperatures designed to separate the meat from the bone. The grease is removed and used to make animal fat, also for use in pet food.

“The rendering process destroys much of the bacteria, such as E.Coli, but how did that animal die?  Was it by euthanasia?  Did it die in the field and lie there in the heat for days? Was it hit by a car?  When an animal dies, the body releases a bacteria (gas) that supposedly isn’t destroyed by rendering.  No one tests for this.”

There is a way to distinguish between the better products and the rendered ones that are not necessarily the best for your pets to eat. Read the ingredients list!  If you see any kind of by-products listed, that is a red flag. Should you see animal fat or animal digest, keep shopping. Be sure the meat included on the list is a named meat, such as chicken or beef or lamb. When a company lists their meat as beef, pork, fish or poultry, that’s not a good sign. The named meats should also head the ingredients list before any grains or vegetables. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, from the heaviest to the lightest. A simple method for shoppers can be found here.

Commercial pet food is big business. The companies spend millions on marketing and public relations to encourage pet owners to buy their products. Think about those commercials you see on television for popular brands. The companies use bright colors, appealing ingredients and positive wording to entice the public to choose their products over others.  Unfortunately, what you see on the packages isn’t always what you get and that is why reading the ingredients list is so crucial to your pet’s health. Be sure to read some of the reviews of popular dog food brands on this site, and you’ll see what I mean.

Sometimes, the ingredients don’t match the artwork on the front of the package. There have even been cases of  the actual food inside differing somewhat from what the ingredients list said. It is important to trust the company whose products you purchase.

Lack of Oversight by the FDA Affects the Health of Our Pets

Beginning in 2007 with the nationwide recalls of multiple brands of pet food that caused many pet deaths, consumers have become more aware of the dangers that commercial pet food could bring to their dogs. We have seen recalls for numerous reasons, from possible contamination with mold, metal fragments, vitamin deficiencies or elevated levels of certain vitamins, to Salmonella and now Evanger’s, what I thought of as one of the better brands, voluntarily recalled some of their products due to pentobarbitol contamination. We depend on the manufacturers to provide healthy food for our dogs and cats and when something goes wrong, it destroys our trust.

A dog died from the Evanger’s pentobarbitol poisoning and had the owner not possessed the tenacity to push for a recall, other dogs might have suffered a similar fate. The company blames the supplier of their beef for the error and says they will no longer do business with that company, yet the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) investigated and tested the supplier’s products and found no evidence of pentobarbitol.

Last year, Nestle-Purina sued Blue Buffalo, a company that claims its dry dog food never contains any kind of by-products. Purina proved their case by having samples of the Blue Buffalo product tested by an independent lab, and chicken by-products were found in the food.

The problems faced by pet food manufacturers are compounded because most of them use outside sources for some of their ingredients. They may be able to vouch for their own production processes, but they only have the word of their suppliers for purchases made elsewhere. As Blue Buffalo found, those outside sources can’t always be trusted.

Shopping for Dog or Cat Food Is Serious Business 

Pet owners are faced with several difficulties when buying food for our beloved dogs and cats. Along with finding an option our pet likes, we have to choose between many brands on the retail store shelves. Do we believe what we see on the packages and cans? Who do we trust? There is no correct answer to our questions when manufacturers break the rules, or when the FDA does not enforce said rules. I can only say to other pet owners to read the ingredients label, research the manufacturer. Check for past recalls of your chosen manufacturer’s products. If they were frequent, be careful. Watch your pet for changes in behavior and eating habits, especially after eating. And pay close attention to any recalls that occur.

Can Fido & Fluffy Eat People Food for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving food for pets

Most of us know by now to be careful what Thanksgiving foods we feed our pets. We know that cooked turkey bones could harm our cats and dogs. The cooked skin of turkey could cause stomach ailments, necessitating a holiday visit to the vet. Pancreatitis can be life-threatening. But do you know which traditional Thanksgiving foods are actually good for your furry friends? Here are a few that your dog or cat might enjoy in very small amounts.

Cranberries Support the Immune System

The little red fruit is full of antioxidants to boost the immune system and overall health. Some proponents believe cranberries also support urinary health. Check out some of the better pet foods, and you will find a few containing cranberries. Just beware of feeding the cranberry sauces we humans enjoy at our Thanksgiving meal because of the sugar content. Sugar is not good for pets and frankly, most animals won’t like the taste of plain cranberries.

Dogs love holiday foods

Sweet Potatoes Benefit Pets in Several Ways

Sweet Potatoes are full of vitamins and antioxidants, as well as fiber, and are included in many premium pet foods.  This yellow vegetable is also used in elimination diets for animals with suspected food allergies. At our home, we serve sweet potato dishes for Thanksgiving dinner but usually, they contain sugar or brown sugar and marshmallows which are bad for pets. Otherwise, this vegetable adds a lot of benefits to a canine or feline diet.

It goes without saying that our pets should not eat most of the side dishes we serve at holiday meals. Sliced carrots, on their own, would be a healthy snack for a dog or cat, but how many of us serve a dish of plain carrots? We will most likely dress it up with butter and some even use a brown sugar glaze. The extras will not sit well on Fido’s or Fluffy’s tummy. Green beans are great but not with the addition of sauces or onions. There’s nothing wrong with pumpkin for pets, but who among us serves plain pumpkin? If you want to give your dog or cat some of these vegetables, set aside a bite or two after cooking and before you add the extras that our families love.

Turkey May Not Be As Good As You Think

I was surprised to learn that turkey is not especially high in nutrition. In a quote from an article from a Pet Industry publication, it seems that the “turkey meat used as pet food ingredients is virtually identical to that used in hot dog production.” The quality of the nutrition is very similar to that of hot dogs. Consider feeding turkey to your dog or cat as a treat, not as a meal. Just remove the skin and any bones first.

Avoid feeding raisins, grapes, chocolate, or onions to your fur friends. Be sure to keep Aunt Ethel’s purse out of reach of nosy animals in case it contains a pack of sugar-free gum. The xylitol contained in the chewing gum will kill a small pet in minutes.

If you want to include Fido in your holiday plans, take him for a long walk after dinner. He will enjoy that just as much as a plate full of human food and the exercise will benefit both of you.

Killer ingredients Found in Many Pet Foods

What Does Lecithin in Pet Food Do for Dogs and Cats?

Do you wonder what all those hard-to-pronounce and impossible to decipher ingredients are at the end of the ingredients list on pet food containers?  Some of them are confusing, and you wonder if they really are necessary. Some are good and some are not so good. Let’s begin with Lecithin. This antioxidant is one of the building blocks to the cell membranes and protects cells from oxidation. Lecithin improves vitamin absorption and contains 3 essential fatty acids that pets need to thrive. Immune function is also improved. Lecithin also stimulates memory and learning ability. Older dogs benefit most from this pet food additive because it helps with skin flakiness and irritations which are common in senior animals.

Some pet foods contain killer ingredients

Before you get too excited about Lecithin in your pet’s food, you should also know that some forms derive from soy and if you are a regular reader of this site, you know that I’m negative toward soy in pet food in any shape or form. The reason soy is a problem is that 95% of the soy grown in the United States in genetically modified. Created by Monsanto, this method of growing plants is supposed to be more resistant to problems from being sprayed with a commercial version of Roundup, a nasty weed killer that is poison to people and pets. You can assume that anything coming from soy in this country is subject to contamination by this weed killer.

Know the origin of the lecithin in your pet food! Soy lecithin is a waste product. Lecithin derived from sunflowers is healthy and provides wonderful benefits for your dog or cat.

Avoid This Killer Ingredient in Your Pet’s Food!

Another ingredient in pet food that is extremely bad for your dog or cat is corn syrup. You’ll find it mostly in cheaper and lower-quality foods. The name itself implies that corn syrup is used in place of sugar as a sweetener. Dogs don’t need sweeteners added to their foods, and this particular one causes lots of problems.

Corn syrup comes from corn starch and encourages a rise in glucose in the animal. Dogs and cats do not need any ingredient that pushes them toward weight gain or diabetes. It is also thought that corn syrup promotes nervousness, tooth decay, cataracts, and allergies.  Pets become addicted to foods containing sweeteners, and it is not always easy to switch them to healthier alternatives.

The other reason to avoid  this ingredient in pet food is that it is most likely a GMO product. This means that the corn from which it comes  was chemically altered as seed to withstand repeated sprayings of Monsanto’s Roundup to ward off weeds. Enough said!

 Artificial Preservatives Can be Dangerous in Dog & Cat Food

Ethoxyquin is an example of an artificial preservative and can be found in the ingredient, fish meal, among other places. Ethoxyquin is also used as a pesticide and a hardening agent for making rubber. It is not allowed in pet food in Australia or European countries.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytolulene (BHT) are two more artificial preservatives that are bad for pets. These chemicals are added to the oils in pet foods and treats as preservatives. BHA is on the list of known carcinogens and toxicants and BHT is a carcinogen that is known to cause kidney failure and liver damage in lab rats.

You know those dog foods that advertise themselves as being soft and chewy and pets are supposed to love that about them? The food additive that keeps that food soft and chewy is propylene glycol. It is chemically derived from ethylene glycol, from which anti-freeze is made. I think we can all agree that there is no way propylene glycol can be good for our pets.

Glyceryl Monostearate is an emulsifier used in lower grade pet foods. It may contain BHA and BHT among other glyceryls and chemicals.  Because of the unknown chemicals, avoid foods containing glyceryl monostearate.

Some Fiber Sources Can be Killers for Dogs & Cats

Cellulose is found as an ingredient in some pet foods. If consumers realized that the source of cellulose is wood, they would never give that food to their beloved pets.  The wood is cleaned and dried and ground to a fine powder to add bulk to the food. As the link says, this might be considered good food for termites but not for dogs and cats.

Peanut hulls are the outer shell of the nut. It has no nutritional value and is used as a cheap filler. Think of all the pesticides that are used on peanuts as they grow!

According to the, citrus pulp is added as a source of fiber in dog foods. Because the peel and some leaves are included in the ground up pulp, there is the possibility of pesticide contamination. Avoid it!

AAFCO defines yeast culture as the dried product composed of yeast and the media on which it is grown. It’s used mainly as a flavor in pet food to make it more appealing to the animals. You have no way of knowing the source of said media, and it is a potential allergen to dogs.

These are just a few of the lesser known killer ingredients in some pet foods. You, the consumer, must ferret out the good from the bad so that you don’t receive any surprises from your pet food purchases. Insist on natural pet foods containing only a few ingredients that are easy to read and understand.

8 Pet Food Industry Myths Consumers Should Know

Commercial pet food isn't always safe.

Throughout my 9 years of involvement in the pet food world, I have encountered too many instances where manufacturers repeatedly mislead or lie to consumers. I want to believe the hype; I want to feel like makers of pet food truly have our pets interests at heart; I want to know I can trust them to provide safe and nutritious food for my dog and 2 cats. Unfortunately, the truth doesn’t measure up to what I want. If you believe you can walk into a grocery or a big box discount store, pick up a bag of popular dog food and walk out, certain your pet will benefit from your purchase, you really need to read the following myths about the pet food industry.

Myth #1:  Big pet food manufacturers have the best interests of our dogs and cats in mind when they create their products.

The truth is that they don’t give a rat’s fanny about the well-being of our pets. They are all about their bottom line and making sure they pass the necessary Department of Agriculture , Food & Drug Administration, and AAFCO inspections. As long as the product sells, their concern ends.

Notice that I described them as “Big pet food manufacturers.” There is a reason for that. I find that many smaller companies tend to produce, or try to produce better and safer products.

Myth #2:  That commercial pet food is safe.

Some commercial pet foods are safe, and some have way too many problems. Aside from ingredients in the actual products, there can be problems with mold in the grains used, sanitation in the production process, lack of oversight and inspections, which leads me to the next myth.

Cats do best on a diet of meat

Myth #3:  That the FDA enforces the laws it makes about pet food manufacturing. 

The truth is quite different. Susan Thixton tells it best in her quest to get answers from the FDA. Our government’s “watchdog” over all things pet food doesn’t seem to go after the big problems which appear to be created by big companies. Instead, they focus on the little guy. Read her article to understand the lack of oversight by the very group that should be protecting our pets.

Myth #4:  If a veterinarian sells it, it must be good.

Many vet clinics offer Hill’s Science Diet for sale. The example below shows the ingredients in their Canine Adult Beef & Chicken Canned Dog Food.

One example showing pet food industry does not have pets best health in mind.

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you already know that the ingredients are not what pets should be eating. The first 4 ingredients count the most in weight, and the very first is water. The fourth ingredient is a by-product, which should not be fed to any dog or cat. The next 4 ingredients are grains, which could also be bad. More about that in the next myth. Science Diet chooses to use soybean oil in this product. Soy is one of the grains that is most likely a genetically-modified ingredient since more than 90% of the soy grown in the United States is genetically modified. GMO plants are sprayed with the commercial equivalent of Round-Up and that ends up in pet food.

Corn is not good for pets.

Myth #5:  That corn is a safe protein alternative in pet food.  Once more, the truth is that many pets are allergic to corn. For more information about the inclusion of corn and other grains, read my article, “The Truth about Grains in Pet Food.” You will find that some animals develop skin conditions or ear infections from eating corn. Corn really isn’t all that high in protein, compared to real meat. Plus, you run the risk of grain molds and mites in the food. Some manufacturers place corn or some derivative of it as the first or second ingredient in their products. That means that your pet would be eating more corn than the other ingredients in the food.

Myth #6:  That dry pet food doesn’t spoil.  Not so! Dry dog and cat foods are subject to mold.  That’s why they show an expiration date on the package. When I operated a retail pet supplies shop, we sent several packages of pet food back to the supplier because the customer opened them and found the product was full of mold. In those cases, the food was well within the expiration date, meaning the food spoiled by some other means.

Myth #7:  Pet food manufacturers don’t lie.  This one really bothers me, because I want to believe the ads I see on television. I want to believe they wouldn’t intentionally harm a pet. But there are documented cases where well-known companies did mislead the public with lies in their advertising. Blue Buffalo admitted in Court that a “substantial and material portion of Blue Buffalo pet foods sold the last few years contained poultry by-product meal, despite pervasive advertising claims to the contrary.”  Yet, we’ve all seen the television ads in years past that specifically said NO By-Products in their foods. They blamed the mistake on their supplier and that may be the truth. But pet food companies owe it to their customers to research their own products and know for sure what is in them before they go on the open market.

Myth #8:  That by-products are good for pets and high in protein. Yes, they can be high in protein but the good may end right there. As I wrote here, by-products come from the rendering industry. Laws require that if a by-product is named, such as chicken by-products, it cannot contain other animals or bones and blood and feathers, among others. If the by-product is general, such as meat by-products or meat meal, there is no telling what may be in that food.

“Meat by-products are created by cooking animal carcasses at such a high heat that the material is melted.  Anything usable is separated from the mess and dried, separating fat from bone.  Out of this, they form a protein meal, which becomes kibble you see in dry pet food.  Most by-products contain parts of animals that are not suitable for humans to eat.”

The pet food industry doesn't always take care of our pets' nutritional needs.Keep in mind that any ingredient that is not a specifically-named meat is prepared in a rendering vat that can contain supermarket waste, old restaurant fat/grease that may have been outside in high heat for weeks before being picked up, euthanized animals from veterinarians, and even road kill. For more information on the pet food rendering industry, read this.  Avoid meat by-products and meals unless they are named meats, like chicken, beef, lamb.

Americans spend approximately 17.4 billion dollars a year on pet food, and every manufacturer wants to get a piece of that pie. Be sure you know the truth before you shop for dog or cat food and don’t be fooled by all the media hype.


5 Good Reasons to Include Pumpkin in Your Pet’s Diet


Pumpkin in pet food is good for pets.

Have you noticed how many brands of pet food are including pumpkin as an ingredient?  This is a good idea because pumpkin offers many health benefits to dogs and cats. I find it included in cans of dog and cat food, as well as in dry kibble. I always keep an extra can of processed pumpkin in my pantry in case one of the animals becomes ill. It’s a go-to staple.

Below are ways that pumpkin can help keep your pet healthy:

*Pumpkin is high in fiber. That makes it good for a home remedy for diarrhea in dogs or cats, at least in small amounts.  The pumpkin binds the contents of the digestive tract and absorbs extra water.

*Pumpkin also helps pets with constipation problems. Surprisingly, this food item helps with both health issues. Because pumpkin is so packed with fiber, it can help keep Fluffy and Fido “regular.”

*Pumpkin is packed with moisture.  Cats, especially, don’t drink enough water on their own. Feeding them a little bit of pumpkin as a snack or in their food a couple times a day will help alleviate the problem that not drinking enough water can create.

*Pumpkin is high in vitamins and antioxidants.  It contains as much potassium as bananas and is loaded with magnesium, iron, zinc, beta carotene and Vitamins A and C.

*Pumpkin helps prevent hairballs.  The fiber in the pumpkin keeps the hair that Fluffy ingests moving naturally through the animal’s digestive system.  I’ve used this with my cats for years, and it does seem to help.

The fact that pumpkin is low in fat also benefits your pet’s health. It is important to use canned pumpkin, unless you actually take time to scrape and cook the pulp from a fresh pumpkin. Too many people allow a fresh pumpkin to sit around for days and don’t realize that the vegetable can grow bacteria and mold. The canned product is much easier and you can always have a can on hand when needed.  Be sure it is the pure pumpkin and not pie filling, which includes a lot of ingredients, including sugar, that won’t help Fluffy or Fido.

My cats don’t like anything extra added to their food, so I have learned to give them a dab of pumpkin on my finger a couple of times a day.  They think it’s a treat and look forward to it and the extra attention. My dog will eat anything that isn’t nailed down, so adding a tablespoon or more to her food bowl is easy.

As always, I recommend discussing the addition of pumpkin to your pet’s diet with your veterinary professional.  He or she  knows best.

How to Know if Your Pet’s Diet is Organic or Natural or Neither

There is a lot of talk about choosing “organic” or “natural” pet foods, but there’s also a lot of confusion about what makes a food organic or natural. First of all, organic is not the same thing as natural and it’s important to know the difference.  Organic refers to how an ingredient is grown or raised, or what happens to it during that growing/raising process.  Natural is determined by what occurs to the ingredient or product after it leaves its place of origin. While products labeled as “natural” usually contain healthier ingredients, there are no regulations governing it. Just because a pet food package claims the product is all natural, that doesn’t make it so.

Natural pet food most likely won’t contain chemicals or artificial anything. There will be no growth hormones or additives that aren’t considered natural. But that doesn’t mean the product is free from genetically modified organisms. Remember that if it was sprayed in the fields while growing with a pesticide containing GMO, that won’t stop it from being labeled “natural.” AAFCO, the pet food governing organization, says “natural is about not using chemicals or chemical processes to create food. For example, if a preservative is used in a pet food, it must be a natural preservative, such as tocopherals, which are really Vitamin E.  AAFCO uses the USDA organic certification standards for ingredients, their handling, manufacturing and labeling but it doesn’t have the authority to regulate or test the products for compliance. The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) regulations cover ingredient sourcing, ingredient handling, manufacturing, labeling and certification of products wanting to use the term “organic” in labeling.

Organic products must go through a more rigorous set of standards in order to obtain that label. No synthetic fertilizers or GMO’s can be used during the growing process. Less than 5% of hormones and pesticides are allowed. If a product claims to be “made with organic ingredients,” that means only 70% of the food is truly organic.  If the claim is 100% organic, that means that all of the food should be pure and organic. Know that organic ingredients and products derive from plant, animal or mined sources.

This Bulldog Eats Organic Food.

Maggie In Her Favorite Hat

According to “Dogs Naturally Magazine,” pets will benefit from an organic diet in numerous ways. The pet should experience a reduction in weight, digestive issues, fewer respiratory problems,  It should experience a stronger immunity to disease and live a longer life.

Not all organic foods are equal. Cereal grains may be organic but in any form, they are still fillers and not the basic meat, vegetables, fruits and vitamins that pets need. As Anthony Bennie, co-founder of, wrote in a Linkedin article, “Ingredients may claim to be ‘natural’ or even be ‘Certified Organic, but if they serve no defined purpose they too are fillers. It’s far better to have a high meat conventional diet than a cereal-filled ‘organic’ diet!”

If you cannot afford the proper organic diet or for any reason do not choose that route for your pet, you can still improve his or her diet by adding small organic items to the animal’s daily diet. Something as simple as adding a raw, organic egg to your pet’s regular food each day adds nutrients. Be sure to read those labels and avoid the GMO ingredients like corn or soy.








The Mystery Meat in Pet Food

Lower priced pet foods contain all sorts of bad ingredients. Most are easy to pick out, but some deceive the shopper because they sound good.  Meat meal is one of those mystery ingredients. Meat meal is the dried powder that’s left after the rendering process does its job, and it’s basically high in protein. But…there’s meat meal …and there’s meat meal, twisting the saying slightly. The consumer needs to know how to choose good meal from bad meal. As Mike Sagman of wrote, “No meal is EVER better than the raw materials that are used to make it!”

Meal is good! All meal in pet food contains a lot more protein than does fresh meat. But how it is prepared and with what ingredients are the keys to a good product. To better explain the process, consider a whole, fresh chicken. That chicken contains about 70% water and only 18% protein. Put that whole chicken through the rendering process, what is left is a powdery meal that contains only 10% water and 65% protein. This meat meal is what goes into the making of dry dog and cat food.

When you shop for pet food, look for a named meat meal.  By that, I mean a species name.  The better meat meals come from clearly identified meats, such as chicken meal, beef meal, or duck meal. So how do you recognize the bad meat meals? Look for ingredients like meat meal, animal meal, poultry meal or blood meal, and any meal that includes the term “by-product” in its name. Examples would be chicken by-product meal or lamb by-product meal.

Avoid meat and bone meal. The actual definition of meat and bone meal allows the manufacturer to include fur, hooves, horns and horns and manure. In the Truth About Pet Food blog, author Susan Thixton writes about an AAFCO meeting in August, 2015, with several consumer advocates attending. Ms. Thixton was one of those. The article states that said advocates “were witness to the discussion of non-slaughtered, spent laying hens ground whole – feathers, feet, feces and all – becoming the pet food ingredients chicken/poulty by products and chicken/poultry by-product meal.”

This is not the type of food we consumers want our pets to eat, yet you can walk down the pet food aisle of your supermarket or big box store and find package after package of dog and cat foods that contain these bad meat meals. One example that I like to use, mostly because I detest this pet food, is Beneful. Beneful is a popular dog food seen in television commercials and magazine ads. Yet, it contains several ingredients that dogs should not eat. Beneful Originals® with Real Chicken contains chicken by-product meal and poultry by-product meal, neither of which are good for dogs.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty advertising that touts cheap, poor quality food as perfectly balanced and good for your dog or cat. Be careful when you shop and don’t settle for garbage pet food. You’ll save money down the road on veterinary care and your dog or cat will thank you for providing them a better diet.



5 Quick Tips to Increase Your Senior Pet’s Life

As my pets approach, or have attained senior status, I am more conscious than ever of their health and longevity.  Gator, my big Weimaraner, is 12 and is definitely in his twilight years.  Lucy, the Siamese-mix, is 10; Chico, a Snowshoe Siamese-mix, is 9 ½ years old; and Maggie, the Bulldog, will celebrate her 8th birthday in October.  I don’t like to think of the future without my beloved pets, so I do whatever I can to improve their lives and keep them in the best of health.

Senior Cat

Lucy, a Senior Kitty

Here are a few suggestions for you to keep your dog or cat in tip-top condition and hopefully increase his or her lifespan:

Buy the best pet food you can afford.  Healthy food supports good digestion, improves the immune system and even cognitive function.  That is especially important for senior pets, because impaired cognitive function can wreak havoc on an animal’s life.  We are witnessing some of that with Gator now.  Avoid by-products, artificial preservatives, corn, soy, wheat and be sure the food contains 1 or 2 named meats in the first  4 ingredients.  If you cook homemade food for your pet, check with your veterinarian to be sure you are including all of the vitamins and minerals and amino acids needed for an animal to thrive.

Keep your pet’s weight under control.  Obese dogs and cats won’t live as long.  Ask your veterinarian for help, if your fur-baby needs to lose a few pounds.

Some vaccinations are necessary; others are not.  As animals age, they build up some immunity to diseases.  Talk to your veterinarian about titer tests, which will tell exactly what vaccines are in the animal’s system in an amount to protect him from disease. Rabies vaccinations are required in all states, but many others could be optional.  You want to protect your senior pet but not over-vaccinate.

Exercise helps keep Fido and Fluffy young.  Our Gator struggles to get up and down inside the house but take him outside on-leash, and he becomes a puppy again.  He loves his walks around the lake, and I’m convinced they help keep him mobile.  Walk your dogs, play with your cats.  Keep them moving, even in their senior years.

Keep your pet’s teeth in good condition.  Daily brushing goes a long way toward good dental health in dogs and cats.  When your vet says it’s time for a professional cleaning, get it done.  Dental infections occur in pets and poor hygiene is a contributor.