Category Archives: What’s In My Dog’s Food?

Floor Sweepings: Pet Food Or Trash?

Manufacturers use all sorts of tactics to keep the costs down and profits up in pet food.  We see it in the use of rendered material included in dog and cat food, in the low quality meats used the foods, and in the use of what I refer to as “trash grains,” often called “floor sweepings.”  Just as with meat, the better parts of grains (like whole corn, wheat, rice or barley) are used for human food.  The leftovers, or sweepings, often become pet food.

Here is how it works:  In an article on, the author writes “Those whole grains (used in pet food) have the starch removed for corn starch powder and the oil is extracted for corn oil or they are just hulls and other remnants from the milling process.”

“Grains used that are truly whole have likely been deemed unfit for human consumption because of mold contaminants, poor quality, or poor handling practices…Pet food is one of the world’s most edible products containing virtually no whole ingredients.”

Why, you may ask, would manufacturers include such poor quality fillers in the pet food products? It’s all about the money!  It certainly isn’t about making nutritious food for our dogs and cats.

Many of the cereal grains used in pet food are leftovers from the human food industry and declared unfit for humans. These are lower quality ingredients that the Food & Drug Administration won’t approve for human food. Why the FDA believes it is acceptable to use this trash in dog and cat food is beyond me. lists some of the offending grains:  Corn cobs, peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean hulls, Brewer’s rice, almond shells, grain fragments, powdered cellulose, fermentation waste, and “cereal fines,” the parts of breakfast cereals “that become a by-product of their processing.”

Other common grain fillers include wheat middlings and shorts and waste products from the corn industry such as corn bran.  Also considered trash grains are wheat germ meal and soy flour, which can be the sweepings from the manufacturing plant’s floor.

Aside from knowing that you are paying for ingredients in your pet’s food that aren’t worth the money you spend, there are health hazards to such grains.  Because those leftover grains so often become contaminated with molds, insects, or bacteria, a dog or cats is at risk when eating them, day after day.  There are some experts who insist that neither corn nor wheat cause allergies in pets, but I beg to differ.  We went through 12 years of dealing with our Weimaraner’s food issues and corn was one huge culprit.  Logic tells us that if the dog breaks out in hives and suffers major intestinal issues after eating a dog food containing various types of corn and then heals up once placed on a grain-free food, followed by another trial of the food with corn with similar results, the dog is allergic to or sensitive to corn.

The solution to all of this is to feed your dog or cat food containing zero grains.  Look for real meat in the first 2 or 3 ingredients, followed by healthy vegetables and fruits instead of grains.  A healthy fat and vitamins and minerals should also be included in a pet’s healthy diet.  Don’t allow your pet to become victim to poor nutrition.



Why Use Coconut Oil on Your Pets?

Did you know that coconut oil is beneficial to your dog’s wellbeing? According to naturopathic veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker, “Coconut oil is a rich source of MCT’s. MCT’s are medium-chain Triglycerides and have been shown to improve brain energy metabolism and decrease the amyloid protein buildup that occurs in brain lesions in older dogs. Coconut oil is a rich source of MCT’s.” Dr. Becker recommends 1/4 teaspoon for every 10 lbs. of body weight. (

Nutritionists say that coconut oil not only elevates the metabolism and provides a higher level of energy, it protects from illness and speeds healing.  Some say coconut oil helps control diabetes and assists with weight loss.  For those with digestive issues, coconut oil is reputed to improve digestion and nutrient absorption and aids the healing of inflammatory bowel disease.

We used this oil on our Weimaraner’s coat in his final 2 years.  He suffered from skin allergies and his fur was dry and lackluster. Coconut oil did improve his skin and gave him back his shiny coat. We added 2 tablespoons of the oil to his dinner each day and he loved it.  Talk to your veterinarian before adding coconut oil to your pet’s diet, and he or she can give you the exact amount to add to the animal’s food.

This amazing oil also helps eliminate dog odor and helps treat fungal and yeast infections in our pets. If your dog suffers from flea allergies or eczema, coconut oil helps clear that up.

Some experts recommend the use of coconut oil on cats, as well as dogs.  The benefits would be the same for both species. Uses of this oil are endless and should benefit all pets.


Should These GMO Foods be Included in Your Dog’s Diet?

If you follow this blog, you know how much I dislike genetically-modified products in both pet and human foods. I found a list of the top GMO crops in the United States at Let’s look at each of them and see if they should be fed to our pets, even if they aren’t genetically modified.

Alfalfa is a flowering plant similar to clover in appearance with purple flowers. While it is high in protein, alfalfa is missing many of the amino acids found in real meat and dogs need those in their diet to thrive.  A little alfalfa in an otherwise high-quality diet won’t hurt your pet.

Canola oil is used in many commercial pet foods.  According to, “The FDA provided Canola Oil a ‘heart healthy’ status in 2006. The heart healthy status was petitioned by the U.S. Canola Oil Assn., stating the claim may encourage food manufacturers (and pet food manufacturers) to substitute canola oil for other oils with less favorable nutritional profiles.”  The truth is a bit different. Canola oil was created because the food industry wanted a cheaper source of monounsaturated oil in order to keep up with the growing popularity of olive oil and its benefits to good health.  In a study sponsored by the Weston A. Price Foundation, the real story of canola oil came to light ( According to this report, canola oil is actually a poisonous substance that doesn’t belong in food. Those opposed to its use say it causes blindness, mad cow disease, nervous disorders and negatively affects the immune system.  On the other side, many say the the claims are ridiculous and wrong. Some users say it causes nausea and stomach pains.  You, the consumer, must decide this one because both sides have valid points. For more on canola oil, click here.

Corn is another food that sparks controversy. 80% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically-modified.  This means that corn will be sprayed glyphosphates (Round-Up) to kill weeds and insects. I don’t want weed killer in my food or the food my pets consume. Many proponents of corn believe it is a viable alternative to meat as a protein, but some pets are allergic to corn. Dogs do not process plant proteins as easily as they do real meat.

Soy is used more and more in pet food. Even if it were not genetically-modified, I would not want my pets eating it.  Dr. Karen Becker writing on, says that soybean products have been linked to seizures in dogs and cats.  That’s enough for me but since most of the soy grown in this country is genetically modified and therefore subject to the same glyphosphates spraying as corn, I don’t want any part of it.  It’s just not good for pets.

Sugar Beets create lots of discussion and argument when it comes to adding it to pet food.  Beet pulp, which is what’s left when the sugar beet is processed, is a source of fiber – which aids digestion.  Proponents say that most of the sugar is removed and therefore, this is a good addition to a dog’s diet. Those opposed argue that it is nothing more than a useless filler.  My research leads me to believe that in small amounts, beet pulp serves a good purpose. So look for it to be listed far down the list of ingredients.  If it is too near the top, the amount would be greater and might be useless calories.

Zucchini and Yellow Squash are high in calcium and beta-carotene. You can serve it to dogs as snacks or use it as an ingredient in his food or homemade cookie treats. Just know where it originated when you buy it. Summer squash is usually abundant in farmer’s markets where you can ask how it was grown and if any chemicals were used on the vegetable while it was in the ground.

There are other crops that are suspected to be in GMO production. Susan Thixton of says these are called “Monitored Crops.”  Flax, rice and wheat come under that suspicion. (

The only way to be sure  that your chosen dog or cat food is completely free of GMO ingredients is to call the manufacturer and ask.

I am not saying that you should avoid every GMO food in your pet’s diet. Given that so many of the ingredients in pet foods are now genetically modified, you could easily miss one.  Just follow the guidelines on the BARKS & MEOWS page at the top and you’ll be able to serve your dog a healthy

Update on Beneful Dog Food

With the Class Action lawsuit against Beneful pet food, I’ve received a number of emails and comments on this site questioning the safety of this food or sharing sad stories of dogs lost to something in the food.  Today, I received a link to a new article by Susan Thixton of Truth About Pet Food ( discussing the history of Beneful as she knows it.  I want to share some of her points with you here:

Ms. Thixton talked about some consumer-funded testing done in 2012 by another pet food safety advocate that found “10 different mycotoxins in one batch of Beneful Original.  The food was ranked as high risk due to the number and levels of mycotoxins in the food.  This testing also found several antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in the dog food.  One of those strains, Pseudomonas, has been associated with putrid meat by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.”

Ms. Thixton went on to say that the food “contains animal fat, meat and bone meal, and animal digest, rendered ingredients that could include euthanized animals.  The food contains propylene glycol, a toxic ingredient. Chemical colors are included that are linked to cancers in lab animals.  Multiple grains are included that are sure to be genetically modified and treated with pesticides.”

The point Susan Thixton makes in her article is that we don’t know what will result from the cumulative effects of multiple questionable ingredients in this pet food.  Are the effects magnified as the dog consumes more and more of the food?  With so many potential problem ingredients, one has to wonder about the safety of Beneful.

The last point I want to make is that I tend to believe in the saying, “where there is smoke, there may be fire.”  When you know that other pet owners are talking and writing about dogs dying from eating a certain pet food and those numbers keep rising, common sense says to stay away from it!

Take this article to your veterinarian. Ask him or her for an opinion.  Read what has to say about the food in question.  I saw over 800 complaints on that site alone.  Then read the BARKS & MEOWS page at the top of this website and know what to look for in dog food when you shop.  Google the brand that looks good to you and search for complaints or recalls to learn the foods history.  Talk to friends.  Visit a holistic pet store and ask questions.  Ask them for samples of various healthy pet foods and try them on your dog before your buy.  No matter how healthy the pet food is, if your dog won’t eat it, there is no point in purchasing it.  Manufacturers provide small packages of samples of their products free to retail pet supply stores.  Or you can email me at for my personal recommendations.  You actually can find premium pet foods at prices lower than you see in some pet stores.

Questionable Jerky Pet Treats Back on Store Shelves & FDA Issues Warning

Recently, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released their latest report on the Chinese-made jerky pet treats investigation. In this ongoing investigation, the FDA collaborated with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on a case control study. However, a specific cause for the many pet illnesses and deaths is yet to be found.

Since October, 2013, the FDA has received approximately 1800 more cases of illness in pets with a suspected cause being the jerky pet treats. Overall, the agency has collected more than 4800 complaints of illnesses in pets that ate chicken, duck or sweet potato jerky treats. Most of those were made in China. More than 5600 dogs, 24 cats, and 3 people have taken ill and more than 1000 canine deaths were reported. Those are some rather staggering statistics.

Symptoms of these recent illnesses are similar to the reports prior to October, 2013. Gastrointestinal, liver disease, kidney or urinary disease symptoms were suffered by 10% of the cases. 15% of the kidney and urinary cases also tested positive for Fanconi Syndrom.

The CDC usually tracks cases of human illness but agreed to work with the FDA on this ongoing study of sick dogs versus dogs that were not ill. The hope is that data collected from this study will help the FDA to better understand the source of the pet illnesses.

According to the FDA, testing of Chinese-made jerky treats revealed the presence of amantadine in some chicken jerky samples that were sold a year or more ago. Amantadine is an antiviral drug approved by the FDA for use in humans. While it has also been used in dogs for pain control, it is NOT approved for use in poultry. However, the FDA doesn’t believe amantadine is the cause of the illnesses, because the side effects of the drug do not correlate with the symptoms in the jerky treat illnesses. China was warned of the problem, and the Chinese authorities promised to do a better job of screening jerky treat manufacturers.

I’m sure that brings great assurance to the owners of pets that have suffered and died after eating Chinese-sourced jerky treats.
The bottom line: They still don’t know what it is about the Chinese-sourced jerky treats that is causing so many problems.

Jerky pet treats manufactured by Nestle Purina and Del Monte are back on store shelves after an earlier voluntary withdrawal of their products from the market.

Chinese-made jerky pet treats still harm pets

Chinese-made jerky pet treats still harm pets

There is an easy solution to this ongoing issue: Resolve to NEVER purchase any food product for your pet that is manufactured in or sourced in China. Stick to healthy pet treats from sources you can trust.

My recommendation is to feed your pets Healthy Gourmet Treats from PureZa for Life or any of the treats manufactured by Clear Conscience Pets. Your pets will thank you!

Carol’s 7 Tips for Choosing Healthy Pet Treats

healthy dog treatsChoosing healthy dog treats can be a daunting task.  Regular readers of this blog know by now what should and should not be in any food our dogs eat, but treats are a little different.  We aren’t searching for a complete, nutritious meal when we purchase a bag of treats, but some care is still necessary to be certain a product is healthy.

My own criteria for choosing a really good treat for my dogs include several important points:

  1. The treat must contain at least 1 high-quality meat.  By that, I mean a named meat source such as lamb or chicken.   Such rendered items as meat meal or chicken by-product meal are not acceptable.
  2. All ingredients must be sourced in the United States or New Zealand for lamb.  While I recognize that perfectly healthy pet food may originate in other countries, I prefer to stick with countries that I know value the ingredients they allow in pet food.
  3. For my dogs, the treat must be grain-free.  I know there are some good dog treats available that do include healthy grains. However, one of my dogs is on a totally grain-free diet, so I expect the treats I buy to fit his need.  Treats that are grain-free use fruits and/or vegetables as alternatives.
  4. It should not contain any artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.  It goes without saying that a decent dog treat won’t include chemicals.
  5. No sugar or added salt or soy. I have purchased treats containing honey or molasses, but sugar contributes to high blood sugar; salt is not necessary in a dog’s diet; dog’s don’t digest soy products well.  7.
  6. Should use only natural fat sources of high-quality.  Named meat fats are the only kind of meat fat sources I will feed to my dogs.  I prefer to see healthy alternatives, such as flax seed oil or olive oil.
  7.  Must not contain glycerin of any kind.  Glycerin can be found in semi-moist foods and treats.  It is a sugar alcohol compound and common sense says it could raise blood glucose, leading to diabetes.  One source of glycerin comes from the jatropha seed.  According to, the FDA recently began notifying “regulated industries that products using glycerin derived from jatropha seeds may be toxic to humans and animals.”  Packages of treats do not tell you the source of any glycerin used.

When I shop for pet treats, I check the ingredients list on the package for the 8 criteria listed above.  If the treat doesn’t fit my rather strict expectations, I won’t buy it.  Because of my work in reviewing pet foods and treats for this blog, companies often send me samples of their products.  If they ask first, I tell them my criteria and that if their products don’t fit my requirements, please don’t send me their treats or food.  I will never feed something to my dogs, if it doesn’t live up to what I consider suitable for them to eat and such a product won’t receive a good review on this website.



The Truth About Grains in Pet Food

When it comes to pet food, there are good grains and not so good grains.  As a pet owner, you need to know the difference.

Do dogs or cats really need any grains added to their diets?  Both species are primarily carnivores.  In the wild, the only food they are likely to consume would be the prey they catch.  But said prey, such as rabbits, squirrels, or birds, may eat a diet of grains.  So a wild dog or cat would probably be including some kinds of grain in their meals.

Grains are high in carbohydrates with little protein.  Grains add calories, which translate to weight gain and health concerns in time.

Looking first at carbohydrates,  there are simple carbs and complex carbs.  Simple carbohydrates foster energy, and complex carbs promote gastrointestinal help.  Both have a purpose.  While they are found in abundance in grains, carbohydrates are also present in certain vegetables.  Simple carbs may provide energy, but the empty calories aren’t worth it.

Grains can present problems for our pets with allergies.  Corn is used in place of meat in many lower-priced pet foods, acting as a protein.  Yet many dogs and cats are allergic to corn.  Look on the ingredients list for corn, corn meal, or corn gluten meal.  Manufacturers use several forms of this grain to save money.  Signs of allergies in dogs and cats from corn products include chronic itching, loss of fur, red and/or infected ears and yeast infections in the ears.

When our Gator was a puppy, he suffered from chronic ear problems….the same red, itchy ears and yeast infections.  Those problems never cleared up until we changed his diet to one without corn.  The veterinarian we used at that time didn’t suggest that as a possibility.  A friend told us that corn might be the culprit.  Since that time, Gator has never suffered another ear problem.

A grain-free diet gave Gator his shiny fur coat

Gator Showing Off His Shiny Coat

Over the years, our big dog struggled with skin rashes and loss of fur, and we went from one pet food to another trying to find the solution.  Some upset his stomach after a few weeks.  He now eats a totally grain-free diet that works well for him, and he sports a gorgeous, shiny silver/brown coat.

According to, another problem with feeding grains to pets is that insects can be found in cheap, low-quality grains.

“Grain infestations are so common that damage done by insects after crops are harvested is sometimes greater than the damage done during the growing season itself…That’s how the carcasses of dead grain insects can so easily end up in commercial dog food.  These common dog food pollutants should be considered prime suspects in any attempt to prevent canine allergies.”

The article goes on to say that when you mix low-quality feed grain with moisture and then store them together, you get mites. Lots of mites!  And these can be in your pet’s food if it is a low-quality product containing grain.

Atopic dermatitis is a real problem for dogs and mites in pet food grains could be one cause.  White rice is another troublesome grain for pets.  Diabetes is on the rise in dogs and cats, and feeding them a diet high in white rice is not healthy and can contribute to high blood glucose.

I guess you can tell at this point that I advocate grain-free dog and cat food.  The improvement in my own dog’s health made a believer out of me!  If you are going to include grains in your pet’s diet, consider a healthier variety.  Barley is one such option.  Just be sure the barley is the type containing higher protein and is intended for human use, rather than the lower-quality barley that is high in maltose and used mainly for brewing beer.  How do you know?  Ask the manufacturer.  But there are no guarantees you’ll get the answer you want.  Barley doesn’t provide much in the way of nutrients and is high in unnecessary carbohydrates, but it does provide fiber for digestion.

Perhaps a food with oats as a filler would better suit your pet.  Oats are a healthier choice.  They are full of nutrients, protein and fiber and are known to be low in glucose.  Instead of purchasing dog food containing oats,  make your own oatmeal and share some with your pets.  It’s good for both of you.

Pets don’t require a grain-free diet, but grains shouldn’t take up too much space in the food.  That means it should be found far down on the ingredients list.  If you do want to include grains, stick to healthy options such as oats or barley or whole brown rice and avoid the cheaper grains like corn, wheat or refined rice.


Common “Fillers” In Pet Food

In many articles, I have written about fillers in pet food.  They are usually, though not always, carbohydrates with little or no nutritional value.  Manufacturers use the fillers to take up space in a product.  They are cheap ingredients that help keep the cost down and are most always found in lower quality pet food.

Grains or potatoes are often the filler of choice.  Corn is a grain that, as well as being used in a carbohydrate position, is also used to replace a better quality protein in many low-quality pet foods.

There are some pet food nutritionists who take exception to corn being classified as a filler but like it or not, corn is not meat.  It is higher in carbohydrates and many dogs and cats are allergic to it.  Corn may be found in several forms….corn, corn gluten, corn meal, corn gluten meal.  None of them are particularly good for Fido or Fluffy.

Pet foods containing fillers encourage weight gain and in some cases, diabetes.  They are not healthy options for dog and cat food.  Your dog or cat need protein found in a decent-quality meat, such as beef, chicken, lamb or fish.  The addition of grains of any sort are just not necessary.  Diabetes could shorten your pet’s life.   Choose his food carefully.

Grains such as white rice, brewer’s rice, and rice hulls all contribute to obesity and don’t offer much nutrition.  They really serve no purpose in dog or cat food.

Wheat is another grain that doesn’t need to be included in pet food.  You may see it as wheat gluten or wheat middlings.  There is nothing wrong with wheat but pets don’t need it in their diets to thrive.

Soy flour and soybean meal should be avoided.  Many pets don’t digest soy in any form.

Those are just some of the fillers used in commercial dog and cat foods.  While you don’t have to know the entire list, make sure you understand each ingredient that is listed on the pet food you purchase.  Most importantly, know that manufacturers use fillers to help them keep the cost down so they can sell the food to you at a lower price.  But lower price doesn’t always translate to healthy pet food.  Pay a bit more for dog or cat food and you may see fewer veterinarian bills down the road.

Another Reason to Avoid Corn In Pet Food

According to a recent harvest analysis by Alltech, a global animal health and nutrition company, “all of the corn and corn silage samples submitted during the 2013 harvest tested positive for multiple mycotoxins.” (

This testing demonstrated a need for producers/farmers to create a program to monitor the effects of toxins on all animal species.

The contamination caused by mycotoxins in pet food presents serious health risks to our pets, because the grains they attack are commonly used in the commercial foods we purchase for our dogs and cats.  In fact, several outbreaks of mycotoxin in pet food have been reported in recent years.

In an MSNBC News Services report in 2006, it was reported that “most outbreaks of pet mycotoxicosis remain unpublished and involve the deaths of hundreds of animals.”

“Mycotoxins are secondary fungal metabolites that exert toxic effects on animals and humans.”  These toxic secondary fungal metabolites pose a serious risk to humans and animals if cereal grains and animal feed become colonized by the fungi.

Mycotoxins grow on grains that are stored at warm temperatures with a lot of moisture present.  Proper care and storage could eliminate the problem.

Of the three main types of pet food – dry, canned and semi-moist – dry food is most likely to contain grains where mycotoxins can thrive.

Feed your pets as high a quality of food as your budget will allow, so that you are confident that it won’t be compromised by mycotoxins.  Always check the expiration date on dog or cat food and don’t give your pet outdated food.  When you get the food home, be sure to store it properly in sealed containers in the original bag to avoid any moisture getting into the food.

If you are still worried about the safety of your beloved pet’s food, choose a grain-free product that won’t contain any cereal grains.

Chinese-Made Jerky Treats: Questions Remain

Just when I was beginning to believe that all the publicity about the dangers of Chinese-made pet jerky treats had reached the attention of most pet owners so they would stop buying these questionable treats for their pets, comes word that Waggin’ Train jerky treats are on their way back to retail store shelves.  Thank you, Purina!

Illegal antibiotics were found in those jerky treats (other brands, as well), resulting in the numerous treat brands being pulled from the market.  Here’s the problem, according to

“With other recalled or withdrawn from market pet products that are put back on store shelves, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) oversees that the manufacturer has corrected the ‘problem.’  But with Chinese jerky treats…the ‘fix’ would have to come from thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of poultry producers in China.”

My question:  Who is going to police these Waggin Train jerky treats to make sure they don’t still contain the same antibiotics that caused their removal from store shelves in the first place?

Is the FDA going to help?  Susan Thixton (  wrote that in late October, 2013, the FDA released a report about their 7-year investigation into the thousands of illnesses and pet deaths related to the Chinese-made dog and cat treats.  The FDA provided a document that detailed the tests the FDA claims had been done on said jerky products and the results of those tests.  This document included the test results from New York State Laboratory showing that illegal antibiotic residues were found in many of the Chinese-made jerky treats.  You can read about the results of those tests here.

But there is a problem:  The FDA document does not match the results released by the New York Department of Agriculture (NY  State Lab).  Their results showed significantly higher residue of antibiotic drugs in the jerky treats than those reported by the FDA.

Is there a gigantic cover-up by the Food and Drug Administration?  Was it just a mistake?  I certainly don’t know, but I do know enough to avoid any pet food or treats sourced in China.

There have been entirely too many reports of trouble with Chinese-made pet food and treats and too many roadblocks put in place by Chinese officials when U.S. officials want to examine their factories.  If you have any doubts or questions, read the article linked above.  In fact, the Truth About Pet Food site is a good one to follow.  Educate yourself so that your pets will stay as healthy as possible.