What’s In a Filler?

The more we learn about pet food, the scarier the term “filler” becomes.  Filler technically refers to an ingredient with little to no nutritional value just taking up space in a food to keep the cost down.  For the most part, that is true, but there are a few fillers that do contain some nutrients.

Proponents of using corn as a substitute for meat in pet food will argue that corn is just as good as real meat; that it contains large amounts of protein and other nutrients and is an acceptable alternative to real meat.

The problem I have with that theory is that dogs and cats don’t digest plant proteins very well.  Many animals are allergic to corn.

Other common fillers found in dog and cat foods include all forms of wheat, white rice, potatoes, peanut hulls, and soy among others.   Some say that soy is nutritional but I have the same argument as corn:  It’s a plant and dogs and cats don’t digest them well.

White potatoes also have some nutritional value but the high carbohydrates in potatoes are totally unnecessary.   Cats and dogs don’t need those calories.

Too many empty carbs is a common thread with all the fillers mentioned.   Along with the obvious weight gain that comes from a high-carb diet, pet owner should think about diabetes.   Overweight animals and those that regularly consume a diet high in carbohydrates are prone to developing diabetes.

One more reason to avoid grain fillers in pet food today is the frequency of molds and similar toxins found in them. Aflatoxin is a fungus that was a problem causing dog food recalls in 2006.   All pet owners remember the 2007 recalls of dog and cat food after so many pets died from eating food with grains tainted with melamine.

Today, I’m reading stories about far too many cases of grains found to contain mycotoxins.   All of these problems result from lack of good storage techniques.  You as a consumer cannot control how the food was stored before you purchased it, so your best defense against harmful ingredients in your pet’s food is to avoid fillers entirely.   A higher-quality dog or cat food or treats will save you money in the long run on veterinary bills, and a diet of grain-free dog or cat food is by far the best for your pet.


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