Most dogs will eat virtually anything. Most cats will not. Despite their different habits, neither gets to choose what we feed them. It’s clear that most of us would do anything to keep our dogs and cats as healthy as possible for as long as possible. But with so much conflicting information regarding companion animal health, how are we to know what makes a healthy meal?

Though there are many philosophies and schools of thought on the subject, there are some definite no-no’s when it comes to purchasing dog & cat food. Here is a list of 10 commonly found, easily avoidable ingredients in cat & dog foods that have been shown to harm the animals who consume them:

  1. UNSPECIFIED MEAT– If your dog or cat food label lists “meat” as its primary or secondary ingredient on its list (or anywhere else on the ingredient list for that matter!) you are feeding your animal road kill, animals who have already died (before they won the winning opportunity to die in the slaughtering plant) due to old age or illness as well as euthanized dogs and cats, which are distinctly labelled ‘meat’ or ‘meat meal’ in very low quality dog and cat foods.
  2. UNSPECIFIED FISH– While fish itself can have its nutritional qualities for dogs and cats, if you notice that your food label lists “fish” without specifying what type of fish is in the food, you are likely feeding you companion animal the most polluted fish, called Tilefish, that are accidentally caught in the fishing net when fishermen and women cast the net to catch sea foods. Also labeled ‘Ocean fish’ or ‘whitefish’, this type of fish is simply a cheap way to call the formula a ‘fish’ formula. Tilefish is so polluted that it will often cause allergies in cats and dogs such as itching, hair loss, vomiting and other unpleasant symptoms.
  3. BHA/BHT– preservatives that have been shown in studies to contain human carcinogens. *A carcinogen is any substance that promotes carcinogenesis which is a process in the formation of cancer.
  4. SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE– Can’t pronounce it? That’s reason alone to realize its lack of health for our animals. Sodium Hexametaphosphate is a preservative that has been linked to skin irritation, swollen kidneys and stunted growth.
  5. FOOD DYES– Most commonly found in kibble (dry food- don’t get me started in why dry food is absolutely unhealthy and harmful to your animal companion!) Food dyes have been linked to concentration disorders in both humans and animals. Red 40, Yellow 5 & 6 all contain benzidone which is a human and animal carcinogen. Food dyes have also been known to cause severe tummy aches (well obviously since food dyes are all chemicals!), IBS and chronic diarrhea.
  6. CARAGEENAN– another preservative that is has been linked to intestinal inflammation. It has also been shown in studies to cause gastrointestinal ulcerations, IBS, cancer and other food allergies. Though Carageenan looks like it may be healthy because it is derived from red seaweed, do not be fooled. This preservative can be quite harmful to our furry friends’ digestive systems.
  7. POWDERED CELLULOSE– While this fancy name may sound like it’s a healthy, plant-based ingredient, it is not. Powdered Cellulose, simply put, is sawdust. Yes, sawdust. Powdered Cellulose is one of the most common ingredients found in almost all cat and dog foods. It is use as filler. Marketing companies use this sawdust to up the fibre content of cat and dog food. Technically, sawdust may be full of fibre, but its clearly NOT the kind of fibre that will aid in anyone’s digestion. Needless to say, Powdered Cellulose is extremely inflammatory and can cause arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, IBS, chronic diarrhea, upset stomach, among other inflammatory illnesses.
  8. CORN GLUTEN– Corn Gluten is another brilliant marketing scheme. Consumers read it in a label and think that they’re feeding their animals a nutritious ingredient. However, they are wrong. First, animals cannot digest corn as it is. Second, Corn Gluten is not even whole corn. It is the remnants of the corn that has been leftover from the corn processing operation; from field to table. That may not sound so bad, right? Wrong. This corn gluten is so toxic that farmers have been using it to kill weeds on their land for decades- MUCH longer than anyone has been using it as filler in cat and dog food. Do you want to feed your animals a by-product that has been used to kill weeds?
  9. ANIMAL BY-PRODUCT– there is much controversy surrounding the use of animal by-product in processed cat & dog food. For all interested parties, animal by-product is the word that marketing companies use to cover a wider variety of animal parts that are leftover after the processing operation from farm to store (or plate). These leftover parts include; chicken beaks, chicken feet, hooves, brains, hair. Undeveloped eggs, heads –  the list goes on. Where the controversy arises is that by-products also contain liver, intestines, kidneys, spleen, stomach, lungs, hearts and other vital organs. Some professionals (both western medical veterinarians as well as homeopathic doctors) claim that these vital organs are rich in pure proteins and energies that can be used to heal the body in a myriad of ways. While this may be the case, do you want to feed your animals beaks, feet, hooves, brains and heads? While there is some merit to feeding our animals whole organs, why not skip the by-product altogether and head to a butcher shop for clean organ meat?
  10. BREWERS RICE– Rice sounds like a healthy part of a balanced meal, yes? Brewers rice couldn’t be further from a balanced part of a whole meal. For one, cats are physiologically unable to digest grains. They lack the digestive enzyme that is responsible for the breakdown of grains. Thus, when they consume grains and starches, they metabolize as sugars and can wreak havoc on their insulin levels. This is often where feline diabetes originates. Friends, do yourselves, your cats and your bank accounts a favour and skip the grains altogether.
    Dogs, however, can digest grains. Whole grains, that is. Sadly, Brewer’s Rice is NOT a whole grain. Brewer’s Rice is the by-product of the white rice processing operation. It is essentially cracked pieces and fragments of white rice that are leftovers. Brewer’s Rice is filler that causes inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and other painful conditions for your dog. If that wasn’t bad enough, recently studies have shown trace amounts of arsenic in rice. Arsenic is a highly toxic poison that can cause bladder cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, kidney cancer among other irreversible, painful diseases.

Above is a short list of harmful ingredients to watch for on dog & cat food labels. There are innumerable others that are harmful, which is why it is always best to DO YOUR RESEARCH. Read labels. If you are unsure what a particular ingredient is, look it up. By taking the few minutes it takes to look something up, you could be saving your animal much pain and suffering. While researching ingredients, it is always beneficial to go to more than one credible source, such as your western medical veterinarian AND your holistic veterinary practitioner. By seeking information from both sources, you will be learning a complete spectrum of knowledge as both eastern and western medicine complement each other.

Ingredients aside, undoubtedly, the best action you can take in feeding your companion animals is to research a species appropriate diet. Research what your breed of cat or dog woul eat in the wild and find a diet that most closely mirrors that. Feeding your animals whole foods such as organic or free-range beef, chicken, (non farmed) fish, venison, rabbit in addition to steamed greens if they will eat them, is a sure-fire way to ensure that they are eating a locally sourced, nutritious diet.

** be sure to ask your vet about proper portions and combinations with respect to feeding your animals whole foods and species appropriate diets. There are MANY important ingredients that our animals need. Sadly, when most humans prepare homemade meals for our animal friends their intentions are great but they lack the education to feed them a completely balanced meal. This is why it is crucial to partner up with your holistic veterinarian to find the best combination of proteins, vitamins and minerals for your animal friends!


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