Menu Close

If you are familiar with this column, you may have noticed that in the list of shelter needs that is provided, we always ask for pet food without dyes.

The dyes are commonly found in the cheaper brands, which have little nutritional value and the dyes can cause allergic reactions as well as gastro distress. These foods are generally full of fillers and byproducts that not only provide very little of what cats and dogs actually need, but also can do harm in both short- and long-term health. Shelter animals are already dealing with the effects of stress from being in an unnatural, caged environment; feeding them non-nutritious food would further compromise their immune system.

After doing a little research, I was appalled to find that most of the dry pet foods on the bestselling list are also on the list of the worst pet foods. In spite of the fact that U.S. citizens spend more than $70 billion on our pets each year, we are apparently very guilty of feeding them poorly. Although more and more of us are reading labels on foods for human consumption, that doesn't seem to be the case when purchasing pet food.

In the dry food category, the worst five kibble brands for cats are listed as 9-Lives, Kit & Kaboodle, Friskies, Whiskas and Purina. As for dry dog food, Beneful, Kibble 'n Bits, Iams, Purina and Ol Roy are at the top of the lousy list. It's disappointing that these brands are generally what fill the shelves of most grocery stores.

In researching some quick tips to give you on reading pet food labels, I found that it can be very complicated and confusing. In an article from the College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, it said that a product labeled "lamb for dogs" must contain at least 95 percent lamb, while a product labeled "dog food with lamb" may contain as little as 3 percent lamb. Ugh!!! How is the average person supposed to make sense of this?

Anyway, I did come up with a few guidelines that might help you in choosing wisely for your pets. These are very basic but a complete guide to understanding the ingredients would require volumes of text. Remember that ingredients are listed by weight/ For example, if the first ingredient is listed as corn, put it back on the shelf! Make sure that some type of meat or fish is the first ingredient listed. If there are dyes in the food, they'll be listed towards the end of the list, put it back on the shelf! Sweeteners such as apples, carrots and peas are fine for dogs; stay away from sugars and corn syrups. Cats cannot taste sweet at all so any sweeteners add unnecessary calories.

I also looked up the lists of the best dry foods, many of which need to be specially ordered. I did find a few though that are readily available at local pet supply stores. For dogs, Canidae, Wellness and Nutro Ultra all make the top 10 list. For cats, Wellness, Taste of the Wild and Fromm are good choices. Needless to say, these brands will make a heavier hit on your wallet, but you may end up spending more at the vet's office by feeding them poor quality food.

For those of you who donate food to us, please do not think us ungrateful if we ask for the more expensive food. We currently have a regular supply of high quality dog food donated but still struggle with providing the cats with the high quality brands. Smaller bags of the better brands or a gift card for places like Garropo's, PetSmart and Petco will help us make sure our shelter animals are getting what they need.

Source: Poor nutrition: All pet foods are not created equal

Posted in 2020, SJRAS Articles