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Pet Food: Why does it have to be so complicated?

March 27, 2018

Food is fuel for the body, but we also have strong emotional and cultural connections to what we eat. Our pets are important family members and we carry our beliefs about food over to them. This is perfectly normal and natural, and the choices that you make in feeding your cats and dogs are complicated. This article is primarily to share some facts that hopefully will help you make decisions that you are comfortable with and that provide the best nutrition for our furry friends.

What about BY-PRODUCTS?

Using by products in pet food supports sustainability in meat production

The definition of meat by-products is internal organs. By-products are a cultural word, not a comment on nutritional value. Preference for muscle meat is unique to the United States. Wild canines do not agree with this preference: The order of body parts eaten by wolves in the wild is first internal organs followed by large muscle masses. The organ meats contain the higher nutritional value.



GRAIN FREE important or not?

Grains contribute to the nutritional value of the diet, they are highly digestible by both dogs and cats. Properly processing grains can provide up to 97% digestibility. Grain free diets still contain carbohydrate sources,  but the protein, carbohydrate (energy), fiber and essential fatty acids are often found in higher levels in grain than many of the grain replacement alternatives (including potatoes, peas and tapioca). Pet foods contain the same high quality USDA inspected grains that are used in human foods.



CORN is not a filler.

Corn is a great source of nutrition for animals. It is high in essential fatty acids, an excellent source of Vitamin E and Linoleic acid. Contrary to popular belief, corn is not a common food allergen in dogs and cats: Only 1% of skin allergies in dogs are food related. Of this small number the most common allergens in dogs and cats are beef, dairy, chicken (dogs) and fish (cats). We grow a lot of corn in the United States and this is another sustainable product choice for excellent nutritional value in pet food.

Gluten Free for everyone?

Gluten sensitivity is extremely rare in dogs and not documented in cats. There is a genetic predisposition in a very small percentage of Irish Setters and Border Terriers.

We strongly recommend that the manufacturer of the food that you are feeding belongs to  the Pet Food Institute, a voluntary self-regulatory agency within the pet food industry.


We support manufacturers that own their own production facilities, invest in research with some of their profits and have a veterinary nutritionist on staff. We are disappointed in some of the unethical advertising and misinformation that some pet food companies use as their marketing profiles.

An excellent resource on pet food is “Dog Food Logic” by Linda Case. This book examines the history of commercial pet food in the United States and defines labelling terms and definitions as well as breaking down what scientific evidence we have about various ingredients and nutrients. 



As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact the clinic and speak to one of the doctors!

-Ann Brownlee, DVM

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