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What’s In My Pet’s Food? – Memphis Area Pet Health

Posted 02.10.14 by Kim Swift

With so many different brands and types of pet food available, it can be difficult to choose which diet is best for your dog or cat! There are certain current trends in pet nutrition that aren’t necessarily as important as they seem and you may end up spending top dollar for a food that isn’t actually any better than a lower cost, mainstream food.

 Here is what you need to know…

One of the biggest current trends is to feed a “grain-free” diet. While there are reasons for some humans to eat a grain-free diet, there is a rare need in pet nutrition to avoid grains. Research has shown that dogs and cats do get nutrients from corn and other grains, so unless your dog or cat has an allergy to corn, there is no reason to avoid grain in your pet’s diet. In fact, corn is highly digestible and contains essential fatty acids, beta-carotene, and vitamin E.

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Another trend is to buy organic, holistic, and/or natural food, so what is the difference between these terms?

If you are looking for an organic food, you need to look for a USDA Organic symbol on the bag. If this symbol is on the bag, it meets the USDA criteria that at least 95% of the composition of the food is organic. Foods may put the word organic on their bag but unless you see the USDA Organic symbol, the food has not met appropriate criteria to be truly organic.

With regards to the label of holistic, there is no legal definition or requirement in pet food to be determined a “holistic” food; therefore ANY food can be labeled holistic without having to meet any specific criteria.

Finally, in order to be labeled “Natural,” a food must consist of only natural ingredients without chemical alterations.


By-products are often a big concern for many owners, but they are largely misunderstood. When people see “chicken by-products” or “chicken meal,” they worry that their pet is eating all beaks, feet and feathers. In reality, by-products and meal are made from the remaining parts that are not meant for human consumption. This includes organs, such as heart, liver, and intestines, which are very high in vitamins and protein. There are products that people use all the time in cooking that qualify as a by-product: Jell-O, beef bouillon, and any product containing gelatin are just a few examples.

Many pet stores will try to sell you an expensive “holistic” or “grain-free” food that is not actually very good quality, and your pet may have more problems on one of these diets if there is not a good balance of vitamins, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. If you have any questions about which food is best for your pet, please call your veterinarian for recommendations.


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