Is Your Pet Food Safe? 

Would you ever feed your dog or cat food that wasn’t safe to eat?  Of course not!  Yet that’s exactly what many pet parents are doing. It’s natural to assume that if a pet food is on the store shelf, then it’s safe to eat.  After all, the FDA oversees dog food, as well as human food.  Furthermore, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is an organization that sets standards for dog food and determines the ingredient and nutritional requirements.   

But the fact is that there are many questionable and unsafe ingredients that are legally allowed to be included in pet food.  There is also a huge list of pet food industry controversies along with a large number of recent pet food recalls. Many of the most popular brands contain potentially dangerous ingredients that may be, and sometimes have even proven to be, toxic to dogs or cats.  People feed their pets these foods every day and then wonder why their dog or cat develops health issues like cancer, diabetes or heart disease.  You - the consumer – must take the responsibility to ensure that the pet food you are feeding doesn’t do more harm than good.  

So how do you know? 

First of all, realize that the pictures and wording on the front of a bag of food tells you absolutely nothing about the ingredients or the quality of the food inside the bag.    You’ll see all kinds of claims like REAL meat; simple; clean; holistic; all-natural etc. and pictures of fresh meat and vegetables on the bag when in fact, pet food regulations state that a pet food label can contain “unqualified claims, either directly or indirectly”.   

Secondly, be aware of the fact that regulations set forth by the FDA are often not enforced.  In April of 2019, the FDA stated that, “We do not believe that the use of diseased animals or animals that died otherwise than by slaughter to make animal food poses a safety concern and we intend to continue to exercise enforcement discretion where appropriate.” Enforcement discretion is the FDA’s way of saying that illegal waste disposal into pet food may be allowed without disclosure to pet owners.   

The most important information that consumers need to know is the quality of the ingredients. Where did the ingredients come from?  There is an enormous difference between wild-caught Salmon using environmentally sustainable fishing practices and dead, decomposing farm-raised salmon.  Read and understand the label on the back of the food.  Even though the label won’t tell you the quality of ingredients, be sure that the food you are feeding doesn’t include any of the following dangerous ingredients: 

•            Chemical preservatives including BHA, BHT, Propylene glycol, Ethoxyquin  

•            Animal digest, animal fat or any un-named meat by-products.   

•            Artificial colors including caramel coloring. 

•            Carageenan and BPA in canned food.   

What about Raw? 

Many people believe that a raw food diet is not safe, which is simply not true.  In fact, raw food is the fastest growing segment in the pet food market.  Commercially prepared raw food comes in frozen patties or nuggets, is minimally processed and maintains the naturally occurring nutrients.  A commercially prepared raw food diet from a reputable manufacturer is probably even safer than dry food.  Of course, you should always use common sense and safe handling techniques no matter what type of food you are feeding.   

The most important thing in choosing a pet food that is both safe and nutritious is to purchase from a company that has high standards and uses only human grade ingredients.  Don’t be misled by beautiful packaging and engaging commercials…read the label so that you know what’s really inside the bag.