What’s in Your Pet’s Food: 4 Things to Check


Shopping for pet food can be a daunting experience.  Most bags of cat and dog food have ingredients that read more like a science experiment than something that should be eaten, and in fact they are.  Major pet food manufacturers treat your pet as an experiment and try everything they can to use cheap ingredients in their pet food so they can keep high profit margins.  Mars Pet Foods (Iams, Eukanuba, Pedigree, and more) filed a patent that “provides a method for the recovery of commercial slaughter waste streams for the use in the manufacture of commercial pet food products” to improve the “cost-effectiveness of commercial pet food manufacture.” Read more here.

Shoppers at our store and readers of our blog know how much we like to talk about quality pet food. Sometimes that means pointing out the bad stuff, too. Here is a quick guide that breaks down exactly what you don’t want in your pet’s food.

1)  Corn or Wheat as the First Ingredient

Many manufacturers will try to tell you that corn is good for your dog, but the corn they put in their food is not the same kind of corn you put on the dinner table for your family. Too often it is the left over shavings from making corn for people that is swept off the floor and sold as animal feed.  This kind of corn (often labeled as corn gluten or corn meal) can be moldy and full of bugs, which is why many animals have allergic reactions to it. Ever noticed bugs or mold in your pet food?  These people have:

Corn has little to no nutrition and is used as a filler in many cheap pet foods.  When corn is the first ingredient in your pets’ food it is a sign that the food has sub-par nutrition. The following are examples of how sub-par grains that may be listed on your pet’s food bag:

  • Corn
  • Corn Meal
  • Corn Gluten
  • Corn Gluten Meal
  • Ground Wheat
  • Ground Wheat Middlings
  • Wheat Gluten
  • Brewer’s Rice

When researching better dog food choices, look for these quality grains instead:

  • Whole Ground Corn
  • Oatmeal
  • Pearled Barley

2)  By-products, Mystery Meats, and Other Poor Protein Sources

Major manufacturers will try to convince you that by-products are a healthy source of protein. While by-products do contain high amounts of protein, this doesn’t tell the whole story and the meat source is questionable.  Chicken and Poultry-By Products are any part of the chicken that isn’t considered meat.  This includes feet, lungs, heads, intestines, and undeveloped eggs.  Giblets, livers, and hearts are considered fit for human consumption if they are refrigerated immediately after rendering, but these same organs can be left out for 24hrs and still be deemed fit for animal consumption. Also, animals that are dead on arrival can be used to make your pet’s food.

There is no quality consistency from batch to batch of by-product that goes into your pet’s food.  Read more at these links:

The following are examples of how mystery meats may be listed on your pets food bag:

  • Poultry by-product
  • Chicken by-product
  • Animal Fat
  • Animal Digest  (any kind of digest is bad, ex. Pork and Poultry Digest)
  • Meat & Bone Meal
  • Soybean Meal (dogs cannot digest soy)

3)  Artificial Preservatives

Artificial preservatives became popular to extend the shelf life of pet food.  Having your pets’ food sit on store shelves for two years isn’t worth the health problems.  Look for foods with natural preservatives like vitamin E, vitamin C, and plant extracts like rosemary.  These ingredients are still effective at preserving your pet’s food for months without the carcinogenic qualities found in artificial perservatives.  If you need long-lasting pet food, one option is to buy canned food for your dog or cat.

Canning food is so effective at preserving food that it doesn’t need any kind of preservative to obtain a long shelf life.  Read more here:

The following chemicals have been linked to health issues. These ingredients should be avoided:

  • BHA
  • BHT
  • Propylene Glycol
  • TBHQ
  • Propyl Gallate
  • Ethoxyquin (This chemical has a weaker correlation to health problems, but we still advise to avoid it when possible.)

4)  Food Coloring

Food coloring is put in pet food to look appetizing to the person buying the food.  Color makes no difference to your pet.  Food coloring is known to cause allergic reactions, behavior issues, and cancer.  Caramel coloring contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE), which is a carcinogen for animals, and Red 40 has also been linked to cancer.  Other food colorings have not been proven to cause pet health problems, but you should weigh the risk versus the reward.  Since the color of your pet’s food serves them no purpose, it is best to avoid it all together.

Read more here:

Here are examples of most food colorings you may see in your pets’ food:

  • Caramel Color
  • Yellow 5
  • Yellow 6
  • Red 40
  • Blue 1
  • Titanium Dioxide

The following pet manufacturers use the ingredients we’ve discussed in this blog:

Dog Food
Dog Chow
Pro Plan
Moist & Meaty Burger
Mighty Dog
Pedigree (All product lines)
Ol’ Roy (All product lines)
Kal Kan (All product lines)
Proactive Health
So Good
Kibbles N’ Bits (All product lines)
Pure Balance  (Uses brewer’s rice in all product lines)
Rachel Ray
Cesar (All Product Lines)
Gravy Train
Twin Pet
Hills Pet
Cat Food
Kit & Kaboodle
Cat Chow
Fancy Feast
Kitten Chow
Rachel Ray
Meow Mix
Special Kitty
Good Life
9 Lives

If you are looking for a simple and enjoyable shopping experience where you don’t have to worry about your pet consuming harmful ingredients, we invite you to visit us at Abracadabra Pet Center.  We promise to provide only USA manufactured pet food with no by-products, no poor quality grains or fillers, and no artificial ingredients!  Take our Pet Food Challenge by bringing in a bag of your current pet food to compare ingredients with our food and receive 20% off!

At Abracadabra we carry pet food brands that are popular among savvy pet food shoppers. It’s our promise to only sell cat and dog food with healthy ingredients. We look forward to serving you and your pets!