Most of us don’t think twice when feeding our pets. Kibble is supposed to be nutritionally complete so it seems like a no-brainer. Read the ingredients list, however, and you might notice something concerning. The list might include filler grains, added sugar, artificial flavors, unnamed by-products, and vague terms such as “meat”. As it turns out, there are very few regulations when it comes to pet food and manufacturers don’t have to give all the details.

It’s easy to forget that kibble didn’t always exist. In fact, it wasn’t even invented until World War II. Dogs and cats had been eating raw and cooked food for most of their existence–not dry cereals. Dry food was originally a way for companies to get some use out of by-products and extra grain. While great for these companies financially, grain-based foods aren’t the best choice for our carnivorous pets. There are occasional claims that grains are good for dogs because they’re omnivores and not “true” carnivores–this is completely false, both dogs and cats are carnivores. Just look at those teeth! Dogs and cats have evolved to derive most of their nutrition from meat, not grains and other filler ingredients.

It’s nice to think that pet food companies take our pets’ nutrition seriously but many brands only meet the bare minimum requirements. In other words, a lot of dry foods are just nutritious enough for pets to survive. The FDA slightly regulates pet food companies but they’re given a lot of leeway. Recalls are voluntary, for example, leading to dangerous situations when food becomes contaminated. When it comes to nutrition, the FDA doesn’t require much as long as the food has the proper balance of nutrients. The problem with this is that the actual ingredients don’t matter, leading many companies to use filler ingredients such as corn and wheat.

Luckily, researchers are now publishing studies that show the benefits of grain-free foods. In one recent experiment, scientists found that low-carb, high-protein diets were the best for dogs–a sharp contrast to the majority of commercially available foods. Similar studies with identical results have been conducted with cats. Dogs and cats don’t derive many nutrients from corn and wheat so it makes sense that they’d do better on low-carb diets.

Although many dry foods are of poor quality, it is possible to find healthy brands. Check the ingredients list of the food in question–is it mostly meat? Are there grains? Are there unknown meats (anything labeled “meat” or “animal”) or by-products? Ingredients are listed in order by weight so you want to make sure that the first few ingredients are meat derivatives. Believe it or not, many lower quality dog foods have added salt and sugar–avoid those brands, too.

You might notice that a lot of major dog food brands are eliminated with this method. This is a great reason to become familiar with local stores that sell specialty foods! At Bath & Biscuits, we have carefully researched every brand of dog and cat food and only offer some of the very best on the market, at very reasonable prices. With a little bit of research and help from your friends at Bath & Biscuits, you can find a healthy dry food brand that works for your pet.