Are There Any Good Quality Dry Food (Kibble), Wet or Canned Pet Food Diets for Dogs and Cats? How About Veterinary Prescription Diets and AAFCO Certified Products?

are there any good quality dry food (kibble), wet or canned food diets for dogs and cats? how about veterinary prescription diets and aafco certified products?
10 min read
In this article:
  1. Good is a Relative Term
  2. Specific ingredients to Avoid - What, Why and How to Choose
  3. Quality is a Relative Term
  4. A Closer Look at Harmful Ingredients
  5. A Better Alternative to Dry and Wet Pet Food
  6. Discover More

.1 Good is a Relative Term

I have to start out by saying that 'good pet kibble' or 'good canned pet food' is a relative term. This is also true for cooked pet food, air dried, dehydrated and freeze dried pet food. A species appropriate diet for dogs and cats is a raw food diet - no starchy carbs, and for cats, no vegetables of fruit. Having said that, we do need to talk about dry food and canned pet food diets.
There is a difference in relative 'quality' of various dry and canned pet food diets.

However, there are no dry or canned pet food diets that are:  The proof is in the numbers. 
  • Statistics recorded by veterinary organizations from the 1950's up to present day are very telling.
  • The life-span of a companion dog in North America is now half of what it was in the 1950's.
  •  In the 1950's the average life-span of a golden retriever was 15 to 16 years, today the average is in the range of 8 to12 years.
  • In 2005, 50% of older dogs dies from cancer, and the number is on the rise.
 There are three main reasons for this downturn in the health of dogs and cats.
  1. Species inappropriate diets.
    1. Highly processed food products (dry, wet, canned, and treats).
    2. Air dried, dehydrated and freeze dried pet food used as a long-term diet.
    3. Cooked and raw diets that contain species inappropriate ingredients.
  2. A toxic personal care protocol.
  3. Environmental contaminants. 
Diet plays a primary role in a dog’s and cat's short and long-term health.

2. Specific Ingredients to Avoid - What, Why and How To Choose

Dog and cat food products, including:
  1. Kibble (all).
  2. Canned and wet pet food (all).
  3. Many homemade and commercially available cooked food diets,
  4. Many air dried, dehydrated and freeze dried pet foods.
  5. Some raw food diets...
... contain ingredients that can damage your dog and cat's short and long-term health.
dog and cat food specific ingredients to avoid - what, why and how to choose
A pet food diet that provides poor nutritional value, contains cancer causing and otherwise toxic ingredients provides little hope of attaining and maintaining day-to-day energy and health. Overtime the toxins in dog and cat kibble build-up in your dog and cat's body. This puts great strain on your dog and cat's kidney's and liver, eventually leading to organ damage and failure. Poor quality nutrition can also cause your pet to be underweight or overweight / obese, this can also trigger the onset of inflammatory diseases. 

Just because a product is for sale in a pet supply store or on-line doesn't mean the product is actually good for your dog or cat. Also, just because the manufacture labels the food as ‘natural’ or ‘holistic’, does not mean that the product is made up of good ingredients. 

'Natural' or 'holistic' are not regulated terms in the pet food industry - the product may simply mean the ingredients were derived from a plant or animal. In North America 'USDA  Certified Organic' is the only term that can actually be taken as a grantee that the food does not contain:
In addition, although the product may contain 1) fruit and vegetables, 2) probiotics...
The fruit and vegetables used:
  1. May have been rotting - not fit for human consumption so they were used for pet food (there is no law currently in place that prevents a company from saying that the ingredients they are using in their kibble is first quality. They do not have to prove their statements.
  2. May be full of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides.
The 'probiotics'  (i.e. Lb. acidophilus) used are rendered useless:
  1. By the time the kibble is fully processed and ready the benefits that would normally be derived from fruit, vegetables and probiotics have been decimated by the processing process. 
To be effective, probiotics must be living, not dead. The beneficial micro-organisms and probiotics required by the GI tract are susceptible to heat damage. Most commercially made dry pet food is sterilised or pasteurized - canned food is prepared using dry heat. The only way in which the manufacturers can add probiotics to these foods is by coating the products with a liquid or powder after processing is complete. This presents two fundamental problems: the coating is inconsistent, and preservation of the probiotic is not possible with current technologies.

While I believe that fresh whole foods have much to offer your dog in the way of diverse nutrition to support overall health, boost the immune system, promote good oral health etc., once these foods have been highly processed the value of those fresh foods is destroyed.

Unknowingly you may be paying a manufacturer to seriously compromise the health and shorten the life of your dog and cat. On the other hand you may be feeding your dog and cat a very good  product. Unless you know a little more detail about how to discern true quality in a kibble product it is very difficult to identify good from bad. The same principles discussed in this article are also applicable to dog treats. I don't mince my words here as your dog and cat's health and life depend upon someone speaking the truth.

3. Quality is a Relative Term
In broad terms what is meant by ‘quality’ as pertains to this discussion? Well…

Just because the ingredients in a dog and cat food are said to be inspected by authorities having jurisdiction, i.e. CFIA (for Canada) or USDA (for USA) it is no reassurance that the product is truly a safe and nutritional food product for your dog. CFIA and the USDA allow great leeway in the inclusion of poor quality and toxic ingredients in pet foods.
Also very important to note  -  just because a dog or cat food product  is AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials)approved, does not mean that the food is a good or even safe to consume product. 
  1. Although AAFCO promotes themselves as a 'governing' body of the pet food industry - they are self-proclaimed. 
  2. While AAFCO does include some US state and federal representatives, AAFCO it is NOT a federal or state government organization. 
  3. AAFCO is a partisan organization that includes people directly involved in the pet food manufacturing industry. 
  4. AAFCO's true reason for existing is not to support the health of your dog, it exists to promote the pet food industry in its drive to produce the biggest possible margin of profit.  
  5. AAFCO is directly responsible for the unclear labelling on pet food products including dry and wet dog food and treats.
  6. AAFCO allows toxins and carcinogens into the food that they 'approve';
  7. AAFCO is responsible for the confusion around poor vs. good quality.
A good 'quality' dog or cat food.
  1. Does NOT contain any non-species appropriate components.
  2. Does not contain toxins and carcinogens.
  3. Derives its protein, fat and carbs from truly good quality food stuffs.
  4. IS a species appropriate food diet as defined in this article.
More on that further below.

Does a Better Quality Kibble Cost you More than Poor Quality Kibble?

I have seen many pet supply stores and large retailers selling a poor quality kibble for the same or more than they are selling a better quality kibble. And yes, better and really good quality kibbles may be more expensive to purchase at the cash register (than inexpensive kibbles) but the actual cost of these products is not necessarily higher once you get home and open that bag of food. 

What do I mean by this statement? Well, a dog kibble that is comprised of poor quality ingredients offers less digestible high quality nutrition so you have to feed your dog  or cat considerably more kibble to at least part way met his/her nutritional needs than you would if the kibble was comprised of quality ingredients. You will go through a 40lb bag of poor quality kibble much faster than you will go through a 30lb bag of good quality kibble. 
However no kibble is 'good'. Good kibble does not exist. All kibble products are species inappropriate, a such, all kibble plays a primary role in the development of short and long-term health issues and conditions in dogs and cats.

4. A Closer Look At Harmful Ingredients

This is a partial list

Synthetic Additives, Preservatives & Colouring Agents
Many off-the-shelf dog foods and treats contain synthetic additives, preservatives and colouring - many are proven carcinogens. These substances are added to the kibble to help stabilize the product and enhance its appearance. The most common of these preservatives are BHA, BHT, EQ (ethoxyquin), propyl gallate. You can read more about preservatives to avoid here. Then there are artificial colouring agents and additives such as glycerol monostearate, phosphoric acid and propylene glycol (this is used in antifreeze - antifreeze kills dogs!). How about 'natural' preservatives such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and mixed tocopherols, are these better? Most vitamin C used in pet food is derived from glyphostae contaminated corn, most vitamin E and mixed tocopherals used in pet food are derived from glyphosate contaminated soy beans.
Minimize the Poor Nutrition and the ‘Unknown’ in Your Dog’s Diet
Once again, many off-the-shelf dog and cat foods contain components from unknown sources. Cheap fillers, hidden substances, toxic additives that provide poor quality nutrition and can be full of unknown chemicals, steroids, antibiotics, petroleum derivatives, aflatoxins, etc. 

Grains and Beans
In the 1950's the percentage of grain products used in kibble increased dramatically and has since continued to reign as the most common ingredient in commercially manufactured dog kibble. Many of these grain products are added primarily as fillers. 

Two of the most commonly used bulk fillers are GMO corn, soy and beans.

These products are included:
  • For the benefit of the manufacture’s cost margin and profit, not for the benefit of your dog or cat.
  • To help bind the ingredients in kibble together.
Grains and beans are not a species appropriate food for a dog or cat with very little bioavailable nutrition. Examples of inappropriate fillers and additives include:
While some of these fillers are derived from the leftovers of human food processing - as the product at the end of the line, they can be full of chemicals. They can also be from non-human grade sources. If the grains/grain derivatives are not from human grade sources they will contain aflatoxins. Aflatoxins cause liver cancer. Aflatoxins grow mainly on grains but they also grow on legumes - like peanuts, walnuts and pecans. This is one reason why you will hear some people say do not give your dogs nuts! Actually it is fine to give your dog peanuts or peanut butter - they are a good source of nutrition - just make sure you are giving them human grade. 

Aflatoxins can also be found in cottonseed oil, fish meal and peanut oil. Human grade foods are monitored closely for aflatoxins, if they are present the raw product (such as grain) is not allowed to be sold as human grade. There are no such regulations for animal grade foods so aflatoxins so most commercial grade dog, cat and bird food will have some aflatoxins...the body can usually detoxify small amounts. 

Rye is another grain that can cause problems for your dog. Rye contains polysaccharides (classified as a type of carbohydrate and biological polymer, starch and cellulose). The problem is not that rye contains this substance but the fact that it contains a high content of polysaccharides (i.e. in comparison with other grains such as wheat and corn). Why is that bad? Well polysaccharides interfere with the body's ability to utilize nutrients. Additionally, rye contains alkylresorcinol in high levels - this substance is a known to irritate intestinal and mucous membranes and can also retard growth.
More to consider, GMO:
Corn and soybeans in the USA and Canada are almost all grown from Genetically Modified (GM) seeds - the long term affect of ingesting GM food is not known. 
Further to this, large factory farms use a method to process soy that leaves it very high in photoestrogens. 
Photoestrogens have been proven to interfere with reproduction and thyroid function. Factory farming processing methods for soy also result in a product that is very high in phytates. 
Phytates prevent mineral absorption as well as substances that prevent the normal function of enzymes required to digest protein.  
Traditional methods of processing soy by fermentation (as employed in Japan and China) greatly reduces photoestrogens, and phytates, thus making consumption of the resulting soy, safe and nutritional. 

And one last thumbs down for large factory farm produced soy - it has one of the highest concentrations of pesticides found in North American crops. 
For example, large factory farm soybean crops receive heavy applications of the potent herbicide glyphosate -  a powerful toxin and carcinogen. 
The vast majority of soy derivatives (i.e. soybean oil, soy meal, soy milk, tofu and everything in-between) found in both feedstock and human food is contaminated with high amounts of glyphosate. 
High quality fiber such as the fiber from fresh fruits and vegetables is very different from the low quality fiber found in many off-the-shelf dog food products. Again, low grade fiber is added as cheap filler for the benefit of the manufacture’s cost margin and profit, not for the benefit of your dog. Cellulose derived from dried, processed wood is the most common form of cellulose (hard to believe but true!), corn bran (GM product), oat hulls, peanut hulls, rice hulls, soybean middlings (GM product) and wheat middlings. These ingredients may also contain aflatoxins. If the product has a lot of these ingredients put it back on the shelf. Veterinarian prescribed dog and cat food is notorious for containing these fillers. A perfect example of when cost is NOT a reflection of quality, and in-fact you can be paying a lot of money to seriously endanger the health of your dog. Another example of just how badly many prescription foods can be - you can take a look at section 7.0 of this article - what you see will shock you.

Protein should be the first ingredient in your dogs kibble, however there are issues to be aware of with protein sources. Protein may come from poultry (chicken, duck, etc.), cattle, lamb, pigs, etc. The problem is what goes into the kibble is not the quality cuts of meat you imagine. 

Many(including expensive) dry and wet food products contain animal protein, blood and bone from:

.1 Condemned denatured meat, fat, bones, etc.
.2 4-D animals (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter)
.3 Road kill
.4 Dead dogs and cats 'euthanized' at municipal animal control centres and veterinarian hospitals. 
Some of the worst offenders - the prescription pet food products sold by veterinarians.   

Fish Meal
If the kibble you are feeding your dog or cat contains fish meal - I would advise you to do some serious research to make sure that the manufacturer states that their products ARE ethoxyquin-free.  You will not see ethoxyquin listed under ingredients on dog and cat food labels as ethoxyquin is an ingredient in an ingredient - meaning it is added to fish meal and the fish meal is then added to the food. You will have to either call the manufacture or do a search on their website or on the internet to see if you can find a disclaimer where the manufacturer guarantees that their product is ethoxyquin-free.

Many pet food manufacturers purchase their fish meal from processing plants that put ethoxyquin into the fish meal. Ethoxyquin - is a pesticide that is also used in animal feed to stop fats from going rancid. Ethoxyquin is a very dangerous substance - it IS a known carcinogen, allergen and more. Due to its extreme health hazard, ethoxyquin has been banned from use in human food. To understand more about this dangerous substance and why you do NOT want it in your dog's or cat's food you can read more here.

Diamond Pet Food is a perfect example of a manufacturer that continues to use fish meal with ethoxyquin. Some of the products manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods are - Taste of the Wild, Costco's Kirkland Lake Dog and Cat food, Diamond, Diamond Naturals. Diamond has also had a lot of pet food product recalls.
Rancid animal fats and oil by products are used in many pet food products. Waste from restaurants and food manufacturing is saved and then refined by rendering companies, who then turn around and sell it to pet food manufactures. The manufactures add them to their poor quality kibble to give it taste and to help the ingredients bind together. The following are the ingredients you should avoid…animal fat, beef tallow, lard, poultry fat, vegetable oil. Again the source of these fats can also be from 4-D animals and the vegetable oil is likely to be poor quality and/or GM.

Are added to many pet foods to make the food more 'attractive'. If the product you are going to buy has these ingredients you know want to do - re-shelve it: 
  • Cane molasses
  • Corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Pasteurized honey
  • Sorbitol
  • Sugar
  • etc.
Daily intake of these sweeteners is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans. Sugar suppresses the immune system - making it easier for cancer to take hold. These sweeteners also cause inflammatory disease in dogs and cats. 
For example:
  1. Anal gland issues
  2. Arthritis
  3. Cataracts
  4. Cancer
  5. Diabetes
  6. Fur issues
  7. Gastrointestinal issues
  8. Heart issues 
  9. Obesity
  10. Oral health issues
  11. Metabolic disease
  12. Neurological issues and disorders including seizure conditions
  13. Skin issues
  14. Thyroid issues
  15. etc.  

5. A Better Alternative to Dry and Wet Food Products

Make Your Own Species Appropriate Dog Food, Cat Food and Treats
Try making healthy, nutritious homemade dog and cat food to either supplement or completely phase-out dog or cat kibble.

6. Discover More

Learn more about enriching your dog and cat's diet. See the many articles on dog and cat diet, nutrition and health on this blog site.

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Article and graphics by Karen Rosenfeld

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