Dog Nutrition In Detail


Doglicious Says "Let's Look Closely At Dog Nutrition So I'll Stay Healthy"

On this page we offer in-depth analysis all about dog nutrition, and the best approach to feeding a dog with various articles and detailed explanations written by experts in the field. We also include important news stories and any new information we have about dog food recalls to keep you informed about findings and events that can impact your dog's health. To learn even more details regarding dog food recalls visit our Dog Food Recalls section...

We hope you find this information useful and that it answers many of your questions about dog nutrition and your dog's health. Remember, "Dogs Rule!"

Click this link to our section on how to read dog food labels to learn everything you need to know about how manufacturers list ingredients and how to choose the best dog foods.

               Nutrients Your Dog Needs To Be Healthy  

Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies or instructions from your vet, your pets should be able to get all the nutrients they need from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are formulated with these special standards in mind. If you would like to learn about what your pet’s body needs, and why, here are the six essential classes of nutrients fundamental for healthy living:

  1. Water is the most important nutrient. Essential to life, water accounts for between 60 to 70 percent of an adult pet’s body weight. While food may help meet some of your pet's water needs (dry food has up to 10 percent moisture, while canned food has up to 78 percent moisture), pets need to have fresh clean water available to them at all times. A deficiency of water may have serious repercussions for pets: a 10-percent decrease in body water can cause serious illness, while a 15-percent loss can result in death.

  2. Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources. Animal-based proteins such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish and egg have complete amino acid profiles. (Please note: Do not give your pet raw eggs. Raw egg white contains avidin, an anti-vitamin that interferes with the metabolism of fats, glucose, amino acids and energy.) Protein is also found in vegetables, cereals and soy, but these are considered incomplete proteins.

    Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and are divided into essential and non-essential amino acids.
    - Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the animal in sufficient quantities and MUST be supplied in the diet. Essential amino acids include arginine, methionine, histidine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, leucine, tryptophan, lysine, and valine.
    -Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized by your pet and are not needed in the diet.

  3. Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates. Fats are essential in the structure of cells and are needed for the production of some hormones. They are required for absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins. Fats provide the body insulation and protection for internal organs. Essential fatty acids must be provided in a pet’s diet because they cannot be synthesized by a dog in sufficient amounts. A deficiency of essential fatty acids may result in reduced growth or increased skin problems. Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid for dogs.
    -Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in healing inflammation. Replacing some omega-6 with omega-3 fatty acids can lessen an inflammatory reaction—whether it is in the skin (due to allergies), the joints (from arthritis), the intestines (from inflammatory bowel disease) or even in the kidneys (from progressive renal failure).The optimal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for dogs is between 5 and 10 to 1.

    Please note: It is impossible to accurately determine the fatty acid ratio of a diet if the owner prepares home-cooked foods. If a dog is to benefit from the effects of these fatty acid ratios, he must be fed a fixed-formula food that guarantees these ratios.

  4. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body’s tissues, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are likely to be important for reproduction. While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs (i.e. the brain). Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that modify the mix of the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea. For dogs to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Fiber sources that have low fermentability (e.g. cellulose) result in poor development and less surface area of the intestinal mucosa. Highly fermentable fibers can produce gases and by-products that can lead to flatulence and excess mucus. Moderately fermentable fibers—including beet pulp, which is commonly used in both dog foods—are best, as they promote a healthy gut while avoiding the undesirable side effects. Other examples of moderately fermentable fibers include brans (corn, rice and wheat) and wheat middlings. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for dogs with high energy requirements, such as those who are young and growing.

  5. Vitamins are catalysts for enzyme reactions. Tiny amounts of vitamins are essential to dogs for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential in the diet.
    -When feeding a complete and balanced diet, it is unnecessary to give a vitamin supplement unless a specific vitamin deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian. Due to the practice of over supplementation, hypervitaminosis—poisoning due to excess vitamins—is more common these days than hypovitaminosis, or vitamin deficiency! Excess vitamin A may result in bone and joint pain, brittle bones and dry skin. Excess vitamin D may result in very dense bones, soft tissue calcification and joint calcification. Read more about dog vitamins here...

  6. Minerals are inorganic compounds that are not metabolized and yield no energy. These nutrients cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. In general, minerals are most important as structural constituents of bones and teeth, for maintaining fluid balance and for their involvement in many metabolic reactions.

The above list of Nutrients Your Dog Needs is provided courtesy of the ASPCA website at

You can also view our section on Dog Vitamins And Supplements to learn more about their importance to your dog's health, well being and longevity.

More About Protein

Protein is a main component of a healthy dog and represents approximately 18% of its weight. Protein is not an inactive substance since it is a major part of the organism, creating each individual organ such as the skin, liver, blood, as well as muscle, etc. It is an essential factor in a dog's life since its organs are continually renewed. Young dogs require protein to assist them in their development. The actual required amounts of protein varies depending on the dog's size, age and stage of reproduction. Dogs need about 15% of mixed protein. If it's dry substance, about 20% is suggested to balance stress and other factors in the dog's life. On the other hand, puppies and reproductive dogs need more protein than what they get in their food. Exercise and work does not increase the protein necessities only the energy (calories) in which they are contributed by fats and carbohydrates.

More About Fat

Fat is important in a dog's diet because it has several functions, only one of which is essential. Body fat, stored as energy is part of the cellular structure, as well as a means of transportation. The only vital function of fat is as a source of fatty acids, sometimes called "polyunsaturated." This can be found in a majority of fats and oils, mainly in some vegetable oils. The precise quantity needed is quite small - approximately 1% of the diet – although without it a dog's hair will be brittle and the skin will crack from dryness. Diets that contain a 10% of total fat normally come from mixed sources that contain sufficient amounts fatty acids.


Pet Food Marketing Hype
 By Jean Hofve, DVM

A trip down the pet food aisle these days will boggle the mind with all the wonderful claims made by manufacturers for their particular products. But what's the truth behind all this marvelous hype? You might be very surprised…let's take a look.
1. Niche claims: Today, if you have an indoor cat,  a canine athlete, a Persian, a Bloodhound, or a pet with a tender tummy or itchy feet, you can find a food "designed" just for your pet's personal needs. Niche marketing has arrived in a big way in the pet food industry. People like to feel special, and a product with specific appeal is bound to sell better than a general product like "puppy food." But the reality is that there are only two nutritional standards against which all pet foods are measured (adult and growth/gestation/lactation)—everything else is marketing.

2. "Natural" or "Organic" claims: The definition of "natural" adopted by AAFCO is very broad, and allows for artificially processed ingredients that most of us would consider very unnatural indeed. The term "organic", on the other hand, has a very strict legal definition. However, some companies are adept at evading the intent of these rules. For instance, the name of the company or product may be intentionally misleading. For instance, some companies use
terms like "Nature" or "Natural" in the brand name, whether or not their products fit the definition of natural.
3. Ingredient quality claims: A lot of pet foods claim they contain "human grade" ingredients. This is a completely meaningless term—which is why the pet food companies get away with using it. The same applies to "USDA inspected" or similar phrases. The implication is that the food is made using ingredients that are passed by the USDA for human consumption, but there are many ways around this. For instance, a facility might be USDA-inspected during the day, but the pet food is made at night after the inspector goes home. The use of such terms should be
viewed as a "Hype Alert."
4. "Meat is the first ingredient" claim: A claim that a named meat (chicken, lamb, etc.) is the #1 ingredient is generally seen for dry food. Ingredients are listed on the label by weight, and raw chicken weighs a lot, since contains a lot of water. If you look further down the list, you're likely to see ingredients such as chicken or poultry by-product meal, meat-and-bone meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, or other high-protein meal. Meals have had the fat and water removed, and basically consist of a dry, lightweight protein powder. It doesn't take much raw
chicken to weigh more than a great big pile of this powder, so in reality the food is based on the protein meal, with very little "chicken" to be found. This has become a very popular marketing gimmick, even in premium and "health food" type brands. Since just about everybody is now using it, any meaning it may have had is so watered-down that you may just as well ignore it.
5. Special ingredient claims: Many of the high-end pet foods today rely on the marketing appeal of people-food ingredients such as fruits, herbs, and vegetables. However, the amounts of these items actually present in the food are tiny; and the items themselves are usually scraps and rejects from processors of human foods—certainly not the whole, fresh ingredients they want you to picture. Such ingredients don't provide a significant health benefit and
are really a marketing gimmick.

It's a jungle out there…Pet food marketing and advertising has become extremely sophisticated over the last few years. It's important to know what is hype and what is real, so you can make informed decisions about what to feed your pets. 

Selecting a Good Commercial Pet Food
by Jean Hofve, DVM

Commercial food is a great convenience to dog and cat guardians. Responsible consumers who want the best for their animal companions have a bewildering array of foods and claims to choose from. How do you know what's best for your animals?

The most reputable manufacturers of "super-premium" and "natural" foods agree with holistic veterinarians that the very best diet for your animal companion is one that you make yourself. A homemade diet, carefully balanced nutritionally and using raw and organic foods, is closest to what Mother Nature intended. (For a sample homemade diet, click here.) However, many of us do not have the time or energy to do home cooking, especially for multiple animals or large dogs. So, for those of us who rely, partially or entirely, on commercial foods for our animals, here are some items to look for in a good-quality diet.

The name of a pet food is strictly defined and tells us what is actually in the food. "Chicken for Dogs" must contain at least 95% chicken (excluding water). If the label says "dinner," "platter," "entree," "nuggets," "formula," or similar term, there must be 25% of the named ingredients. That is, "Chicken Dinner" must contain 25% Chicken. If more than one ingredient is named, such as "Meat and Giblets Entree," the two together must comprise 25% of the total, and the second ingredient must be at least 3%. Ingredients labeled as "with" must be present at 3%, such as
"Meat Dinner with Giblets." An ingredient labeled as a "flavor," such as "Beef FlavorDinner,"may not actually contain beef meat, but more likely will contain beef digest or other beef by-products that give the food a beef flavor.

Even on premium brands, you will notice one of the major ingredients listed is "by-products" of some sort. By-products are basically defined as "parts other than meat." These may include internal organs not commonly eaten by humans, such as lungs, spleens, and intestines, other parts such as cow udders and uteri, and in the case of poultry by-products, heads, beaks and feet. By-products must be from "freshly slaughtered" animals, although there is some question as to how fresh they really are by the time they reach the pet food manufacturer. 

Rendered Products
Rendering (basically a process of slow cooking) produces two major items: animal fat or tallow, and a processed product usually called "meat meal," "meat and bone meal," or "by-product meal." (Due to historical quirks in naming, the term "by-product meal" refers to poultry, while the equivalent mammalian product is called "meat and bone meal")

Animals that are dead, dying, diseased, or disabled prior to reaching the slaughterhouse are known as "downers" or "4D" animals. These are usually condemned, in whole or in part, for human consumption, and are generally sent for rendering along with other by-products, parts and items that are unwanted or unsuitable for human use - such as out-of-date supermarket meats (along with their plastic wrappers), cut-away cancerous tissue, and fetal tissue
(which is very high in hormones).

Rendered ingredients vary greatly in quality. A few rendering facilities are closely associated with slaughterhouses, which are in turn connected with feedlots or poultry farms. These "captive" rendering plants are more likely to produce good quality, relatively pure meals. Such meals are typically designated with the name of the source animal, such as "chicken meal."

Because of the way they are processed, dry foods must use meals as their major animal-source ingredients. Meals do contain higher proportions of protein than meat, since the fat and water have been removed. A few dry foods advertise that they contain some type of "meat" (such as chicken or beef) as the first or a top ingredient. However, because of the high water content of fresh meat, the actual percentage is small. The first named meal is usually the primary protein source in these foods.

Many independent renderers accept for processing such items as road kill, euthanized shelter dogs and cats, and other unappetizing ingredients. These items are not supposed to find their way into the pet food chain but are theoretically converted for use in fertilizers, livestock feeds, and industrial applications. Over the years there have been numerous unsubstantiated reports of this material being processed into dog and cat food. The Center for Veterinary Medicine, a branch of the Food and Drug Administration, admits that dead dogs and cats are commonly
rendered, and although there is no legal prohibition against using dogs and cats in pet food, they do not "condone" the practice. All the large, reputable pet food manufacturers certify that they do not use such materials in their products. 

"Complete and Balanced"
A food may be labeled as "complete and balanced" if it meets the standards set by a group called AAFCO, the American Association of Feed Control Officials. These standards were formulated in the early 1990s by panels of canine and feline nutrition experts. Standards set by AAFCO have been adopted by most states, which are then responsible for enforcement. However, in many cases, state enforcement is negligible.

A food may be certified by AAFCO in two ways: (1) meeting published standards for content, or (2) feeding trials.

(1) Nutrient Profiles. These standards set the required amounts of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and so forth. These theoretically have the benefit of extensive research behind them. However, according to researchers at the University of California at Davis, the fundamental research supporting standards for adult cat food includes one study on protein requirements, one study on amino acid requirements, and ZERO studies on vitamin requirements. 

Yet AAFCO publishes standards specifying exactly how much of each vitamin must be included in adult cat food. Where do these values come from? They are interpreted and extrapolated from research in kittens (which has been a little more extensive) and from research in other species, mostly chickens and rats. Is this valid? We do not know.

Moreover, any manufacturer can synthesize a food containing sufficient amounts of each ingredient according to the standards, yet an animal will ultimately starve to death on it. How could this happen? Because the standards do not address the issues of "bioavailability" of nutrients to the animal. Certain forms of vitamins and minerals, for example, are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract. A noted veterinary nutrition textbook claims that a food can be created from old leather boots, wood shavings, and crankcase oil that will meet the technical requirements for protein, carbohydrates, and fats, yet would be completely indigestible. Unfortunately, given the ingredients used by some manufacturers, "Old Boot" may be closer to the truth than anyone wants to admit!

(2) Feeding Trials. These are considered the "gold standard" of pet food formulation. However, when you look at the actual AAFCO protocols for an adult maintenance diet, a manufacturer must feed exclusively the test food to only six animals for six months. (Eight animals are required at the outset; however, two of them may be dropped from the trial for non-diet-related reasons.) Foods intended for growth and reproduction must be tested for only 10 weeks. Most of the large, reputable pet food producers, such as Iams, Hills, Walthams and Purina, maintain large colonies of dogs and cats, and test their foods on hundreds of animals over years or even multiple generations. Other manufacturers rely on facilities that keep animals for this purpose to do the studies for them. It is easy to see still be inadequate for long-term maintenance.

Keep in mind, too, that the standards, such as they are, set only "minimums" and "maximums," not "optimums." Commercial foods are designed to be adequate for the average animal, but may not be suitable for an individual animal's variable needs.

Additives and Preservatives
Virtually every commercial pet food contains additives and preservatives. Some of the worst include BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin. Monsanto, manufacturer of ethoxyquin (a rubber stabilizer), in 1993 was ordered to conduct a new study of this preservative due to faulty test protocols and alleged doctoring of data in its initial report. Not surprisingly, the second study, completed in 1996, found no problems associated with ethoxyquin in pet food. Given Monsanto's track record, do you believe this? Ethoxyquin is banned from nearly all human food products except certain spices) due to its cancer-causing properties.

Another concern is pesticide residues, antibiotics, and molds contained in pet food ingredients. Meat from downer animals may be loaded with drugs, some of which are known to pass unchanged through all the processing done to create a finished pet food. One toddler who habitually snacked from the cat's bowl of dry food died of an allergic reaction to penicillin, which was found to be in the cat food at levels over 600 times that allowed in human food products. In the 1990s there were two major recalls of dry dog food by different manufacturers due to mold
contamination of grain ingredients. Some fungal toxins are very dangerous. The second recalled food killed more than 20 dogs. In 2006, more than 100 dogs died from another food contaminated with a fungal toxin.

What to do?
When selecting a commercial food for your animal companion, be sure to read the label. Although percentages are misleading due to the variable moisture content of processed foods, they are the only data available. Avoid foods containing "by-product meal," "meat and bone meal," or the newest euphemism, "beef and bone meal," which tend to be the least expensive (and thus potentially poorest quality) animal-source ingredients. "Meat and bone meal" (MBM) is the mammal equivalent to "by-product meal" (which is properly applied only to poultry
most likely to contain the drug used for euthanasia (sodium pentobarbital) in a study conducted by the FDA.

A named meat or meat meal should be the primary protein source, rather than a cereal like corn gluten meal. Corn in all its forms must also be avoided. Corn has the same glycemic index as a chocolate bar, and is probably the primary culprit in the development of feline diabetes. Corn gluten meal, a high-protein corn extract, is often substituted for more expensive meat ingredients. Its presence in a food indicates a company's preference for economy over
nutritional value. Wheat is also a common allergen; wheat products should be avoided. Both grains are susceptible to mold and other toxins.

Because the pet food makers have gotten pretty clever about marketing, it's important to know how to see through the hype. For instance, don't fall for the "meat is the first ingredient" ploy!

Never feed "semi-moist" type foods, which are full of colorings, texturizers, and preservatives. Avoid foods containing chemical preservatives such as ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT, propylene glycol, or propyl gallate. In general, select brands promoted to be "natural." While they are not perfect, they are better than most. Many brands are now preserved with Vitamins C and E instead of chemical preservatives. While synthetic preservatives may still be present, the amounts will be less.

Stay away from "light" or "senior" or "special formula" foods. These foods may contain acidifying agents, excessive repackaged rejects from the big manufactures, and certainly contain cheaper - and consequently poorer quality - ingredients.

Change brands or flavors of dry food every 2 or 3 months to avoid deficiencies or excesses of ingredients, which may be problematic for your animal. (With canned food, you can change flavors daily if you wish--my cats prefer it that way!) Whenever you are changing foods, remember to GO SLOWLY. Add a tiny amount of new food to old, and gradually increase the proportion of new food. It will take a week or two to properly transition a cat. Click here for
more info on why and how to change foods.

If you must feed dry food, remember to never get it wet. Do not mix with canned food, milk, broth, or water. All dry foods have bacterial contamination on the surface, and moisture will allow those bacteria to grow. Some are dangerous and cause vomiting and/or diarhhea.

Above all, supplement with organic raw meats (meat should be frozen at -4F for 72 hours, then thawed prior to use; follow safe meat-handling procedures at all times) and lightly steamed, pureed or finely grated vegetables (they cannot be very well digested by carnivores otherwise). Dogs may be supplemented with tofu and cooked grains; however, cats should receive minimal carbohydrates in the diet. Be aware that plant products tend to raise urine pH and may contribute to urinary tract disease. Other helpful supplements include Omega-3 fatty acids, acidophilus, digestive enzymes, and Vitamins C and E. There are many excellent books, articles, and websites available for more detailed guidelines on ingredients, proportions, and preparations.


Pet Food Regulation

By Jean Hofve, DVM

A note from Dr. Jean Holfve: "I wrote this for The Whole Dog Journal about 7 years ago. Now, due to the massive confusion surrounding the current pet food recall scandal, I thought it was time to put it online so you can understand how such a thing could happen, and who's in charge of fixing it"... 

Who's In Charge?

  By Jean Hofve, DVM                                                                                                                             

While most pet owners are certain that "someone" is in charge of regulating the manufacture of commercial dog food in this country, very few people know who that mysterious official or agency might be. But somebody's gotta be making sure that pet food doesn't contain any harmful ingredients and does contain what animals need to survive, right? The FDA? USDA? Someone?

Unfortunately, the answer isn't as clear-cut as, "Yes, it's all taken care of." There are numerous government and industry agencies that oversee various aspects of pet food production, but there really is no single office that provides seamless overall supervision of the industry. So is there anyone making sure that a "duck and potato" food really contains ducks and potatoes? Or testing the food to see whether it really contains a minimum of the 20 percent protein it claims in its "Guaranteed Analysis"? Maybe, depending on where you live. 

There are many oportunities for pet foods to fall between the cracks of testing and enforcement. A walk through the many halls of pet food regulation reveals why a reliance on some branch of the government to ensure a food is "nutritionally complete and balanced" is pure folly.

You might rightly assume that the Federal government has some sort of control over the production of food, even pet food. The Food and Drug Administration is charged with the enforcement of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. A division of the FDA called the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is responsible for regulating animal drugs, medicated feeds, food additives and ingredients, and pet food, making sure that they conform with the
Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. This Act requires that pet foods contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled. However, only in extreme cases does the FDA or the CVM get involved in an investigation of a food maker, and generally, only as a last line of enforcement. The most meaningful regulation of pet foods occurs at the State

Each individual state has its own regulations and its own Department of Agriculture (or similar department, in a few states), which oversees the sale of pet food within its borders. Before a new brand or a new type of dog food can be sold in a given state, the maker is required by law to register the new food in each state in which it will be sold. The state's feed control officials are responsible for examining the food's label claims and the food itself. Some states have very proactive feed control officials, who aggressively examine and test new foods being sold or
made within their states' borders. Kentucky, Texas, and Minnesota, for instance, have a reputation for thoroughnesswhen it comes to testing pet foods. California, in contrast, does nothing because the legislature budgets no money for enforcement.

Most states at least have a program to look at pet food labels. Yes, the size, shape, and color of the fonts and panels, as well as what they say, are regulated. Pet food companies can't make unsubstantiated claims, nor can they make health or treatment claims without going through several hoops, including the FDA.

What do the states test for? The main area of focus is the Guaranteed Analysis (GA), which the FDA requires to be printed on every container of pet food. The states can (and most do) test for everything that is included in the GA. The only things that are required to be in the GA include the minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat, the maximum percentage of crude fiber, and the total percentage of moisture in the food; that's all. Some companies include more information in their GA, adding minimum levels of certain vitamins, fatty acids, or other nutrients they believe the consumer will appreciate. This is going out on a limb for the maker, because it just about guarantees that at least some states will test for these items as well. Pet food companies that ship nationwide tend to stay within these guidelines.

Before we discuss other tests or standards a pet food might be held to, we have to introduce another organization, one that influences the states' policies on pet food.

Many people have heard of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and assume that this is the agency that polices the pet food industry. However, AAFCO has no regulatory power whatsoever; it can neither approve nor ban foods. Rather, AAFCO is a non-governmental, non-regulatory, voluntary organization of feed control officials (FCOs) from each state (as well as several other countries). Its role is advisory. AAFCO exists to provide a forum for discussion by all interested parties, address issues of quality and standardization for animal feed and pet food, provide nutritional standards for pet foods and guidelines for feed and pet food manufacturing and labeling, and outline enforcement actions for regulators.

AAFCO influences the production of pet foods only as far as states (25) that have adopted its "model" regulations in whole or in part. (Some states have adopted their own standards, which may or may not be similar to AAFCOs, and some states have no regulations at all.) AAFCO is the place where the state feed control officials can go to discuss issues of feed safety, animal health, and inter-state commerce with the all the other people who know the most about these issues. Then they go home and set policy for their states.

In order to obtain the best information about every imaginable aspect of pet food, AAFCO invites certain experts associated specialties. Formerly called "liaisons," these advisors do come from the pet food industry, as well as the grain and feed industries, the rendering industry, laboratories, farm co-ops, and other groups with an interest in AAFCO's decisions. The Animal Protection Institute, for instance, had an advisory position on the Pet Food Committee and Ingredients Definitions Committee for several years. Many of these invited experts participate in AAFCO subcommittees as members and liaisons; there are committees on botanicals and herbs, environmental issues, feed safety, ingredient definitions, state/industry regulations, and many more.

The presence of so many vested experts, all of whom would like to influence the feed control officials to benefit their own aspect of the industry, worries many animal welfare activists, and some even regard AAFCO as a sort of pawn of industry that does not have our animals' health at heart. However, only the state feed control officials and the FDA and USDA representatives,are voting members of AAFCO.. At AAFCO meetings, which are held twice a year, advisors often speak on issues where they have an interest or stake in the outcome. Advisors' comments are taken under advisement by the FCOs and then the issue is voted on by the FCOs. In my experience, the FCOs, as a group, are definitely not pro-industry; they take their role as watchdog very seriously, and it is not a case of "the fox guarding the henhouse" as some have claimed.

For example, a few years ago the rendering industry pushed to have the official feed term "by-products" re-named "animal proteins." This was debated in the Ingredient Definitions Committee (IDC). The proposal was turned down because the IDC felt it was anti-consumer, and  they felt that the new term was being requested not because of a change in the ingredient itself, but merely to obscure and confuse the issue for consumers.

In spite of that defeat, the renderers approached the IDC not long afterward with another request, this time to change the name "poultry by-products" to "poultry and bone meal." As an advisor to the IDC from the Animal Protection Institute, I argued strongly against this change, as did representatives from two major pet food companies and others. (FYI, they were Nutro and Purina, in case you want to give them credit.) The IDC voted unanimously against the change.

Perhaps AAFCO's biggest legacy to the state feed control officers has been the development of two tools for the standardization of pet food formulation. Most, but not all, states have adopted these development tools, and require foods sold in those states to adhere to one of the two AAFCO standards. But, remember, it is the state feed control officials who check to see whether the food makers are compliant with the standards.

1. Nutrient Profiles. The first standard is the AAFCO Nutrient Profiles, an effort to identify the minimum (and a few maximum) levels of "macronutrients" (protein, fat, and fiber) and the "micronutrients" (vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids) that research has shown to be necessary for dogs and cats. Years ago, pet food makers manufactured foods to the nutritional standards set by the National Research Council, there were numerous faults with those
standards. AAFCO convened panels of experts in canine and feline nutrition to develop new, better standards. These were adopted by AAFCO around 1990 (a little earlier for dogs, a little later for cats).

Although the Nutrient Profile system has done a lot to standardize the business of pet food production, it's not without its critics. There are studies that suggest some nutrient levels may be too high, and others too low. The Nutrient Profile system of formulation does not address the issue of ingredient quality whatsoever. One critic of this method of feed formulation designed a "food" that met all the AAFCO nutrient profile requirements – even though the food was primarily formulated from old shoe leather, sawdust and motor oil with a multi-vitamin-mineral
supplement. Obviously, there would be no guarantee that any animal would eat such a food, or could digest it, even though it contained all the vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, etc. that the nutrient profiles required.

2. Feeding Tests. The second method for pet food formulation addresses those concerns – but contains some loopholes, as well. AAFCO developed a protocol for a six-month feeding trial that can be used as a tool to determine whether a food can sustain life in a target test population (dogs or cats in all life stages, or specific stages of growth of maintenance). (The growth/lactation protocol is only 10 weeks, but they have to run more extensive
blood tests to analyze it.) The test population is fed nothing but the food in question for six months, and if the subjects test normal (on weight and a few blood tests), the food passes. This method at least would help a maker demonstrate that the food is palatable and digestible enough to maintain life in the test population – something the nutrient profile system doesn't do. And this method is good if a feed maker has some brilliant research that indicates the levels of certain nutrients in the AAFCO nutrient profiles are inadequate for promoting maximum health, and they can formulate a food that they think is better; and they can conduct feeding trials to prove their food works. At present, some large breed puppy foods are being feed tested because the companies believe that the Nutrient Profiles don't address their special requirements.

However, the feeding test requires only eight test subjects, and require that only six finish the trial. Many nutritional deficiencies or overdoses would not appear in this short period; the feed's fitness for maintaining longevity, reproductive, or multi-generational health would not be demonstrated. (In reality, most pet food companies using feeding tests use many more animals than the 8 required.)

These two systems necessarily miss a lot of potential problems. A food meeting the Nutrient Profile may or may not pass a feeding trial; not all foods that have passed a feeding trial meet all specifications of the Nutrient Profiles. Clearly, it would be possible for a marginal food to pass these tests, yet fail to provide adequate nutrition in the long run, and in fact such problems are well documented. In generational studies, where animals were kept on the same food for three to five generations, researchers at the University of California at Davis found that some foods that pass feeding trials still won't support animals over the long term. They estimated that, of 100 foods that pass for long-term feeding. A former FDA nutritionist emphasizes, "The formulation method does not account for palatability or availability of nutrients. Yet a feeding trial can miss some chronic deficiencies or excesses."

In the case of minimum requirements without a corresponding maximum, some foods contain significant nutrient excesses that may actually be dangerous in the long run. The Kentucky feed control officials analyzed test data from all pet foods tested during 1994 and 1995, and found that certain nutrients, such as magnesium, iron, and manganese, were present in most dry dog and puppy foods at 200-400 percent or more of their AAFCO Nutrient Profile values. Their conclusion: the AAFCO profile for certain nutrients is not a reasonable indicator of the actual
level present in many products. An excess of many minerals, including copper, magnesium, iodine, and iron, may produce signs of toxicity over time. Excess iodine, for instance, is thought to be one factor contributing to the explosion of hyperthyroidism among older cats.

And there is still one big wrench in the works: manufacturers are allowed to test one food of a similar "family" of foods, and apply that certification to all foods in that family. There is no way for the consumer to know which foods were actually tested by feeding trials certification.

If a food has met either AAFCO requirement, it may state on the label that the food is "complete and balanced." These label statements are why many people are under the mistaken impression that AAFCO actually regulates the food industry, or is a governmental agency. Neither is true.

Remember, it's the states that are in control – but they control only the pet food manufacturers who try to sell food feed control officials have the ability to approve or deny the right of a manufacturer to sell a particular food in their state, or to punish manufacturers for labeling infractions. And the only way they can make these decisions, is to test the various foods that the makers register for sale there. 

As mentioned above, some states test only  the Guaranteed Analysis information (protein, fat, fiber, moisture). Others test individual nutrients (amino acids, vitamins, minerals) as well. California tests nothing. Kentucky tests nearly the entire AAFCO Nutrient Profile. Nearly every manufacturer has had one or more foods fail various tests at one time or another. Many foods fall short, usually on the stated protein levels. Some are too high in ash or fiber.
Even more ominous is the failure of tests for major minerals such as phosphorus or calcium. The manufacturers assert that tests on any particular batch or lot of food may not be representative of all their foods, but because such failures are so widespread, from the cheapest generic to the most specialized and expensive foods, it is a very disturbing trend.

State feed control officials can and do enforce violations of their states' regulations, but this process is not sweeping and surely not swift. Depending on the nature of a problem they discover with a food, there are numerouslevels of notification and correction; in the mean time, tons of non-compliant food can be sold and consumed by ourpets. Each state compiles an annual report which lists the violations; these documents are public record. Many states publish this data; a few, like Missouri, and Indiana, post it on the Internet

Regulation and enforcement of the pet food industry varies widely from state to state. Some states have adopted very tough legislation, and others have minimal pet food laws. Some states scrutinize foods carefully, and others hardly at all. And you can't assume any coordination between the state's regulatory aims and its follow-through on enforcement. California, for example, has one of the nation's most restrictive pet food production Acts in the country, the "Pure Pet Food Act of 1969." It prohibits 4D meat and other bad stuff in pet food. However, the Act isn't enforced at all. Texas has adopted the AAFCO nutrient profiles, tests the Guaranteed Analysis, and enforces everything. The annual feed report from Texas averages around 100 pages (in very fine print) of violations and actions taken. There are almost 30 pages just listing Stop Sale orders of animal feed and pet  food!

In reviewing the states' reports, it's obvious that every food fails something somewhere, some time. But the most striking trend is that the foods with the most problems tend to be locally produced and regionally marketed; there are numerous small pet food companies that make foods that are sold in one state only or across one state border only. The national manufacturers stick closer to the rules; if they ship nationally, they pretty much have to make
their products to whichever state standards are the strictest.

If you're like us, the more you learn about the pet food industry, the more you feel you should worry about your pets' food! The kind of regulation and oversight that many of us assume is present over the industry as a whole really doesn't exist.

Instead, existent regulation and the vicissitudes of the market itself tends to promote the better products, and weed out the "bad actors" over time. It really is amazing that the industry is as "clean" as it is – but this isn't, perhaps, saying much. In an ideal world, every food in the country would have to pass feeding trials and lab tests that prove sufficient (and not harmful) nutrient levels on an ongoing basis. But in this world, our pets represent the "test animals," and we are providing the feeding trials.

Dr. Jean Hofve, veterinarian, former Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, has researched pet food and pet nutrition for more than a dozen years. Working two years as a full-time animal advocate for the Animal Protection Institute, she was a liaison to AAFCO, the organization that sets standards for the pet food industry. Also serving as a practicing veterinarian and four-term President of the Rocky Mountain Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, she has unique knowledge of the pet food industry and pet nutrition. She has written extensively on nutrition for Animal Wellness Magazine, The Whole Dog Journal, DogWorld, Cats Magazine, and the Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.


  WHY Are Supplements Needed?

There are just too many very sick and chronically ill pets with;                                                              diabetes...liver disease disease

Veterinarians are now seeing some very ill pets at younger and younger ages.

Many experts have called this a "Pet Health Crisis"


There are MANY causes and reasons why, BUT the single most IMPORTANT cause is...                   POOR QUALITY NUTRITION.

ALL nutrition simply CANNOT come in a bag. Even with all those glossy marketing brochures and TV commercials, It's NOT possible.

Would you eat the same processed/extruded/nutrient devoid/toxin filled food every day and NOT expect to get sick?

What can you do to keep your dog healthy and prevent disease?

IMPROVE your dog's nutrition every day.

SUPPLEMENT your dog's food.

Give a QUALITY Dog Health Supplement.

What you should be looking for in a Quality supplement:

*Choose a natural supplement, ensure that none of these are on the label: No wheat, No Soy, No Dairy, No Sugar, No Artificial Ingredients, No additives and NO fillers.

*The ingredients should be derived from Natural Sources- if you can't pronounce them, then they probably are NOT natural. Some of the more common Natural ingredients, include Vitamins, Minerals, Flax, Fish Oil, Amino Acids- plus both naturally derived animal and plant relatedcomponents. This includes ingredients such as Herbs,
Mushrooms, Colostrum, Glucosamine, and Digestive enzymes.

*Ensure that the supplement is NATURALLY preserved. Vitamin E and being 'air tight' is the preservative of choice. AVOID BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin.

*Natural flavor and color- If the supplement is chemically flavored or colored DON'T use it.

The Ultimate Canine Health Formula is ALL NATURAL                          Here's a List of some ALL NATURAL Ingredients:

Complete Vitamin Blend
Complete Mineral Blend

* Glucosamine HC l
* Chondoitin Sulfate
* MSM (methylsulfonyl methane)

* Fructooligosaccharides
* Lactobacillus acidophilus
* Bifidobacterium bifidum

* Flaxseed oil (Omega Fatty Acids)

* l-lysine
* l-methionine
* l-arginine

* Bovine colostrum
* Inositol hexaphosphate
* Aloe vera
* Maiitake
 Dog Food Recall News Flash

For the latest recalls visit our Dog Food Recalls page...

September 2008:
Franklin, Tennessee (September 12, 2008)-Today, Mars Petcare US announced a voluntary recall of products manufactured at its Everson, Pennsylvania facility. The pet food is being voluntarily recalled because of potential contamination with Salmonella serotype Schwarzengrund. This voluntary recall only affects the United States.

Salmonella can cause serious infections in dogs and cats, and, if there is cross contamination caused by handling of the pet food, in people as well, especially children, the aged, and people with compromised immune systems. Healthy people potentially infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. On rare occasions, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Contact: Debra Fair at (973) 691- 3536

Franklin, Tennessee (November 25, 2008) —Today, Mars Petcare US announced an extension of a previously announced voluntary recall of dry cat and dog food products manufactured at its Allentown, Pennsylvania facility with “Best By” dates between August 11, 2009 – October 3, 2009. The pet food is being voluntarily recalled because of potential contamination with Salmonella. This voluntary recall affects product sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club, ShopRite Supermarkets, and Wal-mart locations in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Salmonella can cause serious infections in dogs and cats, and, if there is cross contamination caused by handling of the pet food, in people as well, especially children, the aged, and people with compromised immune systems. Healthy people potentially infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. On rare occasions, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.

Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Animals can be carriers with no visible symptoms and potentially infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

This action is an extension of the voluntary recall issued on October 27, 2008 of all sizes of SPECIAL KITTY® Gourmet Blend dry cat food produced at the Allentown facility on August 11, 2008. We recently learned that an additional sample of SPECIAL KITTY® made on September 25, 2008 at the Allentown facility tested positive for Salmonella. There have been no reported cases of human or pet illness caused by Salmonella associated with products produced at this facility. Mars Petcare US is taking an additional precautionary action to protect pets and their owners by extending the October 27, 2008 voluntary recall to include all dry pet food product produced at the facility with “Best By” dates between August 11, 2009 and October 3, 2009.

Recalled Pet Food
The dry cat and dog food listed below are made at our Allentown facility and sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club, ShopRite Supermarkets, and Wal-mart locations in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

All code dates, regardless of brand, are listed in a similar format as noted below:
Consumers should look for “50” as the first two digits of the second line.
Best By AUG 15 09 (Sample)
50 1445 1

Berkley & Jensen Bistro Blend Premium Cat Food 21.6#
 00000 20052
Berkley & Jensen Small Bites & Bones Dog Food 52#
 00000 14958
Ol' Roy Puppy Complete Premium Dog Food 4#
 81131 79078
Ol' Roy Puppy Complete Premium Dog Food 20#
 81131 79080
Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food 4#
 81131 17550
Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food 4.4#
 81131 69377
Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food 8#
 05388 67144
Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food 20#
 81131 17549
Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food 22#
 05388 60342
Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food 44.1#
 81131 17551
Ol' Roy Complete Nutrition Premium Dog Food 50#
 78742 01022
Ol' Roy High Performance Premium Dog Food 20#
 05388 60345
Ol' Roy High Performance Premium Dog Food 50#
 78742 05815
Ol' Roy Meaty Chunks & Gravy Premium Dog Food 22#
 81131 69630
Ol' Roy Meaty Chunks & Gravy Premium Dog Food 50#
 81131 69631
ShopRite Crunchy Bites, Bones and Healthy Squares Dog Food 20#
 41190 04521
Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food 3.5#
 81131 17557
Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food 7#
 81131 17562
Special Kitty Original Premium Cat Food 18#
 81131 17559
Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food 3.5#
 81131 17546
Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food 7#
 81131 17547
Special Kitty Gourmet Blend Premium Cat Food 18#
 81131 17548
Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food 3.5#
 81131 17553
Special Kitty Kitten Premium Cat Food 7#
 81131 17554

In an effort to prevent the transmission of Salmonella from pets to family members and care givers, the FDA recommends that everyone follow appropriate pet food handling guidelines when feeding their pets. A list of safe pet food handling tips can be found at:

Pet owners who have questions about the recall should call 1-877-568-4463 or visit

Media Statement
Contact: Debra Fair at (973) 691- 3536

For Immediate Release

The following statement was released by Mars Petcare US regarding the voluntary recall of dry pet food produced at its Allentown, PA facility.

As a precautionary measure, on October 27, 2008, Mars Petcare issued a voluntary recall of all sizes of SPECIAL KITTY® Gourmet Blend dry cat food product produced at our Allentown Pennsylvania facility on August 11, 2008. We were recently alerted by the FDA that an additional sample of SPECIAL KITTY® made on September 25, 2008 produced at the Allentown, PA facility plant tested positive for Salmonella.

Based on this information, we are taking an additional precautionary action to protect pets and their owners by extending the October 27, 2008 voluntary recall to include all dry pet food product produced at the facility with a “Best By” date between August 11, 2009 and October 3, 2009.

There have been no reported cases of human or pet illness caused by Salmonella associated with products produced at this facility.

This voluntary recall affects only products sold at BJ’s Wholesale Club, ShopRite Supermarkets, and Wal-mart locations in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia. No other customers and no other states are affected.

Only those products which were produced at the Allentown, PA facility between those dates are impacted. Consumers can continue to have confidence in the quality and safety of our other products.

As part of our commitment to our loyal consumers and their pets, we are continuously monitoring and updating our processes to be at the forefront of product quality, innovation, customer responsiveness, and manufacturing efficiency. In recent months, we have invested tens of millions of dollars in plant upgrades, new testing protocols, advanced associate training, and a new state of the art testing facility that will open in mid-2009.

We are working with affected BJ’s Wholesale Club, ShopRite Supermarkets, and Wal-mart locations to ensure that recalled products are not on store shelves. These products should not be sold in stores or fed to pets. In the event that consumers believe they have purchased products affected by this voluntary recall, they should return the product to the store where they purchased it for a full refund. Specific product details and other information will be posted prior to the public announcement and can be found at

*Read about the "Health Hazards of Meat-Based Commercial Diets" here...


Important Notice! Although we at Feeding A Dog are long time dog enthusiasts and dog advocates, we are not veterinarians or professional animal nutritionists. Our purpose is strictly to provide you with information, so that you can make your own informed decisions. Any and all information contained within or stated on this web site and on our blog is provided for general information purposes. The information provided is not direct veterinary advice and should not be construed as such nor substituted for a consultation with a veterinarian or dog nutrition professional. Every dog and situation is different. If you have any concerns about your dog's health, please contact your veterinarian's office immediately. We all love our dogs and want only the very best food for them! "In Dogs We Trust"

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