Pet Nutrition

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Great Nutrition is the Foundation for Great Health!


There is a Link to heart disease called Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). 

Please AVOID Foods with Exotic Ingredients, Peas, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, ChickPeas, Lentils and Legumes.


Grain Free Food Warning from UC DAVIS


 Aunt Jeni's Home Made is available at THE VET ON MAIN... Our pet foods contain fresh, natural, raw, fit-for-human-consumption ingredients.   Click Here for info on Raw Dinners


NEED ANSWERS?   Try this LOCAL RAW Dog & Cat Food   Unlike any other raw diet ANSWERSTM Pet Food enhances the nutritional value of raw food through the process of fermentation. Utilizing kombucha (fermented organic decaffeinated green tea), raw goat milk whey and providing a cultured raw goat milk formula.


Dogs Vs. Cats...

Dogs and cats require the same nutrient building blocks as people and other animals:                                        

water         fat (essential fatty acids)      carbohydrates       proteins (amino acids)      vitamins and minerals

Dogs, like people, have evolved to efficiently use a wide variety of diets, involving plants and animals. This ability makes dogs omnivores, whereas cats are strict carnivores (meat eaters).

Cats can NOT be vegetarians!

Read This: The Carnivore Connection to Nutrition in Cats

Wolves (the closest ancestor to domestic dogs) and coyotes routinely eat herbivorous mammals (rodents, small mammals and large mammals such as buffalo and deer). The intestinal tract of such prey is readily eaten, meaning that these close relatives to domestic dogs routinely eat plant material. In addition, wolves and coyotes frequently eat fruits and berries. Dogs eat similarly if allowed to roam.  They tend to be scavengers.

The diet of feral (wild or untamed) cats usually consists of small mammals, birds, lizards, and insects. Small rodents such as mice and moles make up 40% or more of their diet. An average cat must eat 12 mice per day to meet his or her daily energy requirement. Thus, when left to fend for themselves, feral cats eat multiple small meals throughout the day and night. When domesticated cats are fed free choice, they too eat multiple times, just like feral cats.

Note...Learned taste aversions (learning to avoid certain foods that they associate with vomiting) are thought to be helpful in feral cats because aversion will help them avoid eating foods likely to be spoiled. However, prolonged anorexia in a cat results in a liver disease called hepatic lipidosis. Anorexia may be caused by such things as stress, unacceptable foods, infection or disease. Cats often may endure prolonged starvation rather than eat an unpalatable food.

True carnivores use prey tissues such as muscle and liver to provide energy and nutrients. Cats have developed more efficient digestive and metabolic pathways to use these nutrients, and have lost the ability or have a decreased ability to synthesize them from building blocks. Cats are NOT small dogs! Adult cats have twice the protein requirements and four times the requirements for B vitamins as dogs. Cats have unique needs for four amino acids: arginine, taurine, methionine, and cystine. Without arginine, cats can't convert toxic ammonia to urea, so it is critical this amino acid be supplied in the diet. Although cats can synthesize taurine, they don't make it in necessary amounts. Therefore, their food must supply most of their taurine needs. Taurine depletion leads to degeneration of the retinas, heart disease and developmental defects. Herbivores and omnivores can readily convert plant precursors into vitamin A but cats cannot--again explaining their need for meat which provides a source of Vitamin A.

Also, cat saliva lacks the enzyme amylase (used to digest complex carbohydrates), therefore, they are not as well adapted to digesting carbohydrates from raw plants as dogs. Lastly, cats also have a short colon, meaning that they have limited ability to use poorly digestible starches and fiber due to bacterial fermentation in the colon.

Linoleic acid and linolenic acid are considered essential fatty acids (EFAs) because dogs and cats lack the enzymes to synthesize them. Ensuring an adequate intake of EFAs is key to maintaining healthy skin and coat, brain, retinas and cartilage. Increasing the amount of fat in foods increases palatability and EFA levels; however, energy content also increases. Cats also require a dietary source of arachidonic acid.

So What do Food Labels Really Mean?

The labels of commercial cat and dog food must list five pieces of information:

1. Guaranteed analysis

2. Nutritional adequacy statement

3. Ingredients

4. Feeding guidelines

5. Manufacturer's name and address



The guaranteed analysis specifies the product's minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat. It also gives the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture. Although not required, some manufacturers also specify the percentages of other nutrients, such as ash and taurine in cat food, and calcium and phosphorus in dog food. Carbohydrate content is the missing component on the guaranteed analysis. 100% minus the sum of the factors listed is understood to be the carbohydrate content.

The amounts of crude protein and most other nutrients appear less for canned products than for dry ones because of differences in moisture content. Canned foods typically contain about 75% water, while dry foods contain only about 10%. When comparing foods one has to remember that food consists of water plus the actual nutrients. Therefore, to compare the protein content of two different foods the water must be removed first. This is referred to as "Comparison on a Dry Matter Basis."

Percent Dry Matter = (% nutrient) divided by (100 - % moisture) x 100

Use the interactive calculator at to help you make the right comparisons.


                                             PET FOOD A, Can:            vs.               PET FOOD B, Dry:


Crude Protein                                6.0%                                                       24.0%

Crude Fat                                      2.5%                                                       10.0%

Crude Fiber                                   1.0%                                                          4.0%

Moisture                                       77.0%                                                      10.0%

Ash                                                1.2%                                                         4.5%

Crude Protein on a Dry Matter Basis for Pet Food A...

Using the above formula ==>  6.0 / (100-77) x 100 = 26.1% protein dry matter




                                        PET FOOD A, Can:               vs.                PET FOOD B, Dry:


Crude Protein                                  26.1%                                              26.7%

Crude Fat                                        10.9%                                            11.1%

Crude Fiber                                      4.3%                                              4.4%

Ash                                                   5.2%                                              5.0%

Therefore, these two foods are very similar in percentages when the moisture is taken into account.

BUYER BEWARE: Ash refers to the percent of the food that remains after burning and reflects mineral content (salt, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium). Low Ash food does not prevent urinary tract disease. Excessive magnesium intake may be one risk factor for feline struvite urolithiasis. However, some foods with low ash may be high in magnesium, and excessive magnesium combined with a low urine pH can actually lead to calcium bladder stones.



Chicken for Cats ("all meat") - the listed ingredient on the label (or the combination of ingredients) must be at least 95% of the total weight of all ingredients (exclusive of water used in processing).

Chicken Dinner (Platter, Entree, etc) - the listed ingredient on the label (or the combination of ingredients) constitutes at least 25% of the total weight of all ingredients (exclusive of water used in processing). Considering canned food is 75% water, that means the actual "meat" component is only 6% of the can.

With Chicken means that only 3% of the product must contain chicken (exclusive of water for processing). Taking out the water factor, means that chicken is only 3% of 25%–this is LESS THAN 1% meat in the whole can!Chicken Flavor means that the animal must just be able to distinguish chicken flavor and is less than 3%.



The nutritional adequacy statement simply means that a product meets AAFCO’s (Association of American Feed Control Officials) recommended standards. AAFCO defines ingredients and official nutritional terms, and determines the protocols by which Pet foods are tested. Companies either conduct feeding trials or biochemical analyses to get AAFCO approval. If the calculations show that the food provides sufficient nutrients to meet the specific AAFCO nutritional profile referenced, the Pet food label will carry a statement like: "(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (Dog or Cat) Food Nutrient Profiles for (specific life stage)." AAFCO has established two nutrient profiles each for dogs and cats--growth/lactation and maintenance.

Buyer beware . . . you may be buying a Pet food advertised as being a nutritionally adequate diet for all dogs (or cats) because it passed "stringent" AAFCO testing ... this really only means that SIX to EIGHT dogs (or cats) ate that food for 6 months and survived with no more than an "acceptable" 15% loss of body weight.   Although a Feeding Trial ensures more adequacy since animals actually ate the food vs. those foods that are just formulated to "MEET" AAFCO's standards.


Descriptive words as "senior," "premium," "super-premium," "gourmet," and "natural," have no standard definition or regulatory meaning. The phrase "recommended by veterinarians" also has no regulatory meaning. There is no minimum number or percentage of veterinarians required for a company to be able to state its product is recommended by vets.

Statements that a product can treat, prevent or reduce the risk of a disease are considered drug claims and are not allowed on Pet food. While a product cannot claim to treat feline lower urinary tract disease, it may make the claim that the food "reduces urine pH to help maintain urinary tract health," provided data generated by the manufacturer and reviewed by CVM support the statement.

A bag that says "100% Nutritionally Complete" does not mean that this is in any way a good food.

Look at the bag "Cat Café’" food, for example. Does this sound COMPLETE to you??

3. INGREDIENTS Read the Label and ask yourself if you would eat it!!   Take the time to COMPARE INGREDIENT LISTS.

The quality of the ingredients or nutritive value of ingredients cannot be determined from the label alone. A Pet owner must rely on the reputation or word of the manufacturer to assess the nutritive value of the ingredients appearing on the list. Research behind nutrition is far more important than consumer advertising. Many Pet food companies play on the emotions of what the human would like to see in the Pet food bowl and not what is actually healthy for the Pet.

Pet food provides a place for slaughterhouse waste and grains considered "unfit for human consumption" to be turned into profit.  But not all of the Pet food manufacturing companies use poor quality and potentially dangerous ingredients. However, the price is often a good indicator of quality. It would be impossible for a company that sells a generic brand of dog food at $9.95 for a 40-lb. bag to use quality protein and grain in its food. The cost of purchasing quality ingredients would be much higher than the selling price.

Also, it is a good idea to make cost comparisons on a "per feeding" basis using feeding directions rather than a cost "per bag". Higher quality foods have less fillers and more digestible ingredients, therefore, they require your Pet to eat less and also results in less waste in the yard or litter box. Dry foods cost about one-third as much as canned foods on a cost-per-calorie basis. Poor quality diets often have excess of certain nutrients, which can be harmful to your Pet. Products for all lifestages (i.e., all-purpose foods) have nutrients added at levels to meet the highest potential need (i.e., usually growth and reproduction). The excess nutrients in all-purpose foods may become nutritional risk factors and influence the possibility of illness as Pets mature and age. Many canned Pet foods contain high levels of meat and meat by-products. These foods typically contain higher levels of protein, phosphorus, sodium, and fat than dry foods.


Excessive salt can lead to high blood pressure, heart and kidney disease.

Excess calcium and fat can lead to hip dysplasia in large breed puppies.

Excess calcium can lead to calcification of the kidney and bladder stones.

Excess dietary phosphorus accelerates the progression of kidney disease.

Excess dietary protein may be harmful if your Pet already has kidney or liver disease.

Excess organ tissue can lead to weak bones, lameness and fractures.


Pet food ingredients must be listed on the label in descending order by weight.

Buyer Beware: Similar materials listed as separate ingredients may outweigh other ingredients that precede them on the list of ingredients. For example, chicken may be listed as the first ingredient, then wheat flour, ground wheat, and wheat middlings. The consumer may believe that chicken is the predominant ingredient, but the three wheat products--when added together--may weigh more than the chicken. This is known as SPLITTING.

Below are the definitions of some common ingredients you will find on Pet food labels:

Chicken - The clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of chicken or a combination thereof, exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails. This definition is similar for lamb, beef, fish, venison, etc.


Chicken Meal - chicken which has been ground or otherwise reduced in particle size and is exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails. The water has been removed which provides a more concentrated source of protein. This definition is similar for lamb, beef, fish and venison meals.

"Meat" - is the clean flesh derived from ANY slaughtered mammal, and is limited to the muscle with or without the accompanying and overlaying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. If a specific single type of meat is used, it must be defined (i.e. Beef), however, any combination of two or more allows "meat. NOTE: There is no limitation on the quality or TYPE, therefore, the meat may be diseased or condemned livestock, HORSE meat, DOG meat, etc.


Another source of meat you won't find mentioned on Pet food labels are dogs and cats. In 1990 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that euthanized companion animals were being used in Pet food. Although Pet food manufacturers vehemently denied the report, the American Veterinary Medical Association confirmed the Chronicle's story. Many Pets are euthanized with sodium pentobarbital and then rendered. This poison does not break down and goes into commercial Pet food and feed for cows, pigs and horses. Ol’Roy, Dad’s, Ken-L-Ration, Kibble Select, Kibbles ‘n Bits and ProPlan are some of the foods that were found to contain pentobarbital. For the detailed report visit the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.


Meat By-Products - non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does NOT include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. 

Poultry By-Products - must consist of non-rendered clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice.

"By-products" include important Orgain meat ... Hearts are a Great source of TAURINE!



**Take a look at Kibbles-N-Bits and you will actually see HAIR in the food!**


Animal Digest - When an animal has digested food, think about what the food has become. This is animal digest. Made by rendering animal products which aren't included in any of the other ingredient descriptions and breaking them down with chemical or enzymatic hydrolysis for use in feed. Must be made soluble with the use of heat and moisture since these ingredients are not soluble in their natural state. (The definition does NOT say it must not contain manure, stomach or intestinal contents.)

Animal Fat - You may have noticed a unique, pungent odor when you open a new bag of Pet food. It is refined animal fat, kitchen grease, and other oils too rancid or deemed inedible for humans. "Fat blenders" or rendering companies pick up this rancid grease and mix the different types of fat together, stabilize them with powerful antioxidants to retard further spoilage, and then sell the blended products to Pet food companies. These fats are sprayed directly onto DRY FOOD to make an otherwise bland or distasteful product palatable.

NOTE: If you store dry Pet food in a container other than its original bag, be sure to wash the empty container with soap and hot water before adding food from a new bag. The residual fat that settles on the bottom of the container can become rancid. This spoiled fat may contaminate fresh food added to the container, causing vomiting or diarrhea when fed to your Pet.

Corn (or Rice) Gluten Meal - is the dried residue from corn (or rice) after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran. Note: corn is a good quality source of carbohydrates and thus energy for Pets. However, corn is a common cause of food allergies in dogs.

Two of the top three ingredients in many Pet foods are often some form of grain products. Since cats are true carnivores -- they must eat meat to fulfill certain physiological needs -- one may wonder why we are feeding a corn-based product to them. The answer is that corn is much cheaper than meat.

Brewer's rice - The dried extracted residue of rice that results from manufacturing liquid portions of malted grain. May contain pulverized dried spent hops in an amount not to exceed 3%.

Rice Bran - is the outer coating of the rice kernel, with little or none of the starchy part of the germ. It is easy to digest and a good source of nutrients .

Sorghum - is the ground grain of the sorghum plant. It is a good source of carbohydrates, however, it is low in digestibility.

Soy - is another common ingredient that is sometimes used as filler in Pet food. Manufacturers use it to add bulk so that an animal eats will feel more full. While soy has been linked to gas and allergies in some dogs, other dogs do quite well with it.

Mill run, grain hulls or middlings - are the by-products and outer coverings of grains processed for human consumption. Does not include the more nutritious germ, flour or bran. Wheat middlings and shorts are also categorized as the fine particles of wheat germ, bran, flour and offal from the "tail of the mill." Tail of the mill is nothing more then the sweepings of leftovers after everything has been processed from the week. These items are strictly a filler and have no nutritive value. Often used in low calorie foods to make the Pet feel full.

Additives and Preservatives are added to commercial Pet foods to improve the stability or appearance of the food but have no nutritional value. Added color and flavor make the product more attractive to consumers and their companion animals.

BHA and BHT are potential cancer-causing agents, and there is little information documenting their toxicity or the safety of long-term use in Pet food.

Ethoxyquin is not approved for use as a preservative in human food but is commonly used in Pet foods and is thought to cause cancer.

Propylene glycol (a form of antifreeze) is used in many Pet foods, especially semi-moist foods. Experimentally exposed animals suffered nausea, vomiting, convulsions, liver damage, kidney damage, coughing, wheezing, loss of balance, heart arrhythmia, respiratory failure, stupor, growth depression, decreased blood pressure, coma and death.

Sodium nitrite is used as both a preservative and a red coloring agent in food and can produce cancer-causing substances. Note: Red dyes have been linked to behavior problems!!

Onion is used to add flavor but can lead to deadly hemolytic anemia in Pets.

Sweeteners such as corn syrup, sugar, and cane mallases are usually added to lower quality foods to increase their appeal. Dietary sugars can aggravate health problems.



Keys to finding a good quality food are:


Chicken, Lamb, Fish, Venison, Beef as the #1 ingredient (meal is acceptable)

Avoid the generic term of "MEAT"

Life-Stage Appropriate (Large Breed Puppy, Adult, Senior, etc)

Whole grains (avoid mill runs, hulls, middlings)

Try to Avoid artificial colors or dyes

Natural preservatives such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, rosemary, and mixed tocopherols

Avoid animal digest

Avoid the generic term "animal" fat



Note that Cats, being strict carnivores, actually do much better with a HIGH PROTEIN, LOW CARB diet but dogs do NOT need high protein diets. 

Currently, I feed my cats canned food and High Protein dry Diets (average 40%) in addition to PRIMAL FREEZE-DRIED & Freeze Dried Chicken Treats, and they are very healthy and have beautiful, shiny hair coats!






















Feeding directions on Pet food provide only a broad guideline. Nutritional requirements vary according to a pet's age, breed, body weight, genetics, amount of activity, and even the climate in which the Pet lives. You should adjust portions based on your pet’s body condition...ideally you should be able to easily feel the ribs and see a waist in front of the hips.

Most label recommendations are 30% MORE than your pet actually needs as most recommendations are based on animals that are not spayed and neutered.

ALL LIFE STAGE FOOD IS ACTUALLY PUPPY AND KITTEN FOOD and contains MORE Calories and Fat than an Adult needs.


Overfeeding even a "light" food can cause weight gain if fed in excess of caloric needs. It's estimated that about 25% of dogs and cats are overweight.

Obesity can shorten a pet's life by TWO YEARS ... Obesity contributing to heart and liver problems, diabetes, arthritis, bladder cancer, and skin disorders.



"Less calories" and "reduced calories" mean only that the product has fewer calories than another product, and "less fat" and "reduced fat" mean the product is less fatty than another one. In both cases, the manufacturer must state on the label the percentage of reduction and the product of comparison.



A Pet food can claim to be "light" or "lean" only if it meets AAFCO's standard definitions for these terms. These definitions differ for dog and cat food and also depend on the moisture content of the food. The words "light," "low fat," "lite" and "low calorie" all have the same meaning. Note: Most Pet food labels do not provide calorie content, but can be obtained by contacting the manufacturer.

Calorie and fat contents listed below are the maximum limits allowed in dog and cat food labeled "light" or "lean."

Dry Foods (< 20% water)

Dogs: 1.409 calories per pound, 9% Fat

Cats: 1,477 calories per pound, 10% fat

Semi-moist Foods (20-65% water)

Dogs: 1,136 calories per pound, 7% fat

Cats: 1,205 calories per pound, 8% fat


Moist Foods (> 65% water)

Dogs: 409 calories per pound, 4% fat
Cats: 432 calories per pound, 5% fat 




Thinking about switching your Pet's Food?

Sudden changes in diet can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, belching, and flatulence.

Therefore, it is recommended to SLOWLY change your pet's food over the course of 1-2 weeks to avoid digestive upset.  Slowing increase the amount of new food and decrease the amount of old food such as outlined below:

25% NEW mixed with 75% OLD for a few days

50% NEW mixed with 50% OLD for a few days

75% NEW mixed with 25% OLD for a few days


For extra health benefits, you can also add plain yogurt and canned pumpkin to the food!

JUST REMEMBER...Supplementing a poor quality diet will NOT increase your Pet’s health!

And what about Food Allergies?

In dogs, the most common causes of adverse reactions are the PROTEIN: chicken, beef, dairy and pork but some can not tolerate corn, soy or wheat.  BE CAREFUL WITH GRAIN=FREE DIETS as they are causing Heart DIsease in Dogs.  Our top pick for Food issues is Proplan Senstitive Skin and Stomach Salmon or Lamb.

In cats, the most common causes of adverse reactions are: fish, beef, dairy products, wheat and chicken.  Top pick is Proplan Sensitive Skin and Stomach.

FACT: In Pets, it is usually the skin that suffers with a food allergy. Food allergy is one of the itchiest conditions in veterinary dermatology.

Allergic Pets may constantly scratch and bite, rub their face and lick their feet.

Some may chew or lick at themselves until wounds and infection form.

Redness of the skin (especially on face, ears and feet) and hair loss.

Ear infections (or inflammation, redness, discharge and odor) are very common with allergies.

Thickened or darkened skin may develop under the armpits, on the abdomen, inside the earflap, or around the anus. This irritated skin can easily become infected with bacteria or yeast which already exist on normal skin.

FACT: It takes time to develop a food allergy, typically months to years. The immune system must be exposed and must develop enough antibodies to trigger an allergic reaction and this requires multiple exposures to the food in question. A reaction to a food that occurs on the first exposure is called a "food intolerance" and involve toxins within the food but not an allergic reaction.

An Elimination Diet is the only way to diagnose a food allergy and is very important in the treatment of food allergies.  That means the hypoallergenic diet and ONLY that diet must be feed for a minimum of 6-8 weeks! WE RECOMMEND A PRESCRIPTION DIET TRIAL WITH HILLS Z/D or PURINA HA!  What about treats?  Well, best thing is to AVOID ALL TREATS.  You can slice the canned hypoallergenic food and bake that for treats.  Or put the dry kibble in the food processor and add enough water to make dough and then roll out and bake.

FACT: Animals commonly have several allergies concurrently. A food allergy responding to a test diet at the same time an inhalant allergy is active will look like a partial response. On the other side of the coin, an inhalant allergy can become inactive should the weather change substantially during the diet trial. In order to determine if a response to a diet trial is real, at the end of the trial the patient is challenged with the original diet. If itching re-starts within feeding 2 weeks of the challenge, food allergy can be diagnosed.


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