AAFCO · Animals · Association of American Food Control Officials · Pet food · Pet food regulations · Pets

Unhealthy Ingredients In Commercial Pet “Foods”


From Susan Thixton, a pet food activist, comes a list of ingredients deemed unhealthy to us 4-leggeds that are part and parcel of most commercial pet “foods.” Ms. Thixton is quick to point that the list of ingredients is based on her:

[] experience and knowledge of the pet food industry, knowledge of pet food ingredients, knowledge of pet food law, and knowledge of lack of enforcement of law.

As a former animal law attorney who has studied pet food for many years, my 2-legged fully agrees with Ms. Thixton. Moreover, he is one of many such opponents to the ingredients used by pet food manufacturers (is it really “food” if it’s manufactured?). (see, Dr. Michael Fox, Dr. Pitcairn, Dr. Amy Nesselrodt, Dr. Cathy Alinovi, among others.


Click here for a list of these ingredients and the reasons they are unhealthy.


Rotting carcasses waiting to be rendered into pet “food.”

Recently, one my readers wondered what the basis for our dislike of commercial pet “foods” was. In essence, this very smart individual (my 2-legged knows him and has great admiration for his intelligence) asked what scientific studies had been done comparing ingredients, foods, etc. Unfortunately, no such scientific comparative studies exist and are unlikely to exist for as long as commercial pet “food” manufacturers actually control both the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, if one knows the actual source of these ingredients, then one may reach the conclusion that most commercial pet “foods” are indeed unhealthy. Adding to this, if one wishes to look into it, is the increase of cancer and other diseases (virtually unknown to the pet kingdom less than 50 years ago) which can be attributed to “foods” (a fact that is also relevant to the 2-leggeds).


The industry likes to refer to its pet “food” feeding trials to market their product as perfectly balanced and healthy. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website states:

“Of all the education and resources that Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. provides to veterinarians and their health care teams, the most potentially valuable for their patients are criteria for evidence-based clinical nutrition.  Conducting high-powered clinical trials is not simply Hill’s approach to product development but another way the company gives back to the profession—by providing scientific evidence they believe veterinarians can depend on when arriving at informed clinical decisions.”

In fact, these feeding trials last for 26 weeks, unless the trial is for growth, then it is only 10 weeks! Hardly enough time to gauge the effects of the “food.” Moreover, a simple blood work is all that is required to pass the feeding trial (actually, four blood tests) which examine only four values: hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen), packed cell volume (the fraction of whole blood volume that consists of red blood cells), serum alkaline phosphatase (a substance present in a number of tissues including liver, bone, intestine, and placenta used in the diagnosis of 2 main groups of conditions-hepatobiliary disease and bone disease associated with increased osteoblastic activity) and serum albumin (a type of protein the liver produces which carries vital nutrients and hormones, and provides the body with the proteins it needs to maintain growth and repair tissue).

Feeding trials do not require a full blood chemistry panel, a complete blood count nor urinalysis. The 4-leggeds are examined by a veterinarian before and after the trial for clinical signs of nutritional disease, but unless a food is blatantly formulated wrong, it’s unlikely that within this brief period of time the 4-leggeds will develop clinical signs of a problem.

What is little know and is common (standard until now) is that feeding trials use ‘purpose-bred’ dogs and cats tested in a laboratory setting. What’s a “purpose-bred” dog or cat? Glad you asked. From the University of Cincinnati website:

“Purpose-bred dogs are those that are specifically bred for biomedical research, most often by companies that specialize in producing such animals. Purpose-bred dogs can be either mixed breed or purebred. Purebred animals have the advantage of uniform size, body conformation, and genetic background. The beagle is a popular purebred because of its relatively small size. There are far fewer companies offering purpose-bred cats.”

As Ms. Thixton points out, most dogs and cats used in typical pet food feeding trials are born, raised, and die in a laboratory kennel. What a life, hey? Trials are either conducted by a pet “food” company or through a 3rd party paid by the pet “food” company, an obvious conflict of interest. These purpose-bred 4-leggeds serve a purpose – to sell pet food – and that is all.  Let me know if you find accurate pictures (i.e., not marketing pictures) of these 4-leggeds in these settings. We’ve been unable to.


What’s worse is that the industry, and many veterinarians, now discourage the use of human-grade foods (i.e., left-overs or home-cooked meals). This is interesting inasmuch as the ingredients used by the commercial pet “food” industry are the same ingredients used in human foods!!! Granted, the quality is vastly different since commercial pet food manufacturers use the grain discards, many of which can contain toxic substances such as aflatoxins, and diseased meats found unfit for human consumption, as well as euthanized pets and road kill. Appetizing, no?

One final note: If feeding trials are used to determined a nutritionally balanced meal, why is it that this standard is changed on an almost yearly basis?

Happily eating home-cooked ingredients made from organic human-grade ingredients,



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