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What's in Dog and Cat Food? What are you feeding your pet and do you really want to know?

Updated on October 5, 2011

Do you really know what you're feeding your pet?

Sure modern bagged or canned dog and cat food is convenient but what do we really know about what's side the food we feed our pets everyday?

In the olden days, "pet" were more likely working animals like hunting dog, herding dogs and barn paroling cats. Cats ate the mice they found plus some house scraps, dogs ate scraps left over from humans and the farm animals. Its wasn't until the invention of canning that commercially available dog food came into existence. This video gives the history of pet food:

History of Pet Food

Read the Label

So what is in dog food? Well all you have to do is read the label, like packaged food for people, pet food is required by law to list ingredients by weight, starting with the heaviest. Water might be the main ingredient on canned food but keep in mind that according to the FDA, meat is 75% water. Typically actual meat would fall lower on the list without the water weight. Dry food such as chicken meal or meat and bone meal, are different since most of the water and fat have been removed - the result is a concentrated animal protein.

If you see the word "byproduct" that could mean just about anything. Liver is considered a byproduct but is rich in nutrients. Other byproducts are things that considered unfit for humans (unless we are talking about hot dogs). These can be blood, bone, brains, stomachs, udders, and cleaned intestines but not inedible things like hair, horns, teeth, and hooves unless they fall into the process by accident. Even in human food like hot dogs a small percentage of things like mouse droppings is allowed.

Sometimes the word "byproduct" isn't used for certain meat ingredients. “Chicken” or “beef” could be the heart, esophagus, tongue, and diaphragm. Just because we don't eat it, remember that a dog in wild probably wouldn't mind these tasty parts.

Then there is all of the preservatives, artificial colors, and stabilizers in pet food which keep the product shelf stable. These have to be approved by the FDA.


How Dog and Cat Food is Made

What is a meat byproduct? Warning this is really gross

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