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The Scary Myths about Pet Food… by a Markham veterinarian

By September 15, 2013 February 28th, 2019 Uncategorized

On Monday September 7, 2009 at 1 pm CBC-TV aired: “Pet Food – A dog’s breakfast. A stunning analysis of how clever low quality food is being marketed.”

Pet Food Commercials and labels show fetchingly presented ingredients that humans would be happy to eat. But, Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, says “I think many pet owners would be very surprised to learn about the ingredients that are actually going into the can or the bag.”

Pet Food made of old boots and motor oil?

Dr. Meg Smart from the University in Saskatoon made a strange concoction, made of old leather boots, wood shavings and motor oil, which in theory could pass one of the minimum standards for pet food, even though it’s inedible.

While veterinarians in Markham believe that this particular show was mostly provocative to demonstrate how you can circumvent all common sense standards, it just shows that there is a difference between a bold marketing claims and the reality.

 Petfood Facts every pet owner must know.

You cannot rely on

  • Photos: Pictures of healthy ingredients, happy pets, etc. don’t mean anything.
  • Claims like “holistic, wellness, natural, premium” etc. are not regulated and anyone can say that.
  • Organic: is a regulated term and the food and its processing has to be certified organic, however, organic ingredients do not mean better quality or nutrition. There are a lot of merits to organic production, but strictly nutritionally speaking there is little difference.
  • Breed claims: Most breeds have similar nutrient requirements and a “German Shepherd Diet” claims to have joint support supplements which a “Golden Retriever Diet” also has. Veterinarians in Markham recognize a difference in the nutritional needs of small breeds versus larger growing breeds, but a Maltese and a Yorkshire Terrier’s requirements are not different.
  • First ingredient: Ingredients are listed in order of weight when added into the food. However some ingredients contain a lot of water and skew the order. If you add whole chicken and corn meal, the chicken has 75-80% water while the corn meal about 12%. Chicken would be listed first, Corn second. If you would dry all the ingredients to eliminate the water, the same food would have chicken in the second or third position.
  • Amount of Protein: High protein diets (some have over 50%) come from the myth that our pets are exclusive carnivores. Indeed too much protein may harm the kidneys. There are clear researched guidelines how much protein a dog or cat needs. Any excess is not necessary.
  • Exclusion of one ingredient: Wheat-free is only a benefit if the animal is allergic to gluten (the protein portion of wheat) – which most animals are not. Wheat is a good and healthy nutrient for most animals. The same applies to other ingredients.
  • Recommendations by pet store sales staff. There is a natural conflict of interest.
  • High Price implies good quality, but it does not prove it. In reverse, really low priced food cannot be good quality. Good ingredients cost money.
  • Lifestage Claims: Most foods have contradicting life stage claims: A bag marked “Adult Dog Food” may disclose in the AAFCO statement that it is for “All Lifestages” and therefore is also suitable as puppy food and too nutrient dense for adult dogs. For more on AAFCO go to their  website:

So, what can you actually rely on?

The best foods are foods that have been independently tested by AAFCO by performing a feeding trial. Some pet food companies have some (please note SOME) of their foods tested, while most companies do not. You can check on each bag or can whether the food has been feeding trial tested. The information is usually in fine print close to the Guaranteed Analysis.

Veterinarians in Markham have done the work for you. Most of the foods we recommend have been tested. However some foods, like weight loss diets, would not pass the test and are therefore never tested by AAFCO. For more information please visit our website at

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Your Careteam

Practicing Veterinary Medicine in Markham for a Long and Happy Life of ALL Your Pets.

Animal Hospital of Unionville, a veterinary clinic on the north side of  Hwy 7, serving all pets in Markham, Richmond Hill, Scarborough, Stouffville, and North York since 1966. We are your family vets for dogs, cats, pocket pets (rabbits, chinchillas, gerbils, mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skinny pigs, etc.), ferrets, and birds (budgies, cockatiel, parrots, amazon, cockatoo, love birds, conures, African greys, finches, canaries, etc.).

Disclaimer: No part of this website constitutes medical advice. Readers are advised to consult with their veterinarian.

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