The Horrors of Commercial Pet Food: What Every Dog and Cat Owner Should Know

This article explores the dangers of commercial pet food; the toxins, grotesque and harshly processed ingredients that can end up in your dog and cat’s food. These products are also species-inappropriate, unnatural, high-carbohydrate and ill-suited to the physiology of dogs and cats. The commercial pet food industry has a secret to hide.


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Dangers of Commercial Pet Food; unfit for your beloved Dogs and Cats


Some of the ingredients that end up in commercial pet foods are truly shocking. What’s more, many of these will not appear on the label and others are hidden under umbrella terms such as “meat meal” and “meat by-products”. How can this happen? The pet food industry is highly unregulated. As Ann Martin, author of Foods Pets Die For, writes in her article The Pet Food Industry and its Questionable Practices, “Governments in the USA and Canada regulate the labeling of the food, the name and address of the company, the weight of the product, and whether it is made for a dog or cat – nothing more.”



The meats used in pet food can be extremely low grade and unfit for human consumption. Summarized as the “4 D’s” (dead, diseased, disabled and dying), these can include roadkill, zoo animals and infected and cancerous meats.


At the rendering plants, ingredients are highly heated and processed, destroying nutrients and enzymes, with strong preservatives added which do not appear on the labels. These include fat stabilizers such as BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytolulene), both of which are known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction and Ethoxyquin, a suspected cancer-causing agent. Semi-moist dog foods may also contain propylene glycol, a relation to ethylene glycol (anti-freeze), which can destroy red blood cells.




Pets in your Pet Food


Though reportedly not the case today, it is well recorded that dogs and cats have ended up in dog and cat food. In his 1990 article, “How Dogs and Cats Get Recycled Into Pet Food”, John Eckhouse, an investigative reporter, wrote: “Each year, millions of dead American dogs and cats are processed along with billions of pounds of other animal materials by companies known as renderers. The finished products — tallow and meat meals — serve as raw materials for thousands of items that include cosmetics and pet food.”


Doctor of veterinary medicine, Wendell Belfield, in Foods Not Fit For a Pet (Earth Island Journal, 1996), reports that “federal and state agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and medical groups such as the American Veterinary Medical Association and the California Veterinary Medical Association, confirm that pets, on a routine basis, are rendered after they die in animal shelters or are disposed of by health authorities, and the end product frequently finds its way into pet food.”



Toxic Grains in Commercial Pet Food for Dogs and Cats


The very use of grains in pet food is questionable as grains are ill-suited to the digestive physiology of carnivores. This is especially so for cats who are obligatory carnivores and meet their glucose requirements through amino acids in their diet. Further, the grains used in dog and cat foods may contain mycotoxins, fungi that can cause chronic conditions and even death in both humans and animals. As the grains used in pet food are low grade, they are dealt with last in the handling process; and because of this, are often left in storage where insects, mites and mycotoxic molds can grow.


The consumption of dead mites can cause skin allergies. If your pet has skin allergies, change their diet first before turning to steroids which can be seriously detrimental to your pets health.


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Alfatoxin poisoning, a common mycotoxin that grows on corn as well as other foods, has been reported for over 50 years. Vomotoxin is another mycotoxin found in wheat products. Where large doses of mycotoxins can cause cancer and even rapid death, small continuous amounts may suppress the immune system and damage organs over time, leading to long-term chronic health conditions.


At the end of 2005, over 100 dogs were killed in the United States because of alfatoxin found in pet food, with some 19 brands of Diamond dog food being recalled. It is likely there were many more deaths than those reported, and as alfatoxin attacks the liver it is likely surviving dogs may develop chronic liver disease or liver cancer in the future.


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Toxic Chemicals in Commercial Dog Food and Cat Food


The toxin sodium pentobarbital, a chemical that is used to euthanize animals and pets, has been found in commercial pet foods. The US Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine performed two studies to test for pentobarbital.  Of the 74 samples analysed, over half were found to contain pentobarbital. What’s more, none of the 43 brands and product lines that tested positive warned of its presence on their labels.


The FDA researchers also tested the food for the presence of dogs or cats, but reported none present. It was believed the pentobarbital residues were entering pet foods from euthanized, rendered cattle or even horses.


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The FDA say the small amounts of the drug found in these foods were harmless, but not all veterinarians agree. Long-term continual doses, even at small levels may increase the onset of chronic and degenerative diseases.


Aside from the toxins and base ingredients of commercial pet foods, these harshly processed and high-carbohydrate products in no way match the natural diets dogs and cats would have eaten in the wild. They are species-inappropriate and ill-suited to canine and feline physiology.

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So what should we Feed our Puppies, Dogs, Cats and Kittens?


I recommend healthy, homemade, raw diets or optimum natural, holistic alternatives for the health and well-being of your dog and cat. Before embarking on a raw food diet (otherwise known as BARF, “biologically adequate raw food”), thoroughly research the area first as nutritional balance is essential.


What is the RAW Food Diet for Dogs?


Dangers of Commercial Pet Food


What do you think about the Dangers of Commercial Pet Food?  Please share your thoughts and concerns with us.

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  • Penelope

    This is truly terrifying. I had no idea that animals from shelters ended up back into pet food…soylent green kibble is pets!!

    I think I’m gonna have to switch my elderly cat to homemade food soon, because I want to prolong her life and after reading this, the stuff I’m getting her from the grocery store isn’t gonna do it. thanks for the info!

    • Tammy

      Thank you for the comment, Penelope! It really is shocking…no wonder our precious pets have so much cancer and other diseases. I hope you can make the transition for your cat. I know a lot of people that feed only RAW or homemade food and their pets are very healthy. 🙂

  • Oh my Lord Tammy! I knew that factory produced pet food was bad and you certainly put into perspective just how awful they are here. We switched our 3 cats to raw about 2 years ago. One was overweight and addicted to kibble crap but with perseverance we weaned her off and the change in her is astounding. She’s still round but she’s slimmed A LOT. All of my cats are happier, more energetic, rarely vomit (was a regular occurrence on kibble and tinned food) and have shiny coats. We’ll never look back! We feed an 80/10/10 diet. What do you recommend?

    Cheers 🙂

    • Tammy

      Hello Lace, my dogs used to throw up a lot on commercial food also and they were overweight – these are dogs that have passed, before I knew about RAW and how crappy the commercial food is. My current RAW fed dogs are never sick and have a perfect weight for their size with great muscle tone. I think 80/10/10 is great! So happy to hear you feed your kitty’s a RAW diet. Thank you for sharing 🙂 🐾

  • Thanks for the reminder about what big business rubbish they put into our cherished dogs and cats’ food. I had my first cat about ten years ago and didn’t know any better about the differences. I remember feeding her cat treats from a big-name brand and she got sick as soon as she ate them (I won’t name names). I am very particular about what I feed my cat now and this article shows how horrible commercial pet food is for dogs and cats. If you know someone who’s unaware of this, please share this article with them. Not to sound melodramatic, but it could save them a lot of heartache.

    • Tammy

      Hi Mike, I wrote this to get the word out. Years ago I didn’t know any better either. I bet your cat is healthy and happy without this commercial pet food garbage.

  • Cheska J

    Wow, I actually did not deeply know about this. I am a new owner and have a pet dog and cat at home, and I’ve been serving them commercial pet food for a few months now. I’ve heard about it but I didn’t know what made it so bad, it’s funny how they claim it’s nutritious and healthy for our furry friends but when in reality it isn’t! Now I know better to be much better informed on stuff like this. Thank you for this write-up! Definitely learning a lot.

    • Tammy

      Thank you for your comment, Cheska. I wrote this post on commercial dog food so people can be aware of the dangers of feeding it to their precious pets.

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