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So many pet foods, so many choices! What is best for my pet?

dog witting with food

With so many choices for pet foods on the market today, it can be overwhelming to walk into a store to try and choose a food for your furry companion.  Pet food companies use advertisements to convince consumers to buy their product, and as we all know, advertising is not always truthful.  Some commercial diets can actually be harmful to pets. Diet-related health issues may not show up immediately, but they can become very serious over time. 

Animals suffer from many of the same afflictions as humans – obesity, diabetes, arthritis, allergies and seizures to name a few. Our own bad habits of consuming unbalanced, supersized, processed foods and foods high in carbohydrates are creating the same problems in our pets. Just like us, their lives can be shortened by the foods they are eating.

             Most of the pet foods on the market are marked “AAFCO approved”, however, the requirements to gain this approval are very basic only.  AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control) only tests 8 animals on any given diet over a 6 month span; each pet food can be “AAFCO approved” as long as 6 of the 8 animals in the food trial did not die during the testing period.  These industry standards are not a good indicator of an animal’s overall health and well-being in the long term.  To us, “AAFCO approved” is simply not enough.

Whole food nutrition is just as important in the animal world as it is for us. The focus should be on feeding a diet rich in high quality meat protein, healthy carbohydrates, and fruits and vegetables. Dogs are omnivores like humans, while cats are carnivores. Cats benefit from a diet that is richer in meat protein than carbohydrates. Your dog’s diet should contain a healthy amount of meat protein, but also the high quality carbohydrates that they need to thrive.

Pets are able to derive nutrients from grains, fruits, and vegetables – these non-meat foods are not simply fillers, but are a valuable source of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A good pet food will contain meat, vegetables and grains, and often time fruits. Diets that are over-processed and cooked at high temperatures are less nutritious. The high temperatures of the cooking process deactivate enzymes that are essential to the digestive process, and denature proteins which are vital to our pets’ health. Gently cooked and canned foods tend to be healthier for our pets than over-processed and overcooked diets that are lacking in nutritional value.


  • Vegetables and fruits are considered good sources of carbohydrates.
  • Grain-free is not better! Grains contain taurine, a nutrient that is important for heart health. Foods with only beans, peas, or potatoes in place of a whole grain may not allow for proper taurine absorption - we do not recommend a grain-free diet for this reason. If your pet’s grain-free food only contains beans, peas, lentils or potatoes then they are at high risk for developing heart disease. Opt for diets that contain rice, barley, oats, whole wheat or whole kernel corn.


  • Foods made in China.
  • Additives, food colorings and ingredients such as propylene glycol.
  • Preservatives such as BHA/BHT and Ethoxyquin.
  • Foods that contain beans, peas, lentils or potatoes as the only source of carbohydrates.


  • “B” – Boutique Companies: Pet food companies are considered “boutique” if they are not well-established in the veterinary field, and if the diets that they offer rely more on marketing and less on scientific research. Small food manufacturers or locally-owned companies may sound like a responsible source for your pet’s food, but they simply do not have the resources needed to create a healthy, balanced pet food. Larger companies have more funds to devote to research, testing and quality control. Pet food companies that are the most trustworthy have a board-certified veterinary nutritionist on staff to conduct feeding trials that support nutritional adequacy.

  • “E” – Exotic Ingredients: To provide our pets with a variety of flavors, pet food companies have expanded their meat protein sources from the traditional chicken, beef or salmon options. Some of these trendy protein sources are rabbit, alligator, bison, lamb, venison and kangaroo. When these exotic proteins are paired with grain-free carbohydrates such as peas, lentils or legumes, a severe taurine deficiency can develop. And unfortunately these proteins have also been associated with heart disease.

  • “G” Grain-Free Diets: Grain-free diets grew in popularity between the years 2005-2008, and retained that popularity until the summer of 2018. In August 2018, a report was published discussing the potential connection between grain-free diets and heart disease, however, the exact link has not been identified. We are urging pet owners to transition their pets from grain

free foods to diets with whole grains instead of beans, peas, lentils and potatoes as carbohydrate sources.


  • Wet or canned food is preferred over dry food – less processing is involved.
  • Canned diets naturally include an appropriate amount of water.
  • These diets are good for pets with kidney or other chronic diseases that would benefit from increased hydration.


  • Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, Purina, and Iams/Eukanuba 


  • Kirkland, ACANA, Taste of the Wild, 4health, Zignature, Instinct, Nutrisource, Nature’s Domain, Fromm and Orijen


  • Avoid treats made in China.
  • Avoid baked and processed treats with added sugars.
  • Consider freeze-dried chicken, beef, liver, or other meats - watch salt content!
  • Plain rice cakes and low-salt canned or frozen green beans are great low calorie treats.


On the label of anything that goes into your pet’s mouth!

Diet Change Recommendations:

When changing foods, be sure to transition SLOWLY onto the new diet over about 10-14 days.

Please understand that the contents of these pages refer to foods suitable for healthy pets without heart, GI, kidney, or thyroid conditions, food allergies, or other abnormal conditions.

If you have any questions or concerns about choosing the most appropriate diet

for your pet, or any of this information, please do not hesitate to call us at (480) 820-2822.

Contact Information

McClintock Animal Care Center
1836 East Elliot Road
Tempe, AZ 85284

Phone: (480) 820-2822
Email: [email protected]


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