Finding Healthy Pet Food at the Supermarket

Finding healthy pet food at the supermarket is possible. Learn to read labels and disregard misleading advertising so that you can make the best choice possible for your dog or cat.

Ignore Pet Food Advertising

Begin your shopping trip with a promise to ignore the photographs and advertisements on the food bags. Juicy cuts of top quality meat and fresh, whole fruits and vegetables are probably not inside the bag.

Most dog and cat foods will have an AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) certification. This industry group sets standards for pet food nutrition. While it does offer some level of nutritional assurance, it does not guarantee that you are getting the highest quality pet food available. AAFCO standards allow many highly allergenic and unpalatable ingredients to be included in dog and cat foods. All recently recalled pet foods bore the AAFCO certification.

Begin with the label. A healthy dog food or cat food will contain a named meat as its first ingredient. Look for chicken, lamb or (in the case of cat foods) a named fish such as salmon. Avoid foods that do not name the meat.

By Products Not Ideal Primary Ingredients

By-products have gotten a bad reputation, but it is partially undeserved. By-products include lungs, spleen, intestines, brains, kidneys and liver-material that wild dogs and cats eat regularly. By-products, when they are simply parts of a slaughtered animal that humans can (but choose not to) eat such as brains, kidneys and liver, are fine. But parts that are unsuitable for human consumption-spoiled, rancid or diseased meat-should not be part of your pet's diet. To avoid the risk of low-quality ingredients, you may choose to skip foods containing by-products.

Avoid Common Cat and Dog Allergens

Healthy cat food and dog food should not contain soy, wheat or corn. These are common ingredients in pet foods and are the source of many allergies.

Limit Preservatives to Natural Foods

Avoid cat or dog foods that are preserved with chemicals such as Ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT or Propyl Gallate. All natural pet foods are preserved with mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), and many larger brands are following suit.

Don't Let Dog and Cat Food Spoil

If possible, buy a dog or cat food that has an expiration date stamped on the bag. Do not buy more food than you will use in a month. An opened bag of pet food is more likely to spoil, and rancid, spoiled food can cause illness or even death.

As grocery stores begin to cater to the higher expectations of pet owners, more and more high-quality pet foods are appearing on the shelves. Look past those delicious-looking photos on the bag and read the labels carefully to find the food most suitable for your pet.