Know What You Are Feeding Your Dog

By Val Clows

!When you see big colorful letters on the bag or can of pet food that says “Lamb and Rice” you assume that the food is made of lamb and rice. Did you know that it might only be 3% lamb? Did you stop to wonder what the other 97% is? To make informed decisions you must read the label.

The following chart has been prepared to help you score any dog or cat food for overall quality, nutrition and digestibility. Remember that ingredients by law, must be listed in descending order by weight. Dogs and cats both require a meat based diet due to their genetic foundation so quality meat sources should be at the very beginning of the list. Digestibility can be easily determined by monitoring the amount of stool produced. If the quantity produced is equal to or greater than the amount of food eaten the digestibility of the product can be considered poor. Food that is easily digested should produce stool quantities that approach 25% of the amount of food eaten.


Add the assigned points to the first food item in each of the five major categories: Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Preservatives and Vitamins/minerals. Add any bonus points to this score. The maximum score achievable is 100 including bonus points. A score ot 60-80 indicates a high quality, healthy food. The lower the total score the lower the food quality. Simply put, the healthier the food, the healthier the pet.

PROTEIN Protein is composed of amino acids which are essential for health and organ function. Meat should be the main protein source to ensure a healthy diet for your pet.

PointsListed As ActualDescription/Benefits and Dangers
20Lamb, chicken, turkey, beef, fish, venison, rabbit, duck…Fresh meat, clean flesh and muscle meat
15Lambmeal, chicken mealSame as above except it has been cooked dried and ground before use
10Meatmeal, animal mealComes from unidentified meat sources including dead and dying animals. May include diseased, cancerous animals that have been rejected for human consumption
10Meat and bone mealSame as above with ground bone added.
5Meat by-products or mealIncludes non-specific unidentified parts including beaks, feathers, feces hair and roadkill.
5Animal digest, liver digestChemically or enzymatically digested animal tissues including the unidentified parts that are listed above.
5Beef, chicken ….by productsContain parts of the specified animal but in unidentified parts as listed above.

CARBOHYDRATES – Provides incomplete proteins, vitamins and minerals. A diet that is high in grains is difficult for a dog to digest and many nutrients are lost. Grains frequently contain pesticide residues and agricultural chemicals and frequently trigger allergic reactions.

PointsListed As ActualDescription/Benefits and Dangers
20Brown rice, barley, millet, oats, rye, quinoa, amarathNutrient dense, unprocessed whole grains
20Sweet potatoesHigh quality source of carbohydrates and fiber. Excellent source of nutrition, very rich in carotene, potassium, calcium and Vitamin C
10White rice, brewers riceLower quality, nutrient deficient processed grains
10White potatoes, PastaUsed as a filler. Very starchy and difficult to digest
5Corn and wheatDifficult to digest. Among the most common allergens our pets react to. Frequently contaminated with agricultural chemicals, molds and fungus
1Rice gluten, peanut hulls, middlings, corn gluten hulls, rice branFragments of whole grains and floor sweepings are frequently contaminated. Used primarily as filler with no redeeming nutritive value
1Beet pulpUsed as an energy source and flavoring. Provides empty “sugar” calories
1Soybean meal, soy flourDogs and cats lack the enzymes to utilize the protein in soy. This is often used as a bulk filler and can cause gas.

FATS – Fats provide energy, help to nourish healthy skin and coat and aid in the utilization of many vitamins and minerals as well as keeping the cells strong.

PointsListed As ActualDescription/Benefits and Dangers
20Flax, canola, fish or oliveMono-unsaturated fats readily utilized by the body to promote health. May reduce the risk of cancer.
10Sunflower, safflower, corn or Soybean oilPoly-unsaturated fats containing unbalanced Omega 6 fatty acids more difficult for the body to utilize effectively.
10Chicken Fat, Beef FatFrom a specific animal source. Provides a good source of animal fat; saturated fats.
5Vegetable oil, Animal fat, Poultry Fat, Beef TallowNonspecific source, may include recycled restaurant grease. From non-specific animal sources. May contain stored toxins from the animal source.

PRESERVATIVES These ingredients help to stabilize the products and extend the shelf life and freshness of the foods in question.

PointsListed As ActualDescription/Benefits and Dangers
10None, food is freshness dated or naturally preserved with Vitamins C and E, mixed tocpherols such as DL-alphatocopheral or ascorbic acidGenerally stable and fresh for 3 months. Usually will remain fresh and stable for 12 months from time of manufacture.
1BHT, BHA propyl gallate, propylene Glycol (antifreeze), lactic acid, acetic Acid, sodium nitrate, potassium Salts, potassium sorbate, calcium Proprionate, sodium diacetate Ethoxyquin, MSG, Sodium meta-Bisulfate Chemical preservatives that may or may not alter the nutritional value of the food. Most have been implicated as causing cancer.
1Artificial colors, flavors, sweetnersThese are all added to mask an other- wise un-appealing tasting food and frequently trigger allergic responses.

VITAMINS AND MINERALS – Vitamins and minerals are critical nutrients that assist proper cell function and support blood, nerve, bone, teeth and soft tissue.

PointsListed As ActualDescription/Benefits and Dangers
10Chelated vitamins and mineralsReadily available in a form that the body can break down to use.
1Chemical Difficult for the body to break down and utilize. The nutrient content may be lost.

BONUS POINT INGREDIENTS – Add any or all of these to the total base score of the above categories.

PointsListed As ActualDescription/Benefits and Dangers
5DIgestive enzymes Protease, amylase. Lipase, sucrase, inulin Micro-organisms, Lacto- bacillus, acidophilus, bifidobactereum longum Probiotics. These all help to digest food and take the strain off the pancreas or help to keep the intestinal tract healthy.
5Vegetables and Fruit Natural sources of various vitamins and minerals.
5Seaweed ProductsOcean derived sea minerals. Naturally chelated, rich in trace minerals and can help support the thyroid function.
5G.A.G.’s - Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulfate, Shark Cartilage, Bovine Cartilage, Perna Mussel. Naturally occurring substances that replenish and thicken the cartilage and fluid in the joints. May also strengthen tendons and muscles to support the joints. These are especially helpful for arthritic, older animals or any animal with joint, hip, knee or spinal problems.

With thanks to:   Val Clows, Owner & Founder, Holistic for Pets, Sarasota, Florida