The problem(s) with commercial pet foods

Generally, the term commercial pet food refers to pet foods that can be purchased at grocery, department, feed stores and large pet food stores.

Over the years I have fed and recommended many foods. I was happy that we have reached a period where owners are learning the importance of what goes into their pet’s food and how that translates to good health and a long lifespan. So after much research, I have come to the educated conclusion that a raw food diet is best for my animals. I go into more detail in the article below entitled Raw Feeding.

What is a by-product? It is defined as an incidental product that is formed during the process of manufacturing something else. The manufacturer considers this waste but instead of throwing it away, they sell it for use in other things.  Much like whey, a by-product of milk is used in baby formula. This inexpensive product can then be presented by another manufacturer in a multitude of ways. Some could argue that this should be considered recycling but in the case of animal by-products, it is not always such a good thing.

If you feed your pets commercial dog food, then you need to familiarize yourself with the reality of rendering plants. These manufacturers actually take a multitude of “waste” and cook them together into a soup which is dried and offered to other manufacturers. Mainly for use in pet food and feed for chickens and livestock.

In 2009, much to my horror, I discovered the truth about rendering plants. Rendering plants get their “ingredients” from slaughterhouses, research laboratories, animal shelters and the roadside. Roadkill cannot legally be buried or discarded in the trash. Most times the dead animals are full of either disease, chemicals or pharmaceuticals from research facilities, euthanasia medicines, the livestock used from slaughterhouses is usually only available because it has been labelled unfit for human consumption.

An undercover investigation found that workers did not even bother to remove flea collars before throwing dead domesticated animals into the pits. All of this “waste” is placed into the same pit and ground up and so it becomes one of many parts, animals and chemicals to be added to commercial pet food.

Now, it is true that the government has tried to take steps to reassure consumers that this was not the case but investigations revealed that bans on this practice are full of so many loopholes that the rendering  euthanized animals continues largely unregulated and if you have never heard of this, it is because this topic rarely publicized.

As an informed consumer, I have made my choice to stick with foods that do not contain these by-products. Learning that the product is mixed into chicken feed and livestock feed and therefore, enters them into the human food chain, means that we need to consider what our own family eats.

As an animal loving family, it is also very important that cats and dogs are not harmed in the development of the foods and treats we offer to our pets. It is distressing to know that some manufacturers will induce often painful diseases and conditions on dogs and cats, to test the effectiveness of their foods on specific conditions. Your Veterinary hospital is full of these “specialized” foods. How do you think they were developed? These companies would purposefully create disease and illnesses on domestic animals provided by puppy mills or their own breeding programs so that they could “test” their products on them. An undercover investigation found that animals were surgically opened without the use of anaesthesia and in most cases abused by their caretakers and left for dead in their cages. Interestingly enough, these very popular brands were also involved in the largest pet food recall in U.S history.

Let’s discuss the recall. The wheat gluten that was imported from China contained  Nitrogen found in Melamine. The product Melamine is used in the making of plastics. In the end, it was found that the chemical boosts the protein levels in pet food products, so while not literally adding protein, tested foods appeared to be within the standard. Sadly, this greedy trick was fatal for our pets and the chemical was confirmed to have been fed to pigs and chickens, therefore, made it into the human food supply. The FDA was able to halt the processing of some of these animals in the heat of the crisis but allowed them to enter the food supply once the pigs urine samples were clear from the drug. Apparently, this was safe.

All Natural: As a result of the pet food fiasco, many commercial pet food manufacturers have been marketing “all natural” brands. This means little because the term “natural” is not regulated in the food industry for pet or even human consumption for that matter!

ETHOXYQUIN: This is a chemical ingredient which has been banned for use in the human food supply because it is a carcinogen. However, it is frequently used to preserve fish meal in pet foods. Some better quality pet food producers advertise that their product as Ethoxyquin-free. However, if your dog’s food contains fish meal, with no disclaimer, it is best to confirm that Ethoxyquin is not used by contacting the manufacturer.

GMO INGREDIENTS: GMO ingredients are a major concern in the human food supply. Studies have found that some GMO foods cause irreversible damage to internal organs and even allergies to non-GMO foods. GMO foods are not strictly regulated and have been banned in other countries over safety concerns and the organisms ability to destroy natural crops. Sadly, in the United States, the GMO industry is very powerful. The company Monsanto, manufactured Agent Orange. Then came the weed killer Round-Up and Aspartame. Now, as one of the largest GMO food producers, Monsanto owns more than half of the worlds food supply!

So, what about the dog food? Two of the most genetically engineered foods in the U.S today are corn and soy. Both GMO corn and soy are heavily used in the human food supply and more likely to be used in commercial dog foods. Most people know that dogs cannot digest corn yet some manufacturers use it as a filler. Soy, however, is another ingredient that is making its way into dog foods. It would be in your dog’s best interest to question the manufacturer about the use of GMO ingredients and avoid such whenever possible.

All families are encouraged to learn more about GMO food. Here are some additional links to assist you.





A little time is all it takes to become an informed pet owner and consumer. Ignorance is a manufacturer’s greatest customer. Thankfully, there are alternatives available as well as raw food manufacturers who know what we want for our pets.

Renaissance Havanese has chosen to feed our puppies  Merrick pet food. It is suitable for all life stages and still a family-owned company, they use quality ingredients and we appreciate that you can rotate between other Merrick flavors or varieties without having to wean them for concern over digestive upset.

So, while Renaissance Havanese has chosen to feed our adult dogs a raw meat diet, which we believe to be superior to any dried food product. We have chosen not to switch our Havanese over to a raw meat diet until they have reached maturity, this is simply due to the lack of expertise, on my part, with regard to providing a suitable, well-balanced diet for a growing puppy. Please read more about raw feeding below.

Raw Feeding

Renaissance Havanese provides information on raw feeding for educational purposes only. While we may recommend that you research this alternative and have the opinion that it is the best option for our adult Havanese dogs. We do not and will not require families to feed their puppies a raw food diet as that is a personal decision to be made by each family.

I used to think that I was affording my dogs the healthiest opportunity if I purchased expensive kibble.

What compelled me most to research pet food alternatives, was when I became aware that many brands of “high-end” dog foods were being”bought out” by bigger companies who were changing the ingredients and degrading the quality. The manufacturer, by law, does not have to immediately notify consumers of these changes. However, most dog owners know that you should never abruptly switch your dog’s diet!

Based on this fact, I wondered how many animals suffered because of this and how many people incurred Veterinary bills as a result of their pet’s sudden onset of illness?  As I looked further into the history of kibble, it opened a door to the alternative of feeding fresh raw food.

I have to admit, I had a lot of misconceptions at first, so I took my time and learned as much as I could about raw feeding. I wanted to know what pet owners had to say about how raw feeding affected their pet’s lives before I would entertain such a radical idea. Thankfully, there is plenty of helpful and informative resources available online about raw feeding.  Of course, there is another school of thought about raw feeding but I found that those came from sources related or sponsored by the pet food industry or people who were uninformed or uneducated on the subject of diet. The most interesting information I found from Veterinarians themselves who supported a raw feeding, most of which have holistic practices. I have found through my network that many breeders and owners agree that conventional Veterinarians seem to have limited information or knowledge about diets, outside of the speciality Veterinary food they sell from their offices.

A word of caution:  In my experience, I found that there are some very strong opinions about what is considered species appropriate and there are some groups who have little tolerance for other people’s input or opinions on the matter. I practice the Raw meat diet or the RMD but I break the law by choosing to add organic wheat grass and green tripe. This seems to incorporate some of the BARF recommendations. For some you feed RMD or BARF, there is no in between, period. I choose to provide what I deem necessary for my own dogs, based on the information I have. What I can report, is that I have only seen benefits since.

Fully informed, I embarked on introducing our dogs to raw feeding. I started with my large breed dog first Rakia, our German Shepherd. After fasting her for one day, I offered her a whole chicken. Psychologically, she had to use her mind to figure out how to eat it, then she had to figure out how to use her body to execute the task. It was interesting to see her so fully involved in her meal.

After a few months, I was ready to introduce the Havanese to it. We had easily converted them to the diet they were designed to eat. I have been able to simplify the feeding routine by advance preparation every few days. I have found my wholesale meat distributors and established relationships with local butcher shops. I am also happy to report that I have successfully overcome my phobia of touching raw meat! It was easy once I realized how beneficial raw feeding is and how much the dogs enjoy being fed the way nature intended.

I prepare the food for myself I find that due to the number of dogs I have, it is most cost-effective. However, there since raw feeding is becoming more popular, you can now purchase frozen raw patties at most good pet food stores. There is also a manufacturer of raw foods for cats and dogs right here in Connecticut, where you can have the food delivered to your door. They are experts in raw feeding and offer free consultation and support to all their customers. The company is called Oma’s Pride.

Some of the benefits of raw feeding that I have noticed in my dogs:

  • Increased mental stimulation
  • Bright white teeth, cleaner mouth.
  • Leaner more muscular build
  • More energetic, revitalized
  • No gas
  • Resolved anal gland issue (in our German Shepherd)
  • Glossy coat
  • Increased interest in mealtime
  • Less veterinary visits
  • Less stool (they only go once per day)
  • No increased cost!
  • Easy to feed while travelling, just stop at the grocery store!
  • Eat less, digest more