4 common myths about pet food ingredients

We’ve debunked some common myths about pet food ingredients so you can make the healthiest choice for your fur babes.

The pet food industry is extremely diverse. There are foods for all animal types and conditions, and every company makes a variety of claims about how their food is formulated to meet and exceed nutritional standards. But how do you know what’s true and what’s a common misconception? We’ve broken down the top four myths about pet food ingredients to help you determine what the phrasing on your pet’s food label really means.

Myth #1: All meat meal is bad

There are some major nutritional differences between meat meals, so it’s important to research the type in your pet’s food. A brand can use naturally preserved meat meal or chemically preserved meat meal – the latter which can be damaging to your pet’s health.

The amount of ash (bone) content in a meat meal is also worth looking into. The higher the ash content, the less protein. In the past, the quality of meal was typically poor, as it tended to contain a lot of ash. Many responsible companies have improved their ingredient selection process in the past 20 years, but it’s still important to watch out for vague phrasing. If you see ‘chicken meal’ on a bag, you don’t know the quality of the protein within the food. Look for brands that list percentages or more details about their protein sources.

Myth #2: All corn, soy, and wheat fillers are bad for your pet

Prior to the 1990s, fillers were ingredients with limited nutritional value added into food formulas to make them cheaper for the consumer. With the strong presence of AAFCO and USDA requirements, this is no longer always the case. Today, many sources of starch are considered fillers, however, they are not necessarily detrimental to the pet.

That said, these pet food ingredients are generally high glycemic, so eating them over time can cause obesity and other health issues. Look for a food that does have grain-based fillers such as whole wheat flour or barley, and ensure they aren’t present in high quantities. Protein should always be the first ingredient.

Myth #3: Grain-free diets cause canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

This is a trendy topic of discussion, but it’s not entirely accurate. There are many other variables being investigated and more research is needed before conclusions can be reached. If you are a pet parent concerned about this issue, look for foods high in taurine, which supports heart health. Also look for probiotics, prebiotics and omega-3 fatty acids on the label – ingredients that boost the nutritional content in the formula.

Myth #4: All preservatives are created equally

Chemical additives are designed to extend the shelf life of pet food and treats. However, they’re known to cause dry skin, allergic reactions, dental disease, and other health issues. Avoid foods that contain chemical preservatives such has BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) or ethoxyquin, and look for natural preservatives like vitamin E in mixed tocopherolds and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) instead.

These days, making dietary choices for your pet is tricky. Being aware of some common myths about pet food ingredients is the first step in narrowing down the options!


Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.