What to Feed Your Pet

Even if you don’t own a pet, you should still be concerned about pet food, says EatingWell nutrition advisor Marion Nestle, a professor at New York University and best-selling author of What to Eat. “Contaminated pet foods are early warnings of the safety hazards of globalization.”

Nestle’s Pet Food Politics (University of California Press, September 2008) details the recall of more than 100 brands of dog and cat food containing wheat gluten from China that was contaminated with the chemical melamine, which according to the FDA prompted 17,000 consumer complaints, including reports of 4,150 cat and dog deaths. These events set off another massive recall of everything from tires to toothpaste and a subsequent international crisis over the safety of imported consumer goods from China. Congress has since passed food-safety provisions pertaining to pet food. Nestle’s next book is What Pets Eat (Harcourt, 2009).

Q: What is the scariest thing you learned while researching Pet Food Politics?

A: How inextricably linked human, animal and pet-food supplies are. Farmers routinely feed salvaged pet food to pigs and other farm animals. There is no question that during the recall people ate meat from farm animals that had eaten pet food that contained melamine. It didn’t do any harm because it was so diluted by the time it got to us. But that was a big wakeup call for the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Q: How can I know if my pet’s food is safe?

A: The melamine incident was a fluke, and as long as a company is making efforts to be sure something like that doesn’t happen again and is transparent about their ingredients sources, pet food is fine. If you’re using commercial pet food, you should read labels and talk to the pet store to make sure that they’re paying attention to these issues. Some stores and brands are very clear if they’re taking responsibility. They’re changing suppliers, examining and improving the quality of ingredients, testing ingredients and building laboratories. On some companies’ websites they tell you what they did. And if they don’t tell you, you can be as suspicious as you want.

I think pet owners should insist on a better regulatory system, national standards, labels that say where ingredients come from and nutrition information.

Q: What do you recommend I feed my pet?

A: You have three choices. It’s great to cook for your pets or feed them a raw diet. Make sure you feed them a balanced diet. Cats are more finicky than dogs, so feed them mostly meat and a vitamin supplement. Check with a veterinarian to make sure you cover your pets’ nutrient requirements.

As for pet food: I think wet food is better; dry foods have more calories, which can contribute to obesity problems, and carbohydrate, which can be problematic for cats. The advantage to pet food is that if you follow the directions you probably won’t overfeed your pet and the nutrient requirements are taken care of.

Note: EatingWell recommends you check with a veterinarian before making changes to your pet’s diet.

Visit EatingWell.com for free quick and easy healthy recipe collections!

By Michelle Edelbaum, EatingWell


Kristin G.
Kristin G.4 years ago

Pet food is the best food you can give to your pets, try and visit this site for more details.
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colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago

anti raw feeders are just being paied by the grain industry to tell us they don't need it, because dogs have (what?) 100,000 years of domestication behind it, thus now need grains. Same with cats and ferrets

Dee M.
Dee Musgrove5 years ago

To Imogen, they do not sell that food in Canada, my animals are on a very good Holistic food, with berries and all the good things , thanks anyway .

Inogen M.
Inogen Mackenzie5 years ago

I have dogs and cats and I love them, but I also love all the others and will not kill an animal to feed an animal. All my animals have Benevo (dog and cat variety respectively) - they love it, have been on it for years and are the picture of health. Go to veggiepets.com - the food lasts for ages so is not as expensive as it seems and you know that there are no nasty hormones or antibiotics lurking in it and you have not caused any suffering.

Patrick Whyte
Patrick Whyte5 years ago


Robert O.
Robert O.5 years ago


Kath R.
Kath P.5 years ago

If you're buying pet food check the ingredient labels every time. I was buying a premium brand which wasn't suppose to contain any chicken. They introduced chicken as "another" source of protein about a year after I began using it. The front of the package didn't say anything about chicken being added to the formula...only the list of ingredients had been changed.

Margaretha van Egmond
No fwd van E6 years ago

My dogs eat royal canin

Abo Ahmed r.
Abo r.6 years ago


Leanna M.
Leanna M.6 years ago

Natural food that is in harmony with your animal's natural diet is essential for good health. My cats and dogs have always been fed a balance of home-cooked food (chicken stew with vegetables and some oats) with RAW FOOD (meat and veg) added every day. Absurd that raw meat will kill your pet, dogs are natural scavengers and can eat rotting meat if fending for themselves! Raw meat is what their digestive system is built to cope with, and it offers their body the essential regenerating enzymes that any processed food does not. Raw meat included in the diet can alleviate and cure many ailments (especially skin problems and allergies).
My dog gets raw lamb, chicken, and heart. My cats get raw beef, liver and chicken. And they have never needed to see the vet with any health complaints!
There is too much fear about raw food! Simply buy good quality organic food and do your pet a favour by honouring their natural dietary needs.
And the last thing I would do is consult a vet regarding diet, as they promote the most toxic, processed foods that will insure that your pet needs regular vet visits in the future due to poor health! Dry food is a sure long-term killer for cats, and most pet food for carnivores has 4% meat & animal derivatives, which is not enough, instead they put in wheat (unhealthy!) and sugars (dire!). Also vets generally promote the food company that sponsored them through med school! Apologies to any genuine, caring vets, you are a rare but treasured breed!