Every pet food brand claims to be healthy nowadays. With such a range in price and types available, there must be a difference somewhere. But what is it? Which cat and dog food brands are concerned about what's best for your pet and what brands just want to make money? With our pet food comparison chart, you can make the best decision for your pet's nutrition.
See Where Your Dog or Cat Food Ranks on Nutrition
We've chosen some of the most popular dog food brands as well as some premium pet specialty brands to see which dog foods are providing the best nutrition for your pet.
Read why each Column Heading is Important to Your Pet's Nutrition after the chart.
The Pet Food Comparison Chart Decoded
Meat as Primary Ingredient
Meat is central to the diet of both cats and dogs. No surprise it should make up most of the first 6 ingredients in your pet food ingredient list - which lists by weight in descending order.
Some foods on this chart have "Not after processing" in this box. That means that they have a meat such as chicken, deboned chicken, or fresh chicken (or the like, but not a meal) listed. Items on the ingredients list are weighed before processing. Meats that aren't meals contain a lot of water before processing, which will evaporate when heated. That means that the weight of these ingredients drastically reduces after processing - knocking meat off the top of the ingredient list, and likely even out of the top six ingredients.
No Artificial Colours, Flavours, or Preservatives
This one is easy. Artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives are not necessary because there are natural alternatives. What's more, many chemicals have been linked to adverse health conditions including cancer. Others have not been studied extensively enough to know that they are risk-free. Opt for natural whenever possible.
Includes Fruits and Veggies
Everyone knows the nutritional value of whole fruits and vegetables. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in a natural form with natural flavour cannot be beat.
Probiotics are valuable because they enhance digestion by improving absorption of certain nutrients. They are the good bacteria that lines healthy intestines. Prebiotics are important because they are foods that "feed" that good probiotic bacteria, keeping your pet's system functioning at full capacity.
No Use of Non-Descript By-Products (Meat, Poultry, Fish, or Animal By-Products)
By-products are what remains after meat is removed from animal carcasses. It can include organ meats, feathers, hooves, bones, and other tissue not typical eaten by humans. Some of these can be very nutritive - such as organ meats - but you have no way to tell what is in one batch of by-products compared to another.
Except for one indicator - non-descript meats. Non-descript meats - including meat, poultry, fish, or animal by-products - are lower quality than named by-products (such as chicken or pork, for example). Avoid by-products in favour of quality protein meals or whole meats, and avoid non-descript animal by-products at all costs.
No Corn, Wheat, or Soy Proteins
Not all proteins are created alike. While corn, white rice, wheat, and other grains provide bulk to pet food, they do little nutrition-wise. Pets have limited carbohydrate needs. Don't let cheap carbs act as your pet's primary source of protein - if you can, choose meat.
The meat inclusion of a food is describing what percentage of the protein in that food comes from an animal source. This is an often overlooked feature in pet foods, but can indicate quality.
If your dogs kibble contains 30% protein, that sounds pretty good right? Protein means meat, right?
Protein can actually come from many sources both plant and animal, but the nutrients that those proteins provide will be quite different. A diet that is very carb heavy, may be sourcing a lot of the that protein percentage from the grains, fruits, vegetables and starches.
Some plant based protein is fine, but alone it will not contain all of the essential amino acids that are sourced from an animal protein. Try to look for a minimum of 50% meat inclusion.
Meat inclusion is not something that all dog food brands will advertise, so finding out the meat inclusion can be difficult. If you are not sure about your dog's food, contact the manufacturer and ask.
Many quality dog foods will be forthcoming with this information, and some will point out their meat inclusion levels on the packaging.
Regionally Sourced Ingredients
With recent pet food import scares, many pet owners are concerned about the quality of their pet food ingredients and what countries those ingredients are sourced from.
Many imports from China in particular have been flagged in pet food recalls. While contamination scares can happen in even the cleanest manufacturing plants, they are less likely to occur where high standards of cleanliness and procedure are met.
Europe, Canada, and the United States have high standards when it comes to food processing - and pet food processing recently is being watched more closely. Whenever possible, choose pet food brands that source their materials from regions in these areas (or a trusted source close to your location).
As Canadians, we are a bit biased towards Canadian sourced ingredients, which is why we chose to highlight brands that source their ingredients from Canada.
While not extensive, this dog and cat food comparison chart can give you a good idea of where common pet food brands stand nutritionally. If your pet food is not on the list, look at your pet food ingredients, and see where your food would receive check marks, and where other brands do it better. Or check out dogfoodanalysis.com dog and cat food reviews.
You may just want to reconsider what food you are feeding your dog or cat. After all, your pet's food affects every aspect of their health, and even can determine how long they live and what kind of quality of life they have.
Posted by Amy Dyck