The $32B US Pet Food industry is dominated by five mega-corporations and has a history of serious problems including product recalls, use of low-quality ingredients and confusing (and potentially misleading) product labeling. Not all pet food companies are created the same, so it pays to know what to look for when picking the right food for your dog.

PREMIUM DOG FOOD OR JUNK FOOD IN DISGUISE?

As pet parents, many of us go out of our way to purchase higher quality food than what's typically available at the supermarket.  We often pay more for what we've been told is (and appears to be) a higher quality, more nutritious formula. Unfortunately, in most cases, the premium food from the pet store or .com isn't much better than grocery store kibble as it is loaded with synthetic vitamins, low quality proteins and by-products from the human food supply chain.

AN INDUSTRY DOMINATED BY 5 MEGA-CORPS

Global food giants Mars, Nestle, JM Smucker, Colgate Palmolive and General Mills control about 75% of the US pet food market. These 5 mega-corporations own dozens of grocery store and premium brands, the three largest US veterinarian chains and the leading pet adoption website. If you have a dog in the US, there is a good chance you buy a product or service from one of these companies.
See if your brand is on the list.

CONFUSING OR MISLEADING PACKAGING

Do you know the percentage of carbohydrates in your dog’s food? Or what the main ingredient is in the food (hint, it's often NOT what’s pictured on the package or listed first in the ingredients)? Are there ingredients in your dog’s food that aren’t listed on the packaging (or ingredients listed on the packaging that are missing)?

You won’t be able to answer these questions by reading the label of your dog’s food because there are loopholes in pet food packaging laws that don't require this information to be disclosed or disclosed in a timely manner.

TROUBLING PRESENCE OF HEAVY METALS

Over the past two years there have been at least three class action lawsuits against premium pet food companies alleging high levels of heavy metals contamination (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium) in their foods. While one of the lawsuits was thrown out (because of a prior false advertising class action settlement, not because the food didn't contain heavy metals), and two are still pending, it raises the troubling question about whether there are unsafe levels of heavy metals in some premium pet food. 

A HISTORY OF MAJOR PRODUCT RECALLS

In 2007 tens of thousands of dogs were sickened (and many died) before multiple premium dog food brands recalled their products because of melamine contamination. Ten years later the premium dog food industry still struggles with recalls (premium dog food brands issue about 12 major recalls a year). Many of these recalls are for highly preventable problems like high bacteria levels and contamination with the euthanasia drug pentobarbital (likely from the use of dead or diseased animals in dog food). 

THE "PRESCRIPTION" DOG FOOD PARADOX

“Prescription” dog food is very expensive but is it worth the premium price you pay? Why is it called prescription dog food if you can buy it without a prescription? It’s also curious these “prescription” dog foods have many of the same ingredients as less expensive grocery store brands (many are made by the same companies who make the “prescription” foods but sold under a different brand).