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Pet Education

Pet Food Ingredients to Avoid

"Fillers", "empty calories", for example, corn and rice.  Corn and rice are carbohydrates that raise blood sugar levels rapidly and create hormonal signals that have negative long term effects on metabolism and weight gain.  Corn and rice also supply "empty calories". Empty calories have the same energy content of any other calorie, but these calories lack accompanying beneficial nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber and/or antioxidants. Corn and rice are not healthful for pets in the large quantities used my many pet food companies.  Corn and rice are often the main ingredients in other foods and treats because they are a cheap way to fill up a bag and still meet basic energy requirements.  This trend has played a major role in the obesity epidemic our pets are now facing.  These corn and rice based diets are also often responsible for chronic symptoms of maldigestion, such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. 

Halo makes healthier carbohydrate choices by using whole grains such as barley and oats and vegetables like sweet potatoes.  These carbohydrates are nutrient dense because they supply energy as well as high levels of fiber for digestive health and high levels of vitamins and minerals for overall health.  By using high quality natural ingredients, Halo has no need to use additives for flavors, resulting in a much healthier product. 

"Meat meals", for example 'chicken meal' or 'lamb meal.' These meals are often the major ingredients in numerous pet foods. While these meals do provide a source of protein, they may legally contain 4D ingredients and waste products.  Halo's philosophy is to use only whole meats as the sole source of meat protein.  Halo also uses other high quality protein sources such as eggs and peas.

By-products, for example, "chicken by-products" or "beef by-products". This refers to clean "parts", other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals.  It includes, but is not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents.  This is a cheap way for pet food companies to keep the protein levels "high", although not always high quality, while keeping food production costs low. Whole meats should be the only source of meat protein and other high quality protein sources (such as eggs and peas) can contribute other highly digestible sources of protein. Halo uses only whole meats as the source of meat protein and eggs and peas as additional highly digestible sources of protein.

Food additives and preservatives. Corn syrup, sugar, molasses, propylene glycol and MSG are examples of artificial flavors frequently used in pet food manufacturing to disguise inferior food quality and some of these additives give dampness and flexibility to semi-moist foods and treats.  These are often additional sources of "empty" or non-nutritious calories that contribute to pet obesity. If a pet food company is using high quality natural ingredients, like Halo, there will be no need to enhance the flavor of the food with these additives.

Preservatives. BHA, BHT, sodium nitrite and nitrate are examples of food preservatives that should be avoided. Preservatives are used in the production of pet food to limit the growth of bacteria or inhibit oxidation of food.  Many preservatives are known to be carcinogens (cancer-causing) in humans and pets and should be avoided. Natural alternatives for preserving food includes a mixture of varying forms of vitamin E called mixed tocopherols, rosemary extract and even the process of freeze-drying. Halo uses all of these forms of natural food preservation.

Artificial colorings/dyes. FD&C Blue No. 1, Red No. 40, Yellow No. 5 are common examples. These artificial colorings are used in many pet products to entice owners into a purchase; however, they have no nutritional value and may be responsible for adverse or allergic reactions.  Natural alternatives are simple—no dyes! Many vegetables are deeply pigmented and give a natural hue to food.


Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM, ,is a renowned, board-certified Veterinary Internal Medicine Specialist who has practiced at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and other leading institutions. She is an active member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Donna has written and lectured extensively on topics including nutrition, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, kidney failure and respiratory disease. She is widely recognized for her role as consulting veterinarian to HALO, Purely for Pets, her TV appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and her widely-quoted pet health advice in print and on radio.  Dr. Donna performs medical, nutrition and weight loss consultations for dogs and cats through her web-based veterinary consulting service, www.SpectorDVM.com.

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