“The pet food industry developed largely to make use of the waste parts of the human food chain,” says Robert Silver, DVM. And that can include some pretty unsavory things—from animal brains to worm-infested livers—under current regulations, says Ann N. Martin, author of Food Pets Die For (NewSage Press, 2008), who has been researching the industry since 1992. She recommends a homemade diet, but for your shoppers who don’t have time to prepare their own pets’ meals, she recommends natural and organic pet food brands. Since they’re less likely to contain fillers, natural options are also less likely to contribute to obesity or diabetes, points out Donna Spector, DVM, a veterinarian for Tampa, Fla.-based Halo, Purely for Pets.
To make sure you’re carrying safe, high-quality pet foods, avoid any ingredients that say “byproduct,” says Shawn Messonnier, DVM. Also , the preservatives BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin should be red flags. As with human food, the fewer and less-processed the ingredients the better, Silver explains.