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The best guide you’ll ever find: How to find out what’s really in your pet’s food

Do you ever wonder, “What’s really in my pet’s food?” Do the ads look better than the ingredient list? Confused by gobbledegook ingredient definitions? Wonder what percentage of meat is actually in the formula vs. all the other crap? And just what kind of meat is it? Could it be the charred remains of Fluffy or Fido? Do you ever stop to ponder – “Just what is 4-D meat anyway?”

If you’re like most pet parents, you are worried about what you feed your furry ones, and — I hate to say it, but — you have plenty of reasons to be worried. False and misleading claims abound in the pet food industry. Better at obfuscating the seamy underworld that is the pet food industry with glossy ads and slick TV commercials than in telling the truth — getting that truth out of them is — let’s just say it’s — challenging.

But, if you like solving mysteries and playing detective, then you’ll love dealing with pet food companies. To assist all you budding Sherlock’s out there, here are some good (no, great) tips when trying to weasel information out of a pet food manufacturer. I liken it to squeezing blood out of a stone. If you’re like me and like nothing better than a challenge, here are some handy suggestions:

Handy hints

  • Scour the web first. Look for an ingredients statement or an ingredients list for the product. Start at the company’s main website.
  • Reserve judgment about what you read on the web until you get confirmation. Even a company website may need updating. Approach contacting companies like it was a confirmation hearing for ingredients. Don’t be confrontational, but be serious in your quest for company transparency about its ingredients.
  • Email once. Email twice. On different days of different weeks at different times. But keep the question the same. Call once. Call twice. On different days of different weeks at different times preferably speaking to different people. But keep the question the same. Think of it as a game.
  • When in doubt, go higher. Ask to speak to someone in the quality assurance department. They know more.
  • When in doubt, rephrase the question. Listen for inconsistencies or vagueness. You know the old saying, “When it looks like sh*t and smells like sh*t…”, well, you get the picture.
  • If you really want to freak yourself out ask a friend to cross-check and see if someone else gets the same answer as you did to the same question! Chances are good you won’t!

I love dirt

If you see or hear any contradictions as you conduct your pet food ingredients research, please let me know at If indeed they need to have their dirty laundry hung out for the world to see, you can be sure I’ll do it.

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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