dr.fox's choice: finding the right prepared food for your dog or cat

By Dr. Michael W. Fox

The line-up of mega-pet food companies that are now owned by multinational corporations is a long one indeed.

  • Nestle' owns Alpo, Fancy Feat, Friskies, Mighty Dog.
  • Ralston Purina products such as Pro Plan, Dog Chow, and Purina One.
  • Heinz owns 9 Lives, Amore, Gravy Train and Kibble n-Bits and Nature's Recipe.
  • Colgate-Palmolive owns Hill's Science Diet.
  • Procter and Gamble own Iams and Eukanuba.
  • Mars owns Kal Kan, Mealtime, Pedigree, Walthams, Sheba, and Nutro.

For a host of reasons I prefer to rely on alternative pet food companies that are not part of the food and drug industry complex, and that are making a concerted effort to produce wholesome pet foods that are not based primarily on human food and beverage industry byproducts and on ingredients condemned for human consumption; and that contain GM free (not genetically engineered), and ideally organically certified food ingredients, and produce from farmed animals raised humanely. It should be noted that I have no financial ties with any pet food company.

The grade that I give pet foods is in proportion to the percentage of organically certified, natural, locally or regionally produced and minimally processed whole-food ingredients, (including those from free-range and humanely treated farm animals), that are biologically appropriate in kind, quality, and amount.

There are many stressed, unhealthy, and elderly pets today, as well as dogs and cats with genetic defects, all of whom require special diets. These should be based on organically certified, natural, and minimally processed ingredients with the addition of specific supplements---primarily of natural rather than manufactured or synthetic in origin, like herbal extracts and nutraceuticals appropriate for the animal's condition. Other natural products like probiotics and prebiotics are part of this new dietary approach to animal health and well-being.

Cats and dogs recovering from junk pet food malnourishment and toxicity may become sick during the transition to a more healthful diet. Most have more vitality and seem no longer depressed and disinterested in life.

Lists of Credible Pet Food Manufactures

In addition to those that pass the grade and will be profiled shortly, there are a few pet food companies that have one or two, or entire lines organically certified foods, such as Castor and Pollux, Blue Buffalo, and Party Animal. It is extremely difficult for manufacturers to secure sufficient, year-round supplies of organic ingredients. But the more they strive for this high water-mark, and informed consumer support is sustained, more farmers will make the transition to organic agriculture and animal production.

Other credible pet food manufacturers who are marketing highly nutritious cat and dog foods, many of whom can back their various ingredient claims of locally produced; human-grade food quality; ingredients from humanely treated farm animals, and no genetically engineered ingredients, synthetic preservatives and artificial coloring, include: Flint River Ranch, Eagle Pack's Holistic Select Pet Promise, Life's Abundance, Sojourner Farms, Origen from Champion Pet Foods, Fromm Family Pet Food LLLC, Natural Balance, Old Mother Hubbard's Wellness, Nature's Logic, Solid Gold, Breeder's Choice, Canidae and Felidae, Evangers, Merrick, Pet Promise, Azmira Holistic Animal Care, and Wysong. Many have their own manufacturing facilities, lowering the risk of cross-contamination as when different companies contract out to one processing plant.

Some of the new generation of cat and dog foods that are fed raw and come packaged raw/frozen, and have no added supplements or preservatives include (Stella & Chewys, (www.stellaandchewys.com Tel: 1-888-477-8977); Bravo (www.bravorawdiet.com Tel: 1-866-922-9222); Darwins ( www.darwinspet.com Tel: 206-324-PETS); Pepperdogz & Peppercatz (www.pepperdogz.com Tel: 425-945-2300). Formulations vary, so ask which have the most organically certified ingredients and produce from free range, grass-fed animals. Newcomer Restoration Raw (www.restorationrawpetfood.com Tel: 507-263-4001) has a raw dog food based on highly nutritious free range beef, and has plans to formulate cat food and offer free range chicken and lamb. It is the only company to include organic, sprouted grains in the dog food.

Dr. Fox Tips on Giving Your Pets the Right Healthy Food

  • I would advise against feeding cats and dogs exotic meats like buffalo and venison, because these may be needed as a 'back-up' incase the animal develops an allergy to beef or chicken or other animal protein in the regular diet.
  • I do not advise feeding seafood to cats because the can develop allergic reactions and because sea foods are contaminated with dioxins, fire-retardant chemicals and other hazardous chemicals like mercury.
  • I endorse the practice of feeding a single protein/species source for 10-14 days, noting any signs of food hypersensitivity to that kind of meat or poultry, until you know which animal protein, or other ingredient, may be causing problems for your dog or cat.
  • Avoid pet foods mixing more than three different species and with generic labels like meat meal and meat byproducts. One needs to know meat from which species? Road-kill deer and other road-kill are sent to the renderers, along with crushed pigs and diseased beef liver, all of which is recycled into our food chain, mad cow disease being one consequence.
  • When transitioning your pet onto a better diet, begin very gradually, adding more of the new food and less of the old food spaced over a day period, giving less of the new food if the animal shows digestive problems such as diarrhea or vomiting. Don't give up at this stage. It is like you traveling to a foreign country and foreign bacteria do war with your gut flora. It's a similar process as pets adapt and many detox in the process. They may become sick in the process of cleansing/healing while they are being weaned off junk pet food, going through the metabolic equivalent of withdrawal. If such problems persist, then seek an alternative single protein formulation to transition to a more healthful diet.
  • Divide up the amount of food your pet eats daily into ten portions, and the correct amount of the new food you would be giving every day---maybe at two meal times for dogs, and 5-8 for cats---you divide up into ten portions also. Now you know how much to take out and to add over the ten day period.•This is very important because a sudden change in diet can make animals extremely ill, acute pancreatitis and uremia in dogs and cats being all too common. Trying to transition too quickly can cause anorexia in cats, and especially for cats who are overweight, this could trigger a diabetic crisis or acute hepatic lipidosis within 24 hours. A cat not eating for 24 hours is therefore in danger. The belief that once an animal is hungry enough it will eat, is a myth to be dispelled for cats, and for those dogs who have not been overindulged and who do not believe that they have trained their care givers to feed them whatever they like best.
  • While transitioning onto a new diet, giving probiotics may be wise, especially in older animals and those who never get outdoors and who most probably have a limited population of symbiotic intestinal bacteria. Without a healthy population of these microorganisms, we and our animal companions can suffer from a host of maladies, many related to a lack of proper digestive processing and uptake of nutrients. Compounded by poor diets and food quality, the consequences can entail acute and even fatal illness, often diagnosed as 'allergies', and 'autoimmune disease', or chronic disease related to one or more nutrient deficiencies or toxic imbalances. The common digestive and allergic health problems in children and pets today may all benefit from probiotic treatment, along with digestive enzymes and prebiotics such as oligosaccharides..
  • These latter health problems may also be caused in part by the alien proteins in genetically modified (GM) crops and food ingredients, especially all the GM soy and corn that go into most main-stream pet foods and processed human foods. They 'leak' through the gut, made more permeable when there is sensitivity to certain nutrients and over-concentrations thereof, like gluten.
  • The delicate bacterial balance in the digestive systems of man and beast alike is disrupted by herbicide food residues and possibly by the mutagenic, unknown consequences of transgenic DNA segments ( from the genes of all GM foods) becoming incorporated into the bacterial DNA.
  • Many veterinarians contend that skin testing for allergies is not reliable, and it is expensive. The best approach to a suspected food allergy is the elimination diet where known source and types of ingredients are fed to the animal and the animal's reactions noted, ingredients being added and subtracted until the animal shows clear signs of improvement. Commonly misdiagnosed health problems that are linked to some food allergy include digestive, skin and ear problems in dogs and cats; the 'oral allergy' syndrome in cats showing red lips and gums, and in many cases developing 'rodent ulcers' ( eosinophilic granulomatosis); cystitis and urological problems; chronic rhinitis; back/abdominal pain and associated colitis, inflammatory or irritated bowel and 'leaky gut' syndromes. Some of the more common food allergens are beef, lamb, sea food, corn, wheat gluten, and soy products.

Do not use any plastic water, food or food storage containers. Lead-free ceramic and stainless steel containers are safer. Invest in a water fountain to encourage your cat to drink, like the Doskocil/Petmate Stainless Steel Delux Fresh Flow Pet Fountain. Tel: 1-888-367-5624

Getting cats off dry food and allowing them to eat several small meals during the day that stay fresh in a portion-dispensing cooler can be done using AniMate Pet ProductÕs Cat Mate C50 automatic feeder. Tel: 503-866-3296

Some Profiled Companies


KARMA Organic Dry Dog Food
This is the first in a line of organic products being developed by Natura Pet Foods, that also markets high quality cat and dog foods that are not certified organic, but are none the less entirely wholesome, under the brand names of Innova, Evo, Health Wise and California Natural (a hypoallergenic diet). Karma is certified 95% organic.To order visit www.natura.com or Tel: 403-261-0770

NATURAL PLANET Organics Dry Dog Food
This company's dry dog food contains a spectrum of nutritional ingredients and has no synthetic preservatives or coloring agents.
Calorie Content (calculated):
    3360 kcal/kg
    320 kcal/cup
Organic certification is from Oregon Tilth, a certification program whose inception and standards pre-date and exceed the USDA organic standards.
For details visit www naturalpetorganics.com or Tel: 1-800-525-9155

PETGUARD Organics LifePath Dry Dog Food
This dry food formulation is highly palatable and nutritious, and provides complete nutrition for all ages and stages of development, from puppyhood to old age. It is USDA Certified Organic for all Life Stages and free of By-Products, Corn and Wheat. Produced without the use of Antibiotics, Added Growth Hormones or Potentially Harmful Pesticides For details, visit www.petguard.com or Tel: 1-877-PETGUARD

EVO Dry Cat Food
NATURA'S EVO Cat and Kitten Food was created to supply the key nutritional benefits of a raw food diet in a safe and convenient manner. EVO can be fed exclusively as a total diet for your pet or in combination with a raw diet to provide a solid nutritional base of the important vitamins and minerals your feline might otherwise be missing.

EVO is based on ground chicken and turkey meat, bones, fat, cartilage and connective tissue. It includes whole, raw fruits and vegetables which contain health promoting phytochemicals and micronutrients. EVO has Hi-Protein, Low-Carbs, and No Grains.

EVO Cat and Kitten Food is made without grains; has the highest meat content of any dry cat food; contains 50% protein, 22% fat and only 7% carbohydrates, the lowest in the industry; contains added probiotics and prebiotics; is extremely palatable, and is formulated for all life stages.

I personally recommend this particular dry food for those cats who are addicted to dry
food and refuse to eat a healthy moist, canned or raw or home-prepared food.

There is also an excellent line of canned cat food, and dry and canned dog food under this Evo label and basic formula principles.
For details visit www.natura.com or Tel: 403-261-0770


ORGANIX Canned Cat Food
The organic certification process requires that each and every ingredient in Organix® (including those that are NOT organic) be reviewed by the organic certifying agency (that operates under the federal USDA National Organic Program) and approved for inclusion in the formula. A complete breakdown of our formula including sources of each ingredient is required as part of the organic certifying agency's review and approval process. This independent third-party review and approval process is unique in pet food/treats. Organic ingredients have no pesticides, no synthetic fertilizers, no antibiotics, no growth hormones, no bioengineering (no GMO's), and no by-products. This company has several different cat food formulas, including an Organic Turkey Formula with Seafood Flavor that seems to be the lowest in grains that should be kept low in cat food diets and are especially high in most dry cat foods.

Certified Organic By: Oregon Tilth, Inc.
For details visit www.castorpolluxpet.com or Tel: 1-800-875-7518

PETGUARD Organic Canned Cat Food
Each unique dinner is prepared from wholesome ingredients including meat, fish, chicken, vegetables and fresh-milled whole grains. Each dinner is specifically formulated and correctly balanced with the proper amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and chelated minerals, avoiding excess sodium, magnesium and other nutrients that may harm pets. You will not find By-Product ingredients in PetGuard Premium.

Their ingredient specialists ensure that PetGuard Premium foods are free of artificial colors, flavorings, or preservatives. Their varieties of canned cat food include chicken, turkey, rabbit, beef, venison and fish, and they recommend varying your cat's diet occasionally by adding portions of fresh meat and vegetables as a part of a natural approach to nutritional well being.

PetGuard has a variety of canned dog foods that are all Certified Organic, including such varieties as turkey, lamb, beef, liver, rabbit, venison, vegetarian, and a puppy formula. All their pet foods are free of corn, soy, wheat and yeast, and are without by-products, artificial flavorings, artificial color, preservatives, sweeteners or sugars

For details, visit www.petguard.com or Tel: 1-877-PETGUARD


Raw Advantage makes quality raw pet foods using only organic, hormone free, chemical free and pesticide free ingredients. These ingredients include organic turkey ground including bone, organic chicken ground including bone, organic beef, and all organic grains, herbs and vegetables.  This insures than no unwanted chemicals are being introduced in your pets' diet! Also, they provide some products with duck ground including bone- not an organic certified meat, however meets NOP (National Organic Producer) standards for acceptable growth and production procedures.

All of their products are grown, harvested, and processed in the USA. All products are not only fit for human consumption, they are certified organic- excluding Duck. (Their beef bones are from organic grass fed beef; however the USDA is slow to allow organic certification for any product not intended for the human food chain)

In 2007 Raw Advantage achieved Organic Processor Certification from Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Fresh Frozen USDA Organic Chicken (ground including bone)
Organic: Cooked Millet and Soaked Oats, Vegetables (fresh shredded carrots, zucchini, kale & beets) Ground Flax, Wheat Grass, Kelp, Lecithin and Garlic.
Chicken Dinner Can Be Fed as Base Meal (3-4 days a week) and is a great for the transition stage to the raw diet for Puppies and Elder Dogs.

Fresh Frozen USDA Organic Turkey (ground including bone);
Organic: soaked oats and barley, organic vegetables (fresh shredded carrots, zucchini, and beets), ground flax, wheat grass, sun dried alfalfa and lecithin.

For details and to place orders, visit www.rawadvantagepetfood.com or Tel: 509-738-3344

Launched in 2003, Pepperdogz and Peppercatz premium raw dog and cat foods are formulated under the supervision of a holistic veterinarian and made entirely from the finest human grade ingredients.

Pepperdogz is made with over 26 ingredients including pasture raised buffalo, free-run locally grown chicken and turkey, fresh regional fruits, vegetables and organic supplements. Pepperdogz and Peppercatz foods contain 0% grains, and 0% potatoes which are primarily used in the pet food industry as binding ingredients required in the manufacturing of dry kibble diets.

Pepperdogz/catz diets are free from hormones, anti-biotic, GMO, artificial preservatives, chemicals, fillers and animal by-products. Prepared in a USDA approved plant with sanitation and quality controls adapted from NASA. Pepperdogz currently comes in 3 varieties, "Kick'n Chicken", "Go Go Buffalo" and "Perky Turkey" and Peppercatz in 2 varieties, "Chicken Lick'n" & "Turkey Lurky".

Pepperdogz and Peppercatz are sold online www.Pepperdogz.com and through independent pet supply stores in Washington and Oregon.


The Feline Future Cat Food Company, Inc., based in Canada, originated in 1995 as a non profit society, publishing and distributing its recipe for home-made, raw meat cat food as one of the pioneers of the raw feeding movement. Urged by clients to offer a finished food, to assist cat lovers in a time of busy lives, Feline Future developed its powdered premix in 1998 based on its original recipe, containing all but the raw meat and raw liver. The powdered premix called "InstinctsTC" offers a viable solution for a home-made, raw meat cat food to busy cat owners, yet keeps the cat owner in control over the quality of the main ingredient: the meat.

InstinctsTC is made entirely from ingredients intended for human consumption, and is growing in popularity with cat lovers all over the world. The cat food resulting from the preparation with InstinctsTC mimics the nutritional composition of a mouse. It has proven itself to prevent many common feline ailments. InstinctsTC is hand made with great care in the USA, in Germany, and in Canada. Entirely devoted to the study of cats, through its extensive and informative website, Feline Future aims to help cat owners gain a better understanding of their carnivorous feline friends and their nutritional needs.

For people who wish to make cat food from "scratch", and use this premix as part of a meat-based, raw food diet, visit to the following sources: www.catinfo.org Dr.Lisa Pierson; www.catnutrition.org Ann Jablonski.

To order Instincts TC premix, Tel 1-877-933-5463 or go to www.felinefuture.com

The Honest Kitchen was founded in 2002 and produces a line of dehydrated raw diets for pets that are 100% human-food grade (the recipes are actually made in a human food factory in Los Angeles). The company uses 100% non-GMO vegetables and fruits, certified organic grains, kelp, flax, sesame and coconut – and is on the verge of a deal with a California farmer to provide 100% free-range, sustainably-farmed chicken for all its diets, with free-range turkey and grass-fed beef to be added in a second phase next year.

The Honest Kitchen's products are 100% free of by-products, fillers and chemicals of any kind. Every single ingredient is fit for human consumption.

The company is vehemently opposed to genetically modified produce and also has a strong focus on education for pet owners about the benefits of organic foods, eating locally, and a 'holistic' lifestyle that embraces the mind, body and spirit of animals, including suggestions about vaccine protocols, proper exercise and so on – with good nutrition as a cornerstone of total health.

Varieties Prepared:

  • Verve dog food for adult maintenanceForce
  • Grain-free dog food for adult maintenance
  • Embark grain-free dog food for all life stages
  • Thrive gluten-free dog food for all life stages
  • Prowl Grain-free food for Cats: This is the Company's first dehydrated raw cat food option. Prowl is a natural, cat food recipe specially formulated for even the fussiest of felines. A higher protein, grain-free cat food, this formula can stand alone or act as a base for your own homemade cat food diet.

For details and to place orders visit www.thehonestkitchen.com or Tel: 541-563-4443

SOJOS Monzie's Organic Premix for Dogs
Over the years, the popularity of raw and fresh pet foods has boomed – and today, this family-owned business is still mixing up batches of pet food mix and dog treats from scratch, using nothing but real whole foods.

Sojourner Farms has always been dedicated to spreading the word about the benefits of a whole food diet consisting of foods like high-quality grains and seeds, herbs, nuts, fruits, and vegetables and fresh healthy selections of meat. What people love about the "pre-mix" concept is that they get to be in control of the quality and variety of the meat their pets eat.  Providing an easy-to-use, balanced recipe also saves people time and nutritional guesswork. With Monzie's Organic Müesli Dog Food Mix, you simply add meat and water, let it soak and serve.

I ADVISE ADDING A DAILY CALCIUM OR MULTI-MINERAL SUPPLEMENT TO THESE PRE-MIXES. (See review of Beneficial, Protective Supplements for more details.)

For more information visit www.sojos.com or Tel: 1-800-867-6567



You may wish to cook up your own food for your animal companion/s. Basic recipes are detailed for dogs and cats in Not Fit for a Dog! : The Truth About Manufactured Cat and Dog Food, along with a detailed critique of commercial pet foods considered hazardous to pets' health. This ground-breaking book is written by three veterinarians, Drs. Fox, Hodgkins, and Smart, and was published by Quill Driver Books, 2008. A variety of balanced meals to make for dogs and cats can be found in veterinarian D.R. Strombeck's book Home Prepared Dog and Cat Diets (published by Iowa State University Press, 1999). Visit www.catnutrition.org/recipes.php for additional ideas and formulations since cats do enjoy and benefit from variety: But always transition over a few days when ever giving them any new foods.