Pet Food Ingredients: The Good

October 22, 2012

Cardiff’s food of choice, Lucky Dog Cuisine, contains human grade, whole food ingredients. Delicious!

This article originally appeared on my blog for Flexcin International, Inc as Pet Food Labels: Good Ingredients- Proteins, Grains, Vegetables, Vitamins

Do you read the labels on your pet’s food and treats? You should! Understanding what is actually in your pet’s food is important to ensure your pet is receiving proper nutrition.

The FDA regulates all commercially available pet foods and treats. The label appearing on a product is required to list all ingredients and a guaranteed analysis that the product truly contains the ingredients stated – no more, no less.

This series will focus on helping you understand common ingredients in pet foods. There are Good, Bad, and Questionable Ingredients that may appear on any given label. In this article, let’s first look closely at Good Ingredients and tips for identifying them.


  • Focus on feeding whole food based muscle meat protein instead of fractionated counterparts like “meals” and “by-products”.
  • I recommend beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, rabbit, turkey, and other animal proteins such as heart and liver.
  • Legumes, such as beans (black, kidney, red, white, etc), lentils, and peas also provide quality vegetarian sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.


  • Grains provide carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and other nutrients like prebiotics, which are substrates on which pro-biotic bacteria grow.
  • I recommend barley, brown rice, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, and spelt.

Again, it’s important to focus on whole grains instead of their fractionated forms (corn by-product meal, wheat gluten, soybean mill run, etc.).

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Find foods that list whole vegetables instead of hydrolyzed, meal, or starch versions.
  • Beet, cauliflower, carrot, eggplant, potato, and spinach provide a healthy source of fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.
  • Dried and fresh fruits can also be a part of your pet’s food or added to its diet.  Choose richly pigmented fresh fruits like blueberry, cantaloupe, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and watermelon.
  • Avoid grapes and raisins – they contain an unknown toxin that affects dogs’ kidneys.  Also avoid dried fruits that contain added sugar and preservatives like sulfur dioxide.


  • Fat is an important part of any diet because it provides the building blocks of muscle and nerve tissue. Pet foods may contain animal and/or plant based fats.
  • Animal fat often comes from the rendering process and is likely to contain toxins (heavy metals, carcinogens, etc). For this reason, I recommend fats from other sources.
  • Vegetable fats come from many parts of the plant, including fruit (like avocado, olive, etc), kernel, nut, or seed. Extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil and ground flax seed meal (good ‘meal’) are great vegetarian sources of healthy, polyunsaturated fat and omega fatty acids.

Vitamins and Minerals

  • Both vitamins and minerals are added to commercially available pet foods to suffice nutritional requirements per industry standard. These are typically synthetic forms that may not be efficiently absorbed as a result of improper binding with receptors inside the digestive tract.

Vitamins and minerals from whole foods more closely fit the body’s receptors and are better utilized.

Now that we’ve covered The Good Ingredients, check back soon for The Bad and The Questionable.

Related Articles

Why You Should Closely Scrutinize Your Pet’s Food and Treat Labels

Human Foods That Make Great Pet Treats

Thank you for reading my article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).

Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

TheOldBroad October 23, 2012 at 4:21 AM

It’s interesting to see people just grab a bag of food from the shelf without reading the label. Hopefully they’ve scrutinized it previously and are picking up the same brand.

How often do you think manufacturers change recipes and should consumers double-check the ingredients each time?

Patrick Mahaney October 27, 2012 at 12:06 PM

Unfortunately, I’ve seen that happen time and time again.
I suggest looking at the food label for any food or treat you may consume, regardless of if you have previously fed a food to your pet.
The frequency with which manufacturers change recipes likely depends on consumer response (i.e. sales or uprising over an adverse response) or food recall.
Dr. PM

Christine December 28, 2012 at 4:58 PM

There is no dispute that findings have shown that all rice, but mostly brown rice, (not just brown rice syrup), contains high levels of arsenic. I was wondering what your current views are. I order from Lucky Dog but will be eliminating the recipes that contain brown rice.
Also, I was interested in your views on garlic in dog food. There are mixed opinions on this but I’d value your opinion. (I’d assume you think it’s fine since you are associated with Lucky Dog that contains it in most recipes!). But I wanted to know just in case!
Thanks so much,

Patrick Mahaney January 31, 2013 at 11:20 PM

Interesting that you brought up the issue of higher levels of arsenic in brown rice as compared to other forms of rice (white, etc.) that have had their outer layers removed to reveal the less arsenic containing inner layer.
I don’t believe that people or pets should consume one food consistently throughout their life, so if you were to regularly vary the type of food your pets eat, then the consumption of food containing brown rice may not be harmful as compared to if brown rice formulas were the sole food variety consumed.
Garlic actually has very many beneficial properties for pets. The threshold for toxicity is quite high and the quantity that is used in Lucky dog cuisine is so small that it is not going to cause a toxic effect when a body weight appropriate amount of food is consumed.
Information about garlic in their foods is listed on the Lucky Dog Cuisine website:
Thank you for your comments.
Dr. PM

christa March 24, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Do you have recommendations for holistic foods to help treat and prevent struvite crystals in dogs? Since my dog was diagnosed with hermangiosarcoma and then an eye tumor that caused the loss of her eye we began feeding only homemade foods to our dogs (rice with carrots and peas and low fat hamburger and even low fat cottage cheese). Recently she was diagnosed with these crystals and our vet said holistic food doesn’t provide the correct nutrition and put her on Hills anti struvite u/d. She seemed ok but shortly after got sick w some breathing problem (which we treated and cured homeopathically) and then she got diarrhea and last night had a seizure. I don’t like this food but know there are specific dietary requirements for these crystals. As our vets here do not believe in natural and holistic treatments can you please give me a recommendation of what to feed her?

DAVID March 31, 2013 at 7:20 PM

HI Doc,

I couldn’t help but feel that you really didn’t answer Christines question fully for lack of better words when one considers that you endorse the product and sell one of your product with LUCKY DOG.
you imply to change the animals food “diet” quote”don’t believe that people or pets should consume one food consistently”. ” were to regularly vary the type of food your pets eat, then the consumption of food containing brown rice may not be harmful as compared to if brown rice formulas were the sole food variety consumed. Please expand on that, do you feel that the brown rice in Lucky Dog may cause harm if used consistantly?

What if the animal like mine has a very sensitive stomatch and can’t switch and also in todays economy we want the healthiest for our pet and buy the healthiest or so we may think, it does become very expensive.

How familiar are you with the brand? Lucky Dog’s website claims their brown rice has been tested and come back negitive for any arsnic.

I was considering changing my dogs diet to Lucky Dog, but after reading your answer, I’ve had a change of heart for the moment.

Patrick Mahaney March 31, 2013 at 11:48 PM

Thank you for sharing your story.
I feel as though the term holistic is not an appropriate use of the term when it comes to food.
Yet, the majority of foods that I see that have the label as being holistic often have ingredients that are more whole food based than other “non-holistic” foods.
When it comes to feeding a specific food that helps to reduce the formation of struvites, I always suggest going with high moisture food and eliminating kibble.
Has your dog has special needs with cancer, seizures, respiratory issues, etc. I suggest you work with your veterinarian to have a consultation with the UC Davis Veterinary Nutrition Support Service:
That way, a nutrition complete and balanced, home-prepared diet appropriate for your dogs needs can be formulated.
Good luck,
Dr. PM

Patrick Mahaney March 31, 2013 at 11:58 PM

Thank you for your comments.
Since commenting to Christine, I have personally spoken with Lucky dog Cuisine founder, Dr. Janice Elenbaas, and she has assured me of the rigorous testing that was performed on Lucky Dog Cuisine formulas containing brown rice.
You can see for yourself by reading the PDF on this LDC webpage:
I do not feel that any dog that readily consumes a Lucky Dog Cuisine recipe (with or without rice) is going to be put into harms way as compared to the innumerable dog and cat foods out there that use “feed grade” ingredients containing ingredients with much higher allowable levels of toxins as compared to “human grade” ingredients like those used in LDC.
LDC is the dog food that my pooch, Cardiff, exclusively eats. He has never been healthier nor had a more consistently normal digestive tract. I feel that his regular consumption of LDC is one of the components that has helped to keep his Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia in recession.
Any of your questions about LDC can be answered in full by Dr. Elenbaas. Do you know of any other pet food companies where the CEO is there to personally answer your queries (I don’t).
Dr. PM

david April 1, 2013 at 10:36 PM

Ye I read her webpage completly and spoke with her personally, she runs her business much like I run mine. Very well orgainzed,informitive and easy to understand, which is why I asked you that question.

I certainly hope you didn’t take my question as a negitive attack on you as it wasn’t meant that way at all.

Oh, although rare, yes, I do know CEO’s of companies that actually take the time to call a potential client 🙂
Oh, Thanks, for recommending the Dog Glucosamine and Chondroitin Joint Relief Green Tea and Reishi by I Love Dogs
I purchased it for my 13 year old American Eskimo in hopes it will help, I am having a hard time finding a specialist to help with his spine which makes quite a bit of noise and he has trouble walking.
Thanks, again

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