Pet Nutrition Facts – Do You Want Optimal Nutrition, Low Cost, or Convenience? You CANNOT Have It All

< A version of this article was published in the MAY 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 01MAY21 >

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One of my favorite authors and experts on pet nutrition is animal nutritionist Dr. Richard Patton. I recently interviewed him on The Woof Meow Show [ FMI ]. I appreciate that Dr. Patton can break down a complex subject like pet nutrition into some basic principles. When he first appeared on the show in April of 2016, he stated, “You can have convenience and economy, or you can have best nutrition. You can’t have all of those things.” In this column and my next, I’ll break down that statement to help you evaluate what you feed your pets.

What Is Best Nutrition?

If you ask any person to define optimal nutrition for a person or any other animal, you will likely get a multitude of contradicting opinions. Whether you believe every animal was placed on earth by a creator or that it exists due to evolution, it is clear that each species developed to find and consume nutrients that ensured their survival naturally. Since these species were evolving as humans evolved, they discovered their optimal source of nutrition without human intervention.

Both the domestic dog and cat evolved over tens of thousands of years from species that were carnivorous predators. They were animals that hunted and survived by consuming other living species that were their prey. The prey they ate were comprised mainly of water, fat, and protein, basically meat. These meals were often consumed fresh, although caching of food to eat later also occurred. When times were tough, the dog also adapted to survive as a scavenger. However, the closest living wild relatives of our pets continue to survive by eating prey animals. Some of us have both cats and dogs that will readily hunt, kill and consume a mouse if given the opportunity. It is the food mother nature provided for them.

I would not encourage anyone to turn their pets loose on wildlife or domestic livestock to get the food they need to survive. However, if we want to feed our pets the optimal diet that nature intended, we need to provide them fresh meat. In my next column, I will discuss how we need to balance that with cost and convenience.

If we want to feed our pets an optimal diet, we have two choices. We can educate ourselves to make our pets food [ FMI ] or avail ourselves of the many commercial products now available. These include frozen raw diets, lightly cooked & frozen diets, and freeze-dried and dehydrated diets that primarily consist of meat. Canned diets composed of 90% or more meat are close to what our pets would choose for themselves; however, they are not as natural as non-cooked meat because they are cooked.

What Is ‘NOT’ Best Nutrition?

The most common type of pet food fed to cats or dogs is kibble or dry food. In full disclosure, it is also the biggest seller in my store. I also feed kibble to my dog along with many other types of food.

If you spend any time watching television, you know that dry pet food is advertised heavily. According to, in 2013, pet brands spent almost $891 million on advertising.  That amounts to $2.4 million/day! Much of that advertising is an attempt to convince us that dry pet food or kibble is “natural” and has been developed to provide optimal nutrition for our pets. Based on what I know about how canines and felines evolved and just plain old common sense, I find the proposition that kibble is an optimal source of nutrition incredibly deceptive.

Pet food companies have formulated kibble to include ingredients that provide all of the nutrients that AAFCO standards state our pets need to survive. These ingredients are all put together in a “recipe.” They are then processed at high temperatures and pressures and formed into the brown/gray bits we know as kibble. If you read the ingredient list and look at what you place in the bowl of your pet, you will realize it is hardly equivalent to a diet of fresh meat. Yes, pets survive eating kibble; however, there is a significant difference between surviving and thriving from a health perspective!

Dry pet food was developed because it is less expensive to make and sell and more convenient to sell and feed than fresh food. Dry pet food benefits the manufacturer, the distributor, the retailer, and the consumer; everyone but the pet.  Nutritional science tells us that an optimal diet for our pets would consist of fresh food.

Kibble is a highly processed food. Human nutritionists tell us that we should eat fresh, whole foods (dairy, meat, fish, fruits, & vegetables) and severely limit or avoid eating processed foods. Why would our pets be any different?

Next month I will address the economic and convenience aspects of Dr. Patton’s statement and provide you with some tips on how you can balance all of these factors so that your pet will not only survive but can thrive.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

Richard Patton with link to 1-hour video

Book Review – Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack – The paradox of pet nutrition by Richard Patton

Pet Nutrition – Pet Food Myths & Facts – No. 1, MYTH – Only a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition

Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  –

What I Feed My Dog and Why I Feed What I Do

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

Podcasts-Two Conversations with Animal Nutritionist Dr. Richard Patton

What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Case  –


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©1-May-21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Blog Post – Ask Your Pet with Dr. Patton – Is Your Pet Obese?

Our friends at Vital Essentials have started a new video and blog series with Dr. Richard Patton, author of Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack and one of my favorite resources on pet nutrition. The first in this series addresses pet obesity.

Check out this video and blog post at


Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
( )

Pet Nutrition – The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton

Book Review – Ruined by Excess, Perfected by LackThe paradox of pet nutrition by Richard Patton

Pet Nutrition – What Should I Feed My Pet?

Pet Nutrition – What Do You Feed Your Dog? – WWM-JUN2016 –

Pet Nutrition – Should I Feed My Pet A Raw Diet?

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus – Maine Dog Magazine – Winter 2017

Pet Nutrition –Vital Essentials® Pet Food

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show ( )

Podcast – Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton

Podcast –What do you feed your pets?

Podcast – Raw Diets and the Carnivore Meat Company-Vital Essentials-Dee Ferranti and Jodi Langellotti


Shared Blog Post – Be Aware – This Pet Food Contains a Stunning List of 40 ‘Clean’ Ingredients – More Marketing Deception


In this post from 18AUG18, Veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker discusses the latest marketing practice by some pet food companies; the hyping of “Clean” ingredients. While that may sound like a good thing, because of the lack of a legal definition of the term “Clean ingredients” puts this in the category of just more misleading marketing hype.

Key points highlighted by Dr. Becker are:

  • The processed pet food industry is increasingly at a loss to understand how to keep pet parents happy and buying their products.
  • The industry touts the self-funded “science” behind their pet food, but laments that consumers don’t trust it.
  • The pet food industry also engages in misleading marketing practices intended to present their products as fresh, wholesome, “natural” and “clean.”
  • Unless big pet food aligns its goals with those of pet parents, it will continue to lose ground as consumers find alternatives to processed diets.

I find that the following two paragraphs from Dr. Becker’s post summarize her concerns quite well:

“No, the science the pet food industry would like us to buy into is the science of learning how to keep dogs and cats alive (surviving, but not thriving) on biologically inappropriate, “feed-grade” diets that must include synthetic vitamins to meet minimum nutrition standards.”

“The science they tout involves testing the limits of dogs’ and cats’ tolerance for poor-quality, biologically inappropriate ingredients that have undergone extreme processing methods. The endgame is to keep carnivores alive on a processed diet of grains, starches and the poorest-quality animal protein they can get away with. It’s the science of dollars and cents. The cheaper the ingredients, the bigger the profit margin.” [ Emphasis Added ]

If you care about your pet’s health and what you feed them, you need to read Dr. Becker’s post. –

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog ( )