10 Food Ingredients to Avoid For Your Dog’s Sake

(From: dog Food guide)

If you spoke to five different veterinarians or animal nutritionists, you would get five different answers in regard to the dog food ingredients that are most important to avoid. This speaks to a major problem within the pet food industry – that there are so many low-quality ingredients used by pet food manufacturers, that they can’t all be included in one list. But why exactly do pet food manufacturers use low-quality ingredients in their products? The main reason is money – the lower the quality of an ingredient, the lower the price. That means that the manufacturer can cut their own costs for production while still charging pet owners like you the same price.

So what are the top ten worst dog food ingredients you should be on the lookout for? The list could go on forever, but here are our top choices for ingredients you should avoid in your dog’s food:

  1. Corn – There is a great deal of debate regarding the value of corn as an ingredient in dog food. Some say that it is a valuable source of digestible fiber and protein, but others say that it little more than a filler ingredient and a common allergen. We believe that corn doesn’t have a place in high-quality dog foods, especially if it is used as one of the main ingredients.
  2. Wheat – Wheat products, particularly whole-grain wheat, are considered healthy and nutritionally valuable for humans but not for dogs. While some whole grains can be good sources of digestible carbohydrate and dietary fiber for dogs, wheat contains a protein called gluten that can cause serious allergic reactions in dogs. Wheat is also much more difficult for dogs to digest than other grains like brown rice or oatmeal.
  3. Soy – Soy is one of the top most common food allergens for dogs but many pet food manufacturers use it in their products because it is an inexpensive source of protein. Not only can soy trigger food allergies in dogs, but it also contains chemicals called phytoestrogens that mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen which can cause a variety of health problems in dogs. Soy also contains goitrogens, substances that may inhibit proper thyroid function.
  4. Fillers – As a general rule, you should avoid any dog food that uses a lot of ingredients which do not provide significant nutritional value – this is the case with fillers. Common fillers used in pet foods include things like rice bran, corn bran, soybean hulls, wheat mill run, modified cornstarch, oat hulls, and the like. These ingredients provide very little in the way of nutrients but they add bulk to the product which is why they are so valuable to pet food manufacturers – they can make more of their product at a lower price point.
  5. By-Products – The word “by-product” on a pet food ingredients list should immediately send up a red flag. While not all by-products are inherently dangerous, the quality of different by-products varies significantly so you can never really tell what you are getting. Animal by-products (like chicken by-product meal or poultry by-products) usually consist of the leftovers after the parts of a slaughtered animal that are fit for human consumption are removed. This may include things like feet, undeveloped eggs, bones, and organs (excluding giblets like liver, hearts, and necks).
  6. Plant Proteins – Dogs are carnivorous by nature which means that their bodies are biologically adapted to deriving nutrition more efficiently from animal products than plant products. Plant proteins like pea protein, potato protein, and the natural protein content of beans and legumes are not necessarily bad for your dog, but they are less biologically valuable than animal proteins. You also have to consider that many low-quality pet food manufacturers use plant proteins in their products to increase the protein content without adding more expensive meat.
  7. Coloring Agents – There is simply no good reason to include coloring agents in dog food – the only purpose is to make the product look more appealing to humans. Coloring agents you may see in low-quality dog foods include dyes like Red 40, Blue 2, and Yellow 5 as well as titanium dioxide, a white powder often used as a dough conditioner.
  8. Artificial Flavors – In the same way that you won’t find artificial colors in high-quality dog foods, neither will you find artificial flavors. Flavoring agents are only necessary when a product is not palatable enough on its own – many low-quality dog foods rely on artificial flavors to make the product more appealing to dogs. Artificial flavors may include things like animal digest, glandular meal, and anything that precedes the word “flavor”, except for natural flavors.
  9. Artificial Preservatives – Preservatives in dog food are used to extend the shelf-life of a product so that products can last longer before being sold and so they won’t go bad immediately after the bag is opened. Unfortunately, most of the preservatives used in low-quality pet foods are artificial and made from potentially dangerous chemicals. For example, BHA and BHT are known to have a carcinogenic effect on animals and have also been linked to organ damage. Ethoxyquin is another artificial preservative and it has been made illegal for use in human food but continues to be used in pet food.
  10. Sweeteners – Similar to artificial flavors, sweeteners play no nutritional role in dog food – they are simply used to make a product more palatable and appealing to dogs. Some common sweeteners used in dog foods include corn syrup, fructose, and sugar. These ingredients can add unnecessary calories (thereby increasing a dog’s risk for obesity) and may also increase the risk for dental problems.

Again, these are just a few of the many low-quality ingredients that sub-par pet food manufacturers try to sneak into their products. For the most part, if an ingredient sounds like a chemical (like propylene glycol) or has a number in it (like Red 40), it probably isn’t good for your dog. The exception to this rule, of course, is for synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements which can sometimes have strange names. Just remember that the ingredients at the top of the list are used in the highest volume, so those ingredients should all be of high quality and sound nutritional value for your dog.

Truth About “Grain Free” Label

Are all grain-free pet foods alike?    Of course not.    That would be like saying that all cars with leather seats are of the same quality.    So while the big box stores and grocery stores are many times offering  a “grain free” pet food it may still be kind of junkie as far as your dog or cat is concerned.    Of course the first question is whether your pet needs a “grain” free food.     At Wholesome Pet Essentials we have no foods with corn or wheat or cheap by-products of the grain processing industry.   Many of our kibble(s) do contain brown rice and/or oatmeal.   These are gluten free grains and are used to provide some carbohydrate for your pet as well as helping to make the kibble ‘stick’ together.    Carbohydrates are a necessary part of your pet’s diet and these sources also provide fiber and other essential nutrients.    However, the main protein component in any of our foods is from MEAT and Meat meals.   None of our foods use corn and wheat or by-products to provide a protein component to the diet.   Many pets will do exceptionally well on these foods as they are formulated with high quality ingredients!   Fromm, Holistic Select, NutriSource, Lotus, and Earthborn Holistic all have formulations made utilizing some rice for example.   But the quality of these foods would be far superior to most grocery store ‘grain free’ formulations.

A true grain-free food contains no grains, whole grains or otherwise.   However, the recipe is still not entirely free of carbohydrates.   There are plenty of highly digestible carbohydrates that don’t come from grains.    The main benefit of a true grain-free food for your pet is that it may be easier from some pets to digest and it provides a lower risk of triggering food allergies and sensitivities.    Some of these more “pet friendly” carbohydrates  would be:

Beans, Chickpeas, green peas, lentils, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca

But for the typical pet exhibiting intolerances or allergic reaction to their food there’s a very good chance it’s a meat based reaction rather than a reaction to rice or oatmeal.  (Unless they’ve been fed one of the products using corn, wheat or grain processing by-products) Allergic reactions are commonly reactions to proteins and thus we have many single source meat proteins to choose from! And thus another reason we need to use high quality ingredients.   Foods made with high-quality ingredients are going to be more expensive than foods made with low-quality ingredients regardless of whether they are labeled ‘grain free’.

Here’s an example of a very high quality food we carry….this one uses pearled barley, oatmeal and brown rice as a carbohydrate source:

Fromm Chicken








Because these are high quality ingredients this product although not labeled ‘grain free’ remains a much higher quality product than this ‘grain free’ Iams product:

Iams Grain Free



Note that there is more pea and pea starch in this diet than chicken meal.   Yes, it leads off with Chicken but that is on a wet matter basis just like the Fromm food.  When dried in a kibble that will fall far down the list.





Here is a ‘comparable’ Fromm Grain Free Food:

Fromm Chicken Grain Free




Notice that there is more chicken meal in this food than starch products!

Either of these Fromm products would be far preferable than the IAMS “Grain Free” Diet!  So simply being labeled “grain free” doesn’t assure you of anything.

A Little Grooming Talk

Here at WPE we educate a lot about food, supplements, treats and chews.

But did you know that we do grooming too?

At WPE we pride ourselves in treating your pets as our own while they are here with us.

Things that may happen while in our care and being pampered on their spa day follow below:


Pets can not speak, so occasionally they may whine, or cry out. Especially if  they are matted, getting their nails trimmed, or even bathing and blowdrying. They may protest as they are saying hey what’s going on?

With a little patience, talking to and going SLOW with them they will calm down. Some breeds though do a lot of talking.


Your pets may need to be shaved or trimmed down shorter than was the initial plan. Sometimes if they are especially matted, have fleas, or are especially dirty our groomers may have to do this. And we will try our best to brush out first but this can cause extra stress on them, so to prevent stress we may shave them shorter instead.

The good thing is fur grows back!!


To prevent excess matting, consider an in between bath and brushout! We would bath, blowout and brush your pet. Check the nails and ears all at a lower price. We recommend a 4 week bath and brush, 6-8 full groom.


Occasionally we do need to speak or scold your pet. It’s all about training, and it would be the same as you training them. We want their spa time to be as calm, relaxing and as positive as it can! This is where training comes in, starting early with nail trims, baths and blowdrying. And especially clippers and scissors, so as they grow from puppies to adults this time with us is a positive grooming experience.


And lastly we feel we have the best groomers! Be patient with them as they work slowly, professionally and as relaxed as possible.

We aren’t about getting your pets in/out in the quickest time possible. We hand scissor, we hand dry and we go slow, again all for the care of your pets. We want to do the best possible job for you and your pets, even of it takes us a little longer.

Thank you for your continued support, your patience and shopping local and small.








Trying to pinpoint an allergy in your pet can be quite challenging. Any one of the following symptoms could be pointing to an allergy: Constant itching, red skin, chronic eye, ear or skin infections, lack of an appetite, nausea and/or diarrhea and the list goes on.

Allergies can be both seasonal and food-related. Unfortunately, symptoms are frequently the same, which makes it hard to tell what your pet is battling. Both outdoor and food-related allergies can cause the same symptoms.

Is it a true allergy or an intolerance?    The bottom line for your pet is that it doesn’t really matter.   The ‘fix’ will be the same.   So we start on a process of elimination.   We typically begin with elimination of foods since that is an easier process than eliminating the great outdoors!    Common offenders in dogs are the grains….wheat, corn, and soybean meal.    Another common offender is the most commonly used protein source across the pet food industry….chicken. One additional that might surprise would be potatoes.   And potatoes are a common ingredient used in many ‘grain-free’ kibble as starch is needed to produce a kibble.   There are alternatives, however.

We usually recommend a switch to a grain-free formula with a unique protein and we have several to choose from like duck, rabbit or venison.  Of equal importance is to remember that the treats you give your pet are a key part of this process as well.   If you switch to a chicken free and grain free diet it doesn’t make much sense to give them those treats full of chicken.

Give your pet 3-4 weeks on the new food to determine any digestive or skin changes. Changing to a grain-free formula should clear your allergy-ridden pet from yeast buildup, digestive irregularity, lack of energy and skin troubles. Over the course of a few weeks, their symptoms should improve. Your pet’s body needs time to detox, just like our bodies.  GIVE IT TIME. You won’t see 100% of a change in just one small bag or a week.

Probiotics are usually recommended for pets that appear to be affected by environmental allergens.    Probiotics are designed to strengthen the immune system, control yeast and candida, improve digestion and reduce inflammation of the skin. They contain healthy bacteria that can survive within the stomach and intestines to correct imbalances. Probiotics also feed healthy bacteria growth and regulate bowel movements and enzymes that reduce inflammation.

Several of our product lines include the ability to switch among several nutritionally matched foods for different flavors and experiences. An example of this is the Fromm 4-Star Nutritionals.   This also can serve to help prevent your pet from developing an allergy over years of the same exact food….ie., everyday the same chicken based diet.    While ‘rotation’ feeding is not necessary for nutritional reasons, it can help prevent an immune reaction from long term exposure if your pet is at all disposed to such a reaction.

Acana, Orijen, Nutrisource, PureVita and Fromm Are HERE!!!!!

With the recent acquisition of Chewy.com by Petsmart three major quality manufacturers have announced they will no longer supply product to Chewy.    Champion Pet Foods, NutriSource/PureVita and Fromm have all either already or will soon be severing ties to the online retailer.   This means Acana, Orijen, NutriSource, PureVita and Fromm pet foods will not be available through that channel.     Wholesome Pet Essentials is proud to be a retailer for all of these lines and we carry an extensive inventory of all three at very competitive prices and we pride ourselves on our customer service.    Plus we have a frequent buyer program on all these products which is not available from most on-line sellers!    For those not in the Ankeny anutrisource-logorea we can also offer shipping at a minimal cost.   


PureVita Logo

origenfromm LogoAcana Logo

The Appropriate Harness

  1. Back-Clip Harness

Back-clip harnesses attach to the leash between shoulders. This type of harness is very comfortable and easy for your dog to walk in, and it is a great option for small dogs and those with throat issues. Another great perk of back-clip harnesses is that the leash is less likely to get tangled under your pet’s feet and it is easy to put on. These are also great for older dogs who may need a little “lift” now and then. Back-clip harnesses are probably most common but can actually cause more pulling effort by some dogs, especially large ones.

  1. Front-Clip Harness

Front-clip harnesses attach to the leash at the front of the dog, at its chest. This type of harness is commonly used for training dogs to walk on a leash and they restrict pulling and certain movements. This  harness gives the owner more control over the movements of the dog and allows for redirection, but the leash can sometimes become tangled while walking. Although this harness offers more control for training, for dogs with aggression issues it may require additional training tools.

  1. Tightening Harness

These types of harnesses come in both front-clip and back-clip options, but have a space that tightens as the dog pulls providing pressure and “reminding” the dog they are pulling. The slight tightening is uncomfortable and for dogs that have almost mastered the art of walking on a leash, this is a gentle reminder. With this type of harness the objective is to apply gentle pressure.

Getting the Right Fit

Here are some tips when fitting your dog’s harness.   We frequently have customers try their harness on in our store!   Note that we have all three types of harnesses at Wholesome Pet Essentials!

  1. Get the Stats. Your pet’s weight, chest measurements and neck measurements are essential when picking their new harness.
  2. Check the harness. Harnesses will tell you what size is best for which weight and measurements. Choose a size that your pet falls mid-way in the scale. If your dog falls in the overlap of two sizes, go with the bigger size.
  3. If your dog is hard to fit, try to choose a harness with many points to adjust the sizing.
  4. When adjusting the harness use the “2-finger rule” as with collars. The harness should fit tight enough that the dog will not be able to escape or pull their legs through, but loose enough that you can fit 2 fingers between the harness and your dog.

How can you tell if your dog’s harness doesn’t fit?

If your dog can wiggle out or pull its leg through the harness it will need to be tighter. If the harness is too tight then you may notice hair loss or chafing on contact areas, commonly across their back or under their arms. A sign that the harness style might not be right for your dog is rotating while being worn, or if your dog is resistant to walking but has walked fine in other harnesses.