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If you’re a regular customer at our store, more likely than not you’ve heard a version of the below statement being said to you, or one of your fellow shoppers:

“We specialize in healthy, meat based pet foods that are as natural as possible and don’t contain any fillers.”

Healthy? Good! Meat? Good! Natural? Good! No fillers? Good!..right? Wait, what exactly is “filler”?

That is a question that comes up from time to time. The infamous “FILLER” in pet food. What is filler? I mean, we all know it’s bad, but what exactly does “filler” mean?

Quite simply, filler is “something that has been added to your dog’s [or cat’s] food to help him feel ‘full’ but contains little to no nutritional value.”

Some fillers can be relatively innocuous — taking up “space” in a food so that less of a premium ingredient needs to be used, and cost can be cut. I say “innocuous” with reservation, because over an extended period of time, even a “harmless” ingredient can cause health issues in your pet such as, but not limited to, lack of certain nutrients or unhealthy weight.

One more reason to always read the labels of your pet’s food. Just because “ORGANIC INGREDIENTS!” or a fancy protein such as “QUAIL!” or “VENISON!” is touted on the front label, doesn’t always mean that that desirable ingredient composes a significant part of the food. The first ingredients could be corn or soy, with the “selling point” ingredient halfway down or even at the end of the ingredient list!

So many choices of food! Two customers take a break from food shopping.

More upsetting is that some fillers can actually be harmful to your dog or cat – especially over time. Fillers such as soy, corn or wheat can cause allergies or sensitive reactions in pets.

When there are a lot of fillers in food, “flavor enhancers” or texture “additives”, are often need to be added in order to make the heavily processed and food appealing again. In low quality foods, these undesirable ingredients are not only disgusting (Animal Digest, a flavor enhancer which can be made from “4-D” animals — “dead, diseased, dying or disabled before slaughter” — or even roadkill) but are also toxic (Propylene Glycol, a solvent found in antifreeze that keeps moist kibbles “from drying out”).

Common fillers include:

  • Gluten and grain products, such as corn and wheat: These serve as a source of sugar and, as dogs are carnivores, they are of little nutritional value. Often, a grain product will leave the body just as it entered as it will not be broken down or absorbed.

  • Soy: This filler is responsible for a huge portion of pet allergies that can result in sneezing, itching, swelling, anaphylactic shock, and death.

  • Seed hulls: Cottonseed and peanut hulls

  • Weeds and straw

  • Citrus pulp

  • Beet pulp: While this can provide a good source of fiber, beet pulp has been known to plug the intestinal villus.

  • Animal by-products: These are the “left-overs” once an animal has been prepared for human consumption. This may include intestines, chicken heads, lungs, livers, kidneys, duckbills, chicken and turkey feet, feathers and bone. Ingredients listed as chicken, beef, poultry, and animal by-products are not required to include actual meat. Animal digest, animal fat, meat by-products, and chicken by-products are all animal by-products and are described in better detail below.

  • Animal digest: Produced by chemical or enzymatic hydrolysis of an undecomposed animal. This has also been described as “manure” and “a cooked-down broth, which can be made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from almost any source and no control is in place over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying), goats, pigs, horses, rats, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.”

  • Animal fat: Obtained from the tissues of animals during rendering or extracting and generally comes from an unknown origin. BHA, an artificial preservative suspected of causing cancer, may be used to preserve the animal fat.

  • Meat by-products: These are the non-rendered parts, other than the meat, and are derived from slaughter animals. This includes, but is not limited to, the spleen, kidneys, livers, brain, lungs, blood, bone, stomachs, and intestines.

  • Chicken by-product meal: Ground and rendered chicken products, including necks, feet, intestines, and undeveloped eggs.

For more information on ingredients you probably don’t want to find in your pet’s food (the list is for dogs, but I would apply it to cats too), check out The Dog Food Project‘s, “Ingredients to Avoid” list.

Luckily, if you are feeding your pet a good quality, meat based food from a reputable pet food company (like the the foods we sell in our store!), you should be just fine.If you’re not sure if the food you’re feeding has fillers or not, we urge you to do your research. A great place to start is and (coming soon) And of course, you can always call Calvin & Susie if you have a question.

Fillers are most often found in lower quality dog foods, where wholesome ingredients are sacrificed for quantity or cost. This is not to say that good food need always be expensive. We believe that everybody, regardless of wealth, should be able to feed their pets in a healthy way.

So next time you’re in the store, and you hear us talking about the “evils” of fillers, you can nod along, and take heart in the fact that you are giving your pet a nutritious (and delicious!) meal.

Give your dog or cat a treat for us!

~Your Loyal Calvin & Susie Blogger

As always, check with your vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet or body care. The Calvin & Susie Blogger always researches to the best of her ability, but she is not a vet. This blog is not in any way meant to replace veterinary advice or care. When in doubt always ask a vet.

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