Dr. Becker Shares Her Updated List of Best and Worst Pet Foods

hi this is dr. Karen Becker five years

ago I published a list of thirteen types

of pet foods ranked best to worst that

video remains one of the most popular

here at Mercola healthy pets as well as

on YouTube there have been a few updates

I wanted to relate to you so I thought

it was time to release a sequel or a new

revised list first and foremost when

you're deciding what to feed your dog or

cat it's important to remember that your

pet is a carnivore his genetic makeup

and internal workings remain essentially

the same as his wild carnivorous

ancestors your dog or cat can't move his

jaw side-to-side

it's called lateral mandibular swing and

they can't do that dogs and cats males

only work up and down carnivores grabbed

their prey tear it and chunks with their

sharp interlocking teeth and gulp it

down they do not chew omnivorous mammals

like humans have wide flat molars

designed for chewing and vegetarian

animals have lots of wide flat molars

designed for excessive mastication or a

lot of chewing in fact some animals like

ruminants or cows actually chew their

food twice all carnivores including dogs

and cats also have very short digestive

tracts compared to vegetarian animals

and this is because the wild carnivores

eat foods of course that are heavily

contaminated with pathogens they're not

removing the colon or they're not

removing any parts of the their preys

body that could have bacteria Laden in

their systems so their digestive tracts

are designed to get foods in and out

very quickly they're not designed to

ferment foods like vegetarians the

ancestral diet of a carnivore includes

lots of variety and seasonal variability

because certain prey was more available

at certain times of year than the other

so there was actually a lot of variety

in the diet they thrive on consuming

fresh living and Whole Foods but not

clean foods but their diet was in fact

moisture dense which means a lot of

water the prey was primarily water about

70% it was high in protein and minerals

and moderate and fat in the wild you

won't see any obese bunnies out there so

when we think about feeding a dog or cat

it's usually moderate to low fat but

great quality fats and very low

carbohydrate the only carbohydrates wild

cats consumed was what was naturally

found in the praised GI tracts and

the occasional nibbling of grasses for

added fiber and enzymes wild dogs and

wolves being scavenging carnivores don't

have nearly the perfectionistic food

standards of cats they do catch and kill

and consume whole prey but they also

consume carrion which are dead animals

and you'd never catch a cat going

anywhere near anything dead dogs also

will eat poo grass berries other plant

matter in fact research shows that up to

30% of the stomach contents of wolves

contain plant matter commercial pet food

is a relatively recent concept and has

been around only about a hundred years

and since then major pet food companies

have produced most of their products

using a base of corn wheat or rice

recognizing feeding carnivores and

abundance of grains fed cancer and

created fat diabetic animals the

industry turned to grain free dry foods

which absolutely reignited the cable

industry only this time with

inappropriate levels of high glycemic

starch like potatoes and pea flower now

trendier sources of carbs are also being

introduced to the pet food industry such

as lentils and garbanzo beans in

addition to increasing the carb content

beyond which species appropriate legumes

contain lectins which are molecules that

can create GI inflammation and


fortunately for pet owners dogs and cats

are among the most resilient animals on

the planet

they're able to eat foods that they were

never designed to eat without dying

degeneration does occur in these animals

as a result of inappropriate nutrition

but sudden death doesn't happen this is

actually how we've been able to deceive

ourselves into believing that can be me

at pet foods are good for dogs and cats

because they don't immediately die of

malnutrition however in my opinion we've

created dozens of generations of

nutritionally weakened animals that

suffer from degenerative diseases linked

to nutritional deficiencies the bottom

line is that for 99.9 percent of the

time on earth dogs and cats have

absolutely consumed their natural diet

which is an ancestral diet of fresh

foods 4.1 percent of the time animals

have consumed highly processed foods on

top of being biologically inappropriate

we add a lot of synthetic vitamins and

minerals to meet basic

nutritional requirements and then heat

the food to very high temperatures which

at best denatures proteins and decreases

nutrient value but at worst introduces

carcinogens to your pets body on a daily

basis to potent cancer-causing

substances are created when dry pet food

is made by the extrusion process when

protein is extruded carcinogenic

heterocyclic amines are created the

byproduct of extruding starches are

acrylamide both which are known to cause

cancer in dogs and cats this is a little

scary if you think about the fact that

most pets on the planet are eating dry

food for their entire lives and the fact

that the cancer rate is skyrocketing in

companion animals feeding dogs and cats

inappropriate ingredients for several

generations has created significant

metabolic and physiologic stress and

convenient pet foods have really been

the root of the problems of most of the

inflammatory processes and degenerative

diseases that plague

today's dogs and cats a biologically

correct diet for a carnivore is a high

moisture high protein moderate fat and

low carbohydrate the vast majority of

pet foods on the market today are the

exact opposite their low moisture and

low to moderate poor quality protein and

fat and high in starch or carbs all that

to say our goal is to mimic the

ancestral diet of dogs and cats as

closely as you can afford to do and my

list today is based off of these

species-appropriate guidelines as many

of you know I'm a huge advocate of

feeding pets and unprocessed diet as

this is exactly what they were designed

to eat in the wild now I know some of

you might be saying I would also like to

eat an all organic free-range non-gmo

fresh food diet I just can't afford to

and of course not only do I get this my

recommendation is that you feed

yourselves and your pets as much


fresh food as you can afford to do some

of my clients also can't afford to feed

an all fresh living raw food diet so

what they do is they offer snacks they

offer fresh food snacks for their

companions so their pets let's say eat

an entirely processed diet for their

meals but they use what's number one on

my list for their pets snacks and don't

knock that actually research does show


I'm healthy food is better than no

healthy food at all so if you're capable

of just using fresh foods and snacks

you're still providing excellent options

for your dog or cat out of 14 meals a

week some of my clients can afford to

feed two or four of those meals in an

unprocessed form and that's a great

suggestion some clients can actually

afford to do 5050 so they're feeding one

meal of processed food a day and one

fresh food meal a day if that's what

you're capable of doing that's wonderful

but wherever you're at don't panic

what I recommend is that you work

towards providing the best food you can

afford to feed so starting at number one

is no surprise it's a nutritionally

balanced raw homemade diet this is the

best food you could feed your dog or cat

it's very important not to wing it when

preparing your pets meals at home I say

this because when Steve Brown and I

analyzed many of the homemade and pre

metal diets out there they fall

frightening Lee short on trace minerals

antioxidants including really important

nutrients like manganese magnesium

vitamin E and D copper zinc iron choline

and essential fatty acids nutritional

deficiencies over time will cause

degenerative diseases and pets

additionally if the diet doesn't have

proper fat or calcium - phosphorus

balance it can actually cause a myriad

of health problems especially in growing

animals so it's critically important

that you know your diet is balanced the

great thing about homemade raw diets is

that you get to handpick the ingredients

so if your dog is allergic to chicken

you can pick a different protein source

you also get to know deep in your heart

that you've washed the veggies you know

that there's no pesticides on them

you've seen the quality of the meats

that you're going to be feeding and this

should provide an enormous peace of mind

because it's becoming increasingly more

difficult to find ethical pet food

companies that use locally sourced or

even US grown ingredients with homemade

food you're in complete control of every

ingredient that enters your pets body

and of course raw food is just that it's

raw and it's unadulterated so your so it

contains all of the enzymes and

phytonutrients that are typically

destroyed when processing occurs

homemade food also gives you the

flexibility to include a lot of

nutritional variety in your pets diet so

you can buy seasonal fruits and veggies

that are on sale you can use produce

that comes from your local supermarket

or you can certainly use

photos from your garden or local local

farmers market as well number two on my

list is a nutritionally balanced cooked

homemade diet this option gives you all

of the benefits I just discussed - the

benefits of the free enzymes and

phytonutrients found in living foods

interestingly there are a few nutrients

that are actually more bioavailable when

cooked such as lycopene some animals

prefer cooked food some animals prefer

warm food and some clients prefer to

cook the food and there are also some

medical conditions such as recent GI

surgery or pancreatitis where cooked

food is just a smart idea for your pet

number 3 on my list is commercially

available balanced raw food diets again

it's critically important that the diet

be balanced and that you should be quite

aware that there are a lot of foods on

the market out there that are not

nutritionally complete these foods

should say right on the label for

supplemental or intermittent feeding I

don't recommend feeding unbalanced foods

without adding in the missing nutrients

or pets can have nutrition related

medical problems in the future

commercially available balanced raw food

diets are found in the freezer section

of small or privately-owned upscale pet

boutiques and actually now some big-box

stores are also starting to carry a

larger selection of frozen raw diets you

can also find an excellent selection

online there are new raw foods entering

the market every month with a variety of

different attributes veggie bone and fat

content vary widely between products

commercial diets range from zero to 40%

roughage or veggies and actually that

impacts the amount of synthetic vitamins

and minerals that must be added to the

diet to make it nutritionally complete

the veggie content will also impact

digestive and stool health so if you

have a dog that suffers from chronic

constipation you would want to choose a

food with a higher veggie content

commercially available raw food diets

range from low fat to high fat if you

have an obese cat you would obviously

pick a low fat food for your cat but if

you have a German Shorthaired Pointer

that runs lean and loses weight quickly

you choose a higher fat food for that

dog ground boned bone meal or a bone

meal equivalent mix will be added to raw

diets for mineral balance some raw foods

contain bone pieces that are actually

pretty big in fact too big to be safely


if you choose to buy up commercially

available raw food and you want to cook

it you need to make sure it's safe to do

so some raw food companies pride

themselves on only using happy healthy

grass-fed animals and organic veggies

while other companies use animal meats

and produce imported from China and

other countries as well as factory

farmed GMO fed animals raised in

feedlots here in the US some companies

use Whole Foods to meet the majority of

their diets trace mineral requirements

while some other companies use very few

ingredients and actually rely on Affco

vitamin and mineral premixes to meet

their nutritional requirements another

factor to consider is how the raw food

is formulated meat based foods like raw

diets are almost always calorically

dense and should be formulated on a

caloric basis not a dry matter basis

this is a more demanding method of

formulating and comparing the

formulation on a dry matter basis

compared to caloric basis shows that raw

foods formulated on a dry matter basis

actually fall significantly short of

nutrients it's easy to tell if your raw

food is formulated on a caloric basis

because if you flip it over the

nutrients are listed as a gram or

milligram of nutrient per 1000

kilocalories those foods formulated on a

dry matter basis will have nutrients

listed as a percentage of dry matter

basis I only recommend choosing raw

foods that are formulated on a caloric

basis how companies manage potentially

pathogenic bacteria is another

consideration which ranges from doing

nothing to batch testing UV treatments

ozone and fermentation treatments to HPP

or high pressure pasteurization the

great thing about this sector of the pet

food industry being the fastest growing

category is that you will be able to

find a food that fits your ethical and

financial parameters with the

convenience of not of not having to make

the food yourself the downfall is of

course you're obviously paying for the

luxury of having someone else do the

hard work for you and like all pet food

companies you'll need to investigate the

company you're buying from to make sure

you're feeding the correct product for

your pets specific nutrition and medical

goals number four on the list is

dehydrated or freeze-dried raw diets if

you can't or won't feed fresh raw food a

good alternative is the dehydrated

freeze-dried category that's been

reconstituted with water these diets are

shelf-stable so their super can be

and to make them biologically correct

all you have to do is just add water

dehydrated or freeze-dried raw diets

haven't been processed at high

temperatures and in many cases the

nutrient value has been retained - a

balanced fatty acid profile remember the

definition of raw food means it will

spoil if it's left at room temperature

so these foods by definition are not the

same as raw food diets but they can be a

great choice for people on the move

people that are camping with their dogs

or cats or pets that go to daycare or

need to be boarded it's really the next

best thing to a truly raw fresh food

diet make sure the brand that you select

is nutritionally balanced for all life

stages number five is a commercially

available cooked a refrigerated food

this is a new category of pet food that

is exploding in the marketplace

obviously the food has been gently heat

processed so the proteins have been

slightly denatured but the moisture

content is excellent and the food is

fresher so the nutrient content is

better than the other choices that will

be lower on this list you'll find these

foods in the refrigeration section of

pet stores and now actually many human

grocery stores as well the quality of

the raw materials going into the cooked

refrigerated pet food ranges from

absolutely terrible to excellent so you

do need to do your research when you're

choosing brands number six on the list

is human grade canned food if the

website doesn't say the ingredients are

human grade then they're not pet food

made with human grade ingredients is a

great deal more expensive than feeding

feed grade or animal grade canned food

these foods will typically be found in

boutiques and usually small independent

retailers that really focus on great

quality foods number seven super premium

canned food these products are typically

found at big-box stores like Petco and

Petsmart or in your traditional

veterinarian's office these foods

contain Group B grade ingredients which

in parentheses means foods not approved

for human consumption

but the moisture content is much more

biologically correct than dry food and

many have excellent protein fat fiber

carb ratio so I place this above the

next category on the list which is

number eight human grade dry food dry

food is not biologically correct in

terms of moisture content compared to

the ancestral diet

additionally even grain-free dry foods

contain unnecessary starch that can

cause inflammation issues in your pet

human grade is very important because

the ingredients have passed quality

inspection which means it doesn't

contain poor quality or rendered

unidentified or mystery proteins but as

I mentioned unlike dry food that has

been baked which it will clearly say on

the label baked you should assume if it

doesn't say that that it's been extruded

which means you're probably feeding a

small amount of carcinogens on a daily

basis yuck number nine is super premium

dry food found at big-box stores and

your local conventional veterinary


these extruded dry foods are made with

feed grade ingredients not approved for

human consumption but are still usually

naturally preserved most of these foods

contain added grains or starches which

are not species appropriate and may

Harbor the risk of mycotoxins number ten

on the list is grocery store brand

canned food this food choice is ranked

below super premium dry foods because

even though the moisture content is more

biologically appropriate these foods

usually contain high levels of

unnecessary grains and synthetic toxic

preservatives such as BHA BHT and ethics

ik when number 11 on the list is grocery

store brand dry foods which has all the

same issues as grocery store brand

canned foods - the moisture number 12 on

the list is semi moist pouch food which

is really bad the reason this type of

food is so far down the list is because

in order to make the food semi moist we

have to add an ingredient called

propylene glycol and this is an

undesirable preservative that actually

is the second cousin to ethylene glycol

which is antifreeze and while propylene

glycol is approved for use in pet foods

it's unhealthy for dogs and cats to

consume and number thirteen last on the

list is an unbalanced homemade diet raw

or cooked dead last on the list for good

reason is the idea that some pet owners

believe that they can offer their dog or

cat let's say a chicken breast and some

veggies and call it a day a lot of

people I know are caring but quite

uneducated and they're feeding things

like chicken wings and backs and necks

with some cheap ground beef to a growing

puppy yes the food is homemade and yes

it's fresh which is great however the

food is nutritionally unbalanced which

can cause

significant irreversible and potentially

fatal health problems including

endocrine abnormalities skeletal issues

in Oregon degeneration as a result of

deficiencies in calcium trace minerals

and omega fatty acids these diets are

the reason all homemade and most raw

diets are feared and loathed by

conventional veterinarians we see

animals that have been harmed by people

feeding unbalanced diets and it's

heartbreaking most importantly it's

entirely preventable so homemade diets

must be done right or not done at all if

the diet you're feeding your dog or cat

falls into one of the lower quality

categories don't despair most people are

feeding their pets lesser quality foods

because they either can't afford to feed

a better food or they simply don't know

what constitutes good nutrition for

their pet if you discover that your pet

is eating from the lower half of the

list set a goal to feed better quality

foods now that you know can make a

difference or when you can afford to

feed a more nutritious diet everyone's

pet food can be found in one of these

categories I encourage you to figure out

where the diet you're serving right now

falls in the list and then strive for

improvement by feeding more nourishing

species-appropriate foods