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  • Understanding Dog Food Labels and Finding Bad Ingredients

    Learning how to read through the vague and horribly regulated dog food labels can be a chore. The front of your dog food bag has gorgeous cuts of steak, fresh fruits and vegetables..... and has a catchy healthy name like "Beneful". These foods make you, the consumer, believe that your are purchasing something really great for your dog! But flip that bag over, and look at the ingredients.



    This dog food is one of thousands out there that are feeding you a LIE.

    This dog food claims right on their website:

    "Protein-rich nutrition, with real beef, to help build strong muscles"

    INGREDIENTS in Beneful Original Formula:
    Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, sugar, propylene glycol, meat and bone meal, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, water, animal digest, sorbic acid (a preservative), potassium chloride, dried carrots, dried peas, calcium propionate (a preservative), L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2), DL-Methionine, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

    Now to understand why I think that is such a joke, let me explain how the ingredient list works.
    The ingredients on a bag of dog food are listed by weight. Beef does not even show up until ingredient #7!!!! Plus, Beef in itself contains water, which is heavier! We will get more into detail about that later.

    Now let us compare the above ingredient list to one of my favorite dog foods, Fromm. This is the ingredients from a bag of Salmon a la veg:

    Salmon, Salmon Meal, Brown Rice, Sweet Potato, Pearled Barley, Potato, Oatmeal, White Rice, Whole Dried Egg, Salmon Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols), Millet, Dried Tomato Pomace, Safflower Oil, Cheese, Flaxseed, Carrots, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Apples, Lecithin, Chicken Cartilage, Potassium Chloride, Monosodium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Cranberries, Blueberries, Salt, Monocalcium Phosphate, Chicory Root Extract, Alfalfa Sprouts, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Folic Acid, Parsley, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Longum, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Enterococcous Faecium, Vitamin A, D3, E, B12 Supplements, Choline Bitartrate, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Riboflavin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Cobalt Carbonate, Calcium Iodate, Sorbic Acid, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Sodium Selenite


    GREAT TIP: Look for the fat source!

    What you need to look for is the first source of fat or oil that appears in the ingredient list. This can either be from an animal or vegetable source, there are good and bad ones of both. Anything listed before that first source of fat, and including it, are the main ingredients of the food. Any other items are present in much smaller amounts to add flavor, function as preservatives, help with the manufacturing process or provide dietary benefits (e.g. probiotics, vitamins and minerals).

    In Beneful, the first fat source is "animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E)". And you can see that BEEF is after the fat source, not in front of it. That means that this food is made mostly of:

    • Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E).

      In Fromm the first fat source is Salmon Oil That tells us this food is made mostly of:
    • Salmon, Salmon Meal, Brown Rice, Sweet Potato, Pearled Barley, Potato, Oatmeal, White Rice, Whole Dried Egg, Salmon Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols).


    Quite a big difference in diet wouldn't you say?

    Now for the #1 most commonly used filler for dog food. Let's talk about this before we move on to the really bad stuff, shall we?

    CORN!

    The only ones out there trying to claim that corn is 'great for pets' is the dog food companies themselves. It is a CHEAP filler and protein source, and it could very well be the reason Fido does not smell great, and always is itching, full of allergies, shedding and miserable- even though you just put on Flea Medication and gave him a Benedryl.

    Here is a WONDERFUL article written by Mike Sagman at the Dog Food Advisor. It is all about Corn, whether it is good or bad, and gives many details and graphs that should help you make that decision for yourself.
    When talking corn, you must really watch out for dog food companies which use more than one corn source, so they can hide the fact that it is not number one on the ingredient list. They will use corn, corn gluten, corn gluten meal, ect. All different ingredients, but if you combined all of them more than likely they would now become the number one ingredient in your dog food.



    Common Misconceptions About Dog Food

    Prescription Diets:
    I have seen member after member here at English Bulldog News become shocked when they found out that the $55 bag of prescription dog food they just got at the Vet ranks low on the dog food ratings. They assumed since it was a prescription, and they got it from the doctor, who is supposed to make your dogs feel better.... it should be top quality! Right?

    Wrong! I don't believe Vets are educated in nutrition like human doctors are. If every vet started educating people on a good nutritional diet for their pets, don't you think they would go out of business? I am sorry if I sound harsh..... but I do not know any vets who will tell you the stuff on their shelf is bad dog food. And until you get on the perfect dog food for your pet and experience the difference it will make in their overall health for yourself, only that will make a believer out of you.

    ***Please note there are great vets out there that care about the nutrition of your pet. Many dogs do require prescription diets for specific diseases and ailments. You should always consult your vet before changing a prescription food. You should always discuss nutrition with your vet and find out what 'side of the fence' he is on, and see if there is any alternatives or tell you why he is prescribing a specific food to you.

    Meat as the first ingredient:
    Another time, someone pointed out that the dog food "Iams" has meat as it's first ingredient. Unlike many 5-6 star foods and told us we were basically full of it.

    As an example, let's look at the ingredients of Iams Proactive Health:

    Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Flavor, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Potassium Chloride, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Caramel, Calcium Carbonate, Flax Meal, Choline Chloride, Fructooligosaccharides, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, DL-Methionine, Rosemary Extract

    As you can see, chicken is the number one ingredient in this dog food. But Chicken by itself contains water, which weighs more. So once the chicken is dehydrated it weighs far less, and then would no longer be the heaviest ingredient and would not be the main protein source of the food.

    Meat sources in "meal" form (as long as they are from a specified type of animal, such as chicken meal, lamb meal, salmon meal etc.) are not inferior to whole, fresh meats. Meals consist of meat and skin, with or without the bones, but exclusive of feathers/hair, heads, feet, horns, entrails etc. and have the proper calcium/phosphorus ratio required for a balanced diet. They have had most of the moisture removed, but meats in their original, "wet" form still contain up to 75% water. Once the food reaches its final moisture content of about 9-12%, the meat will have shrunk to sometimes as little as 1/4 of the original amount, while the already dehydrated meal form remains the same and you get more concentrated protein per pound of finished product.

    So if you look at the next ingredients within this food, you can see that they consist of Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Flavor, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E). Likely, this is what is more in this food than the actual meat itself.

    Please do not misunderstand, having a (specific) meat as the number one ingredient, not "Meat" alone- but Chicken, Lamb, Salmon, ect. is not a bad thing at all. As long as the ingredients that follow that are also good quality ingredients.

    Advertising:
    When dog food was first brought to my attention, I myself was very skeptical. I had not even HEARD of any of these foods! Why would I put my dog on a food that I had not even heard of? How could it possibly be good food if it does not have a "reputation"?

    Well, I learned. The reason we hear so much about all these "Wonderful nutritious dog foods" is because much of their budget goes into advertising. Filling your subconscious brain with the IDEA that their food is good for your dog. This money they spend on TV airtime, Internet advertising, ect. is actually the money that the manufacturers of good dog food put INTO THE FOOD INSTEAD. Quality dog food companies depend on real life stories and word of mouth advertising because they do not have the funding to pay for advertising.

    Bottom Line: With good dog food, all that advertising money is going into your dogs belly instead.

    Protein content:
    Many assume that when reading the label of guaranteed analysis, the "Protein Content" comes from the Meat within the ingredient list. This is an extremely false assumption. Protein can come from a wide variety of food sources, not just meat. Soy, Eggs, Corn, Meal, By Products, Digest are some of many protein sources that can make up most of that percentage rating on your bag of food. Again, it is important to look at the ingredients to see where most of the protein is coming from.


    Now let's take a look at some bad ingredients in dog food, and we will also tell you why they are bad.

    • Animal digest
      This is material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.

      A cooked-down broth made from specified or unspecified parts of animals (depending on the type of digest used). If the source is unspecified (e.g. "Animal" or "Poultry", the animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.....The animals can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination.
    • Soybean Meal
      AAFCO states that this is the product obtained by grinding the flakes which remain after removal of most of the oil from soybeans by a solvent or mechanical extraction process.

      A poor quality protein filler used to boost the protein content of low quality pet foods. Has a biologic value of less than 50% of chicken meal.
    • Brewers Rice
      AAFCO states that this is the small milled fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from the larger kernels of milled rice.

      A processed rice product that is missing many of the nutrients contained in whole ground rice and brown rice. Contrary to what many pet food companies want to make you believe, this is not a high quality ingredient, and is used instead of choosing a more expensive whole grain rice.
    • Potato Product
      AAFCO states that this is potato pieces, peeling, culls, etc., obtained from the manufacture of processed potato products for human consumption.

      This is a cheap byproduct of human food processing that has been stripped of much of the nutritional benefits that whole, fresh potatos offer.
    • Soy Flour
      AAFCO states that this is the finely powdered material resulting from the screened and graded product after removal of most of the oil from selected, sound, cleaned and dehulled soybeans by a mechanical or solvent extraction process.

      Much of the nutritional value is lost already during processing of the grain to flour. May contain particles of hull, germ, and the offal from the tail of the mill.
    • Animal Fat
      According to AAFCO this ingredient is "obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial processes of rendering or extracting. It consists predominantly of glyceride esters of fatty acids and contains no additions of free fatty acids. If an antioxidant is used, the common name or names must be indicated, followed by the words "used as a preservative". In actuality, the animal source is not specified, or required to give the origin of slaughtered animals.
    • Artificial Flavors and Colors
      Humanly-contrived additives, used to enhance a product and to appeal to the human eye. Use of these ingredients can conceal damage or inferiority, or make the product appear better than it actually is.
    • BHA/BHT
      Short for Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), both of which are chemical preservatives. BHA and BHT have been banned from human use in many countries. In the US, they are still permitted in pet foods.
    • Beet Pulp
      The residue from sugar beets which has been cleaned, freed from crowns, leaves, and sand, and extracted in the process of manufacturing sugar. Beet pulp is added to some pet foods to act as a fibrous stool hardener.
    • Turkey, Chicken, Lamb, Beef, Poultry By-Products
      These consist of the rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered meats, such as heads, feet, viscera, free from fecal content and foreign matter except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices. Meat by-products are an inconsistent ingredient because of the multiple organs used, their constantly changing proportions and their questionable nutritional value. Meat by-products are much less expensive and less digestible than "meal".
    • Digest
      May also appear as dried, or spray dried. Sometimes the type and part of animals used is specified, such as in "Chicken Digest", "Lamb Digest" or "Poultry Liver Digest"

      AAFCO states that this is a material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed. .

      A cooked-down broth made from specified, or worse, unspecified parts of specified or unspecified animals (depending on the type of digest used). If the source is unspecified (e.g. "Animal" or "Poultry", the animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.
    • Ethoxyquin
      A chemical preservative that is not approved for human use
    • Meat by-products or specific meat by-products
      The non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hoofs. Meat by-products are not meat. They can include almost any part of the animal other than meat. This would include chicken byproducts, turkey byproducts, beef byproducts, ect.
    • Poultry
      The clean combination of flesh and skin with or without accompanying bone, derived from the parts or whole carcasses of poultry or a combination of thereof - exclusive of feathers, heads, feet, and entrails. Poultry is an unpredictable ingredient, which can contain any type of fowl, including buzzards, geese, and other birds.
    • Poultry fat
      Obtained from the tissues of poultry in the commercial process of rendering or extracting. Poultry fat is a by-product of meat processing. The origin of the contributing animals is never known; the source can be any fowl (turkey, chicken, geese, buzzard, etc.) and the resulting oil is very low in linoleic acid -- an essential fatty acid that is important for skin and coat health.
    • Corn Gluten Meal
      AAFCO states that this is the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm.

      An inexpensive by-product of human food processing which contains some protein but serves mainly to bind food together. It is not a harmful ingredient but should not rank high in the ingredient list of a quality product.
    • Wheat Gluten
      The tough, viscid nitrogenous substance remaining when wheat is washed to remove the starch. Wheat gluten is a cheap by-product of human food processing, the result of washing wheat and letting the starchy liquid dry. It offers almost no nutritional value, and serves mostly to bind the food together.
    • Flavor
      A substance, such as an extract or spice, that add flavor to a product.

      The manufacturer may or may not give more detailed information about what is used for flavoring and whether it is made from a natural or chemical substance.


    When looking at meat "meals", what you need to look for is NON-SPECIFIC meals. Example, using the word "Meat" instead of "Beef". Or "Fish" instead of Salmon. Or "Poultry" instead of "Chicken". If your food has a specific Meal type in it- that is okay. Lamb Meal, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal, Beef Meal.... those are all good types. Here is a couple of examples of bad ones:

    • Meat and Bone Meal
      AAFCO states that this is the rendered product from mammal tissues, with or without bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

      The animal parts used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters and so on. It can also include pus, cancerous tissue, and decomposed (spoiled) tissue.
    • Meat Meal
      AAFCO states this is the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.

      The animal parts used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters and so on. It can also include pus, cancerous tissue, and decomposed (spoiled) tissue.
    • Poultry Meal
      The clean combination of poultry flesh and skin with or without bone. Does not contain feathers, heads, feet or entrails. If from a particular source it may state so (i.e. chicken, turkey etc).

      Note how in this product the source is not defined as "slaughtered poultry". The manufacturer does not disclose the species (or the mix of species) of the poultry used. The fowl can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), turkey, chicken, geese, buzzard, seagulls, misc. roadkill, birds euthanized at shelters and so on.


    Sugar or sweeteners is an absolutely unnecessary ingredient in pet foods, added to make the product more attractive. Continuous intake can promote hypoglycemia, obesity, nervousness, cataracts, tooth decay, arthritis and allergies. Pets also get addicted to foods that contain sugars, so it can be a tough piece of work to make them eat something healthier.

    • Corn Syrup
      A syrup prepared from cornstarch, used in industry and in numerous food products as a sweetener.
    • Cane Molasses
      A by-product of the manufacture of sucrose from sugar cane. It must contain not less than 43% total sugars expressed as invert.
    • Sugar
      Can include sucrose, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup and others.

    I do hope that this article helps many of your determine the right dog food for your pet. While I am no expert, I have been researching dog foods for about a year now. Research and mainly testimonials has made a believer out of me. If you find your dog food ingredient list is not very good, try switching foods to a higher quality food. Yes, it is more expensive, but the rewards you will get in return are priceless. It is a change you won't regret!

    Other Articles of Interest:
    Dog Food Ratings
    Our Top 5 Recommended Dog Food Choices
    Frequently Asked Dog Food Questions
    Click to view our Great Products forum with Food Recommendations!


    Q: Where can I find these foods?
    A: You can usually get it from your closest feed store. If they do not carry it, ask if it can be ordered for you. Most feed stores can get many different types of food that is not on their shelf. But we found the best place, and that is to order it online, delivered right to your door, at very competitive prices. I was actually paying about $8 more per bag at my feed store that was over 20 miles away!

    Get FREE shipping on all orders over $49 for life! Set up a shipping schedule so you never run out of food. Schedule can be changed, food can be changed, easy to schedule and EXCELLENT customer service!

    Ready to try Petflow? Click Here!

    Use PETFLOW COUPON CODE at checkout: Bulldog25

    Click here to read testimonials from members who already order from Petflow!


    Comments 29 Comments
    1. TessaAndSamson's Avatar
      TessaAndSamson -
      Very informative, I love it
    1. KMARINO's Avatar
      KMARINO -
    1. cali~jenn's Avatar
      cali~jenn -
      Great job!!!!!!
    1. LisaMarie's Avatar
      LisaMarie -
      aS ALWAYS~AWESOME JOB!
    1. Jack Daniels's Avatar
      Jack Daniels -
      POWER TO THE PEOPLE.. !! and Down with PURINA !
    1. NigelsMom's Avatar
      NigelsMom -
      So helpful because I fell for the Beneful with my mixed breed dogs and they loved it...Nigel got a hold of it and loved it but I had to get it out of the house and change the mixed breeds to Nigel's food. So everyone was eating Holistic Select Salmon but then Nigel got finicky (like his daddy @Davidh's "Buddy") so when Mrs. 'DavidH' suggested Fromm Beef Frittata I switched and all doggies eat that now.
    1. Twice's Avatar
      Twice -
      I also thought Beneful was good. Roxy loves it, it's all she will eat. Then when Abby showed up and we switched vets I found out that Beneful is sprayed with fat and that's what makes it so appetizing for them. She said I might as well be feeding my dogs a diet of french fries. Now I tell everybody that I know who feeds it to their dogs, most are grossed out but I don't think any have actually switched foods. I don't get it.
    1. bullmama's Avatar
      bullmama -
      I thought it would be nice to this article for our new members!
    1. ChrisRN's Avatar
      ChrisRN -
      Great article! When we first got into the pet food business I was taught by the holistic veterinarian who formulates our food to look at the first 5 ingredients on the label. Those first 5 ingredients can tell you right off the bat if it's a good quality food. Then you have to look closely at the rest of the ingredients.
    1. sweetpeasmom2008's Avatar
      sweetpeasmom2008 -
      Wow great article!
    1. nycbullymama's Avatar
      nycbullymama -
      excellent article. will be using it as a guide.
    1. Smashers Mama's Avatar
      Smashers Mama -
      Any recommendations? I am feeding my dogs Beneful right now I used to buy Iams Mini Chunks, because it was easy for them to chew up. The only brand I really didn't like was royal canin, because it made their feces really soft and runny. impossible to pick up.
    1. bullmama's Avatar
      bullmama -
      Quote Originally Posted by Smashers Mama View Post
      Any recommendations? I am feeding my dogs Beneful right now I used to buy Iams Mini Chunks, because it was easy for them to chew up. The only brand I really didn't like was royal canin, because it made their feces really soft and runny. impossible to pick up.
      Fromm, natures logic, natures variety, blue wilderness, blue basics... These are a few popular brands on here. Some cannot be bought at regular retailers, some are found in feed stores or pet boutiques, but all can be found on petflow.


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    1. Brandie37's Avatar
      Brandie37 -
      I read everything I could about Buffalo Blue, Fromms, and Wellness Core Grain Free. All are good. The Buffalo Blue caused Bella to have horrible gas. I choose to try her on Wellness Core Grain Free because they label their product as having no GMO products in their good. The transition was a little rough but she gobbles it down and her gas isn't nearly as frequent and is diminishing


      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    1. Frankie's Mama's Avatar
      Frankie's Mama -
      Loved this post, very informative. I am a new bulldog mom and want the best for my lil guy!!
    1. Rockosmomma's Avatar
      Rockosmomma -
      Does anyone have any info about 4Health brand(it is from Tractor Supply Co)? I didn't find it on the rated list. These are the first few ingredients: lamb, lamb meal, cracked pearl barley, ground white rice, peas, egg product, chicken fat. Does that sound like its good?
    1. 2BullyMama's Avatar
      2BullyMama -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rockosmomma View Post
      Does anyone have any info about 4Health brand(it is from Tractor Supply Co)? I didn't find it on the rated list. These are the first few ingredients: lamb, lamb meal, cracked pearl barley, ground white rice, peas, egg product, chicken fat. Does that sound like its good?

      There is a member that does use this (can't remember screen name) and it works well for their bully. personally, I prefer grain free foods due to allergies that tend to come along with them.
      @bullmama
    1. bullmama's Avatar
      bullmama -
      It looks like a good food, I looked at it myself. It would go likely in the four star range, and looks like a decent food especially for the price. If I remember correctly, it was only about $30-$35.

      They may also carry grain free so you may want to look into that as well.
    1. TyTysmom's Avatar
      TyTysmom -
      Bump, great article for new members wondering about food, esp Beneful!
    1. Kristopher T's Avatar
      Kristopher T -
      What about Royal Canin dog food?