improving pet nutrition

Insider Tips: Lessons Learned About Pet Nutrition

Enhance your pet’s well-being with insider nutrition tips from NorthPoint Pets. Start today!

Pet Food Storage: Could Dry Pet Food Be Making Your Pet Sick?

Feeding your pet dry food is convenient. You don’t have to worry about any special handling requirements or finding extra space in your refrigerator or freezer. However, that convenience can come with a price that can harm your pet.

Our Top Four Tips for Safely Storing Your Pet’s Dry Food.   

1) Keep your pet food in the original package.

Pet food bags are designed to keep the food as fresh as possible. After opening, fold over the top of the bag to press as much air out as possible. If you’d like to use a storage container, put the whole bag inside the container, but do not dump the kibble out of the bag. 


Dry pet food formulations include necessary animal fats, which start to go rancid once exposed to oxygen (right after manufacturing, even inside the sealed bag). These fats coat the inside of storage containers and continue to oxidize over time and interact with compounds of the storage container itself (metal, plastic, etc.), which then contaminates the fresh kibble you just poured in.  In fact, improper storage of kibble is a large reason for food-related illness in pets.

2) Keep your pet food in a cool, dry place.

To prolong freshness and maximize nutritional value, keep your pet food in the same places that you store your own food: away from sunlight, heat, and moisture.


Moisture and food can be a fatal combination. Humid and warm areas create a perfect environment for mold and harmful bacteria to thrive. The worst of these bacteria, called aflatoxins, can cause severe liver damage and even lead to life-threatening emergencies.  Learn more about how to properly store your pet’s dry food here. 

3) Purchase a bag of food that will last your pet for roughly one month.

For optimal nutrition, freshness and palatability, we recommend buying the smallest bag of food that is appropriate for your pet – about 30 days’ worth. A small bag (4 – 5 lbs) is appropriate for a small dog, and a large bag (20+ lbs) for a large dog.


When pet food is stored for a long period of time, opened or not, the risk of rancid fats, mycotoxin contamination, pathogenic bacteria, and storage mites are significant risk factors. We often hear pet parents state that their pet gets bored by the end of the bag, but if that bag is 2+ months old, it’s likely that your pet can smell that the food has spoiled. In fact, one of the largest reasons pets turn their nose up to food midway through the bag is because it has turned rancid. Here are more considerations for bulk buying pet food.

Our team is always happy to discuss these topics on an individual basis. If you have questions regarding the storage of your pet’s food, please see one of our pet nutrition experts in-store.

Everything You Need to Know About Aflatoxin and Your Pet’s Food

Recalls due to aflatoxin contamination have resulted in the retrieval of hundreds of thousands of pounds of pet food. Tragically, these recalls have caused the loss of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of beloved pets. You might be wondering why such recalls continue to occur. The truth is that preventable measures can be implemented to avoid recalls associated with contaminants like aflatoxin.

When pets fall ill or pass away, it can be incredibly frustrating for pet parents and those involved in the pet industry. Aflatoxicosis is the term used to describe illness caused by aflatoxin. Diagnosing it can be challenging as the associated symptoms are considered ‘non-specific.’ In other words, they are vague and can overlap with those of various other diseases and conditions. As a pet owner, what essential information should you be aware of?

Let’s dive into the fundamentals:

What are Aflatoxins?

Aflatoxins, produced by fungi such as Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, belong to a group of toxins that can be found on various agricultural crops including corn, rice, wheat, oats, peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts, among others. These toxins are particularly prevalent in warm and humid regions of the world and are permitted in both human and pet food at very low levels. However, the risk and level of contamination increase under specific temperature and moisture conditions.

Four types of aflatoxins, namely B1, B2, G1, and G2, have the potential to contaminate food. Among them, aflatoxin B1 is the most concerning due to its hepatotoxic nature, meaning it is toxic to the liver and can cause severe illness and even death in pets. Aflatoxicosis, often resulting from cumulative exposure to contaminated pet food, can worsen over time. Consequently, contaminated products may remain in circulation for weeks or even months before the source is identified, leading to a recall announcement.

Previous incidents in 2005 and 2012 witnessed multiple recalls of aflatoxin-contaminated pet food, resulting in numerous pets falling critically ill or losing their lives after consuming these products. More recently, Sunshine Mills in 2020 and Midwestern Pet Foods in 2021 faced extensive recalls due to the presence of deadly aflatoxin contamination.

What signs should I look for in my pet?

If you suspect your pet has consumed pet food contaminated with aflatoxin there are several signs you should watch for. Be sure to alert your veterinarian and seek medical attention for your pet should any of these signs develop.

Common Clinical Signs with Aflatoxicosis:

  • Lethargy (sluggishness, tiredness, lack of excitement)
  • Food Aversion or Anorexia (not wanting to eat)
  • Vomiting, or vomiting blood
  • Jaundice (yellow discoloration of the eyes, gums, or skin)
  • Diarrhea or Melena (dark bloody stool, sometimes looks like coffee grounds)

Detecting Aflatoxicosis: Veterinary Tests and Symptom Recognition

Your veterinarian or emergency clinic will conduct various tests to assess the health of your pet. In many cases, liver function tests, which are part of a comprehensive blood chemistry panel, can provide valuable clues for detecting aflatoxicosis. Elevated liver values, such as ALT (alanine transaminase) and AST (aspartate transaminase), are often observed in the test results. Additionally, increased total bilirubin concentrations and prolonged prothrombin time (PPT) may also be indicative of aflatoxicosis.

Pet owners frequently notice changes in their pets’ behavior, food intake, or energy levels around the time these symptoms begin to manifest. It is crucial to inform your veterinarian about any such changes as they can provide essential insights. Even small details can contribute to a better understanding of the overall picture. It’s important to note that unlike humans, pets consume the same diet consistently, which results in faster toxin accumulation in their systems. Consequently, their bodies may have limited time and capacity for detoxification in such situations.

Mitigating Aflatoxin Contamination in Pet Food

Corn is widely recognized as a major contributor to aflatoxin contamination in pet food, making grain-free pet foods increasingly popular in recent years. However, it’s important to note that aflatoxin contamination is not limited to corn and remains a potential risk regardless of the type of pet food or its ingredients. To mitigate this risk, pet food manufacturers should diligently test all ingredients and final products for aflatoxin and other contaminants. Unfortunately, some manufacturers neglect this crucial step, leading to the presence of contaminated products in the market.

As a responsible pet owner, you can take action by contacting your pet food company or inquiring at the store where you purchase your pets’ food to ensure that the manufacturer implements adequate safety checks. Although safety checks are not currently mandated by law, contamination with aflatoxin would necessitate a product recall. Therefore, it is in the best interest of any pet food manufacturer to prioritize implementing rigorous safety measures.

Factors Influencing Pet Susceptibility to Aflatoxicosis

Remember that every pet, as well as every person, is unique, leading to various factors that can impact a pet’s susceptibility to aflatoxicosis and other conditions. These factors include genetics, age, hormonal status, nutritional status, exercise, and other underlying illnesses, all of which can influence the severity of aflatoxicosis. In essence, even if pets consume the same food, their reactions may differ.

Taking Action When Suspecting a Pet Food Recall

If you are feeding a currently recalled food, or if you suspect your pet may be exhibiting signs of aflatoxicosis:

  • Contact your veterinarian immediately
  • Save any remaining pet food you have
  • Save pet food packaging and take pictures to document date and lot codes
  • Bring the packaging and pet food to your veterinarian who can help you file a complaint with the FDA and send samples out for laboratory testing if needed

If you want to know more about the types of questions you should ask your pet food company you can click here.

About the Authors:

Morgan Hunt

Meet Morgan,  a Veterinary Assistant/Technician at Branford Veterinary Hospital and a Pet Problem Solver at NorthPoint Pets & Company! She is a Certified Veterinary Technician. Her interests in the animal world are mainly behavior & nutrition.  She has a Pit Mix named Tyson and a Dalmatian named Pongo who keep her on her toes learning more and more every day.

Nicole Cammack

Nicole is the founder & owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.

Recalled Pet Food: Aflatoxin

Must Read: Aflatoxin Pet Food Recalls

The recall of SportMix dog and cat foods may impact you even if you’re not feeding the food being recalled.


The FDA released an update which indicated the recall has expanded internationally. Further, based on the number of reported deaths and illnesses as of this date this is likely the largest documented aflatoxin recall within the pet industry.


The FDA released an update on the original recall announcement adding over 1,000 lots of pet food manufactured by Midwestern pet. Affected foods were made in their Oklahoma facility. More than seventy deaths have been reported with an additional 80+ pets ill.

This recall indicates there are some clear quality control issues within Midwestern Pet’s manufacturing operations. As foreshadowed in the original article below, it likely meant that they were not inbound testing their ingredients for safety and adequacy. Midwestern was likely not outbound testing their final product for safety and nutritional adequacy either. The recall expansion supports this and we can expect the number of reports of ill pets to increase, as well as further expansion of this recall.



Recently a recall of SportMix dog and cat foods due to ‘potentially fatal levels of aflatoxin’ was announced by the FDA & Midwestern Pet Foods. SportMix is manufactured by Midwestern Pet Foods who also makes well-known brands Earthborn, ProPac, Venture, Wholesomes, CanineX and most recently their ancient grain food Unrefined. The first FDA update indicated 28 dogs reported dead, and at least 8 more ill, with 70+ ill and 80+ dead as of the second announcement. It’s likely the FDA announcements will result in more reported cases.

If you are feeding SportMix, you can check the most recent FDA announcement for lot and date codes to see if your food has been recalled. If your pet is ill, be sure to contact your veterinarian right away. You can learn more about filing a Pet Food Complaint with the FDA here: Report A Complaint.

The recall was prompted when the Missouri Department of Agriculture tested multiple SportMix products which contained very high levels of aflatoxin. Currently, the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the FDA are investigating the incident to determine how and why the foods contained such high levels of aflatoxin.


What Is Aflatoxin?

Aflatoxin is produced by a mold Aspergillus flavus. Aflatoxin is dangerous at high levels, although low levels exist in common foods we and pets eat. These foods include nuts and grains (including ancient grains!) such as peanuts, and corn. In pet food, the most common culprit is corn, however numerous recalls have been announced over the years for a variety of human and pet products.

The FDA states that pets are more at risk of aflatoxin poisoning because they do not eat a varied diet like humans do. In other words, the cumulative effect of eating food with already high levels of aflatoxin makes the situation worse.


What symptoms should I look for?

The FDA States:

Pets with aflatoxin poisoning may experience symptoms such as sluggishness, loss of appetite, vomiting, jaundice (yellowish tint to the eyes, gums or skin due to liver damage), and/or diarrhea. In some cases, this toxicity can cause long-term liver issues and/or death. Some pets suffer liver damage without showing any symptoms. Pet owners whose pets have been eating the recalled products should contact their veterinarians, especially if they are showing signs of illness.


Why this recall should concern you:

Aflatoxin at dangerously high levels in pet food is preventable from a manufacturing standpoint. If a manufacturer is testing their inbound ingredients and outbound testing their final product, dangerously high levels of aflatoxin should never make it to the marketplace. The fact that it has been found in 9 different lots of pet food is concerning and raises several questions:

  • Was Midwestern inbound testing their raw ingredients to ensure that they were safe? In this case, it is likely that the ingredient containing the aflatoxin was corn.
    • Note: The past year there were agricultural reports indicating high levels of aflatoxin in some crops, meaning that if Midwestern was purchasing from these regions they should have been testing for aflatoxin, and other contaminants more frequently.
  • Was Midwestern outbound testing their final products to ensure that they were safe and nutritionally adequate?
  • What types of quality control does Midwestern have in place to prevent problems like this from occurring?
  • What steps does Midwestern take to clean machinery and storage containers in an effort to prevent cross contamination to other products made in the same facility?
  • What other products were made in this facility during and after the recalled product was made?
  • Does Midwestern hold a sample of each lot of food produced so that it may be tested if issues arise such as this?


Another Lesson?

The recall of SportMix dog and cat foods is another lesson to both retailers and pet owners that it is important to ask questions of the brand of food you feed your pets. You can learn more about those questions here. I am well aware of many who think that I’m being unreasonable when asking the questions I ask, or pushing for changes in regard to food safety and nutrition adequacy testing – but the reason why I do it is because things like this are PREVENTABLE. Sure, implementing nutritional adequacy testing is inconvienent if you’re a manufacturer – but it’s worse when pets get sick or die because you didn’t implement that testing.  As a retailer it’s inconvenient to have to constantly reach out to pet food companies – but it’s worse when a pet experiences a problem because I didn’t do my homework. It’s clear that many companies do not check all the boxes, but I can do my best to support companies that are doing their best to improve. I can also educate my clients and customers on who does and does not have certain safety/nutritional adequacy measures in place. I can also tell them who refuses to answer questions!

Simply said, knowing what quality control measures a manufacturer has or does not have can make a world of difference. While we don’t know if this recall will be expanded to other lots, or even brands – it is not out of the realm of possibility. For example, if Midwestern truly did have one batch of a contaminated ingredient such as corn, and does have proper quality control measures in place (e.g. proper cleaning of machinery and storage containers to prevent cross contamination) then other products may not be affected. If they do not have adequate measures in place (or failed to follow them) it is possible other products will be affected.

In either case, the question still remains: how did the contaminated food end up in the marketplace to begin with? Was it because they were not inbound testing raw ingredients, or outbound testing the final product or both?  We’ll have to wait and see.[vc_single_image image=”4225″ img_size=”large”]Original Recalled Products: Date accessed: 11 January 2021[vc_single_image image=”4226″ img_size=”large”]Second Recall (January 11, 2021) Date accessed: 11 January 2021[vc_single_image image=”4227″ img_size=”large”]Date code example: Date accessed 11 January 2021 the Author

Nicole is the founder & owner of award winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.

How to Safely Store Dry Food

We’ve all heard it before—Keep your pet food in the original bag, do not dump the food into a plastic container. But why?

Proper storage of pet food is essential in maintaining freshness and keeping your pet healthy. Pet food storage containers are typically not airtight. Therefore, these containers allow unwanted air and moisture to get into the food. Aside from the unwanted moisture, the oils and fats from the dry food can interact with the plastic of the container. All of this can cause mold to grow and make the food less palatable, and enjoyable for our furry friends.

Most kibble is dried before packaging to ensure there is no added moisture. Therefore, it is our responsibility, as consumers, to ensure that the moisture-free level remains that same after purchasing. Manufacturers specifically design pet food bags to prevent moisture and to keep the contents as fresh as possible. 

So what is the best way to store dry pet food? The answer is simple– in the original bag, in a cool, dry location. If the bag has a zip closure, it is recommended to expel all air before resealing. If there is no zip closure, release the air within the bag, and roll from the top. If a pet food storage container is available, place the bag into the container for optimal freshness. It is also possible to place sealed food in a refrigerator or freezer. 

How to Save Money on Your Pet’s Diet During Tough Times

As the pandemic continues, many pet owners are facing financial difficulties, causing them to rethink their pet’s diet. Raw and canned pet food feeding households are switching to kibble or supplementing with it to save money. In this article, we’ll explore some factors to consider when making the switch.

Calculating Carbohydrate Content

When looking for a lower cost alternative to raw or canned pet food, consider a lower carbohydrate kibble. To determine the percentage of carbohydrates, add together the percentages of protein, fat, moisture, fiber, and ash. Since ash is often not listed on the label, estimate it to be around 6-8%. Subtract the total from 100 to get the carbohydrate content.

Protein Quality

A low carbohydrate kibble does not automatically guarantee adequate or high-quality protein. Your dog or cat needs to consume a certain amount of total grams of protein rather than an overall percentage. If you’re transitioning from raw to kibble or supplementing your pet’s raw diet with kibble, it’s crucial to reach out to pet food companies and request:

  • Third-party digestibility data for the specific formula you are considering feeding. Do they conduct digestibility testing for all of their formulas? Just one? Or none?  This is important because if the food is not highly digestible, then the amount of protein is irrelevant since the animal may not be able to utilize it.
  • A typical AAFCO nutrient analysis to determine if they regularly analyze their formulas for adequate nutrition that meets or exceeds AAFCO standards. Over time companies average these analyses together (typical) in order to provide a profile of that food over time. Most companies don’t conduct these tests and will instead provide a “targeted analysis” which represents the nutrition of that food as formulated on paper. It may not actually represent what is in the final product – AND if the company does not provide digestibility data it may mean that those nutrients may not be absorbed or metabolized adequately.
  • Pay attention to the calorie ratios of the food you are considering. Specifically, look at protein to calorie, carbohydrate to calorie, and fat to calorie ratios. This information will help you determine if the food is suitable for your pet’s specific needs. It may also indicate the accuracy of claims made on the packaging.

adding raw dog food to dry dog food

Adding Fresh Food

Adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your pet’s bowl can provide numerous health benefits, whether you feed kibble or raw. Using foods that may otherwise go to waste can also help reduce costs. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that neutralize toxic free radicals, reducing oxidative stress and DNA damage.

A lot of us raw feeders choose to feed raw due to health conditions, disease prevention, and/or personal choice. While much of the evidence supporting these diets is anecdotal, there is a lot of research emerging to support these diets. Regardless, we do know there is sufficient published evidence to show the detriments of processed kibble and canned foods. For this reason, many of us worry about transitioning back. The good news is the researchers at the University of Helsinki DogRisk group have shown that feeding just 20% fresh food with processed food (i.e. kibble and canned food) reduces the incidence of inflammatory biomarkers quite significantly. 

Consider Freeze-Dried Foods

If you’re feeding commercial raw, consider freeze-dried foods. Traditionally, these foods have been cost-prohibitive, but there are now highly digestible and affordable brands, such as Northwest Naturals and Vital Essentials. These foods are shelf-stable, lightweight, and easy to store or transport.


Switching to a lower cost alternative to raw or canned pet food can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. By considering the factors discussed in this article, you can make a more informed decision about what to feed your pet during these tough times. Remember, adding fresh foods and considering freeze-dried options can help you save money while still providing your pet with a healthy diet.

*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide medical advice or replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

About the Author: Nicole Cammack

Nicci is the owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business, and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.

Considerations for Pet Food Bulk Buying and Shelf Life

As a pet owner, you’re probably familiar with the idea of buying pet food in bulk. It can be a convenient way to save money and ensure you always have enough food for your beloved pets. However, with the current economic situation and the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, it’s important to reconsider this practice. While it’s understandable to want to stock up on essentials, including pet food, there are some things to keep in mind.

Industry data sources show that many pet owners have stocked up on pet food, often purchasing enough to last for months. While this might seem like a smart move, it can actually lead to problems, particularly if packages are opened or damaged. In this article, we’ll explore why buying pet food in bulk might not be the best choice right now, and what you can do instead to ensure your pet stays healthy and well-fed.

Let’s take a look at the specific types of pet food for more information:

Considerations for Buying Dry Pet Food in Bulk

An unopened bag of dry pet food (kibble) can last up to 24 months, but fish-based food may only last for a little over a year. This is assuming that the manufacturer has ensured proper levels of tocopherols as natural preservatives. However, once the bag is opened, the shelf life of pet food becomes relatively short and should be consumed within 30-45 days. You can extend the shelf life of pet food by freezing it and using airtight containers, but be cautious when using plastic bins as they may pose health concerns. Unfortunately, most pet food companies do not evaluate the stability of their food and its nutrients after the bag has been opened.

The Risks of Improper Storage

When pet food is stored for a long time, especially if the package is opened or damaged, there is a significant risk of fats spoiling, mycotoxin contamination, pathogenic bacteria, and storage mites. Dumping bags of kibble into dry food storage containers is one of the most common mistakes. Improper storage of kibble is a major reason for food-related illness in pets, which is often not considered until it’s too late. To learn more about the dangers of pet food storage containers, read our other blog here

Caution When Buying in Bulk

If you have a small pet or one that only eats a small amount of kibble, be cautious when purchasing a large bag of pet food. While the affordability of a large bag may seem tempting, bacterial growth, infestation, and rancidity may make your pet ill and erase any cost savings. To purchase in bulk, it’s best to buy smaller bags and store them in a freezer if possible. Remember to rotate the stock and avoid mixing old food with newly-opened bags to reduce the risk of cross-contamination and rancidity.

Considerations for Buying Canned Pet Food in Bulk

Once opened, canned food can be refrigerated and stored for a couple of days. However, it should ideally be used within the same day. Many who feed canned pet food know that many dogs and cats won’t touch canned food after it’s been refrigerated. Depending on the amount your pet consumes you may want to consider brands that offer a smaller can size to avoid tossing out extra food from larger cans. 

The shelf life of most canned varieties of foods is 2-3 years. Therefore, stocking up is generally not a problem. Although, when shopping online or at discount retailers it is always a good idea to check the dates on the items you purchase.  One of the benefits of shopping small is that canned food is carefully tracked and rotated within the inventory to ensure maximum shelf life. 

Considerations for Buying Freeze-Dried Pet Food in Bulk

Easily becoming the “unofficial” pet food of the pandemic, freeze-dried foods offer the best of both worlds – lesser processed food AND shelf-stability.  Generally, these products take up less room and weigh substantially less than kibble and canned food so storage is also a plus. This is actually an option many raw feeders use when traveling to cut down on weight and the use of refrigeration and freezing. Many kibble, canned and raw feeders actually use freeze-dried as a supplement to regular meals, intermittently replacing meals and/or as treats. 

At first, glance, freeze-dried foods may have the perception of being more expensive, but in fact, may be just as or more affordable than canned and raw food options. These foods have had most of their moisture removed, which is also the bulk of the weight and what takes up the most amount of room which gives the perception of less food. Instead what you’re left with is a highly nutrient-dense, and likely a higher digestible product which you can choose to add water back to. Lastly, pets love freeze-dried foods since they are typically higher in meat and are generally much more palatable. 

Most of these products have expiration dates of 2 years or more – however, there is evidence on the human side to suggest that these foods have shelf lives of 20-30 years. Not something we would recommend planning on, but if the situation was dire, they are an option.

Check out some of our favorite freeze-dried options from Northwest Naturals and SmallBatch.

Considerations for Buying Frozen Raw Pet Food in Bulk

As of the publication date of this article, it is likely that a meat shortage will affect the pet food supply. The closure of slaughter and packing outlets due to COVID-19 infections among workers is taxing the supply chain. This, in turn, is already having a domino effect on the number of animals that will be bred and raised for consumption. Farmers and ranchers do not want to invest in raising animals that they will be unable to send for slaughter – a grim aspect of the reality we are facing.

If you have visited a grocery store recently you know our meat prices are rising, and this will likely happen for raw pet products too. If you don’t feed raw and think you are safe, it’s not the case. While this will impact all pet food types, it will likely be seen in raw and fresh food categories first. 

Stocking up more than a couple of months’ worth, depending on the quality of the packaging may yield some of the same problems we see with kibble. Fats within the raw are susceptible to oxidation, and nutrient loss as time passes. If you have the ability to stock up, you may also want to consider supplementing with freeze-dried foods that have a longer shelf life. 

If you are a raw feeder and need more information on switching or supplementing to kibble and other affordable options please read here.

*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide medical advice or replace the advice of a qualified veterinarian.

About the Author: Nicci Cammack

Nicci is the owner of award-winning NorthPoint Pets & Company, in Connecticut. She is also the Founder & CEO of Undogmatic Inc. Her undergraduate and graduate education includes biology, chemistry, business, and nutrition. She has worked in the pharmaceutical industry on multiple R&D projects and has had the privilege to learn from leading international figures in the human and pet health industry. She regularly lectures at national conferences, including federal, state, and municipal K9 events. Her current research involves identifying pathogenic risk factors and transmission among raw fed pets through a comprehensive worldwide survey.





The Hidden Dangers of Storing Pet Food in Plastic Bins

If you chose to use storage containers, always keep the food in the original packaging and then place it into the bin. Find out why.

Tips for Choosing the Best Pet Food Options

In previous posts, we discussed the history of dry food or “kibble” and why it may not be the best option for all pets. Today, pet owners have a variety of options to choose from, including canned food, freeze-dried meals, and raw diets. However, with so many choices available, it can be challenging to navigate the market and find the best options for your pet.

Spotting Deceptive Tactics

As consumers, it is essential to be aware of the deceptive tactics some manufacturers use to sell their products. Some companies may market their products as “premium” or “natural,” but in reality, they contain fillers and low-quality ingredients. To avoid falling prey to these tactics, it is crucial to read the label carefully and understand the ingredients listed.

Changes in the Pet Food Industry

The way we purchase pet food has also evolved over the years. In the past, most people bought their pet food from local feed and farm supply stores. These stores provided quality products at affordable prices and were centrally located. However, with the rise of big-box retailers and online shopping, many of these small businesses have closed.

While online retailers offer convenience, some pets have suffered as a result. Products may sit in warehouses for months, leading to expired or stale food. Additionally, there have been instances of customers purchasing expired food from online retailers and attempting to return it to local stores. To ensure the quality of your pet’s food, it is best to purchase from a reputable, local pet supply store.

Choosing the Best Pet Food

At local pet supply stores, pet owners can find a variety of local and all-American options, as well as some Canadian and European brands with unique quality control measures. It is essential to read labels carefully and choose products without fillers or low-quality ingredients. Some family-owned pet food manufacturers offer high-quality, honest products, and even provide free samples to try before you buy.

While advancements in the pet food industry have brought about many positive changes, it is crucial for pet owners to be informed and make the best choices for their pets. By choosing quality products and supporting local businesses, we can ensure that our pets receive the nutrition they need to live healthy, happy lives.

The best advice I can give when choosing a pet food is twofold:

Understand How to Read a Pet Food Label

If you’re a pet owner, it’s important to know what your pet’s food is made of. Understanding pet food ingredients can help you make better choices for your pet’s health and wellbeing. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at the ingredients in your pet’s food:

reading pet food ingredient label

  1. Know the source of each ingredient: It’s important to know where each ingredient comes from to ensure the quality and safety of your pet’s food. Look for pet food brands that use high-quality, locally sourced ingredients.

  2. Consider your pet’s digestive system: Cats and dogs have shorter digestive tracts than humans, which means they may have difficulty digesting grains and carbohydrates. Look for pet foods that are easy for your pet to digest.

  3. Watch out for deceptive labeling: “Meat first” labeling can be deceiving because ingredients are listed by weight before cooking. This means that the first ingredient may not actually be the main protein source. Look for pet foods that have a high percentage of whole proteins.

  4. Understand meal ingredients: Meals, such as chicken meal or fish meal, are not necessarily bad ingredients. However, you should avoid by-product meals. Look for pet foods with whole protein meals as the first ingredient for optimal nutrition.

By keeping these tips in mind, you can make informed decisions about the pet food you purchase and help ensure your pet stays healthy and happy.

Shop Small

If you’re in Connecticut or any other state, you’ll find many small pet food supply stores. Shopping small has many advantages:

  • Direct access to the owner who truly cares about the quality of products on their shelves and the pets they are feeding. Family-owned businesses have a unique sense of pride, vast knowledge, and experience in many brands and types of food. Unlike big-box stores, small businesses provide individualized approaches to each customer.

  • Small businesses can actually be more affordable. Big box stores have huge overhead and investors, who are concerned with the bottom line. Many small businesses will meet or beat the large competitor’s price and offer frequent buyer programs.

  • Many online retailers have shipping costs wrapped into their “low price”. Although online retailers offer convenience, your local small retailers often offer excellent prices. Many small businesses will even deliver, sometimes even on the same day! 

  • Frequent buyer programs can’t be found through online retailers, nor can their knowledge or experience.

  • Many stores have owners and staff who are college-educated pet nutritionists. Some staff members also have additional certifications in pet nutrition, allowing them to spend extra time combing through ingredient labels, and vitamin panels to find the perfect food for your pet. 

  • Many small pet supply stores have an extensive knowledge and offering of nutritional supplements that can help support whole body health as well as help pets with many types of disease.

  • Small businesses have exclusivity with many small companies that offer unique treats, toys, foods, and accessories that can’t be found online or in big box stores.

  • Small businesses give back to the community. They support local sports teams, youth groups, music programs, senior programs, rescues, and local pounds. They annually donate several TONS of food to local rescue and municipal pounds.  Keeping business local provides support for the community in a much greater way than you could ever imagine.

A Balanced Approach to Pet Health

We believe in treating each pet as an individual, not just another animal to be sold products or treated with a one-size-fits-all protocol. We’ve found that the healthiest pets have benefited from a unique balance of traditional medicine, holistic medicine, and wholesome nutrition.

Small (Affordable) Changes for Big Improvements

While we highly advocate for a fresh, organic, raw meat diet, we understand that it may not be feasible or affordable for everyone. However, even small changes can make a big difference. For example, adding fresh food to your pet’s dry food can help improve their health. We understand that budget is a concern for many pet owners, so we strive to help our clients do the best they can within their means.

If you have scraps of meat or vegetables left over from cooking, why not add a small handful to your pet’s bowl? Even cats can benefit from fresh food, though it may take them 2-4 weeks to adjust to changes in their diet. At our pet store, we encourage all pet owners to try adding fresh food to their pet’s diet and see the difference it can make.