Things to be Aware of with Pet Foods that Include Bone – Truth about Pet Food

A pet owner recently shared these pictures of bone pieces found in her ZiwiPeak canned cat food:

Bone in pet foods is not unusual, many brands of pet foods utilize bone in their recipes. However, bones in pet food can cause serious issues when a manufacturer doesn’t take all the safety measures necessary.

Unfortunately, there are no required by regulation pet food safety measures regarding bone/bone pieces in pet food.

There are no pet food regulations limiting the amount of bone a pet food can include and there are no regulations limiting the size of bone pieces. And, because all pet food meat ingredients include “with or without bone” in their legal definitions, pet food manufacturers are not required to disclose on the label that bone is included. Such as, manufacturers are allowed to list ‘chicken’ on the pet food label when the actual chicken is chicken frames (skeletal frames after meat is removed). In other words, chicken on the label could mean a lot of bone is included in the pet food.

With bone in a pet food, the meat and bones need to be ground into very small pieces. Some manufacturers claim they grind the meat and bone to 5 mm or less. But, using the example of bone pieces found in the canned cat food from above compared to 5 mm, it’s easy to see that manufacturers don’t always properly grind the meat and bones.

Veterinarian Karen Becker shared an FDA warning about cooked bones stating:

  • Constipation due to bone fragments. Your dog may have a hard time passing the bone fragments because they’re very sharp and they scrape the inside of the large intestine or rectum as they move along. This causes severe pain and may require a visit to your veterinarian. Bones also contain a lot of calcium, which is very firming to the stool.
  • Severe bleeding from the rectum. This is very messy and can be dangerous. It’s time for a trip to see your veterinarian.
  • Peritonitis. This nasty, difficult-to-treat bacterial infection of the abdomen is caused when bone fragments poke holes in your dog’s stomach or intestines. Your dog needs an emergency visit to your veterinarian because peritonitis can kill your dog.

The above would also apply to cats consuming bones in a pet food.

Veterinarian Laurie Coger shared with us that even if the bone pieces are finely ground, the pet food MUST be properly mixed to assure the pieces are evenly distributed throughout the pet food.

If you’ve ever baked a cake from a box mix, you are probably familiar with clumps of dry cake mix unless you stir and stir and stir the batter. The same principle applies to mixing a pet food. Unless the manufacturer thoroughly mixes all of the ingredients, large amounts of bone pieces can be located in one area of the batch with little amounts of bone pieces found in other areas of the batch. (On a side note, proper mixing is also important for even distribution of supplements.)

And again, there are no regulations governing how well manufacturers mix each batch of pet food. Everything is left up to the manufacturers discretion.

Because bone provides calcium to the diet, the amount of bone in a pet food links to the level of calcium in a pet food. And cats are at a great disadvantage with calcium in pet food. Pet food regulations – AAFCO Nutrient Profiles for dog foods and cat foods – have no maximum levels of calcium established for cat food. An adult maintenance dog food cannot contain more than 6.25 grams of calcium per 1,000 kcal. But an adult maintenance cat food can contain any level of calcium above the 1.5 gram per 1,000 kcal minimum.

Pet food manufacturers should test their pet foods for calcium on a regular basis. Ask your manufacturer how often the food is tested and ask to be provided with a copy of those results.

Always visually inspect the pet food when you place it in your pet’s bowl. Look for bone pieces (even protruding from kibble) and make certain they are small sized and consistently evenly distributed throughout the food.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible
Association for Truth in Pet Food

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