What we feed our dogs can have a dramatic impact on their behavior and overall health. Unfortunately, it is difficult to come by reliable nutritional information, as most veterinarians do not take nutrition classes outside of basic animal nutrition. In addition, some of the larger commercial brands provide food to veterinary schools, as well as nutritional studies from their labs, which ultimately influence which foods some veterinarians suggest.


Here are some ingredients we recommend avoiding and how they may affect your dog.


Don't be fooled by the label! “Lamb & Rice” foods may still have corn as one of the primary ingredients.

For some dogs, corn is difficult to digest and can cause skin problems.

In addition, corn may inhibit your dog's natural ability to send sufficient seratonin to the brain. For dogs that are overexcitable or have problem behaviors such as aggression, this can exacerbate problems. Seratonin is an important chemical that reduces stress and anxiety. Recent studies suggest that low seratonin levels can lead to impulsive behavior, aggression and other behavioral problems.

Here is a brief list of foods that are known to be corn-free and those which are known to contain corn, often in high amounts:

Corn-Free Contains Corn/Corn Products



California Natural


Chicken Soup for the Dog


Honest Kitchen



Kirkland Signature (Costco)


Natural Balance

Newman's Own

Nutro Natural Choice Ultra



Solid Gold

Taste of the Wild

Trader Joe's






Diamond Pet

Eagle Pack




Nutro Max

Nutro Natural Choice High Energy

Nutro Natural Choice Puppy Large Breed

Ol' Roy



Purina (all brands)

Purina One

Royal Canin

Science Diet

These lists are by no means exhaustive, if you are unsure about whether your dog’s diet is corn-based, just read the ingredients label. Look for corn, corn gluten, corn meal and corn syrup. If any of these ingredients are present, they are probably among the first ingredients listed.

In addition to their regular commercial diets, Hill’s Science Diet and Eukanuba both produce prescription diets. If your veterinarian has placed your dog on a prescription diet, you should discuss any concerns with your veterinarian prior to making any diet changes

BHA/BHT.  BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) are used to preserve fats. However, studies have linked these preservatives to various types of cancers, including stomach, bladder and thyroid cancer. They are also suspected of causing liver and kidney dysfunction.

Ethoxyquin.  A preservative which studies have linked to kidney and bladder cancer, and increased incidence of stomach tumors. The Department of Agriculture lists it as a pesticide.


So, you’ve read your ingredient label and have decided to make a change? ANY DIET CHANGE MUST BE GRADUAL!!!! Your dog’s digestive system (and taste) needs time to adjust. If you change your dog’s diet too quickly you may see loose stools, diarrhea, vomiting, refusal to eat or other problems.

Generally, you should start feeding your dog ¼ of the new food with ¾ of the old food. Do this for a three days, or until your dog's stools are firm. Then increase the ratio to a 50/50 blend of both foods. Increase the ratio to ¾ new and ¼ old, and finally switch to 100% of the new food.


Don't be concerned if one of the recommended foods above costs more per bag than the food you are currently buying. That does not mean, however, that these brands are actually more expensive. The corn-free foods listed above contain higher quality ingredients, are more nutrient-dense and more digestible. This means you can feed your dog less, and the bag will last longer. Over the course of time, you may not be spending much, if any, more for dog food.

There are many local retailers in Sacramento that carry premium brands, including Animal Nutrition Center, Launder Dog, Western Feed and Pet Department Store.


Sometimes people are confused about the appropriate amount of dog food to feed their dog. One place to start is the feeding guidelines on the back of the bag. But, remember these are GUIDELINES not rigid rules. Your dog’s activity level, age and the environmental temperature can all affect how much food your dog needs. Start with the guidelines and pay attention to your dog. How is his or her weight, are they gaining or losing? Do they leave food in the bowl? Adjust accordingly.

Finally, we recommend feeding your dog two times per day rather than “free feeding” or leaving the food available all day long. We suggest leaving the food down for 20 minutes and then taking it up. Another early indicator that your dog is sick is a loss of appetite. If your dog has food available all day long, you will not notice this loss of appetite as quickly.

There are no laws that say your dog must eat his meal from a bowl. You can use your dog's food as training rewards or hidden in interactive toys or scattered in the backyard to give your dog additional mental stimulation.

Additional Resources

Dog Food Advisor

List of Corn/Wheat Free Dog Foods

Food Allergies and Intolerance


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