Want to better understand pet food?

You're not alone.

Some of the most nutrition-savvy athletes in the world came to us recently to make sense out of all of the pet food marketing claims out there.

What we told them changed the way they looked at pet nutrition.

And they were inspired to help us share the facts with you — so that you, too, can...

Know Better

The fact is, the pet food industry is saturated with misinformation, false truths and consumers are left not knowing who or what to believe. The regrettable part? It's designed this way. Large manufacturers, trade associations and even the regulatory system itself are all intermingled into an industry where the profit-minded conquer.

Pet food bags showing images of beautiful salmon falling from the sky with claims of "farm-raised" ingredients. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately this is the work of well-intentioned marketers targeting consumers who simply don't know any better when it comes to pet food. And it's become a distraction from the actual nutrition.

So. We want to break down some simple facts about pet food and the industry.

Stay with us and hopefully by the time you're finished reading, you'll be better equipped to decipher the noise out there.

You'll know more about what's really going on. And you'll just Know Better, period.

Know the facts. Know Better.

Did you know...

Pet food ingredients are listed on the bag in order of weight, before cooking.

What does this mean? The ingredient listing on the bag does not exactly reflect what's in your pet's bowl. Unlike human foods for which nutrient information is reported as consumed, the pet food industry allows nutrient information to be reported on bags before the cooking process.

Why does this matter? Because even if you take the time to read the label, you’re still not getting all of the relevant information about the food's final composition. As an example, when fresh meat is the #1 ingredient and claims of "real meat first" are sounding good to you, in reality, when the meat is cooked at high temperatures, its water content (74-78% of the ingredient weight) is cooked off and "as fed" the remaining "meat" is likely the 5th or 6th ingredient in terms of what its contributing to the final product.

Meaning? Many companies are able to design premium-sounding foods, but despite what the bag says, the food in the bowl may actually contain very little animal-based protein and instead, you may be giving your little carnivore a vegetarian-forward diet full of carbohydrates/starches, fruits and veggies.

What else could be misleading?

All proteins aren't created equal.

What does this mean? 30% protein on one bag doesn't equal 30% protein on another bag. Yes, the percentage amounts may be equal but it's how you get to the protein level that can differentiate. Protein doesn't always mean meat.

Go on... Many companies are "boosting" crude protein levels using vegetable protein concentrates like Pea Protein and Potato Protein. Plant protein simply cannot compete with biologically appropriate animal-based proteins for dogs and cats.

How so? Your pet is not getting the proper amino acid profiles with these sneaky protein boosters. Vegetable protein concentrates do not have the adequate nutritional values, absorbability or digestibility your pet needs. Not only are the protein levels being manipulated, so are consumers.

Michael Phelps with Juno & Legend

Michael Phelps with Juno & Legend

23-Time Gold Medalist

What else should I know?

"Grain-Free" food is not suddenly killing your dog.

How can I be sure? There is still no scientific evidence of any direct link between "grain-free" pet foods and the 0.0007% of the canine population that have been diagnosed with possible Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in the last five years.

So is there a need to be concerned? There is no fact-based correlation between grain-free food and DCM despite the scary rhetoric. The evidence does suggest a potential link with products that are lacking sufficient levels of the amino acid taurine and its precursors cysteine and methionine (aka: the ones derived from meat).

Meaning? Rather than focusing on grains, focus on whether your food delivers sufficient levels of the necessary amino acids which come from animal-based proteins (aka meat and meat meals). Look for meat protein and low amounts of healthy carbs. Check the ingredients!

Jordan Hicks with Napoleon

Jordan Hicks with Napoleon

Pro Linebacker

Still with us? Let's dive deeper.

You need to calculate the carb content yourself.

Why? Companies are not permitted to disclose the carb content of their products on the label. Pet food lobbyists like to keep it this way (because a lot of foods are high in carbs) but knowing the carb content provides a good data point for consumers to tell if the food is healthy or not for their pet.

What is a reasonable carb content? High 20’s to mid-30’s is a more responsible percentage for your dog and low-to-mid 20’s is appropriate for your cat. While this doesn’t give the entire picture of the food (remember: protein %’s can be boosted with vegetable concentrates and make carbs appear lower), you’ll have a better idea of the amount of fillers based on this percentage.

Tell me how. We can't change the law, but we can equip consumers with the formula to calculate the carb content themselves.

Look for the "Guaranteed Analysis" panel on the back of the bag and get ready for some easy math:

Formula to calculate carbs in pet food

What else about carbs?

The source of the carb is crucial — look for low-glycemic ingredients.

What does this mean? In order to make a kibble, some level of carbs are required to make everything bind together and form the nugget (think: bread crumbs for meatballs in human food). The source of the carbohydrate ingredients themselves play a role. For example, a serving of white potato has almost the same effect in humans as eating table sugar (a quick, high spike in blood sugar) whereas a serving of lentils has a slower, smaller effect.

I see. And? We believe that dogs and cats have similar glycemic responses and that picking more responsible sources of carbs can help support blood sugar control and a healthy weight. It can also help avoid a host of chronic conditions (like diabetes) and keep things like heart disease and various cancers in check.

Got it. So what should I look for? Avoid foods with high-glycemic carbohydrates like white potato, white rice and tapioca. Instead, look for low-glycemic carbs like oats, barley, sweet potato, chickpeas and lentils.

Gus Kenworthy with Birdie

Gus Kenworthy with Birdie

Silver Medalist Freeskier

What else should I know?

Price tag does not always reflect quality.

How so? Don't think a high price tag means high quality ingredients. In the pet food industry, it is easy for a food to "read well" before cooking, and it's another to have it "perform well" as fed.

How can I tell? On the label, no more than 1 or 2 wet meats (fresh meat, poultry and fish) should lead off and need to be immediately followed by at least 2 to 3 meat meals (e.g., turkey meal, salmon meal).

If it doesn't? If not, you could essentially be paying for a $90 bag of water. Some foods claim they have 10+ "fresh: meats in a row in their food, but the remaining dry ingredients do not support the amount of wet ingredients. After the cooking process (remember: water cooks out), the food contains very little of the protein in the bowl that you paid for.

What other ingredients could cook out?

Probiotics. They are useless unless they make it to your pet's digestive tract.

Define useless? After you cook a live organism like a probiotic, it will likely die and offer no benefit unless it has a proper protective shell, or casing.

Say more? Many companies use probiotics, but unless it's a probiotic strain that has guaranteed survivability against cooking, freezing, shelf life and stomach acids, your dog or cat are probably not realizing a benefit.

How can I be sure? Inquire about the specific strand of probiotic used in your pet's food and ask if it is viable in the digestive tract. Ask if there is published research to support the claim.

Dana Vollmer with Mallie

Dana Vollmer with Mallie

5-Time Gold Medalist

Anything else?

Healthwashing is meant to distract you from actual ingredients.

What does this mean? Common "health" terms are used to convince consumers that pet food is healthy. The phrases "organic, non-GMO, gently-processed, human-grade, small batched, ethically-raised, sustainably-sourced, full transparency, vet-recommended, grass-fed, free-range, family farms, biologically-appropriate, antibiotic-free, etc." are overused and frankly, have lost their credibility.

Why does this matter? Pet food bags and marketing materials can use these terms all day, but it doesn’t change their actual ingredients. Unfortunately, these terms make the brands seem trustworthy and unless you know a bit about pet food, you might be convinced the food is healthy for your pet.

Meaning? Know better than to believe these common phrases. Read the ingredients, look for an abundance of meat and meat meals, calculate the carbs, stick to the basics.

So... why is Nulo credible?

Nulo is different.

How? Nulo’s ingredients are high in animal-based protein (industry-leading levels, actually), use low carbs, low glycemic ingredients and use a patented probiotic that survives the cooking process. Check check check check. This means that your pet is receiving a full amino acid complement when he or she eats their Nulo.

What else? We're independently owned so we keep ourselves accountable. We don't cost-optimize and sacrifice quality just to save a few bucks on ingredients (just ask our CFO) and we never cut corners. For real, our CEO’s standard has always been "The Max Test" – meaning if he wouldn't feed the food or treat to his own dog, Max, Nulo isn't going to make it for yours.

And we should believe you why? At Nulo, we’ve always been committed to inspiring pet parents to live healthier together with their pets, starting with nutrition. When we noticed there was an overwhelming amount of misinformation about basic pet nutrition out there, we knew we had to do better. Because our pets deserve better.

Phew, that was a lot to process. Let's summarize:

high meat

As carnivores, our dogs and cats require diets rich in protein and amino acids that they can only get from real meat. Nulo's "percentage of animal-based protein" is at the top of the industry.

low carb | low-glycemic

Nulo uses ingredients like spelt, lentils & sweet potatoes to provide lasting energy & Nulo's recipes are among the lowest-carb diets on the market.

patented probiotic

Nulo uses GanedenBC30, a natural probiotic with a protective spore casing, giving it viability all the way to the digestive tract, where it's needed to do it's job.

Have specific concerns about your current pet food?

Use this tool to compare the ingredients in your food.

Still have questions? Give us a shout.

Let's chat more. We have our reps standing by ready to have a Live Chat with you. Don't want to chat but still have questions? Send us an email and our customer service team will get back to you!


See how our athletes Know Better...

Michael Phelps | 23-Time Gold Medalist

They'll tell you that you can't talk about feelings...
That if you do, it'll make you look weak.
That athletes can't find a purpose after sport; That they become irrelevant.
But I know better.
And I know how hard it is. To open up. To be mindful. To fight for the future. To refuse to sacrifice to be your best self — for your partner, children and your pets.
They'll tell you a lot of things...
Choose to know better.

Jordan Hicks | Pro Linebacker

They'll tell you that if you have a softer side, you'll never make it as a pro linebacker.
Or that if you do, that you shouldn't show it.
That you'll have to sacrifice your career in order to put your family first. But we know better.
And, we know how hard it is. To balance. To prioritize. To refuse to sacrifice time with your partner, your children, and your pets.
They'll tell you a lot of things...
Choose to know better.

Gus Kenworthy | Silver Medalist Freeskier

They'll tell you that staying in the closet is probably best for your career. That you won't be accepted if you come out.
That dogs held captive on Korean meat farms aren't worth saving. That you can't help them anyway.
But I know better.
And... I know how hard it is. To be different. To refuse to settle for anything less than love for everyone... humans and pets.
They'll tell you a lot of things...
Choose to know better.

Dana Vollmer | 5-Time Gold Medalist

They'll tell you that you can't come back after your second child and still compete as an elite swimmer.
Or that if you try, you'll fail.
That you can't balance motherhood and a rigorous training schedule. But I know better.
And, I know how hard it is. To pursue a dream. To fight for moms. To refuse to take shortcuts with your partner, your kids, and your pets.
They'll tell you a lot of things...
Choose to know better.

Nulo Food Finder
Score Summary
Pet Type
Commodity Grain Free

Woof! Yep, we thought you were a dog person.

Now let's get an understanding of what you're currently feeding your dog. Go grab your current dog food bag!

Enter your info below to receive a 20% off coupon for your next purchase on Nulo.com.
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Nulo Food Finder
Score Summary
Pet Type
Commodity Grain Free

MeWow! We thought you were a cat person.

Now let's get an understanding of what you're currently feeding ... go grab your cat food bag!

Enter your info below to receive a 20% off coupon for your next purchase on Nulo.com.
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