We’re all accustomed to reading our own food labels but how many of you have read your dog’s food labels? Can you decipher what’s in them? Let’s look at a couple.
Just like in our labels, it’s the first 6 or 7 ingredients that make up the bulk of the food. Most store bought foods contain Meat by Products and Corn and many of the brands are still using BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) or BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) or Ethoxiquin as preservatives, which have been associated with liver, kidney and thyroid damage as well as fetal abnormalities and may be linked to cancer. Tocopherols (Vitamin E) and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) are natural preservatives and antioxidants to look for in your dog foods.
Meal means reduced in size by removal of water. This enables the manufacturer to pack more meat protein into the food – which is better than plant protein overall.
Ground Corn / Corn Meal – The entire corn kernel ground or chopped, it must contain no more than 4% foreign material. The problem with corn of any kind is that it passes right through the dog just as it passes right through us. Corn is used as filler.
Meat By-Products – Animal protein not specified – Clean parts of slaughtered animals, not including meat. These parts include: lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, spleen, bone, blood, stomach, and intestines freed of their contents. It does include hair, teeth, hooves, and horns.
Poultry By-Product – Clean parts of slaughtered poultry including hearts, lungs, liver, kidneys, feet and heads. It cannot contain feces or foreign matter except which is unavoidable during processing and then in only trace amounts. P
Soy – Is used as a protein instead of meats – can sometimes cause gas problems in dogs
Lecithin – protects cells from damage caused by oxidation
Taurine – essential amino acid necessary for the proper development and ongoing health of the heart and eyes – dogs can make taurine through the digestion of proteins – better from foods high in meat protein
Fish – includes all essential amino acids and is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, Vit A, K &E, and also contains iodine, calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, copper and fluoride.
Omega 6 – essential fatty acid found in plants such as FLAXSEED, evening primrose, black currant. (good for skin and coat)
Linoleic Acid – found in safflower plants and fish oils (sometimes used in place of Omega 3 & Omega 6 sources) (good for skin and coat)
Omega 9 – found in olive oil (good for skin and coat)
Biotin (AKA Vit H) – Biotin is a water soluble vitamin that is a member of the B-complex group; helps body use protein & other B vits & helps synthesize & oxidize essential fatty acids (good for skin and coat)
Folic Acid – aides in cell development and preservation
Chelated Minerals – minerals bonded with amino acids (protein) that aids in absorption into the animals system.
Now…how is dog food made?
In 1957 Purina Laboratories invented the extrusion process and introduced the first extruded hard kibble “Purina Dog Chow” and life in the dog food industry has never been the same!
Most of the major pet food companies in the US are subsidiaries of major multinational companies : Nestle Purina PetCare (Alpo, Bakers, Chef Michael’s Canine Creations, Felix, Gourmet, Kit & Kaboodle, Fancy Feast, Friskies, Mighty Dog and Ralston Purina products such as Dog Chow, Proplan & Purina One); Heinz (Nine Lives, Gravy Train, Kibbles-n-Bits, Nature’s Recipe); Colgate-Palmolive (Hill’s Science Diet Pet Food); Mars (Kal Kan, Pedigree, Iams, Eukanuba, Whiskas, Royal Canin, California Naturals, Caston, Cesar, Chappi, Dreamies, Sheba, Temptations). With the large buying power of these parent companies comes the risk of a dip in quality and larger chances for cross contamination (Like the widespread Salmonella recall of 2012).
Other Big Names in the business:
Blue Buffalo (Blue, Basics, Wilderness, Freedom, Life Protection Formula, Naturally Fresh and LifeSource Bits)
Diamond Pet Foods (Diamond, Diamond Naturals, Diamond Naturals Grain Free, Nutra-Gold, Nutra-Gold Grain Free, Nutra Nuggets Global, Nutra Nuggets US, Premium Edge, Professional, Taste of The Wild, Kirkland) (which was a big part of the 2012 recall)
WellPet (Old Mother Hubbard, Sojos, Wellness Natural Pet Food, Holistic Select, Eagle Pack Natural Pet Food)
I like to look for foods that come from a company that owns their own manufacturing plant and does not co-pack so that the integrity of the production is consistent. I also look at Dog Food Advisor for recall history (you sign up for email alerts to recalls).
Midwestern Pet Foods who makes Earthborn Holistic and Champion PetFoods who makes Orijen (Canadian) and their US counterpart Acana are two companies that (although a bit pricey – amazing ingredients) are among my favorites. They have never been involved with a food recall – (The litigation against Champion PetFoods and heavy metals is not an accurately depicted argument – do your due diligence and research from reputable sources) Another great food is made by Open Farm.
Grain Free diets being linked to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) is also still under study including looking at genetics and Taurine deficiency as other possible causes. Dogs that eat RAW and grain filled foods have also reported having DCM. Take time to do the research yourself if you are concerned.
Regardless of what food you choose,remember to look at your dog’s treats with the same scrutiny and if you want to be extra careful…
- Always try to store your dry foods in their original bags inside an airtight container or at least make sure to cut and save the lower part of the bags that have all of the packaging information with the date codes on it for future reference if you need it. Pet food companies will need that information from you when trying to track down any problems with the food.
- Rinse and keep any canned food cans for about a week for the same reason.
- Don’t feed your pet anything that looks or smells funny to you. Watch out for molds and mildew. Extruded foods have oils sprayed on them for flavor and can go rancid.
- If your pet suddenly stops eating his food LISTEN to him! Even if the bag is now half empty and all was fine the week before. You never know what happened to the bag during the week or during packaging.
- Feel confident to contact the food company and report the issue.
- Try feeding your dog from a new bag to rule out bad food or upset tummy issues.
- Use Stainless steel or glass bowls and ALWAYS clean them after each meal