The food we feed our dogs is important. It may be easy to lay responsibility of food choices on our vet or the media, but it’s ultimately our dollars that are bringing the food into our home. Quality pet food will help our dogs grow into healthy adults and minimize health problems that require lifelong treatment.
Expensive doesn’t equal quality and dog owners need to take the time to read the ingredients on their dog food. But that isn’t enough anymore, as you’ll learn today; we also need to get in touch with the manufacturers and ask them to clarify those ingredients. You would do so with a human child, you should take the same steps with the animals trusted to our care.
My philosophy is that we’re required to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves; stick up for those who cannot stick up for themselves. Let’s start with finding out what’s in our dog food.
First Things First, Bookmark These Sites!
These sites are repeated below as well…
A Dog Food Label is a Marketing Campaign
Is it deboned chicken meat or is it the beak, skin and feathers. Is it 5% fat (pet food companies are only required to report the minimum) or is it closer to 12% fat.
Ask the Right Questions
I thought this would be an easy article to write once I received some directions from the dog food world. What I learned is that the nutritional labels on dog food is a scam. There are holistic companies (the real ones, not the ones who are jumping on the buzz word) who are honest on their labels, but that’s because they’re providing quality ingredients that they’re proud of…
Susan of DogFoodAdvisor.com, shared that we as dog owners should discover the answers (from the manufacturer) of the following questions…
- Are meat and vegetable ingredients USDA inspected and approved? (Many manufacturers will state ‘ingredients come from a USDA inspected facility’. This is not the answer the consumer is looking for. Rejected for use in human food meats and vegetables ‘come from’ a USDA inspected facility. The key answer is ‘approved’.)
- What is the country of origin of all ingredients including all supplements? (Many manufacturers will neglect to mention the COO of vitamins and minerals – which are often sourced from China).
Don’t be Fooled by their Marketing
The folks of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association shared the following things that made me smile. How very clever…
- “Salmon Cat Food” and “Cat Food with Salmon” seem like the same product. However, there is a major difference between the two. For a product to be named “Salmon Cat Food,” the product must contain at least 95 percent salmon, excluding the moisture content. When products use the word “with,” it simply means the product must have at least three percent of the listed meat.
- If there is a combination of meats in the name, the products combined must be 95 percent with the first ingredient as the larger portion. “Dinner,” “platter” and “formula” are required words when the product’s meat content is less than 95 percent but more than 25 percent. Always read the product names carefully. It could mean the difference between a container of salmon or a spoonful of salmon.
- For additional details on each of these items, you can check out the NCVMA article HERE.
Puppy Food and All Life Stages Food
All Life Stages is essentially puppy food. It’s convenient to not have to change our dogs food when they reach adulthood, but for convenience, we’re feeding our dogs more nutrients than they need. Feeding an adult dog puppy food will lead to the dog gaining more weight than is healthy.
Traci Murdock, certified dog trainer, shared that puppy food isn’t necessarily needed and it’s not recommended for large breed puppies, because “it creates too rapid growth that puts too much stress on growing bones and structure.” Our dog, Rodrigo, developed arthritis before he was a year old and we wonder if this was in any way related to feeding him large breed puppy food.
Traci goes on to share that “part of the reason puppy-specific food exists is marketing, but also to address the limitations of substandard ingredients in traditional dog food for a growing youngster.
High Protein Diets
I’ve been told that although our dogs are our family members they are still carnivorous creatures. Ummm, duhhhh. But does that mean that we should be feeding them a high protein diet? I’ve read that too much protein causes kidney issues in dogs; I’ve also read that this isn’t true.
So I’ve started focusing on quality protein. What are the protein sources of the dog food you’re purchasing? Our dogs eat Halo’s Spot’s Stew, Salmon. The first ingredient is Salmon, the second is Egg. Two very good sources of protein.
Meal vs Deboned Meat
This is another discussion I’ve followed. If Chicken Meal is the first ingredient, it doesn’t mean that your dog is getting cheated out of a protein source. Quality chicken meal is the chicken without the water. Some dog food manufacturers believe that by removing the water, they’re able to provide more chicken, creating a better source of protein.
What you need to watch for is the quality of the chicken meal. Kristin Taylor, Certified Pet Nutrition Adviser with Pet Supplies Plus, shared that dog owners have an “assumption that “real chicken” is going to be better for her pet.” This isn’t actually the case. “Our pets require nutrients– not ingredients. As both chicken meal and whole chicken provide protein and fat, either is acceptable for pets. As long as the food in question has been AAFCO certified (meaning the Association of American Feed Control Officials deem it a complete and balanced diet), the protein source won’t matter for most pets.”
Kristin goes on to share that “our pets require protein just like we do– however, dogs can get a high enough level of protein from plant-based sources to remain healthy and even to support growth in puppies or lactating bitches. While many people feel it is best to offer their dog a food which has an animal-based protein source, it is not necessary to do so. A good rule of thumb is: dogs require one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day (higher for cats).”
You may have noticed that I highlighted quality in relation to chicken meal two times. The reason is because just because you see Chicken Meal in the ingredients doesn’t mean that it’s quality. Susan of DogFoodAdvisor.com shares that “the meal could be made from chicken skin and bone. High levels of bone in a pet food is linked to high levels of fluoride; high levels of fluoride is linked to bone cancer.”
“Understanding the guaranteed analysis on the pet food label is where many owners are going to be confused. Manufacturers are required to list percentages on their packaging, but not actual amounts. So, a person can see that the crude protein content in a food is 30%, but they aren’t going to see how many grams of protein are in each cup of food. However, the manufacturer can provide this information– which is why the 1-800 number on a pet food bag is one of the most important pieces of information an owner can have.” ~ Kristin Taylor
Top Resources for Your Dog Food Questions
Susan, owner of TruthAboutPetFood.com, is a fountain of information and I’ve gone to her site many times to understand the history of pet food and treat recalls. Her site is where I learned the ins and outs of the chicken jerky treat recalls, which aren’t new; these recalls have been going on for several years.
I got such a thrill when Susan offered assistance with this article. For a dog lover and blogger like me, Susan is someone I admire.
I got a thrill when DogFoodAdvisor.com followed me back on Twitter. People are very passionate when it comes to their dogs health and the dog food choices they make. This is why a site like DogFoodAdvisor.com is so very important, because there is no agenda, just great information to help dog owners make informed choices.
I discovered Dr. Becker recently and love that she’s coming up again and again on this blog. The information on her site is astounding and she’s cleared up so many things for me. Because of Dr. Becker’s site, I have a better understanding of Rodrigo’s itchy paws (click the link to see her video and easy solutions).
Happy (and informed) dog food shopping!