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Only the best - or what you are really feeding your dog

 

If you believe in what you see on TV, the only thing your dog needs for a long and healthy life is care, exercise and premium [enter brand here] dog food. This is because the American pet food industry with revenues of more than $11 billion has nothing other than the well-being of your pet on the agenda...

 

Just walk into your typical pet food store and compare all those brand name products: You will see pictures of juicy cuts of filet steak, fresh vegetables, fat roasted chickens, whole grains and other healthy ingredients on the packaging of "premium dog food". This almost makes you want to eat that stuff yourself.

 

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So what's wrong with that picture? Perhaps we are paranoid, but whenever there is a lot of money involved, our alarm bell goes off. Remember? Smoking does not cause any health problems according to the tobacco industry (not long ago); or fast food has nothing to do with the growing obesity rate in this country.

 

The canine species has been around for thousands of years, but suddenly there is a lot of talk about human food, leftovers or raw meet not being good for dogs. Amazing how dogs were able to survive without a pet food industry that has not even been around for a century. So what is actually in some of these "premium brand" commercial dog food products that makes them so bad?

 

Many of the products in the market use ingredients that are simply waste from human food manufacturing operations (blood, intestines, crushed bones, feathers and even diseased or dead animals). So much for that juicy steak on the packaging! These waste ingredients have a name: they are usually called "meat-and-bone-meal" or "by-products" on the ingredient label. Along with these by-products you'll find additives, preservatives and mineral mixes that are commonly added in higher amounts than deemed necessary because the manufacturing process can degrade these supplements. As if this would not be horrible enough, there have been countless reports that even euthanized pets from veterinary clinics are being delivered to pet food rendering plants where they are processed into food.

 

If you want to know what you are actually feeding your dog, you need to understand what's on the label: The ingredient list is a key to what actually is in your dog's food. First, ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance by weight and the ingredient names are legally defined (visit the Food and Drug Administration for details).

 

With that in mind, the first ingredient should always be a human grade meat meal such as "Chicken", "Chicken meal" "Lamb meal" and so on. Avoid foods that are not specific about the actual protein source but instead start out with ingredients such as "meat", "meat-meal" or "poultry". These refer to animal parts as the main ingredient that could have be obtained from any source without control over quality or contamination (including dead or dying animals, pigs, horses, rats, road kill, animals euthanized at shelters and so on).

 

Further, avoid ingredients including:

--> Corn, Wheat, Glutens as well as Ground Whole Grain Sorghum: Fillers that are difficult to digest for dogs.

 

--> BHA, BHT, Propyl Gallate, Ethoxyquin: Used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling. Additives that have been found to cause cancer in rats.

 

--> By-products, Animal digest: May include organs, bones, blood, fatty tissue and perhaps even cancerous or diseased tissue containing parasites or euthanized animals.

 

Here is an example: Just compare the labels* - You be the judge...

 

 

* Click on the image to enlarge; Ingredients as listed on the original packaging material in June 2008.

 

One of the things you can do for your dog is to stop buying commercial dog food al together. Instead, prepare meals yourself. There are plenty of articles about this topic online, or perhaps you even want to check out some of the books sold at Amazon.com that provide very specific information on animal nutrition or home prepared diets. If preparing meals for your dog at home is not feasible, look for high-quality holistic food brands (such as Canidae or Solid Gold) and supplement them with fresh, organic foods, especially meat. When Steve's dog Andy was a puppy, he fed him "Chicken Soup for the Puppy Lover's Soul" as the basic dry-food ingredient mixed with a healthy portion of salad, raw chicken, fish, oatmeal, vegetable oil etc. All of these additional ingredients are fresh and human-grade.

 

We are not nutritionists, but we can read and understand food labels. If you are unsure about what to feed your dog, you should first learn how to read labels. There are some excellent online resources available that provide extensive information on pet food labels, ingredients, nutrition, and what to avoid.

 

At the bottom of this page are some links to other (very inspirational) websites that have helped us better understand what to look for in pet food.

 

Or you can keep on reading about what human foods are good or bad for dogs.

 

 

Sabine Contreras' "The Dog Food Project" website, is one of my favorite sources for dog food and nutrition information. This website contains a lot of detail and unbiased information - a must read for every dog owner!

 

Very good article from national animal advocacy "Born Free USA united with Animal Protection Institute" about what really is in pet food.