Monday, August 5, 2013

YOUR DOG'S FOOD: WHAT THE BLEEP DO ALL THOSE INGREDIENTS MEAN? AND DOES IT MATTER?

Life is confusing enough for us humans trying to keep healthy and read our own food labels as we try to  decipher sodium and fat content, etc,.  Now add to that your dog's food label! So many big words! Confusing context such as "meal" vs. "meat", or a potato "product" vs. potato!  Then you get into the grains;   Some say "rice", some say "brewers rice".  Then if your head isn't spinning enough you get to the different oils! Then the grand finale of "chelated" or "non-chelated" minerals!!

Only a BIT complicated and incredibly confusing.  BUT DON'T GIVE UP AND SHUT OFF THIS BLOG!  We're here to help you with all that stuff so you can look at your dog's food ingredient list and say "OK, I get that now" instead of "what the 'bleep' does  that mean???  I give up!"

We cannot possibly cover every ingredient appearing on every dog food label or this would become a thesis and we'd lose you (deservedly so) after the first couple paragraphs.  So we're going to cover the major ingredients you see in most dog food.  

The first thing you look at on the label is the ingredient listed first. This first ingredient is what your dog's food contains the most of (as well as our food and all other pet food).  From there it goes in order from "most of" to the last ingredients, which it contains the "least of".  So the first ingredient is the most important one regarding the quality of the food.

Here are some things you may be seeing in your label:

1.  Chicken/Beef/Turkey/Rabbit/Ostrich/Venison/Buffalo/Fish:  You may see one or a  combination of these.  We like to see these ingredients first,  because dogs require a good amount of protein in their diet.  But all meat is not created equal!  And MEAT vs. MEAL is extremely important to understand.  Let's use chicken as an example.  Chicken meat is the stuff we eat:  the white and dark meat along with the skin.  Chicken meal is chicken, including that from dead, dying, diseased or disabled animals. This meal is put through a process called "rendering" which is supposed to remove bacteria, viruses, parasites and other organisms. Once completed this rendering is supposed to make the  the meal fine for animal consumption but not safe for humans.  So you make the call on that one.  Our thoughts are if a chicken is riddled with, say cancer, and that chicken is used  to produce a dog's food, does that not have a "possible" impact on a dog's health?  Again this is just our thought on this.  We  are not drawing from any evidence.

2.  Potato Produce vs. Potato.  "Potato" means the potato we  humans eat.  "Potato Product" means potato pieces,  peelings  and the rotten (inedible for humans) parts of the potato.  Product also applies to   other ingredients such as "egg product", etc.

3.  Grain such as wheat, rice, bulgar, quinoa, oats, and corn (yes corn is actually a cereal grain). You want to see this grain in its "whole form" not "brewers" form.  Brewer's grains are the scrapings off the floor that are not good enough to go into human food. So if you see "brewer's rice", there's a good chance this is an inferior food. Also keep in mind that many dogs are allergic to wheat and corn (much like some of us are!).

4.  Oil.  The following oils are high in monounsaturated fat and are excellent anti-inflammatory agents:  olive, fish, flax and canola.  We would caution using a food high in "polyunsaturated fats" which can promote inflammation (for dogs and people!). This can be especially crucial for dogs with arthritis and heart problems.  Oils best to avoid if possible:  soybean, corn and safflower, which are the top ones on the list that may be found in dog food. 

5.  "Hydrolyzed" protein such as chicken, liver, etc...  Hydrolyzed is a method of breaking down the protein so it is more easily digested and is less likely to cause an allergic reaction. This is fine with us.

6.  Tocopherols (aka Vitamin E).  Usually an ingredient label will specify this is being used as a natural preservative to keep ingredients from spoiling.  Vitamin E as a preservative is absolutely fine and definitely preferred to synthetic preservatives, some of which can have adverse reactions on your dog. Speaking of which.....

7.  Synthetic Preservatives.  Best to stay clear of the following if you can:  BHA, BHT, Ethhoxquin, Propyl Gallate.

8.  Artificial Colors.  Completely unnecessary and potentially hazardous:  Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6 are some common ones.

9.  Salt.  Salt is essential to our bodies as well as animal's bodies.  However, dogs can suffer high blood pressure and other dangers such as heart disease from too much sodium just like us.  So if salt is in your dog's food, you do NOT want it in the top five ingredients.  Sodium too high on the list means too much sodium for your dog!

10.  Poultry Fat.  This one's a bit scary.  One would assume this means fat from chicken.  We did.  Wrong!  This is fat from any "rendered" bird such as roadkill, seagulls, bird euthanized at shelters, etc.  Disgusting.  

11.  Animal Digest.  This is a cooked down broth made from any "rendered" animal including rats, horses and any euthanized animal.  Equally disgusting!

12.  By Products.  Any "by products" in dog food are the "inferior" parts of the animal, such as beaks, feet, guts and so on.   And another "ditto" on disgusting.  HOWEVER, organ meat is considered a by-product and contains a high percentage of very important and usable protein. Good quality dog foods will list organ meat on its own, letting you know you've got the quality protein without the literally "throwaway protein."

13.  "Chelated" vs. "Non-Chelated" minerals.  Chelated is a word we like.  Chelated is a process with makes minerals easier for a dog to absorb.  Non-chelated minerals can mean an inferior food.

14.  Vitamins and Minerals.  We need 'em and so do our dogs.  Sometimes everything can be obtained without fortification, but that's pretty darned difficult.  So here's a list of vitamins and minerals you may see in your dog's food:  Choline Chloride, Ascorbyl, Polyphosphate, Niacin, Thiamine, Vitamin A, Calcium, Biotin, Vitamin B 12, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Vitamin D3, Folic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganese, D-Methionine, Taurine.

15.  Sugar.  If this ingredient is in your dog's food run far, run fast and don't look back,  change your dog's food period.  If a dog food company adds sugar the food is so inferior your dog may get more benefit from eating dirt and bugs.  Seriously!  In fact they probably would.  We are not encouraging your dog to eat dirt as this could be dangerous and that's a whole other blog!  Just please don't feed your dog a dog food that contains sugar as an actual ingredient.

Now lets talk poop!  Not your first topic of choice for sure but a very important one nonetheless.  So you've been patient enough to listen to our spiel about ingredients.  Maybe you're completely satisfied with your dogs food.  Maybe you're not.  Maybe you just don't know at this point.  Here's a simple question to help settle any confusion:  How's your dogs poop?  Poop is a sure sign of how your dogs food is or isn't agreeing with him/her.  So what to look for?  First; is it a solid form? This is what you want to see.  Second;  how much is too much?  (Huh???)   Bottom line- the more your dog poops, the less your dog is assimilating into their body!   The less poop (pooping twice a day and not too much for the size of the dog) the better.  So if you have a chihuahua,  and her poop size resembles that of a Labrador retriever, not enough food is being absorbed into her body, consequently not enough nutrients are being absorbed either.  Third; look for undigested pieces of food, especially for dogs on a dehydrated dog food diet.  If you can SEE what food is in your dogs poop, it's something your dog is rejecting and cannot absorb (hint: carrots and corn are a big one).

That's as much as we're going to hit you with this time.  There are many other ingredients that can be found in your dog's food, and if there are some we haven't covered, please feel free to ask us and we will be happy to have a good ole "one on one" with you and discuss the ingredient(s) in question.  There is also an excellent website we used as one  of our references for this blog.  It's called  www.dogfoodadvisor.com.  You can reference any dog food and they will give you an unbiased analysis, and they also keep up-to-date  with any and all dog food recalls. We cannot say enough good things about  these guys!!  Check it out.  You'll be glad you did!


Here's an easy bottom line:  Meat, Fruit, Vegetables, whole non-allergenic grains, potato, sweet potato or yams (even better than potato), vitamins and minerals, probiotics, and kelp (a seaweed full of iodine which can help regulate the thyroid) are all good.  Anything else deserves questioning. 

 We hope you have enjoyed this week's blog and found it helpful and useful.  We apologize for skipping a week for this but there was so much information for us to sift  through we thought it better to skip a week and give you all the thorough blog you deserve!  Happy feeding to you!


6 comments:

  1. Great blog, very informative!
    I've been steering toward "human grade" dog food...meaning it's a whole food, highest quality and humans can actually eat it. I like The Honest Kitchen http://thehonestkitchen.com

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