What’s in your dog’s food and why should you care?

Have you read  the label on your dog’s food and wondered, “What the heck is a chicken byproduct? And what’s the difference between the dog food that costs $5 a bag and $25 a bag?

Navigating the ingredient list of a bag of dog food can be like trying to find your way out of a corn maze at Halloween. Both can have lots of corn and be just as scary.

But I came across a great website today, DogFoodProject.com, that goes into detail about what the ingredients on the list actually are, and why it’s important for dog lovers to take the time – and often the extra money – to seek out quality dog food.

Let’s start with this dog food ingredient list. It’s for a Wegmans brand adult dog food:

Wegmans Bruiser adult dog food

Ground Yellow Corn, Soybean Meal, Whole Wheat, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Beef Meal, Animal Fat (Preserved with BHA), Water, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Propylene Glycol, Salt, Dicalcium Phosphate, Brewers Rice, Calcium Carbonate, Dried Beet Pulp, Potassium Sorbate (a Preservative), Carboxymethyl Cellulose, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxide, Choline Chloride, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Cheese Powder, Ferrous Sulfate, Artificial color ( Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6), L-Ascorbyl 2 Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Garlic Powder, Niacin, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Sulfate, Folic Acid.

Notice that the first four ingredients are all corn, soy or wheat products; there isn’t any meat until the 5th ingredient. You could  probably feed Fido Cheerios and get the equivalent nutrition.

And what is “Beef meal” anyway?

According to DogFoodProject.com, the Association of American Feed Control Officials defines bone or beef meal as: “The rendered product from beef tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.”

But no meat.

Animal fat is the next ingredient. The AAFCO defines: “Obtained from the tissues of mammals and/or poultry in the commercial processes of rendering or extracting. It consists predominantly of glyceride esters of fatty acids and contains no additions of free fatty acids. If an antioxidant is used, the common name or names must be indicated, followed by the words “used as a preservative”.

DogFoodProject.com further explains, “Note that the animal source is not specified and is not required to originate from “slaughtered” animals. The rendered animals can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: ‘4-D animals’ (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.”

Eeeeew.

And the rest of the ingredients? Artificial colors and whole bunch of chemicals that you probably can’t find in your kitchen cupboard.

Just for the record, these are things you shouldn’t be eating, either.

That’s not to single out Wegmans; that’s the same ingredient list you’ll see on most inexpensive, store brand dog foods.

Compare the above to this ingredient list, from the Chicken Soup for the Soul Adult Dog food. This is what we feed our dogs. It’s  not the very best quality available but it’s an economically holistic food. (Translation: a good dog food we can afford.)

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul adult dog food

Chicken, turkey, chicken meal, ocean fish meal, cracked pearled barley, whole grain brown rice, oatmeal, millet, white rice, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), potatoes, egg product, tomato pomace, duck, salmon, flaxseed, natural chicken flavor, potassium chloride, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, kelp, carrots, peas, apples, tomatoes, blueberries, spinach, dried skim milk, cranberry powder, rosemary extract, parsley flake, yucca schidigera extract, L-Carnitine, dried fermentation products of Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin, vitamin D supplement, folic acid.

We just found out our daughter’s dog Dali has food allergies, and the vet recommended we eliminate beef, dairy and wheat from her diet. The folks at Pet Saver Superstore suggested also eliminating barley, since in their experience dogs with food allergies did best when they eliminated that from their diet as well. This is the Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Canine Formula that we switched her to:

Taste of the Wild Pacific canine formula

Salmon, ocean fish meal, sweet potatoes, potatoes, canola oil, salmon meal, smoked salmon, potato fiber, natural flavor, salt, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, dried fermentation products of Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum, dried Trichoderma longibrachiatum fermentation extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.

Right away we noticed a difference in Dali’s coat; her ear infections were clearing up and her coat was much healthier. Translation: a lot less shedding.

(Our cat Murphy eats the Rocky Mountain Feline Formula, the only holistic food he didn’t turn his nose up at. It is, of course, one of the more expensive brands of cat food. But Murphy seems to be doing very well on it. Less nasty cat breath, fewer toxic smelling poops, and less wild shedding – although he is a hair ball factory. But I digress.)

A good quality food doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Our dog food is about $1 a pound, almost exactly what we were paying for Purina One, which is Purina’s economy dog food. Just for the record, here’s the ingredient list for that one:

Purina One Chicken and Rice adult dog food

Chicken (natural source of glucosamine), brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), whole grain wheat, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), soy flakes, soybean meal, animal digest, glycerin, calcium phosphate, caramel color, calcium carbonate, salt, potassium chloride, Vitamin E supplement, choline chloride, zinc sulfate, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, ferrous sulfate, sulfur, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.

Chicken is the number one ingredient, but it’s downhill from there with the corn and wheat, especially if your dog has food allergies.

If  you haven’t taken time to read the ingredient label on your dog’s food and treats, maybe today’s the day to start. For more information about what’s in your dog food, visit DogFoodProject.com. And for information about pet obesity and calorie counts for many commercial dog treats, visit The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention website.

And if you’re in Rochester, NY, head over to Pet Saver Superstore at 1596 Ridge Road West in Greece, in the Stone Ridge Plaza. They’re experts in holistic dog foods, and love taking time to find the right food for your pet and your wallet.

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10 responses to “What’s in your dog’s food and why should you care?

  1. WOW,
    Thank you for all your reshearch on this matter, I learned a lot.

  2. You are so welcome! I read my own food labels as much as I read the dogs’ and I’m always amazed at the icky stuff we eat without even realizing it.

  3. It’s disgusting what some companies constitute as a “healthy, best dog food” !!!
    I cook for our Four Legged Loves, out of our love, devotion and appreciation . Contrary to what one might think…it doesn’t take long at all. Animals are a privilege not a right.
    THANK YOU FOR AWSOME INFORMATIONS !!!

  4. great article. i used to work in a shelter and we didn’t feed the animals some of the horrible food that was donated to the shelter, i think we passed it along to a rescue group that handed food out to homeless people’s dogs. so many dogs have so many health issues now because of the cheap junk that is so widely available. same with people, really. junk is cheap.

    my guys are about to go back on the raw diet but the dehydrated raw is so much easier so we’re going that route.
    it’s also way cheaper than what they’re getting now, and loads better.

    • I made the switch from a name brand, high end dog food sold in grocery stores to Chicken Soup, one of the more affordable holistic brands. Almost the same price, and waaay better quality. I thought I was feeding my dogs a good food, but once I educated myself about it I realized that I wasn’t!

  5. cat foods should be high protein and should be soft to with lots of dieatary fiber;’*

  6. Great article! I’m always trying to convince other dog owners to feed their dogs the better foods but it’s hard to convince them. You used an excellent comparison of foods. I post this on my Facebook page

  7. Major concern on the taste of the wild dog food:

    choline chloride which causes some serious health issues due to acute toxicity. pls research to ensure Dali is at no risk

  8. I wish more people thought about this. A great food that has done well for our critters is Flint River Ranch. Check out seespotglow.com for some great info. Also, as to those pesky hairballs: buy a bag of bulk wheat at your local health food store, fill a pot/bucket/whatever with good soil, sprinkle a handfull of wheat on top, cover with a thin layer of soil, water & watch it grow (seriously, wheat grass grows quite fast once it sprouts). The cat will find and eat the sprouts and hairballs will be a distant memory.

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