"Dog Food" is a very complicated topic, and in an effort to sort it all out for you, I'm going to first give you the "short version", and then (if you are up to reading it), the "long version" will follow. I believe that as consumers, we deserve to know what we are buying. No pet deserves to eat drug laden, pesticide contaminated, or rendered diseased animals. And it especially should not be sold to us implying it is made from fresh healthy ingredients. But until regulations force manufacturers to disclose the true quality of ingredients (food or feed grade), and then those regulations are enforced – we must continue to be our own private detective and keep asking questions.
The Short Version! 1. Dog food is actually considered animal "feed" by our government. Which means that dog food companies can legally put dead diseased cows, chickens, etc., in their dog food, and they do. Here is a link to a video where the FDA admits humans can get sick just from handling their dog food: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKNJc9-UKYc 2. Dog food companies are allowed to say "Made in the USA" on the outside of their packaging, but still buy their ingredients from China, which is one reason there are over 60 dog food recalls a year. 3. Dog food labels are misleading and difficult to decipher. No one monitors what dog food companies say about their products. They use words like natural, premium, holistic, gourmet, when in actuality their products are anything but holistic. 4. Just because a dog food meets the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) nutritional adequacy guidelines doesn't mean it promotes optimum health. The AAFCO has no regulatory authority. They merely provide a model of pet food regulations that each state can choose to adopt and enforce, or not. 5. 90% of the Dog food companies are very loosely regulated much like the herbal supplement industry. They make feed grade dog foods, and no one questions where they get their ingredients, the levels of the ingredients, or what they claim in their advertising and packaging. 6. However, 10% of the dog food companies do make a dry kibble/canned food that is made in a USDA inspected facility, and their food is made with human-grade ingredients, and fit for human consumption.
Popular Canine Diets RAW Feeding your dog a raw diet represents the most nutritionally bio-available and natural diet for dogs. It is without question the best for your dog, and there are a number of reputable commercial producers of raw canine diets which I will list below. Unfortunately, fear of raw foods has been passed on from nutrition spokes people from the large commercial pet food manufacturers to veterinarians, who then pass that fear along to their clients. The raw food manufacturers use a "kill step" to eliminate harmful pathogens from their foods, creating a "safe Raw" product. Following safe handling protocols will help prevent against potential cross-contamination of harmful bacteria between your dog's food and your family members.
Freeze Dried and Dehydrated Dehydrated and Freeze-dried products begin with raw, fresh ingredients such as meats, fruits, vegetables and herbs. The water content of the raw foods is them removed, resulting in a shelf-stable product that, when combined with water, rehydrates to closely resemble its original form. Dehydration uses warm air to slowly evaporate a food's water content, so dehydrated foods are not raw. Because freeze-drying removes the water content without the use of heat, it most closely resembles raw food. Making it perfect for people who want to feed their dogs raw, but who want a more convenient option than defrosting and handling raw frozen meat. Safe handling practices should still be followed, however, since freeze-dried meats are raw. Look below for a list of reputable producers of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods.
Homemade Diets Home-prepared diets are superior to canned and kibble in their ability to provide optimum nutrition for several reasons including freshness, quality, and the ability to control the ingredients. The key is to purchase the freshest meats, dairy, fruits, and vegetables your budget allows (preferably organic), and then add necessary supplements to make the diet well balanced. Home prepared diets must be supplemented with calcium and other essential nutrients. Homemade diets benefit dogs with food intolerances/sensitivities as you can adjust the protein and carbohydrate sources to avoid reactive ingredients.
Canned/Wet Diets Canned foods tend to cause fewer food intolerance/sensitivities than kibble, and they contain more protein than kibble. The meats are less processed and tend to be closer to their natural state than those found in kibble. Because they are pressure sterilized and sealed, the contents are naturally protected from rancidity, so manufacturers don't need to add potentially harmful chemical preservatives. They are also typically free of artificial colors and flavors, making them more "natural" than kibble. If you feed canned food to your dog, check out the "do's" and don'ts" list below in selecting a good canned food.
Kibble Kibble is the most highly processed form of commercial dog food. It is also the most likely food to cause intolerances/sensitivities because it contains many potentially antigenic ingredients condensed into each nugget. The high temperatures used to "cook" the kibble destroys the nutritional value in the kibble, and also kills valuable enzymes and probiotics necessary for a healthy digestive tract and immune system. Always select a kibble that is made in a USDA approved facility. Stay away from kibble that relies on inferior ingredients such as wheat, corn or soy. Kibble is the most convenient and economical way to feed your dog, and for a lot of people it is the most logical choice. Don't stress about that, you can make small dietary changes that will translate into huge health benefits by simply "dressing up" the kibble. If you are feeding kibble on a regular basis, try incorporating some fresh, wholesome ingredients, such as fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables into your dog's kibble to pump up the nutritional content, as well as to add taste and variety to his/her diet.
Do's and Don'ts of Choosing Kibble or Canned Food 1. Do ensure that the first ingredients listed are from high quality animal proteins and not from inferior quality, grain-based sources. 2. Do select novel proteins such as venison, goat, bison ,duck or rabbit to minimize food intolerances. 3. Don't purchase products containing by-products. 4. Do opt for products containing specific named protein sources such as lamb, duck or venison rather than unidentified "animal" proteins or generic sources such as "poultry" or "meat". 5. Do choose products containing natural preservatives such as vitamins C and E, green tea polyphenols or rosemary (unless your dog is prone to seizures) rather than chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin. 6. Don't select foods with artificial colors or flavors. 7. Do look for foods containing fresh sources of fruits and vegetables. 8. Do opt for grain-free/gluten-free food, especially if your dog has shown signs of food intolerances such as itchy skin or GI disorders. 9. Do select organic-based products whenever possible. 10. Do look for dry foods with the least amount of ingredients on the bag. The longer the ingredient list, the least "natural" the food tends to be. 11. Make sure the minimum fat content is not more than 14% (preferably 10-12% for Schnauzers) as the mean fat content is usuall 1-2% higher than the minimum which is printed on the bag or can. 12. To research dog foods you can may want to use: www.dogfoodadvisor.com or www.dogfood.guru
What we feed our dogs here at Texas T's We use Eagle Pack Lamb kibble, which is made by Wellpet in a USDA approved plant. Eagle Pack was developed in 1985 in conjunction with veterinarians and dog trainers. They have never had (to date) any recalls. It is a super premium dog food that is sold in specialty pet retail stores and some local pet retail chains. Eagle Pack contains no corn, wheat, meat by-products, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Of all the USDA approved dog foods, Eagle Pack is the only one that I found that has an acceptable fat content for Schnauzers (10-14%) All of the others I checked, were too high in fat. To find out where you can purchase it, go to www.EaglePack.com, and enter your zip code into their store locater. In addition to the kibble we add a variety of protein, vegetables, dairy, and supplements which we rotate for variety. For example, Blueberries & Yogurt or Brown Rice & Salmon.
Here is a list of the different foods that we add to beef up their kibble. 1. Yogurt or cottage cheese (Fat Free) 2. Brown rice or Oatmeal (Gluten Free) 3. Canned Alaskan Salmon, Sardines, or Tuna 4. Fruit: Apples, pears, blueberries, (no strawberries or citrus) 5. Vegetables: Carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes , kale 6. Organic eggs (hard boiled) 7. Coconut oil (organic virgin cold-pressed) to every meal 8. Omega 3's: from (sardines, mackerel, salmon) with every meal 9. Kelp
Commercial Reputable Raw Canine Diets Answers Pet food Aunt Jeni's Bravo Darwin's Natural Fresh is Best Nature's Menu Nature's Variety Oma's Pride Pepperdogz Primal Raw Advantage Stella and Chewy's Steve's Real Food Vital Essentials
Reputable producers of Dehydrated & Freeze-dried Addiction Foods Bravo Champion Petfoods (Orijen) DNA Pet Food Dr. Harvey's Fresh is Best Grandma Lucy's Nature's Menu Nature's Variety NRG USA Only Natural Pet Primal Pet Foods Stella & Chewy's Sojo's The Honest Kitchen Vital Essential
The Long Version Unfortunately for consumers – there is no way (almost) by looking at the label to determine if a pet food is feed or food. Existing pet food regulations do not allow companies to disclose to the consumer if ingredients are feed or food quality. The exception is pet foods made in a human food manufacturing facility. The best for consumers is to call or email the manufacturer and ask if meat and vegetable ingredients are human edible. If they cannot or do not assure you ingredients are human edible – you can safely assume they are feed grade (those that use food are proud of it and more than willing to explain the quality). Do not assume your pet’s food is food grade. Ask! Understand that just like the human herbal supplement industry is NOT currently controlled by any government agency the dog food industry is also very loosely controlled. Very little regulation of commercial pet food quality exists in the U.S. Neither the USDA nor the FDA gets involved in what is fed to the majority of companion animals in this country. It’s impossible to feed your pet a biologically appropriate, relatively natural diet from a can or bag unless you’re willing to spend the money to purchase grain-free formulas made with true human-grade ingredients. These brands are less than 10 percent of pet foods available on the market. They are hard to find and well beyond the budget of most pet owners. In fact, if you’re buying pet food made with true human-grade ingredients, you will spend about three times as much as you would for a non-human grade formula. And even most of the highest quality commercial pet foods still contain additives, preservatives, flavor enhancers and/or extra fats, which hardly qualifies them as holistic, despite clever labeling. After all, they must be able to sit on a shelf for six months to a year after being manufactured, without growing mold. And while it’s true AAFCO has established minimum nutritional requirements for domesticated dogs and cats, it is not concerned with the quality of ingredients pet food producers put in their formulas. Meeting pets’ basic requirements for life and providing optimal, species-appropriate nutrition are two entirely different goals. If you’d like more information on what controls are in place for the manufacture of pet food, you can view AAFCO’s Questions and Answers Concerning Pet Food Regulations. Furthermore, there’s nothing to stop manufacturers from producing and selling pet food that doesn’t meet the nutritional guidelines AAFCO has established. Pet owners should check labels and look for a nutritional adequacy statement from AAFCO -- the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This will insure the formula at least meets minimal nutritional requirements. Definitions for 'holistic,' 'organic,' and 'natural' pet foods have not been established by AAFCO, so the interpretation of what those words mean in terms of formula ingredients is left up to the manufacturer of the product.
You can start today to improve your pet’s diet by simply ignoring the labeling claims on commercial pet food. Look instead for AAFCO certification to make sure it meets the basic requirements for vitamins and trace minerals, and learn all you can about how to read ingredient lists like a pro. As a general rule, the longer the ingredient list, the more potential for filling your pet full of stuff that is biologically inappropriate, probably allergenic, and possibly toxic. What to look for in a dry pet food!
Meat! Dogs are carnivores – they thrive on a diet based on meat. They have no evolved need for carbohydrates. Grains (carbs) are added to pet food because 1) they’re cheaper than meat, and 2) they hold the kibbled bits together. They aren’t added for the sake of proper nutrition. The source and quality of protein in the formula is crucially important for your pet’s health. Look for whole food sources at the very top of the ingredient list like ‘beef,’ ‘turkey,’ ‘lamb’ or ‘chicken’ -- one-word descriptions.Meat and fat ingredients should be identified by species (turkey, lamb, beef, fish, etc.). Avoid any formula that uses unidentified sources, described non-specifically as ‘meat,’ ‘animal’ or ‘poultry.’
The next ingredient of better quality foods will probably be a meat source followed by the word ‘meal.’ Meat meal (with the meat source identified, as in ‘chicken meal’ or ‘turkey meal’) is considered a relatively high-quality protein source by processed pet food standards.
Ingredients three and four should be vegetables (avoid corn, wheat or beep pulp) and unless the formula is grain-free, a whole grain source like brown rice. Organic grains are preferable where grains are included, but they are no substitute for meat content. Avoid formulas with ‘grain fragments’ -- these are non-nutritive fillers. Grain-free formulas will frequently use potatoes as the starch, which holds the food together during processing.Whole fruits as a portion of ingredients three and four are fine -- especially if they replace grains.
Leave all pet food containing corn or soy in any form on the shelf. Corn is a cheap filler ingredient, non- nutritious for pets, and a known allergenic. Soy is estrogenic and wreaks havoc on your pet’s endocrine system.
Also walk away from formulas containing by-products, especially those that don’t specify the type of meat in the meat by-product. Believe it or not, meat by-products – especially those not specified as a certain kind of meat – will contain parts of beaks, feathers, feet, hooves, hair and even tumors that have been ground into the mix during processing. Although some by-products may provide some nutrition, such as spleens and other organ meats, because they are all lumped together it’s best to avoid them.
Avoid pet foods containing artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives, especially those known to be carcinogens. In dog food, these usually go by the names BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin and propyl gallate. When considering foods containing fish, look for manufacturer assurance on the label that states the formula contains NO artificial preservatives. Look for foods preserved with vitamins E and C, often called tocopherols.
It’s important to note that on pet food labels, ingredients are listed by weight. Because meat is inclusive of water, it is heavy, so it can be listed first on the label. When the water is removed from meat (which happens when a kibbled or dry food is produced) the meat is reduced in weight by roughly 80 percent, meaning the bulk of the food is probably coming from ingredients two, three and four – yet the meat will appear on the label as the first ingredient.
In addition, it’s also important to be aware of a labeling practice known as ‘splitting.’ Splitting occurs when
different components of the same ingredient are listed separately on the label to improve the look of the ingredient list. If, for example, rice makes up 50 percent of a formula and meat only 25 percent, it’s possible to list the rice as three or four individual ingredients all under 25 percent each, for example, brown rice, white rice, rice bran, and rice gluten meal. Listing the ingredient ‘rice’ in this manner allows the manufacturer to list the meat -- at 25 percent -- as the first ingredient.
It can be confusing to figure out the relative quality of a pet food you’re thinking of purchasing, and in many ways, it’s intended to confuse. But with practice, you can become expert at reading labels and understanding the nutritional value of the food you feed your pet.
In January of 2015 a group of pet consumers got together to fund the most detailed examination of pet food ever performed. Two well respected research scientists volunteered to check 12 of the leading pet foods in the US & Canada. What was found in this consumer funded testing were violations of pet food regulations (nutrient imbalances), dangerously high levels of mold (mycotoxins), and very concerning bacterial contamination (bacteria determined by the FDA and CDC to be antibiotic-resistant).The results will be shared with FDA, AAFCO, State Department of Agricultures, and even the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). This is just a visual of some of their results.
The next time you are in your veterinarian's office notice which dog food brand they carry. It will most likely be either Hills (Science Diet) or Royal Canine. Now notice where they both ranked on this chart. So why would your vet use a non- USDA approved dog food of such poor quality that could potentially make your dog sicker? The answer is they don't know much about nutrition or dog food. As a retired pharmacist, I can tell you that I was taught nothing about nutrition in pharmacy school. These two companies have done a great marketing job of targeting vets with "specialty foods" to treat a variety of illnesses...in hopes that people will think "well if my vet uses it, then it must be good." And it's working.
Consumers pay an estimated $1 billion dollars a year to states in sales tax revenue (for pet food purchases alone). What consumers are getting in return for that revenue? Pet food consumers have been complaining about the condition of pet food since the 2007 pet food recall, but complaints have fallen on deaf ears. For more than seven years consumers have waited on FDA to find the lethal contaminant of Chinese jerky treats – the FDA has provided nothing. In 2007 Congress told the FDA to establish pet food ingredient standards and definitions, processing standards of pet food and provide updated standards for the labeling of pet food. This work was required – by Congress – to be completed by September 2009. More than five years after the deadline – consumers still wait for the FDA. In 2012, after 20 humans died, Diamond issued a recall. Currently, there is a law suit against Beneful. How much longer should consumers wait for safe pet food?
Testing of pet food that should have been performed by tax dollar supported regulatory authorities was done by consumers. Why do pet foods continue to pose such a serious risk to the pets that consume it, and the humans that handle it? We all need to write our state and federal representatives and ask them to investigate the condition of pet food.
Other Resources I Highly Recommend 1. Canine Nutrigenomics by W. Jean Dodds, DVM available on Amazon.com 2. Not Fit for a Dog!: The Truth About Manufactured Dog and Cat Food, by: Fox, Hodgkins, & Smart. 3. Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs: The Definitive Guide to Homemade Meals: by Lew Olson. 4. Retail Website for economical dog food: www.Chewy.com 5. www.TruthAboutPetFood.com 6. Sign up to be on the dog food recall list at: www.DogFoodAdvisor.com
Choosing a Dog Food that will Provide the Optimal Health for your Puppy!