IMPORTANCE OF READING THE LABELS OF PET FOOD

by Matthew Wismayer.

Consumers can easily become mislead when choosing which pet food to buy for their dog. Many manufacturers use many fillers and cheap ingredients for their convenience and offer an attractive packaging to encourage consumers to buy their brand. Marketing is another strong tool which is used by presenting a popular breed playing joyfully with his master. However does this reflect the true picture? Must we believe them when they state that their brand is the best pet food for your dog? Consumers must go beyond claims made by manufacturers and be capable to interpret and arrive to their own conclusions whether a pet food is reputable and healthy for their dogs.

In today’s article I will pinpoint and identify ingredients which are important to find in our pets dog food and which ingredients we certainly must discard. It’s my goal to provide you with some tools that you may need in order to make an informed decision whether a particular food is acceptable and appropriate for your dog.

There are some rules one must apply to determine the quality of a good pet food. Always look at the labels. The quality and the packaging layout does not always reflect the true quality. Reading and understanding the basics of pet food formulations is of pivotal importance because after all the health of our dogs depends on the choices we make for his nutrition.

First Rule.

The first ingredients listed in the formulation are the main source of your dogs. The manufacturer by law of any said dry food must list first the ingredient which carries most weight in his formulation and follow by listing the ingredients which carry less weight in sequence. This implies that as a rule of thumb the first 5 to 7 ingredients are the main source of the formulations. Therefore once identifying this rule it is easy to determine what items are present in larger amounts and which are present in smaller amounts.

We must also identify the source of fat and oil that appears in the ingredient list. This can either be from animal or vegetable source.

Second Rule

We must now evaluate the quality of the ingredients and the quantity found in the formulation. What protein is present? Is it an animal protein or a plant protein? Certainly the meat is fundamentally important and the quality too. By product of any type are less desirable such as chicken by product or poultry by product. In fact, by products consist of anything but the quality cuts us humans consume.

Meat meal if defined from which source such as chicken meal or lamb meal, is not inferior to whole fresh meats. Meals have most of the moisture removed unlike fresh meat meaning that once the food in fresh meat is shrunk to 12% , since it usually contains 75% moisture, the meat which will have shrunk amounts to as little as one fourth of the original amount. While the already dehydrated meat in a chicken meal for example remains the same and you get more concentrated protein per pound of finished product.

Dogs need a certain amount of fats and oils in their diet, mostly for skin and coat health but also for proper brain development and other critical processes in the body.

Always look for specifically named fats and oils such as chicken fat, herring oil , canola oil and sunflower oil. Look for percentages high in Omega 3 and Omega 6. Most dogs with allergies have low levels of omega 3 and 6 in their food or imbalances which trigger itching and dry coats. Most low quality pet foods have a low percentage of good essential fats and oils in their formulations or offer low quality ingredients to provide the minimal standards by law.
Avoid sources of animal fat, poultry fat, vegetable oil and mineral oil but look out always for the specific named fats and oils.

Although the claim that all carbohydrates in commercial foods originate from low grade cereals and are nothing but fillers in most cases. In my opinion, it is acceptable to have some levels however the influx of these ingredients must be contained to low levels. Most allergies and health conditions in dogs are caused by an overload of carbohydrates in dogs’ diet which trigger many health issues.

Always look for whole grains such as barley, sweet potatoes and peas. Avoid formulations which have corn as their first ingredients and fragments and unspecified grain sources like cereal food fines or grain fermentation soluble.
Fiber is the part of carbohydrates that cannot be digested by your dog. Depending on nutritional goals, varying levels of dietary fibre with different properties are necessary to make a highly processed food source since a dogs digestive tract is not designed to process a diet with such high levels of carbohydrates. In fact most manufacturers use to 40/50 percent carbohydrates in their formulation so these must be complemented with good quality fermentable fibres.

Beet pulp is well tolerated and is a beneficial source of fibre especially for the intestinal tract. Brown rice, oats, fruits and vegetables all contribute to a healthy digestive process.

On the contrary, avoid ingredients such as corn bran, peanut hulls, soybean hulls and oat hulls.
High quality foods do not really need any flavouring, but natural ones are harmless and may even add a little nutritional value. Avoid any highly rendered products example digest of any kind , ingredients of unknown origin , onion of any form is also toxic to dogs and thus has no place in dog food.

Quality products are preserved naturally. Look for vitamin, rosemary, sage or clove extract, ascorbic acid and other forms of vitamin C. Avoid BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, Sodium Met bisulphite.

ingri-2Third Rule.

Reading is a very important aspect. Follow manufacturer’s websites, brochures, and pamphlets. Read it all and do not hesitate to ask questions by contacting them. Talk to company representatives at dog shows or seminars. How well prepared and how willing are they to answer specific questions..
If a manufacturer compares a product to those of their competitors how truthful is this. Try and examine all products in comparison to the ingredients you are capable to understand and evaluate yourself which you deem is the best brand for your dog.

Fourth Rule.

The best food will not do if your dog either cannot tolerate it or would not eat it. Do not be afraid to select more than one brand and see how they work out for your dog. Give it enough time through say 4/6 weeks and see the results. Unless symptoms of intolerance persist 3 -4 months are a more reasonable time frame.

Hope today’s article has given you a basic understanding to determine a quality pet food. In our next articles I will further highlight more quality ingredients to look for and which ingredients to discard.