How to Feed Your Dog – Tips to Choosing the Right Food for Your Dog Part 2
How to Feed Your Dog: Do Ingredients Matter?
Learning the Differences Between Diets and Ingredients
Okay, you just found out your dog is overweight and needs to go on a diet. You may think you can go into any store and buy any brand of dog food that claims its “lean”, “healthy weight”, “diet”, or similar phrases. Unfortunately, all those claims rarely live up to their advertising. This is largely due to the ingredients. Many well-known brands of dog food contain a lot of ingredients that are useless (and even harmful) to your dog, like fillers, additives, preservatives, dyes and coloring, flavor enhancers, and many other multi-syllable ingredients that you won’t know what they are without the aid of Wikipedia.
These ingredients (and brands) should be avoided. However, in order to know which to avoid, you need to do some detective work. You need to take the time to read the ingredient labels and also research the companies, to find out how safe and healthy their ingredients really are for your canine friend. To get started, I highly suggest you check out this site:
It includes step-by-step information on how to determine if a product is safe for your canine friend, including a list of ingredients to avoid. They also have a downloadable format (pdf file) that you can print into an 8-page booklet.
In addition to that information, you can also find a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid (including why to avoid them) here:
However, if you don’t feel like downloading the file or browsing the site yet, here are some key things to watch out for:
Determine the Main Ingredients:
The amount of “main ingredients” in a product will vary between products and brands. The trick is to find the first source of oil or fat listed in the ingredients. This fat or oil source plus all the ingredients listed before it are considered the main ingredients, and they make up the majority of your dog’s food. Everything listed after the fat/oil source is very minor in comparison and will have little significance to their diet.
Bypass the Byproducts
Anything that has the word “byproduct” in it is typically a bad choice for your dog. Meat byproducts are things like feathers, skin, feet and hooves—body parts of no nutritional value. Avoid generic ingredients like: meat, meat byproducts, meat byproduct meal, meat meal, meat & bone meal, blood meal, fish, fish meal, poultry, poultry byproducts, poultry meal, poultry byproduct meal, liver, liver meal, glandular meal, and so forth.
Look for Specifics
Meat is a very important part of a dog’s diet, but it shouldn’t be so generic (as suggested above). Imagine you were at a restaurant, and the menu had items like “meat sandwich” or “meat stew”. Sure, you know the food is going to contain meat, but what kind of meat is anyone’s guess. For all you know, it could be week-old road kill from the highway. Would you still eat it? The same applies to your dog. When it comes to meat ingredients, they must be specific (chicken, beef, turkey, duck, lamb, etc.) and not contain extra words, like “byproduct” or “meal”.
In addition to meat, you should also avoid any product that lists corn (ground corn, corn meal, etc.), soy, wheat, or other grains or vegetables as the first ingredient. This is largely a filler ingredient and will not satisfy the amount of meat/protein your dog needs in her diet. It is important to note, however, that specific foods like rice, oats, barley, peas, carrots, etc. are fine throughout the rest of the ingredients list, as they are an important source of carbohydrates, but they simply should not be the first (main) ingredient in the food. Also avoid generic terms like “cereal”, “grains”, “mids/middlings”, or any listed with the word “product” (potato product, corn product, soy product, etc.)
Here is a list of additional ingredients to avoid:
Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, and other numbered dyes/colors
Mineral oil and non-specific fats/oils (animal fat, generic fish oil, poultry fat, vegetable oil, etc.)
Corn bran, Oat hulls, Peanut hulls, Rice hulls, Soybean hulls
Onion (it is toxic to dogs, in any form), any kind of “digests”, any ingredient with a non-specific/unknown origin (artificial flavoring, glandular meal, meat broth, etc.)
Fruits & Vegetables
Apple pomace, Citrus pulp, Grape pomace
BHA (Butylated Hydroxysanisole), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Ethoxyquin, Sodium Metabisulphite, TBHQ (Tertiary Butythydroquinone)
Menadione in any form (may also be listed as vitamin K3 or vitamin K supplement), Oxide and Sulfate-based supplements (iron oxide, zinc oxide, etc.)
Ammoniated glycyrrhizin, Cane molasses, Corn syrup (in any form), Fructose, Glucose, Propylene glycol, Sorbitol, Sucrose, Sugar
Now that you have a better idea of what ingredients to avoid in your dog’s food, let’s take a look at the ingredients that should be in their food. This is a bit more complicated, because what your dog needs in her food will depend on the diet she is on and any health conditions she may have.
Different types of dog food available include (but are not limited to): Diabetic, High Fiber, High Protein, Low Fat, Low Sodium, and Senior. Each one of these serves a purpose, but you should stick to the type your holistic vet recommends. For example: giving your dog Diabetic dog food if she does not have Diabetes is not a good idea. Diabetic dog food contains ingredients mixed in a way that is ideal for a Diabetic dog’s needs and may either contain or be absent of nutrients your dog does not need, or could even make her sick.
Another thing you need to watch out for is allergens. This is why it is always important to check the ingredients label, because vague names like “low fat” or “healthy weight” dog food could contain any variety of food, including ones your dog may be allergic to.
The 3 main ingredients that should be included in most (if not all) dog foods are: meat, vegetables, and grain. These should be listed specifically in the ingredients (chicken, carrots, rice, etc.) and should not contain extra words (chicken byproduct, rice hull, etc.). Here is a list of additional things to consider for specific diets:
- Check the sugar and carbohydrate content—there should not be much of either type, but you will need to talk to your holistic vet about specifics. This includes grains, which turn to glucose (a type of sugar) once the dog digests them.
- Talk to your holistic vet about which is better for your dog: canned, wet food or bagged, dry food.
- Keep in mind that diabetes will have negative effects on other organs, including weakening the liver and kidneys. Avoid artificial ingredients and sources of sodium, and look for ingredients that will boost your canine friend’s immune system, like chicken, egg, or carrots.
- Look for food that contain ingredients with a high amount of carbohydrates (or starch), such as brown rice, oats, or beet pulp.
- High fiber foods are good for dogs with allergies, constipation, and digestive tract or stomach issues. It may also help with weight gain in puppies and weight loss in older dogs.
- High Protein diets are good for developing your dog’s muscular system, strengthening her immune system, and speeding up recovery after an injury.
- Ingredients that should be included are specifically named meats like beef, chicken, duck, lamb, or turkey. These should not have generic or extra terms (poultry, meat, chicken byproduct, etc.). Eggs are also a good source of protein.
- Sometimes, a high protein diet should be avoided, such as when your dog has kidney problems.
- Puppies and younger dogs generally require more protein than senior dogs. Highly active dogs also require more protein, as do pregnant or lactating female dogs.
- If your canine friend is overweight or obese, a Low Fat diet (plus additional exercise) may be what she needs. It is also good for dogs suffering from age-related issues, heart disease, and pancreatitis.
- The purpose of a Low Fat diet is to improve your dog’s health by limiting the number of calories they consume, in order for them to lose weight. However, if you remove too much fat from their diet, it could have negative effects, such as a deficiency in vitamins A and E. This makes reading the food labels, taking note of any changes in your dog’s appearance or behavior, and talking to your holistic vet about this diet extremely important.
- Ingredients that should be included are specific sources of: protein (lean beef, egg, lamb, salmon), vitamins, minerals (not mineral oil), and some forms of fat, such as canola oil or chicken fat. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are also important, but you will need to talk to your holistic vet about specifics.
- Lard and beef tallow should be avoided, as they are high in saturated fat.
- Although protein is a key requirement to any dog’s diet, some dogs may need a lower amount, especially if they’ve been diagnosed with a kidney-related illness. This is due to by-products known as uremic toxins, which are produced by healthy dogs when they digest proteins. Typically, these toxins leave the body via the urine, but if there are kidney problems, the toxins may build up in the system and cause serious problems.
- Other health issues that may indicate a need for a Low Protein diet include: congestive heart failure, urinary stones, and urinary tract infections.
- If your dog is on a Low Protein diet, you will need to carefully monitor her eating habits, particularly in regards to signs of malnutrition. This is because these diets tend to be less tasty, which means some dogs may refuse to eat them.
- Although a Low Protein diet may include the same sources of protein as a High Protein diet, you will need to talk to your holistic vet about specific feeding guidelines and what to look for on the food labels.
- Sodium is a very important part of a dog’s diet because it serves a number of purposes, including: maintaining nerve and muscle function, maintaining healthy cells, and keeping them from becoming too dehydrated or swollen.
- Sodium can be found in many of the same sources as protein, such as chicken, eggs, and a variety of fish. Keep in mind that with all other diets, you will need to look for specific terms (chicken, salmon, etc.) and not generic terms (poultry, fish, meat, etc.).
- A Low Sodium diet may be necessary because too much salt may cause a number of health problems in some dogs. For example: older dogs can’t always handle the extra salt, even in regular dog food. Other health issues tied to a need for a Low Sodium diet include: congestive heart failure, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, liver disease, or if they are retaining extra fluid.
- A Senior dog food diet will vary greatly and will largely depend on your dog’s weight, breed, and health. Some dogs may need food with more fiber, others may need food with less protein, and others may need food that will help with common conditions, like arthritis. Your best bet in this case, is to talk to your holistic vet to determine which diet your senior canine friend needs most.
Now that you are more familiar with types of diets, how they work, and what ingredients to look for (or avoid), this coming week we will take a look at the types of food available: standard kibble, organic, holistic, and RAW.
If you would like to find out more about Natural and Holistic Food for your pets or have a question, we would love to hear from you. Do not hesitate to contact us anytime to find out how you can create a Happy, Healthy Pet. Natural Pet Grocer provides all natural dog and cat food with a Free Home Pet Food delivery service. To find out how you can have free delivery for your pets visit www.naturalpetgrocer.com today.