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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What to look for when looking for dog food...



My 3 year old Maltese, Amie, has recently started to develop fussy eating habits.  I've been told that smaller breeds of dogs tend to be fussy with their food, but I never thought it would come to the point that she would be disinterested in eating all together.  So my hunt for a delicious, well balanced, while nutritious dog food has come into play. 

However, stepping foot into a pet store that sells dog food is overwhelming every single time.  And with all the different types of foods available on the market, such as natural, holistic, and organic to choose from, it would really help if I had some guidance or tips on finding the best dog food out there that would be best for MY dog.

So, I've been searching the world wide web to find the perfect dog food, and have come across a few interesting sites from dog food analysts that have some valuable information to share and thought I would take the time to paraphrase their thoughts in order to give some insight to other dog owners who might be suffering from the same common problem as me and my picky pet.

First and foremost, I think it might be interesting to note that dogs (and also cats) dating back to centuries ago were carnivores; meat eaters.  With that said, their digestive system was originally built to consume a diet rich of meat and protein, and all the grains that have been added to pet foods in recent history have been used as an ingredient to hold kibble bits together, in addition to being cheaper than meat products and used as fillers, not highly recommended for the nutrition of your pet.  This is likely the reason why some dogs suffer from the problem of grain intolerance.

It has also been noted on a variety of sites that while grains contain protein too, meat-protein is of higher quality and more easily digestible for a carnivore.

Having said that, I think it is safe to assume that most dog food specialists advise to look for dog foods with meat, meat, and more meat.

BUT be sure to look for meat products that are identified by species.  This means you should steer clear of products that use unidentified meat listed in their ingredients, such as "animal" or "poultry".  This is equivalent to feeding your dog a sausage or hot dog (consisting of animal by-products that no one really knows the origin of).

For instance, look for: chicken, turkey, duck, lamb, beef, salmon, etc.

If grains are listed, look for good quality grains, such as whole wheat and brown rice.

If you are going for grain-free foods, go for whole fruits and vegetables to replace the grain.

AVOID artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, or preservatives - if humans try to avoid these things in our own human food, then why would we want our dogs to eat them right? 

NOTE that manufacturers are not required to list or disclose artificial preservatives if they are already contained in the ingredients, most commonly in fish.  So, if you're going for a fish formula, keep your eye out for assurances by the manufacturer that state their fish do NOT contain any artificial preservatives.

Understanding the Ingredients Listed

Ingredients in dog food are listed in order of their weight - those that make up the largest portion are listed first.

"Splitting" an ingredient involves listing the same ingredient as separate items.

For example:  chicken and chicken meal are both chicken products while brown rice, white rice, rice bran, rice gluten, and rice flour at the end of the day, are all rice. 

The reason why you will see manufacturers splitting the ingredients comes down to determining quantity.  If their ingredients consist largely of rice, say 55%, with only 25% meat, but want to make it appear as though meat is the largest component, they simply would list this:

Chicken meal, brown rice, white rice, rice bran, rice gluten meal, barley, chicken fat....

At first glance, it looks as though chicken is the main ingredient, however, combined, rice components make up more than double the chicken content.

Since manufacturers don't disclose the actual quantity of ingredients in their labelling, to the consumer, this can be deceiving, so try to read the list of ingredients in its entirety and mentally add component parts together in addition to determining the quality of those ingredients used.

Don't be afraid to try different meats and changing your dog's diet every few months (or every time the bag of food runs dry).  Changing his food often and exposing him to different ingredients will increase his prevention to developing food allergies and continue to keep your dog interested in his kibble.

9 comments:

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  2. This is good information. Most pet owners don't look at ingredients as much as they do cost. I have done a lot of research on dog foods and have attended a lot of seminars. The thoughts on grain vary because many will search out grains when they are removed from their diets. I think the big key is to rotate protein sources to keep your dog from developing allergies.

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  3. Thank you for your feedback Rick!!

    Please feel free to give me any other tips or advice.

    I still feed grains to my own dog, her stomach doesn't seem to be sensitive to it, so I've decided not to put her on a pure protein diet; but definately want to start switching her protein sources to prevent from developing food allergies.

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  4. I too have a Maltese and they are so lovely. Mine is a 7 months old boy and he is really playful. At first I didn’t know what food I should be buying him, but a friend of mine advised me quite well. Anyway, your article is great so thanks for the tips.

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  5. No problem! If there is anything else you'd like advice or tips on, feel free to let me know and I'll blog about it :)

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