Dog Food Ingredients Overview
Today, we are embarking on a long series of posts on dog food and dog food labels. We kick-off with an overview of our dog food criteria (and why).
We thought that these would be a fitting entry in the Tasty Tuesday blog hop, hosted by our friend Sugar, so you can expect to see new installments every Tuesday or every other Tuesday (depending on our schedule).
Please don’t be shy about using the comment section to share your opinions and experiences as well as submit specific questions about dog food. We will do our best to respond.
In the Beginning
In the health and fitness community, there is a dietary trend toward eating more foods that are closer to their natural state and fewer foods that are overly processed or artificially made. A real good example of this is the so called “Paleo Diet”, which is an increasingly popular diet that closely mimics that of the humans that existed during the Paleolithic era (which lasted for 2.5 million years and ended about 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture). It is essentially a “hunter/gatherer” diet of animals and wild plants.
Although I am not “Paleo” with my eating, I do believe that humans should consume more things that are found in nature and fewer things that are highly processed, and strive to live by that as a lifestyle. I believe the same holds true for dogs and thus, believe that if you are going feed yours commercially available dog foods, you should choose foods with less processed and artificial ingredients.
Dogs are descendents of (a subspecies of) the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the mammalian order Carnivora. Despite this lineage to a carnivore, dogs are generally classified as either carnivores or omnivores (which eat meat and non-meat foods, like us humans). It is true that dogs can adapt to a wide-ranging diet, no doubt a result of them hanging around with us for the past 15,000 years or so. That said, dogs should be fed a high protein diet and obtain a majority of their protein from real meat sources and not processed meats or non-meat sources. Steve Brown, author of “The Canine Ancestral Diet” provides an interesting examination of what a dog’s ancestral diet might have looked like.
A Snapshot of a Good Dog Food
There are a lot of people that have switched or are considering switching from commercial to home cooked or raw diets for their dogs, no doubt in part due the alarming amount of dog food recalls. We think that this is a great way to go as long as the meals are well balanced and provide the essential nutrients. If taking this route, it is best to consult with a vet knowledgeable in diet and nutrition or a pet nutritionist to ensure that your dog’s meals are balanced.
For those using commercial dog foods, which are convenient and, for the most part provide a balanced nutritional profile, it’s time to start scrutinizing what is in the can or bag. At a very high level, your dog food should have the following attributes:
- High in protein (meat as a first ingredient).
- Real, named protein sources (e.g., beef or chicken, not meat or poultry).
- No by-products.
- High quality fats (e.g. named fats like chicken fat” or pork fat and/or healthy oils like canola or herring oil).
- High quality carbohydrates (e.g. oats, peas, sweet potato, not mill run or cereal).
- No artificial ingredients (e.g. food coloring like red 40, yellow 5, or preservatives like Propylene Glycol , which is used in anti-freeze and Ethoxyquin which is used in pesticides).
- Little or no fillers. If you see corn in the first few ingredients, be wary. You don’t want things like cellulose, hulls, or mill runs.
In summary, feed your dog products that contain real food, minimal amounts of processed foods, and no artificial ingredients. In future installments of this series, we will provide more details on the different food components and what to watch out for when scanning the ingredient lists.