Things People Don’t Know About Dog Food: Part 3
Meat as the first ingredient is a good rule, but by itself is not a true indication of a foods overall quality or appropriateness. Ingredients are listed in the pet food label in the same order as their relative weight in the recipe. Thus, meat as a first ingredient is supposed to signify that the food is high quality. However, there are ways to manipulate the ingredient list so that the meat component is listed higher and other, inferior fillers lower than is really the case. This practice, called ingredient splitting, is common as it occurs in about 1/3 of all pet foods. By splitting low quality ingredients into two or more components, (e.g. rice gets listed as both ground rice and rice bran), each rice ingredient individually accounts for a smaller portion of the recipe, and thus, they appear lower on the ingredient list, often allowing the meat to become the first ingredient listed.
Here is a real life example. These are the first five ingredients from a so-called ‘premium’ dry dog food.
Lamb Meal, Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Rice Bran, Canola Oil
Is there any doubt that this food is made up mostly of rice?
While having meat first in the ingredient list is a good rule to use when evaluating a dog food, a little more diligence is required to make a better choice.
Expiration dates on dog food labels don’t meant that an opened bag or can will last that long.
We have all noticed the expiration date (also known as the “good until date”) on pet food packages. One of the first things that I notice is how far in the future these dates can often be (which is somewhat scary if you think about it). Many pet parents are not aware that once the package is opened, those expiration dates no longer apply. You see, once a package is opened, the food will begin to oxidize and, from a nutritional perspective, start to degrade. The vitamins and minerals will lose potency as they are exposed to oxygen, and in some cases, mold or mycotoxins can form which are potentially detrimental to the dog’s health.
Even storing the food in a plastic container with a lid will do little to stop the oxidation process. Although the popular pet food storage bins can help keep the food odor at bay, they really do little to extend the life of the food.
So how long will an opened package of dog food last? The answer depends on a lot of factors, but dry food will retain most of its nutrition for up to 2-3 weeks once the bag is opened. Wet foods will degrade much faster and usually have a shelf life of only a few days (assuming refrigeration). This is sad news for all of those pet parents who choose to buy the larger bags of dog food to save money. Yes, they are a lot cheaper to buy on a per pound (or kg) basis. But because those large bags will normally last many months, the pet is actually being fed nutritionally inferior, degraded, and sometimes toxic food.