Since we opened our new store in 2006 and began selling pet food, we decided to only carry grain free diets. At first there were only a limited number of foods that were on the market that were totally grain-free. In the past year or so it seems like more and more pet food companies are jumping on the band wagon. I, for one, am very glad that they are seeing the light. Dogs do not eat corn on the cob, rice or wheat as a natural part of their diet.
I love those pet food commercials where the corn and grains come cascading down making it seem like a good thing to put in the food. Cats, especially, don’t eat grains. They are true carnivores. If they had their choice…it would be MEAT.MEAT.and MEAT.
If you have read our philosophy on grain-free feeding on our web site then you know how I feel about it. If not, please read it and you’ll see why.
In this blog I don’t just want to sell someone food, but give the options on diet and what to look for.
First there is price. Pet food that is mainly meat sourced is going to be more expensive. This is one of the reasons that many pet food companies pump their foods full of things not so good for your pet. It costs them less and they can sell it at a lower price than premium food. Sometimes, though, a food will have a higher price but is really low quality. Most foods sold at vet offices are very expensive, but offer little nutritional benefit. They just have a vet label on them and people assume that they must be good. Price , though can be paid in different ways. If you buy a better quality of food, chances are you’ll be spending less in vet bills later. Skin problems, ear infections, weight gain, diabetes are all usually direct problems from feeding a lower quality of food.
Ingredients: They first ingredient of any pet food should be a named meat protein. Look for beef or chicken or whatever protein is the main source. Just the word meat is not good enough. It can be beef or chicken meal….not meat meal. That could mean just about anything. Usually if a food just says meat, it means it is rendered and can be things such as skin and connective tissue. There should be several sources of protein at the top of the ingredient list. Ingredients go by weight, so the more protein base the better.
Be sure that you are not feeding a food that has meat grown in China. Even though some companies will say that the chicken or beef is completely safe. You can never be too sure about what is really being fed to the animal that is used in your pet’s food. More and more pet food companies are getting their ingredients from China. They will tell you it is very safe to feed it to your pet…but do you really want to feed your pet something that has not been grown in the United States or Canada where there are guidelines as to what can be called meat?
Whole vegetables and fruits: These are important and should also be included in the diet. They add a good source of vitamins and minerals as well as fiber. I would even go as far as to say that some whole grains can be of benefit to some pets who can not handle a completely protein based diet, but the grain should be very far down the list of ingredients. Oatmeal and quinoa can both be descent additions without adding too much sugar in the form of carbohydrate to the diet.
A best by date: that should be at least 3 months away from the date you purchase. Pet foods with synthetic preservatives may have a date two years away!
Things to watch for: Meat by-products. These can be in the form of any meat or poultry. Some foods only have “meat flavoring”. You can find this on some of the so called veterinary pet foods. What the heck is meat flavoring, anyway? Many of these by-products are over processed and can be rancid by the time it is added to the food. Many companies will spray on a flavor enhancer to hide the smell and taste.
Added sweeteners. Dogs, like humans have a sweet tooth and many pet food manufactures add sweeteners to enhance flavor or to hide rancidity. Look carefully. some companies come right out and say on the label…corn syrup, but do some research and look for other names that are used as well. There are lots of corn glutens and other corn derivatives that are added to make the food palatable.
Artificial colors: These are those little green and orange things found in some foods that make it look like carrots and peas. They are just dyed to look that way to you…the dog doesn’t know what peas and carrots look like. These are chemicals that your pet does not need to ingest!
Artificial preservatives: BHT,BHA and Ethoxyquin are the three main culprits. All of these are known carcinogens with ethoxyquin being the worst. It is used mainly in fish and have been outlawed for human consumption. You truly do not want your beloved pet to ingest these things. Some pet food companies, years back, went as far as to say that BHA and BHT can prevent cancer in pets. Nothing can be further from the truth.
I hope this post is helpful and you do some checking up on the food that your pet is eating. Don’t just listen to the person at some big box retailer. They are there to sell food! No matter what the ad on T.V. says…these people are not experts on pet food! Again…don’t be fooled by a food that you can buy at the vet’s office. They make a huge profit on food from those companies to push their brand of pet food. Go online and research the product. Get feed back from other consumers and from breeders. There are some good websites that are not owned by pet food companies that have good info on what is in your pet’s food and what isn’t. dogfoodanalysis.com is a good one that I happen to like. There are many others…good luck and good feeding. Your pet will love you all the more for it!