Daily Diet Nutrition — 13 November 2012
How Healthy is Your Dog Food? Understanding Ingredients

If you have ever tried to determine what, exactly, you are feeding your dog, chances are looking at the dog food bag did not help. While there are a few brands of dog food that list ingredients in easy-to-understand terms, the vast majority of them are quite perplexing. If you are trying to make sure that your dog gets the nutrition it needs, it’s vital that you understand what the ingredients listed mean, and whether or not they are what you want to be feeding your dog.

There are many different ingredients that may be found in your dog food. Among the most popular are as follows:

• By-products – Whether it is listed as chicken by-product or poultry by-product, meat by-products consist of organs and other parts of the animals that (generally speaking) are not condemned nor ideal for human consumption. Such parts may include intestines, ligaments, bones, heads, feathers, feet, lungs and blood.

• Meat and bone meal – This term usually describes inexpensive sources of animal protein. If there is a large amount of bone meal, the food may not provide sufficient nutrition, and may also be difficult for your dog to digest.

• Corn – While corn is a common ingredient used dog food, you may be surprised to find that corn is not actually beneficial for dogs. Usually, corn products are difficult for dogs to digest. Nevertheless, corn and cornmeal is very common in dog food, primarily because it’s used as an inexpensive filler.

• Brewers rice and wheat bran – These food fragments are essentially waste products (or by-products) of other food manufacturing processes. Thus, they are another inexpensive filler that provides little nutritional value.

• Animal fat – If your dog food lists the general term “animal fat”, then it’s likely to include some kind of rendered fat sources, such as oils or restaurant grease considered inedible for humans. If, however, your dog food mentions a specific type of animal fat, such as poultry or chicken fats, this is a much better option, as it usually indicates a naturally preserved material that may well better fit for consumption.

• Sweeteners – Sugars such as cane molasses and corn syrup are typically added to a lower-quality food to make it more appetizing for your dog. Not only do sweeteners aggravate medical conditions such as diabetes, they also indicate that you are feeding your dog something they would not eat otherwise – a sizable clue that the quality of food may be poor.

• Chemical preservatives – Commonly found in dog food, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene), propylene glycol, propyl gallate, and ethoxyquin should be minimized. Long-term effects of these preservatives are unknown and may potentially be harmful; ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA are even potentially carcinogenic for pets.

If you examine your dog food ingredients and find that the food is mostly composed of the ingredients listed here, you may want to re-think your dog’s diet. Ideally, you’ll feed your dog a food that lists a specific type of meat (ie chicken, beef, lamb, fish) in the first two ingredients, no sweeteners, low amounts of corn and meat/bone meal, and even lower amounts of chemical preservatives. Generally speaking, look for ingredients that you would find largely acceptable for a human to eat (in theory, anyway). In these dog foods, you’ll find a healthier option for your beloved pet.

 Photo:  Courtesy of JnL via Flickr (CC by 2.0)
 

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About the Author

JoAnn Lutmer-Paulson

JoAnn Lutmer-Paulson is a professional freelance writer who believes in the power of words. JoAnn wants to empower people to learn and grow in their understanding of themselves, each other, and the larger world around them. JoAnn has also had all different kinds of pets and is currently the proud mother of two puppies, Gus and Bening, who brighten up her world.

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