This is a quick post and completely unplanned. Linda, a reader who also follows me on Facebook, asked a great question this morning and I wanted to share it today, because this is in response to the article about feeding our dogs feathers for protein…
“ Do you have any tips for people who want to continue to feed their dogs a dry kibble but at the same time want them to have the healthiest diet possible?”
1) Read the ingredients; get to know what is going into your pet’s food, especially the first 5 ingredients, because it’s ordered by quantity. If the first ingredient is a carb/grain, put it back on the shelf. It should be a protein (and a real one, not feathers). I would also pass on anything that isn’t clear about the meat. Chicken or chicken meal (which some disagree with, but is actually chicken without the water, so in some foods, it’s more protein) is a great example.
If you notice an ingredient that you’re not sure about, hit up Google. So many of us have smart phones, Google while your at the store. If this isn’t possible, as a sales clerk. If they don’t know – pass until you get an answer that you understand. The best example that I have is beet pulp, which I used to think was great for our dogs. It’s beets right? No, apparently it’s the biproduct of processing beets. I don’t want our dogs eating the run off from a manufacturing process.
The above ingredients are from a dry kibble created by a very popular brand that is sold in grocery stores. Looking at these ingredients, I wouldn’t buy this food because…
- The first ingredient is corn; this is a known allergen for many dogs and corn is a carb – to have a carb as a first ingredient doesn’t seem right to me. It should be a meat. I’m not suggesting that dogs shouldn’t eat carbs, it’s an energy source, but their food shouldn’t be carb heavy and since corn is the first ingredient, I take that to mean there is a high percentage of carbs in this food.
- Chicken by-product meal; chicken meal isn’t bad, this is just chicken with all the water taken out and some say that it allows the food to hold even more chicken. That’s great! What raises a red flag for me is the “by-product.” What is that? Does that mean it’s all the left overs not fit for other food? The product is the meat; the by-product is what they throw away – or at least that’s what I’m thinking.
- Uhh oh, we see corn again; corn gluten meal. Wow, this food seriously isn’t for dogs with known corn allergies. Stay away!
- Rice flour; I underlined this one, because I know that brown rice is great for dogs and I’ve been told that white rice isn’t so great. For dogs with allergies, it’s suggested that wheat flour (of course, some dogs are allergic to wheat) or brown rice flour be substituted for rice flour. I’ve read some great information about grains, thanks to Kate of SlimDoggy (you rock!) and in my reading, rice is seen as the least problematic by some, but it’s still raised often enough to be a concern – but it’s lower on the ingredients list so let’s move on.
- Beef; why so low on the list?
- Soy flour; like rice flour, I keep seeing people suggest alternatives, because soy is an allergen for some dogs.
- Meat and bone meal; whenever food just says meat and doesn’t identify what type of meat, my brain goes to some dark places. I want to know what type of meat.
- And the veggies are so far down on the list that it seems like they shouldn’t be counted in the ingredients.
Now here’s an example of an ingredients list of dry kibble that we used to feed our dogs and I still think is an excellent brand (Halo Purely for Pets)…
A protein is the first ingredient and all you see are great stuff for our dogs as you continue to read. I don’t think dry kibble is ideal for my dogs, but I will not start telling people to stop feeding dry kibble to their dogs; instead, I want to encourage them to buy the best they can afford.
In my completely biased (raw food, premium dry kibble fan here) and totally inexperienced (I’m not a nutritionist) opinion, I think the first example isn’t great food for our dogs. But that’s just my opinion. Hopefully this gives you an idea of how I look at the ingredients. It’s not overly complicated, because I don’t have time for complicated.
Read more about dogs and allergies from Dr. Becker.
2) Bookmark Dog Food Advisor and do a little research. The great thing about this site is that the owner has taken on most of the work – we just need to read his findings. I return to it regularly both as a blogger and a pet mom. You can also check them out on Facebook.
3) Don’t buy from the grocery story or Walmart. Go to local pet food store where they’re going to have truly premium dry kibble; not popular foods they’re calling premium. What I like about local pet food stores is that you can probably speak with the owner and get their input on brands without feeling like your being pushed towards one. I’m not knocking Walmart; I venture in their from time to time for the deals too, but I doubt that their employees can educate me about the pros and cons of the pet foods they carry.
And don’t be fulled by buzz words like ‘Natural’ or ‘Organic.’ Some pet food companies have clued in that this attracts buyers; it’s still up to us to ask the question “what makes it natural?”