Today, I want to help you make the best dog food decision for your dog and your lifestyle. One that makes sense for you. This dog food blog is just meant to shed a little light on how to choose a commercial pet food if that’s your choice. I will cover a raw diet, canned dog food, and dry dog food. My food recommendations will provide you with some ideas, and companies to look into, it is by far not a complete list. But, hopefully, my tips, and what to look for will teach you how to read and understand pet food labels.
So, here we go. First up, the ingredient list. This is such a crucial part in determining the actual meat portion of your dog’s food. So often, people are swayed by the images of the pet food bag, celebrity endorsements or their friends. But, I’m asking you to put those images, and endorsements aside, and flip over the bag and read the ingredient list.
The label. Dogs need meat. Dogs need a good portion of meat. When I home cook Dexter’s meal, I shoot for 70% meat, 15% fruits and vegetables and 15% healthy grains or beans. If you are reading a pet food label, and looking for a high-quality, meat-rich diet, minimally the first 3-5 ingredients listed should be a named meat source such as salmon, turkey, chicken or beef. This can be followed by a few fruits, veggies, and grains. Remember, a label is listed by weight, so you want your meat up there at the top. If you have a meat source or two, followed by a potato or grain, you are losing your meat.
Here’s an example taken from Primal’s Duck Formula: Duck, Duck Necks, Duck Wings, Organic Kale, Duck Hearts, Duck Gizzards, Organic Carrots, Organic Squash, Duck Livers, Organic Broccoli, Organic Apples, Blueberries, Cranberries, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Organic Parsley, Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, Salmon Oil, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Quinoa Sprout Powder, Dried Organic Kelp, Alfalfa, Vitamin E Supplement, Mixed Tocopherols (natural preservative).
Here’s an example of Merrick’s Duck Formula: Deboned Duck, Duck Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Potatoes, Pea Protein, Duck Fat(preserved with mixed tocopherols), Natural Flavor, Potato Protein, Organic Alfalfa, Salt, Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Copper Amino Acid Complex, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Amino Acid Complex, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin B12 Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate), Choline Chloride, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Lactobacillus plantarum Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Rosemary Extract.
Can you see how one ingredient list is much heavier in meat? Then take a look at the squash, potato, pea list. Not that any of those items is bad in themselves, but the sheer quantity of Merrick vs. Primal. That means there are a lot of carbohydrate foods vs. meat.
Let’s look at yet another pet food label. This dog food doesn’t even have meat as the first ingredient. There are also lots of potatoes and peas.
Natural Balance Potato and Duck Formula: Potatoes, Duck Meal, Duck, Canola Oil (preserved with natural mixed tocopherols), Potato Protein, Potato Fiber, Natural Flavor, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Salmon Oil, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Taurine, Natural Mixed Tocopherols, L-Carnitine, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Vitamin E Supplement, Iron Proteinate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B-1), Manganese Proteinate, Manganous Oxide, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Supplement, Biotin, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Manganese Sulfate, Sodium Selenite, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B-6), Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Riboflavin (Vitamin B-2), Vitamin D-3 Supplement, Folic Acid
Finally, we can view one of the worst dog foods out there, Beneful. You might be shocked when you read the ingredient list and, unfortunately, there are plenty of other low-quality, dog foods out there, just as bad.
Beneful Original Formula: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols, rice flour, beef, soy flour, meat and bone meal, propylene glycol, sugar, tricalcium phosphate, salt, phosphoric acid, potassium chloride, animal digest, sorbic acid (a preservative), mono and dicalcium phosphate, dried spinach, dried peas, dried carrots, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, calcium propionate (a preservative), choline chloride, zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, Red 40, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, Blue 2, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.
I honestly want to cry when I read that list. Some of those ingredients are not only unhealthy, but actually toxic! Look a few up for yourself. You can start with propylene glycol. Beef is the only real meat in there, and that is so far down the list. I highlighted animal, meat, and bone because they are not named items. Meaning, animal, meat or bone is very likely your neighborhood dog that was euthanized! Yes, that is a true statement.
Here are 10 ingredients that are never in any of Dexter’s food or treats.
Flavors of any kind, natural or artificial– No artificial or natural “flavors” of any kind. If it says “flavor” in the ingredient list, back on the shelf it goes. It’s not real food guys. And if it’s not a real food ingredient, it has no place in my dog’s treat or dog food.
Added salt, regular or sea salt– Nope, no reason to add salt in my dog’s treat. Every living creature needs sodium in their diet, but too much can cause problems such as seizures, diarrhea, and extra water intake. A lot of foods have naturally occurring sodium, so you do not need extra salt added to treats.
Sugar or any kind including high corn fructose, corn syrup, or cane sugar– I shouldn’t need to tell you this. If we add sugar or high corn fructose we are truly just adding empty calories. Not only are these ingredients bad for our dog’s health, but they will also hop them up and they can become hyperactive.
Sorbitol– A sugar commonly found in berries, but prepared synthetically.
By-products or digest– Ewww I want to make sure my dog receives healthy food not what is left on the floor of some meat manufacturing plant. Or carcasses from veterinarian practices! Scary, isn’t it? Again, I want to know what is in that bag of treats.
Coloring, artificial or natural– Why? Why would a pet treat manufacturer put dye or coloring in my dog’s treat? To please the consumer’s eyes of course. Especially when we are talking about artificial food coloring. Artificial anything is a chemical process and has a long list of possible side effects. And don’t be fooled by “natural food coloring”. Natural can be made by things like bugs and rocks!
Animal fat or anything “animal” “meat”– What kind of animal or meat? Again, what the heck is in there anyway? When I read it, I should have a very clear picture of what it is.
Chemical Preservatives – Chemical preservatives of any kind should be avoided. Healthy does not equate to chemicals. No BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), Ethoxyquin, TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone), Propyl Gallate, Propylene glycol, Sodium Nitrite. BHA, BHT and-and Ethoxyquin are banned in human foods.
Corn, wheat or soy– A lot of our dog friends are allergic or have a low tolerance to these ingredients. According to PetCareRX, that excessive soy may contain estrogen that might provide some estrogen-like activity in your dog and contribute to slightly lower thyroid hormone levels.
Glycerin, vegetable glycerin or glycerole– Glycerin or glycerol can actually be produced as a by-product of diesel fuel! It will be unlikely you will know the difference from reading the ingredient list (although vegetable glycerin is plant based, not from fuel). This is an ingredient in dog treats that helps make a treat soft and sugary. It is not uncommon for dogs to get a big case of diarrhea from eating treats with this product. Dexter is one of them.