Dog Food Labelling
Saturday, 23 June 2012 | Admin
If like us, you just want the best for your dog, then you are probably concerned about what you are feeding your dog.
Of any investment you make in your pet, choosing the best dog food possible, is probably the best you can make, Feeding good quality dog food can save a fortune in vet bills later on.
Here are just some common complaints that can be potentially helped by a better diet.
Scratching and itching
There is a bewildering array of dog food on the market, and it can be difficult to wade through all the ingredients and make sense of the nutrition labels on the packaging, so we've outlined the basics of dog food labelling to help you make an informed decision.
So what's in dog food?
Here are some common phrases and terms that you may see on dog food labelling
Meat and Animal Derivatives
A generic term for animal proteins meaning it may be sourced from any animal such as chicken, horse, sheep AND and from any part of the animal such as guts, beaks, hair and wool to name a few. Don't confuse this with the phrase "by-products" which means clean parts such as heart, lungs, liver, kidney, abdomens. Using a generic term such as 'animal derivatives' means manufacturers can choose whichever source of protein is cheapest or readily available.
Critically using a generic term means the manufacturer can change the ingredients easily without changing the label - what this means for your dog, is that each bag might contain different ingredients. Difficult if you are trying to manage an allergy or protein intolerance.
Another generic term used to describe a wide range of grains used in pet food. Cereals are not entirely bad for your dog and do provide a form of carbohydrate, however some cereals are better than others for example Rice, Oats and Barley. Wheat and Wheat gluten has been associated with allergies in dogs Some dog foods use cereals as a bulking agent and can contain upto 70-80% cereals. Using a generic term also means manufacturers can change the cereal from batch to batch so you don't know exactly what's in the bag.
Like with human food, some manufacturers include additives in dog food. Also like with human food, artificial colours and flavours are associated with hyperactivity. Imagine your child on a diet consisting entirely on sweets, chocolate, pop and crisps!
Let's examine them in more detail
Artificial Colourings - are used to make the food more visually appealing to pet owners. I don't think dogs care much what colour their food is. Artificial colourings in dog food is therefore unneccesary
Artificial flavourings - used to improve the palatibility, however this shouldn't be needed with a good quality food.
Artificial preservatives and anti-oxidants. To some degree these are necessary to give pet food a longer shelf life. You will often see the phrase "EC permitted anti-oxidants" on a label, which covers a whole host of synthetic chemicals. These chemicals are very good at preserving dog food, however is should be noted that some of them have been associated with health problems including cancer. Some of them have also been banned for human consumption for many years. Whilst the research in this area is not definitive, it is best to choose foods which use natural anti-oxidants such as mixed tocopherals (a mix of vitamins E and C) and Rosemary
Fats are essential in a dog's diet as they cannot produce essential fatty acids themselves. Animal Fats is a general term meaning the fat can be rendered from any animal and again the fat source can vary from batch to batch. Choosing a product with a named fat such as "turkey fat" is a better choice
The amount of meat in dog food can be used as an indicator of the quality of product you are buying. Higher meat content is generally better than a low meat content. You might be surprised to discover just how little meat there is in some of the common brands of dog food. However it goes a bit deeper than this.
On labels you might see both "fresh chicken" and "dried chicken" - these are the quantities before processing. As fresh chicken can contain upto 70% moisture, the actual amount of chicken in the final product will be significantly less.
By-products of vegetable origin
Anything that is not classed as a cereal and usually a by-product of the human food industry.
Defined as "Meals are prepared by the heating, drying and grinding whole or parts of warm blooded land animals from which the fat has been partially extracted or physically removed. The product has to be free from hooves, horn, bristle, hair and feathers as well as digestive tract content". Meal is an acceptable product for dog food.
To help you choose the best quality food for your dog please see our next article What to look for in a good quality dog food
If you are concerned about your dog's health in anyway, please contact your Vet immediately.