There are so many options when it comes to selecting pet foods, and it can be difficult to determine what the best choices for our pet are.
When it comes to selecting the right food for your dog, most people will say "read the label" — but not everyone knows what to look for.
Here are a few things to look for when reading a pet food label:
•a real, named meat or fish source is important;
•good grains include brown rice, barley, oatmeal;
•in grain-free foods, a good carbohydrate source, such as potatoes;
•whole fruits and veggies (i.e. carrots, peas, spinach, greens, apple, berries, etc.);
•a named fat source, like chicken fat, sunflower oil, salmon oil, etc.;
•healthy vitamins, minerals and supplements.
Some cheap brands of pet food contain food items that really aren’t desirable for your pets, and make for diets that are unhealthy and mainly "filler" type foods.
Here are a few things you do not want to see in your pet food:
• Meat byproduct, meat and bone meal: This is sometimes used as a protein source, and consists mainly of the parts of meat that are deemed unsuitable for human consumption. Note that the meat source isn’t specified because it can be any source of meat — and that doesn’t always include traditional meat sources.
• Beef tallow: This is a fat source used as an alternative to quality fats, like chicken fats or vegetable oil.
• Animal fat: This is another fat source, but it comes from an unnamed animal source.
• Corn: This is used as a fibre source, and is commonly used in pet foods. Unfortunately, corn is a filler food that has a very low nutritional value for our pets.
• Wheat or soy flour: This is another food used as a source of fibre in pet foods. Wheat flour has very little nutritional value for our canine companions. Also, wheat flour and soy flour are common causes for allergies in our pets.
• Corn or wheat gluten: This is used as a binder to help make the pet food, and it is another substance that has no nutritional value to our pets.
• Sugar, corn syrup, or cane molasses: As with human foods, seeing sugar — whether raw or in another form (i.e. sorbitol, glucose, etc.) — as one of the first few ingredients should be a red flag that it isn’t the healthiest. Sugars are used purely for taste and are a source of empty calories.
• Animal digest: This is also a flavour enhancer for our pets, and is basically broth made from an unnamed animal source.
• Artificial colour: These dyes serve no purpose (except to enhance the appearance of the food for humans,) and are known to be problematic for pets with food allergies. Artificial colours may be listed as Yellow 5, Blue 2, Red 3, etc.
• Chemical ingredients: Some pet foods contain chemicals such as propylene glycol (used in antifreeze) and hydrochloric acid (used in fertilizers) that are really not items we want to see in anyone’s food.
Remember that foods containing these substitute food items are not the best choice for your pets. While they allow the food manufacturer to produce cheaper pet foods, these cheap diets are low in nutritional value.
Aside from impacting our pet’s weight, health and coat quality, foods that contain no nutritional value generally "go in one end and come out the other." This means that pets eating low quality food produce more waste, which means more cleanup in the yard.
Although this is only a brief overview, hopefully it does help provide a bit of insight the next time you read a pet food label.
Dana Grove is an animal lover who works with several pet organizations in Brandon.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 14, 2014