How to Read Labels
We love our dogs and want them to live long, healthy, and happy lives. Most dog owners treat their furry friends as members of the family – taking them on long walks, vacations, providing comfy beds, fun toys, lots of love, hugs, and purchasing the best healthy foods they can offer.
If you walk into a pet store with walls covered with packages and cans of dog food and feel lost and confused – you are not alone. How do we know what to buy, how to understand what is in the package or can, what are the nutritional needs of the dog.
Dogs are carnivores, the meat eaters, with no nutritional need for carbohydrates in their diet. They need good quality meats, fish, eggs, and other healthy proteins. Just like us, they will benefit from vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in the whole food sources including vegetables and fruits ( in moderation), healthy fats, digestive enzymes, pre- and pro-biotics and fresh water.
WHAT IS IN YOUR DOG FOOD?
All commercial dog food have labeling requirement that provides minimum standards for the dog food industry and regulated by AAFCO since 1909
You can find the ingredient list on the panel of the packaging. All the ingredients listed on the panel are in descending order of weight. The manufacturer can choose the order of listing if a few ingredients have the same weight.
Meats – should be the first listed ingredient from identifiable meat source like chicken, beef, or fish. Better if “Human grade” or “organic”.
Meat Meal – product from tissues, cooked and ground up. It’s meat without water.
Meat-by-products – can be animal parts, like internal organs, intestines, and other “leftovers”. It’s not something our animals should eat.
Grains or carbohydrates, grain substitutes, potatoes, rice will be listed next. According to many well known and respected animal health advocates, wheat, soy, corn, barley and rye should be avoided ( or at least limited). Not all dogs are sensitive to grain and carbohydrates, but it could lead to health issues
overtime including allergies, digestive and skin problems, obesity, and general inflammation.
Veggies and Fruits – are great source of nutrients including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fruits should be fed in moderation.
Healthy Fats – dogs need fat for energy, healthy skin, and immune system support. Pro and Pre-biotics help with healthy digestion.
Supplements and vitamins – included at the end of the list and better if from the whole food sources.
Water – should be a part of the food in addition to the water bowl.
Calories for a measuring serving are not required and often not included in the label. It’s a good idea to know – average dry food per cup is 450-600 kcal.
HOW TO PICK THE “ONE” TO TAKE HOME
1. AAFCO certification on the label – minimum requirements for commercial dog food.
2. Meats should be first in the ingredient list. “Human Grade ” or “Organic ” is better.
3. Avoid Meat-by-products.
4. No Artificial preservatives, colorings, flavorings and hormones. ( Avoid BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin). Better with natural preservatives like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, oils of rosemary, clover and others.
5. Avoid animal or poultry fats that are used as a flavor enhancers and made from processed by-products. Include healthy fats like Omega 3, 6.
6. Include good sources of veggies and fruits.
7. Should include supplements and vitamins from whole food source, not synthetic ones.
8. Avoid Grains or grain substitute, including wheat, corn, and soy.
9. Check the expiration date.
10. Get smaller packages to preserve freshness.
11. Keep in original bag an do not store in plastic containers.
12. According to many experts, it’s better to, periodically, change the formulas or brands to avoid the nutrient deficiencies and to provide variety. Should be done slowly. Alternating between dry and canned food will provide variety too.
13. Educate yourself to make healthier food choices.
Many other pet food diets are available on the market
- freeze Dried or Dehydratedorganic
- raw (BARF)
- homemade cooked
“We are what we eat” . Please, choose your pet food wisely and help your furry friends to achieve health and well-being they deserve -they do so much for us.
Be Healthy and Happy.