By Misty Pines Pet Company
The holiday season brings excitement and commotion associated with shopping, travel, and other seasonal preparations. In all the activities of the season our beloved pets may be exposed to hazards that are not found other times of the year. As homes fill with holiday spirit, pets may be intrigued by the new sites, smells and tastes. The following are some of the most common health concerns for your pet during the holidays. If you have specific questions regarding any health concern, please contact your veterinarian. It may be difficult to curb your pet’s fascination with all those pretty decorations. Child gates can be used across doorways to keep your pet away from the Christmas tree and decorations at times they cannot be watched.
Extra attention from visiting relatives and friends may be relished by some pets while others seek solitude in their favorite hiding spot. Make sure pets are given some “personal space” if they want to get away from all of the activity. Some pets may respond to all the commotion with a change in behavior including bad behaviors like eliminating in the house. Try spending extra “quality time” with them to assure them that they have not been forgotten.
I was speaking with a friend recently about working on this article. My friend is not just an experienced dog owner and trainer, but also someone who used to work in the pet food industry. We were discussing the fact that once another dog owner learns that you know something about foods, they almost always ask, “So what’s the best dog food?” My friend said, “Yeah, most people want to buy the best foods they can for their dogs – until you tell them what the best foods cost! Then they change the subject!”
You might not think that is funny, but my friend and I laughed for a solid minute, because we have both experienced that exact conversation countless times.
It’s an inescapable fact that quality foods cost money – and the highest quality food cost a lot of money. You simply cannot sell steaks at hamburger prices. And as much as we may want to buy “the best” food for our dogs, most of us have a number – unique to each of us, based on our financial status, the size and number of dogs we own, and perhaps even our relationship with our dogs – to which we will respond, “No, forget it; that’s too much.”
We’ve never made cost a part of WDJ’s dog food selection criteria, and have barely mentioned it in past reviews, precisely because of the fact that one dog owner’s “No, forget it” price may be another person’s food selection starting point. What you can afford or feel comfortable spending on dog food is a personal matter. But the conversation with my friend made me reconsider this particular elephant in the living room. It occurred to me that perhaps it would be helpful to help people identify the higher-quality food in any group of identically prices products.
In order to recognize a superior product in a group of food, you have to know what specific attributes indicate quality in a dog food. We look for the following hallmarks of quality:
There are also some things to look out for – undesirable attributes that indicate a lower-quality food:
* Excerpt from “What Price Is Right” by Nancy Kerns published in the Whole Dog Journal, February 2018 edition.
Shopping for pet foods can be a very frustrating process, especially when there are numerous aisles of variety. There are also the claims of how their food will benefit your pet. However taking the time to read and understand the ingredients list in your dog food purchase will help you to purchase the best diet possible for your pet. Here are some tips.
Take a look at the actual ingredients and you will be surprised at what you find. Take a look at the word “real”, since when has chicken or beef not been “real?” Flavoring can be made from a natural or a chemical substance and the manufacturer may or may not list more detailed information about it. Flavoring agents can also be made from animal digest which is a cooked down broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. These animals can include “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying), road kill, or even euthanized animals.
Most of the grocery store brands have a high economic value (cheap) and contain a large amount of grain or starchy vegetables to provide texture. These high carbohydrate plant products also provide a cheap source of “energy” which also means “calories”. Gluten meals are high protein extracts from which most of the carbohydrate has been removed. They are often used to increase protein percentages without using expensive animal source ingredients. Corn gluten meal is most commonly used for this purpose and offers very little nutritional value and serves mainly to bind food together. In most cases, the foods containing vegetable proteins are the low quality foods.
Meat by-product meals are inexpensive and less digestible than muscle meat. The ingredients of each batch can vary drastically such as head, feet, bones, etc. This in turn means that the nutritional value is not always consistent. By-products consist of parts of the animal other than meat.
Animal fat is obtained from the tissue of mammals and/or poultry. Note that the animal source does not have to be specified and is not required to originate from “slaughtered animals.” The rendered animals can be from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. These animals again can be “4-D animals”, road kill, and euthanized animals. Another thing to be aware of is what the animal fat is preserved with.
Preservatives that can be found in pet food are BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, propylene glycol and Propyl Gallate.
BHA and BHT have been banned from human use in many countries, but are still permitted for use in the United States. There are certain oxidative characteristics and metabolites that may contribute to carcinogenicity or tumorigencity. Ethoxyquin was originally developed as a stabilizer for rubber and later used as a pesticide for fruit and a color preservative for spices. It has never been proven to be safe for the lifespan of an animal. It has been linked to thyroid, kidney, reproductive, immune related illnesses, and cancer. Propyl Gallate is used as an antioxidant to stabilize cosmetics, food packaging materials, and foods containing fats. It is suspected of causing liver disease and cancer. The preservatives that you want to see in dog food are mixed tocopherols, citric acid, and rosemary extract.
NOTE: Some ingredients, usually fish products, may contain artificial preservatives that are not disclosed on the ingredient list; if they are not added by the manufacturer, they are not required to be listed. Look for assurances by manufacturers using ocean fish products that their foods do NOT contain any artificial preservatives.
Coloring agents have no nutritional value and do not need to be in pet food. They are added mainly to look good to us so in turn we think our dog will enjoy eating it. The reason is that the color of food speaks to humans’ innate perceptions about the value of food items. Coal tar and petrochemicals are the main sources of artificial colors. More than one artificial color has been banned and pulled off the market over the last several decades because it was ultimately found to cause cancer. The safety of those still allowed on the market is highly questionable. Artificial colors contribute to all sorts of health problems, the most notable of which are the symptoms diagnosed as (ADHD), a behavioral pattern often brought on by Yellow #5 food dye. Children are being fed these chemicals in such large quantities that they begin to have nervous system issues such as ADHD, learning disabilities, or violent behavior.
Makes you wonder when our pets are fed these chemicals, if it doesn’t contribute to some behavior problems such as aggression and hyperactivity.
Beef & bone meal and pork & bone meal are common protein sources found in low quality pet foods. They are a byproduct made from beef or pork parts that are unsuitable for human consumption. It can incorporate the entire cow or pigs, including bones, but the quality cut of meats have already been removed. These ingredients are an inexpensive and low quality way to boost the protein percentage in the food. Meat & bone meal can consist of animal parts obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. It can also include pus, cancerous tissue, and decomposed tissue.
Salt is a necessary mineral and is generally present in sufficient quantities in the ingredients pet foods include. Just like for us, too much salt intake is unhealthy for them. In low quality foods, it is often used in excessive amounts to make the food taste more flavorful.
Sweeteners may also be added to pet foods. Examples of them are molasses, corn syrup, fructose, sorbitol, sugar, and dl-alpha tocopherol acetate. Sugars and sweeteners are an unnecessary ingredient in pet foods, added to make the product more attractive. It can cause obesity, nervousness, cataracts, tooth decay, arthritis, and allergies. Fructose when used in small quantities, serves as a nutrient for probiotics, specifically bifidobactera. It will eventually ferment it and produce beneficial enzymes.
Menadione Sodium Bisulfate complex is a source of synthetic Vitamin K3 in dog food. Menadione is added as an inexpensive vitamin K supplement in commercial foods. The common statement as to why it is added is “to help with blood clotting”, yet it is scientifically proven that the effectiveness of menadione on blood clotting is inferior. Veterinarians will administer vitamin K1 as an antidote to dogs who have for example ingested rat poison, which causes internal bleeding and serious clotting issues. The synthetic version of Vitamin K3 has not been specifically approved for long term use and has been linked to many serious health issues in humans. It has been banned from use in food and supplements for human use in many European countries due to serious side effects, including permanent damage and deaths. It can cause cytotoxicity in liver cells, has possible mutagen effects, damages the natural vitamin K cycle, causes hemolytic anemia and hyperbilirubinemia, irritation of skin and mucous membranes, allergic reactions and eczema are just some of the health issues associated with menadione.
Ingredients need to be labeled and listed in order according to their weight before processing on the food label along with the guaranteed analysis of crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, and moisture. A pet food manufacturer could make a mock product that has an acceptable guaranteed analysis of 10% Protein, 6.5% fat, 2.4% fiber and 68% moisture, similar to what you `would see on many canned pet food labels. The only problem would be that the ingredients were old leather work boots, used motor oil, crushed coal, and water.
Contrary to what many people believe, meat sources in “meal” form are not inferior to whole, fresh meats as long as they are from a specified type of animal. Meat meal consists of meat and skin with or without the bones, but exclusive of feathers/hair, heads, feet, horns, entrails etc. Meat meals have had most of the moisture removed, but meats in their original, “wet” form still contain up to 75% water. Once the food reaches its final moisture content of about 9-12%, the meat will have shrunk to sometimes as little as 1/4 of the original amount, while the already dehydrated meal form remains the same and you get more concentrated protein per pound of finished product. This means that the food may only be left with 4 ounces of actual meat content per pound of fresh meat. Many foods already contain less than one pound of meat per 2-3 pounds of grain to begin with. It is best to pick a food that contains quality meat meal as well as some fresh meat.
The food bag will have a nutritional adequacy statement listed on it. It may state either of the following statements: “(Name of product) is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO.” This means the product contains the proper amount of protein, calcium, and other recognized essential nutrients needed to meet the needs of the healthy animal. “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that (name of product) provides complete and balanced nutrition.” This means that the product, or “lead” member of a “family” of products, has been fed to dogs or cats under strict guidelines and found to provide proper nutrition. These two statements do not really tell you anything about the product, except that it contains the minimum of nutrients the AAFCO deems appropriate to keep your dog alive and that he will survive while eating it.
Pet food labels may also contain the words “premium”, “ultra”, “gourmet”, “natural”, “human grade”, “human quality”, “table quality”, etc. enticing us to believe that there are higher quality ingredients contained in it. They are not required to contain any different ingredients nor are they required to have higher nutritional standards than any other “complete and balanced” product. The word “natural” does not have an official definition either. “Natural” may be used when there is no use of artificial flavor, artificial color, or artificial preservatives. “Natural” is not the same as “organic.” The latter term refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown or animals were raised. While it is true that many terms used to market a pet food are not legally defined, the manufacturers of quality brands go out of their way to supply their customers with additional information, such as using hormone free animal products, pesticide free grains, providing the USDA grades of ingredients, avoiding genetically modified products and so on.
Manufacturers are not required to include substances in the ingredient list that they did not add to the product themselves. Products they obtain from their suppliers may still contain undesirable ingredients such as synthetic preservatives or other additives. An example is fish meal, which, according to US Coast Guard regulations, must be preserved with Ethoxyquin if it is not intended for human consumption.
Keep in mind that there is no “best” food for all dogs, as each dog is an individual. What works well for one dog may not work as well for another. In addition, it is better for a dog to eat a variety of foods, rather than just one food for its whole life.
Can you imagine as a human eating the same diet every day! When we humans try different kinds of foods, it keeps life interesting and lessens the boredom factor and gives us balanced nutrition. Feeding your dog different diets can help fill in nutritional gaps that a particular food or brand might have, as well as making it less likely that your dog will develop food allergies. The cliché “Variety is the spice of life” very much holds true to dogs also. Saving healthy human leftovers and periodically mixing that healthy human food (see Ingredients to Avoid below) with your dog’s healthy dog food will help keep your pet healthy and happy.
There are four types of dog foods: canned, dry, semi-moist and raw. To a certain extent, the type of dog food determines which ingredients can be included in the ration, as well as the ultimate cost. Let’s look at each of the choices individually.
Canned diets are sometimes referred to as “wet” or “moist.” There’s a good reason for this – they contain about 75 percent water. These are the common varieties of dog food that line the shelves in grocery stores and pet supply outlets. The percentage of water may seem excessive, but this is not significantly different than the amount of water present in fresh meat or in living animals. It may seem that the water content is designed to provide more filling than nutrients, but there is a reason for this. All canned foods are sterilized by high-pressure steam. The high water content is needed to ensure adequate and uniform heat penetration without burning some areas while inadequately cooking others.
Most meats used in canned foods are ground while they are still frozen. This helps reduce bacterial contamination of the product while promoting efficient grinding. The meat is then mixed with ground cereal, chopped vegetables and micronutrients. It is interesting to note that, for the most part, manufacturers discount the nutritional value of the ingredients and add vitamin and mineral “premixes” to the ration to meet the actual nutritional requirements of dogs. So, despite all the advertising hype of the nutritional value of the ingredients used in a dog’s food, most manufacturers concede that the processing removes much of the wholesomeness and goodness of the ingredients.
The “maintenance” diets are formulated with one-third meat and two thirds cereal, while the “luxury” or “gourmet” diets usually mix two-thirds meat with one third cereal. Even the so-called “all-meat” rations usually have about 10 percent carbohydrates. At this stage, some ingredients are “cold processed” by loading the ingredients directly in the can. Other manufacturers first heat the mixture to about 180 degrees F., which may produce colors and flavors, inactivate enzymes, and cause controlled swelling of starches. The canned ingredients are then sealed and loaded into a pressure cooker and processed.
Dry foods, often referred to as “kibble,” were the first dog foods available commercially. Although they were originally baked on sheets and broken into pieces by a kibbling roller, this process has been replaced by extrusion. Extrusion uses pressure heating and steam cooking to treat the cereal-based product. The usual ingredients for these extruded dry foods include a source of protein (soybean meal, meat, fish, or poultry meal) and a carbohydrate (corn, wheat, barley, fat and vitamins and minerals).
To make dry foods, the ingredients are mixed together and steam heat is added to begin the cooking process. Later, the ingredients are removed to a pressure cooker and the finished product gets extruded and cut into appropriate pieces. At the final stage, the “kibble” can be sprayed with hot fats to increase palatability. The moisture content of these foods is reduced to about one percent by the use of hot air drying. Most extruders have a limitation in the fat content of the ration (8-10 percent) for mechanical reasons, but newer, twin-screw extruders can actually create a high-fat, dry dog food, (30 to 40 percent fat). Even with the old extruders, the fat content can be increased by overspraying the dry food once it is removed from the barrel of the extruder.
Semi-moist dog foods are intermediate between the dry and canned foods in their moisture content. These are the products that often look like hamburgers made for dogs, containing 25 – 35 percent water. It is hard to get much reliable information about semi-moist processing, because pet-food companies still regard this as a closely guarded trade secret. The trick to making a semi-moist dog food is to create a ration that isn’t canned, that contains appreciable moisture, that has a long shelf life, and that is not subject to mold growth. To accomplish this, “humectants” are added to the ration that allows the food to be “moist” yet bind the water so it is inaccessible to microbes. The most common humectants are glycols, sucrose (table sugar), and phosphoric acid.
Raw dog food diets are controversial. But the popularity of the diets — which emphasize raw meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables — is rising.
Racing greyhounds and sled dogs have long eaten raw food diets. Extending those feeding practices to the family pet is a more recent idea, proposed in 1993 by Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst. He called his feeding suggestions the BARF diet, an acronym that stands for Bones and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.
Billinghurst suggested that adult dogs would thrive on an evolutionary diet based on what canines ate before they became domesticated: Raw, meaty bones and vegetable scraps. Grain-based commercial pet foods, he contended, were harmful to a dog’s health.
A raw dog food diet typically consists of: Muscle meat, often still on the bone, bones, either whole or ground, organ meats such as livers and kidneys, raw eggs, vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and celery, apples or other fruit, some dairy, such as yogurt.
Digestibility of the food is also important. If the food is palatable and eaten readily, it is a waste if the food cannot be digested adequately. This is a problem with the very cheap diets that contain a lot of cereal grains and fiber as a cost-cutting measure. If you look at the pet-food label, you will find that these foods may meet nutritional recommendations but that the nutrients may not be able to be used. The real trick to making a quality dog food is to process ingredients properly so that the nutrients are digested readily. If this is done, cereals, fruits, and vegetables can be as satisfactory as meats in a dog’s diet.
We hear quite often “do not ever feed your dog table food.” What should be said is, “Do not feed your dog from the table.” If you feed your dog from the table you will train your dog to beg for food at the table, which may be offensive and inappropriate especially when we have guests. However; it is appropriate to supplement a dog’s daily ration with healthy left over table food. We would not suggest feeding such foods as Doritos, onions, grapes, raisins or chocolate but left over eggs, meats, fish, skins, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli leaves and stems mixed in with their daily ration can be very healthy for your dog. Ensure you google search a list of unhealthy foods for dogs. One of our recommendations to keep your dog healthy is to keep a Tupperware container in your refrigerator and place healthy people food (leftovers) into that container, then mix your dog’s normal daily ration, being dry, moist or raw, then as a special treat, feed them that mixture. To make feeding mentally stimulating, periodically stuff this mixture into a Kong or femur bone and have your dog work to get its meal. This form of feeding stimulates a dog’s mind, it is an excellent puzzle for your dog. Remember, periodic supplementation with healthy table food can be very beneficial to your dog, just be sure to avoid feeding him from the table.
We also suggest researching the ingredients in your dog’s food to determine if they are optimal ingredients for your dog. More on this subject next month.
Visit http://missouriscenicrivers.com/baddogfoods.html for a list of foods that are dangerous to dogs.
Lastly, don’t forget to feed an appropriate amount of calories for your dog’s daily needs. Refer to our article, “Weight Control For Optimal Health,” to learn how to determine your dog’s caloric requirements.
“Canine Nutrition. What Every Owner, Breeder, and Trainer Should Know” – Lowell Ackerman, D.V.M.
Jeff Woods, CPDT-KA
Good nutrition is probably the most important contribution you can make to your dog’s good health. Providing a wholesome diet will help keep your dog at an optimal weight, give a strong immune system, and help hold off diseases associated with aging, such as diabetes and cancer. Plus avoiding chemical and toxins will ensure your friend’s optimal health for years to come. With so many choices available it is easy to become confused.
What’s the best food for your pet? In this area it is a general rule of thumb and the old adage “you get what you pay for”. You can’t expect to pay hamburger prices for fillet mignon. It’s the quality of ingredients that set the top quality food apart.
Any dog food that you choose should be deemed adequate on the basis of feeding trials for your dog’s stage of life. The criteria have been proposed by AAFCO in the United States and CVMA in Canada. These are not foolproof criteria but are the best options available.
The essential and minimal “complete and balanced” is regulated by the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) a private advisory board whose members are from various government agencies. They have two tests; a food trail of feeding the food to only eight animals for 26 weeks monitoring their condition through-out and the second test is a chemical analysis in which the testing does not prove that the nutrients contained in these unregulated quality of ingredients can actually be absorbed by the body.
The feeding trials proposed by AAFCO are not ideal for many reasons. Typically, they include only a few animals and don’t take into consideration large breeds or very small breeds. There is also some concern that the trials don’t run long enough. For example, a growth feeding trial for puppies may end by four to five months of age, yet the pups continue to grow after this time. Also, the growth-related nutritional disturbances will probably not be detectable by this time
These trials are also relatively lax in their expectations. They consider a gestation/lactation trial successful if two-thirds of the females evaluated lose no more than 15 percent of their body weight by weaning. How about the one-third that lose even more? Ideally, females should return to their optimal weight by weaning if their nutritional status has been well maintained.
The claim that a pet food is 100% complete means that the food, even though it may have poor quality ingredients, meets AAFCO’s standards and it has accepted the food as a complete and balanced diet.
Even with these shortcomings, the AAFCO feeding trials are better than nothing and are far superior to relying on National Research Council (NRC) requirements alone. Click the links for more information on AAFCO and California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).
Now it’s up to the manufacturing company to produce a cute advertising campaign and a nutritious looking label that makes their food very appealing to the consumer to purchase. It is more economic and sexy for dog food companies to put their dollars into the marketing than into the quality of each individual ingredient. Don’t let pictures and adjectives on labels influence your selection; look at the ingredients list first, then research what each of those ingredients actually is.
Don’t try to compare dog foods on the basis of protein content. The percentage of protein in the diet is only a reflection of what is needed to supply essential amino acids. Additional protein only turns to fat or gets excreted in the urine. Don’t be fooled It is the quality of the protein provided, not the quantity, that makes the real difference in a dog food.
Pay attention to the ingredient list, even though it is hard to predict quality based on the terms used. For a canned product, there should be at least one animal-based protein source in the first two ingredients listed. For dry foods, an animal-based protein source should be one of the first three ingredients. This is a good clue as to how appropriately the diet has been formulated, because animal –based protein sources contain a better balance of essential amino acids. If meat or poultry meal is listed first on the label but the grains have been sub-categorized (e.g., cornmeal, kibbled corn, flaked corn), it is safe to assume that the manufacturer is trying to sell you a cereal-based diet but wants you to pay the price of a meat-based diet.
If vegetables or grains such as corn, wheat, rice, barley or soybeans are listed first on the ingredients list on the dog food bag, they may well be a source of protein, which you usually find in the lower economic brands of dog food.
Too much meat in the diet is not desirable, either. In dry dog foods, it is impossible to overload on meat because of the technological process involved. For canned foods, however, high meat content means low calcium. It also means that meat is providing most of the calories when a digestible carbohydrate would do a better and safer job. When canned foods contain a high percentage of meat, the companies must add calcium supplement to guard against calcium/phosphorus imbalance. Too high of a mineral concentration (ash) is also not good and probably implies that the ration contains a lot of bonemeal and poor-quality protein sources.
Buy commercial dog foods manufactured by a well-respected company that has contributed substantially to nutritional research in pets. These companies have the most to lose by distributing an inferior product because they have a reputation to protect. Fad diets and manufacturers will come and go, but the dog-food companies that intend to be around will be the ones most concerned with adequate nutrition.
Misty Pines carries three top quality diets; Nature’s Variety, Fromm and Chicken Soup for the Soul, which are providers of high quality foods in dry, canned and raw food diets. Puppies enrolled in the Misty Pines training program may receive a free 4lb bag of Fromm Heartland Gold puppy food and may bring in their empty bag as their coupon to receive another complimentary 4lb bag of food.
Start your puppy early on the road to health with quality diets found at Misty Pines.
Next month’s article: “Types of Dog Food.”