Dog Food Ingredients are, for me, where the product makes or breaks it!
This is the only true place that we have any chance to unravel just how good, or bad, the dog food we are considering is, for quality of ingredients.
Too often the very "cleverly crafted" label makes "the sale" and the ingredient list is not even looked at....WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!
I will show you my very easy to understand method for selecting a dog food that will enable you to accept, or reject, a product within seconds!
In these dog food ingredients pages you will no doubt get angry, as to what is allowed to be put into your dogs food!
Time for "Dog Food Detective" school!
**PLEASE NOTE** After reading this you may want to change the food you are feeding. When changing from one food style (or quality of food) to another do so over a number of feeds, to allow the dogs system to adapt to the change.
Example: Day (1) feed 10% new with 90% old day (2) 15% new and 85% old then a 25% - 75% mix then 40% then 60% next 80% finally 100%. That may be a bit of a nuisance but your dog will not get an upset stomach.
Okay let's go forward now and look closely at ingredients.
First we will look at what I DO NOT WANT to find in the dog food ingredient list. If I see any of the following I reject the product, and my reason for doing so is alongside.
My reasons have been formed from what I have seen through my "search and research" into dog food ingredients, and I deem that my dogs will be safer, and better off, without them.
I am far more comfortable with being overly safe, than deeply sorry!
ETHOXYQUIN. Preservative. Potential Cancer causing agent, is also suspect in allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems. This preservative is often used with fish and many manufacturers are now showing their fish recipes as "Ethoxyquin Free"
BHA. Preservative. Banned for humans because of links to Cancer.
BHT. Preservative. Another one Banned for humans because of links to Cancer.
PROPYLENE GLYCOL. Banned in cat food (causes anemia) still allowed in dog food.
PROPYL GALLATE. Possible Cancer link.
RENDERED MEAT Commonly referred to as "4D product" which means it is ANY source of MAMMAL meat - Dead, Dying, Disabled and EVEN DISEASED! Meat declared unfit for human consumption, waste meat and any out of date meat product from supermarkets, restaurants etc.!
Rendering is a very contentious area as the mammal could be infected with anything, or it could even contain some form of poison!
Argument rages over euthanased cats and dogs being "rendered".
Rotting road kill, and farm animals, are also an acceptable inclusion!
Another argument against rendered meat is " everything gets put in" i.e. any packaging, wrapping material, plastic ear tags etc. as the "preparation" process shreds, slices and dices everything!
ANIMAL FAT. As opposed to a "named" fat i.e. "chicken fat".
"Animal Fat" does not require any explanation as to the source of the fat, and can therefore be, and very likely is, but not restricted to, the fat skimmed from the top of rendering vats. Old grease and fat from restaurants, fish and chip cooking and also from food take-away premises is acceptable!
MEAT and BONE MEAL. This is another "term" used for rendered meat, (4Ds) as is MEAT MEAL, and BY PRODUCT MEAL
POULTRY MEAL. All the left over bits from poultry slaughter, feet, legs, intestines, heads - including beaks and eyes! (do not confuse with named poultry i.e. Chicken Meal, which is more than okay!)
BY PRODUCTS. It could mean anything!
Hang in here with me, we are around half way through!
CORN. It is not easily digested by dogs. Thought to be linked to allergy and yeast infection problems.
CORN GLUTEN MEAL. Waste product of corn after all the good bits have been extracted.
BREWERS RICE. It's a filler made from small milled fragments of waste rice kernels. Do Not Confuse With Brewers Dried Yeast which is perfectly okay.
CELLULOSE. It's a filler under the guise of "fibre" and is made from the waste pulp of fibrous plant material, hell that's sawdust isn't it?!
SOYBEAN MILL RUN. Another use of waste material as a filler, this time it is the ground outer shells of soy beans. Note there are schools of thought that warn SOY of any description SHOULD NOT be used, as there are allergy concerns.
BEET PULP. The use of beet pulp is of a HIGHLY CONTROVERSIAL nature.
Argument against this FILLER is that it is used to slow down the transition of rancid ANIMAL FAT, which, in itself, is of dubious origin.
Beet Pulp is accused of causing kidney and liver stress, and is also accused of causing allergy and ear infection problems.
WHEAT. Believed to be the No.1 cause of dog allergies.
PRESERVATIVES. To me it is very suspicious when preservatives are not named. I suspect they are hiding the ones that have negative overtones, because of Cancer links, such as BHT, BHA etc.
Sulphur Dioxide. This is another dangerous preservative that if used in unregulated amounts can kill your dog because it depletes Thiamine which is essential for animal well being.
Additives. There is a range of unwanted additives which are covered in more detail (along with other information) in the Bad Food section of this website. This link will open a new window;
That's my current DANGER LIST of dog food ingredients!
HOW and WHY they are "approved" as dog food ingredients, when some are so obviously risky, is beyond me!
I have also been SHOCKED to find that so much, and so many, undesirable inclusions are listed, by weight, as the Major Ingredients in our dogs food.
To my way of thinking there are a lot of waste ingredients that would qualify more for being dumped at the rubbish tip, rather than used as dog food!
Also be aware of what is known as "splitting" and "grouping".
These two methods are used to "impress" us with "quantity", of the dog food ingredients. I prefer to look for "quality". Here's how they "pad" out the ingredient list to our disadvantage
To begin with we will look at SPLITTING.
As we know dog food ingredients are listed by their weight content within the product. First named product equals the main ingredient, and so on in diminishing order.
For example let's say you read:
"Beef, Beef Meal, Brown Rice, Chicken meal".
All is fine there because you have "one serve" of rice in the ingredients, before getting to Chicken Meal.
NOW lets' do some "splitting"!
This time you read:
"Beef, Beef Meal, Brown Rice, White Rice, Rice, Rice Bran, Rice Gluten, Rice Flour, Chicken Meal".
"Brown Rice" is still the third main ingredient BUT I suggest you will probably just think the "rice" is being broken down into "types" included, which is far from the truth!
You are now getting "SIX SERVES" of rice, in different formats, before Chicken Meal!
See how, in the above examples, the rice content has been "maximized", and the "Chicken Meal" content "minimized".
Your major content is no longer beef, and beef meal, because by "splitting" rice into different categories their SUM TOTAL will now exceed the previous two ingredients!
Basically you are buying RICE, and derivatives thereof, as your dog food!
Just in case you are wondering Yes, it's legal, but in my book it is not ethical. I am sure you do not like being deceived either!
GRAIN GROUPING. is our next consideration
Again this is done to "pad" out the dog food ingredient listing, and does very much the same job as "splitting", in as much as it allows maximum inclusion of cheaper ingredients, to bolster the overall weight of the dog food.
Whilst we are on grains there are plenty "schools of thought" saying dogs should not have grains, as it would not be in their hereditary diet.
They may have a point as I cannot imagine a Gray Wolf (ancestor to the domestic dog) rushing off to the local field of wheat for a meal. Give them meat every time!!
It depends on what goes before the grains, on the ingredient list, but I will back it in that "grain grouping" will outweigh the "named meat" every time!
Time for a quick re-cap of your Dog Food Detective training!
1) You know what I WILL NOT ACCEPT in dog food ingredients, under any circumstances. To accept is to put my dogs at risk!
2) You also know I DO NOT ACCEPT "splitting". It's cheap product ingredients used for "padding" the quantity look.
3) Also you know that "grouping" is as bad as "splitting" and that it is NOT ACCEPTABLE EITHER.
Number four on our "detective" list is not too hard, so, just before we head into some dog food comparisons, I will tell you another criteria I use when looking at dog food ingredients.
A research study at the Purdue University has shown that if fat is included within the first four ingredients, of dog food, it is a factor in life threatening BLOAT, which is extremely painful for the dog, and requires surgery.
Bloat is what happens when fat enlarges the stomach, which then twists on itself. Bloat is to be considered as an emergency problem.
So the RULE that I use is NO FAT, as an ingredient, within the first four ingredients listed.
4) I look for at least 4 "meat" ingredients, plus at least another ingredient or two, before I get to "Chicken Fat". In some cases oil is used instead of chicken fat. If it is oil then I prefer to see Sunflower Oil, or a herring fish oil.
I make sure the chicken fat is preserved with "natural preservatives" such as vitamin C (ascorbate) or vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) NOT either BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin, or anything just listed as "preservatives".
I will not accept Animal Fat or Poultry Fat.
You now know how I evaluate a dog food ingredient list, to weed out what is right for my dogs.
CONGRATULATIONS - YOU ARE NOW EQUIPPED TO BE A "HOME GROWN" DOG FOOD DETECTIVE!
Some dog food comparisons are coming up.
Two are high profile products that I stopped using IMMEDIATELY.
Two are products that I am very comfortable with.
Three others are well known products.
Dry dog food is "under our scrutiny", purely because it is the major selling type of dog food, plus two of these products I have used in the past and I "dumped". In my opinion they contain harmful ingredients.
I am currently using one of the products, that I refer to as "I am very comfortable with".
I also think it is reasonable to assume that the level of quality we find in the dry dog food ingredient list, will be a fair indication of the level of quality we will find in the same manufacturers canned dog food products.
HERE WE GO on how I do my DOG FOOD COMPARISONS, when considering dry dog foods. I always compare the Dog Food Ingredients listed on the label.
Pedigree was the first "vet recommended" product I used and in those days that was not because the vet was getting any financial benefit, as the product was not available at the clinic.
Dog Food Ingredients are listed on the label in order of weight included within the product. When you see (!!), after an ingredient, you will know I'm not impressed!
PEDIGREE ADULT. (Mars)
Meat and Meat BY PRODUCTS (!!) (that's a rendered (4Ds) inclusion as the main ingredient!)Then they either cannot make up their mind, or they want to leave their options wide open, by listing the next ingredient as: Wheat (!!) &/or Sorghum &/or Barley (wheat is not good, the other two are okay) Next is Wheat bran (!!) Beet pulp (!!) Preservatives are not named (!!)
I've seen enough BAD stuff in this product for me to reject it! I stopped feeding my dogs this product immediately.
HILLS PRESCRIPTION DIET. CANINE t/d SMALL BITES (Colgate-Palmolive)
Brewers Rice (!!) (a filler as a main ingredient!) Ground Whole Grain CORN (!!) Chicken by product meal (!!)( that's rendered (4Ds) and low cost) Powdered Cellulose (!!) I think it would be better described as sawdust! Pork fat, Soybean Mill Run (!!) a waste product and it's a "no thanks" to having Soy included, Soybean oil(!!) HANG ON... there is NO MEAT at all in this product (!!!!)
I "dumped" this product when I found out what the ingredients were!
HERE COME A COUPLE OF PRODUCTS THAT REALLY IMPRESS ME, with their dog food ingredient list, AND I AM SURE YOU WILL SEE WHY!
I am very comfortable with these two products.
ORIJEN ADULT. (Champion Petfoods) (Not available in Australia - it's a long story!)
That is 10 ingredients before we get to Chicken Fat, of which 7 are MEAT!
That would be good enough on its' own but look at the superb ingredients following Chicken Fat! This is a VERY HIGH QUALITY product.
INNOVA. EVO Small or Large Bites (Natura Pet Products) (Available in Australia through Pets Paradise, Pets R Fun, Pet Goods Direct)
Turkey, Chicken, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Potatoes, Herring Meal, Chicken Fat, Natural Flavors, Egg, Apples, Tomatoes. Other ingredients include carrots, garlic, cottage cheese, and alfalfa sprouts.
Here there are 6 ingredients before Chicken Fat, 5 of which are MEAT! We then get a heap more quality ingredients to follow, making this ANOTHER HIGH QUALITY product.
Quality dog food ingredient lists, like the above two examples, are true value for your hard earned money!
Now let's look at what can be found in the other major manufacturers dog food ingredient lists.
PURINA ONE. CHICKEN and RICE FORMULA (Nestle)
Chicken, Rice, Poultry Meal (!!) rendered (4Ds) product, Corn gluten Meal (!!) Soy Meal (!!) Sorghum, Wheat (!!), Corn (!!) Animal Fat (!!) By now I guess you know that I would not even consider this product!
I wouldn't class lamb digest as a "MEAT" but the first ingredient is.
I would consider that this products' grains might outweigh the meat but there are none of my (!!) ingredients listed, however there are definately better options out there and one of those would be my choice!
Just one more major manufacturers list, of dog food ingredients, to come and I think you will have a very solid understanding of how I read them!
IAMS. PRO ACTIVE HEALTH ACTIVE MATURITY (Proctor and Gamble)
You are now aware of how I look at, and consider, the food I feed my dogs.
By looking at the dog food ingredients list on the label I can, within a heartbeat, determine whether to put it down or carry on reading!
There are plenty of good products available. I know that, having got this far, (WELL DONE, it's been a stretch with so much to consider!) you will also know how I make a choice based on quality dog food ingredients.
Your dog may not accept a change in food immediately (mind you my dogs had no hesitation!) so it may be a case of putting some of your "new" with the current food, as you change over.
You will be able to reduce your current brand, in stages, and eventually fully replace it with your new selections.
Consider giving your dog some variety by changing recipes every now and then. If your dog is anything like my dogs your dog will love it!
Better quality food will cost you a bit more although my dogs require less food than before. In fact be careful not to over feed, otherwise your dog will put on weight! Read the feeding instructions.
Other pluses are probably going to be the same for your dog, as I have found in mine: more energy ( I've got a 16 year old who at times just wants to play like a youngster!), better skin colour, great coat, and alertness. YOU WILL NOTICE A DIFFERENCE!
Your dog can look forward to a healthier and longer life, now that you have become a Dog Food Ingredient Detective!