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What is REALLY in your dog food- Part 1

Updated on February 25, 2013

dry dog kibble


dog food realities

So you are in the grocery store or big box supermarket and need to pick up this months supply of dog food. Going down the pet isle you confront the stark reality of all the dog food brands and labels. After picking up your bag and placing it in the cart or basket, you happen to glance at the ingredients label and see the following words: corn meal, Red No. 40, Poultry by-product meal, choline chloride, and defluorinated phosphate. What in the world!!! You cautiously put the bag back on the shelf and pick out a different bag that looks like it might be better for your dog and quickly leave the isle. Unfortunately my fellow dog owners this is what confronts the majority of dog owners in America, dog food that is pumped full of un-pronounceable words and high science language that it is quite scary. However, if you really do some serious digging into what you are feeding you beloved pooch, you will find out that it sounds a whole lot worse. In my three part series I will lead you through the right way to finding a quality dog food that will not send you scrambling from the pet food section in fear. In this first part we will explain those big words on the label and what they mean for your dogs health, the statistics behind the ingredients, and the ingredients themselves and where they come from. In part two we will discuss natural vs other, track record of the companies/brands and the differences between dry, semi-moist, and wet foods. Part three will cover the smell of dog food and my personal ranking system to help you find the best dog food for your dog. I will also include a ranking system for those other brands.Let us get started. (Please note, no bashing of any dog food brand or employee of any of the companies that makes dog food is intended.)

What does those words mean for you and your dog? Let's start with one that is in almost every generic dog food, Propylene Glycol. This compound which has been known to cause illness in both dogs and cats, is primarily used to maintain the right color, texture, and moisture content, thus inhibiting bacterial growth. This compound works on damaging the animals kidneys and causing kidney failure and other harmful maladies. Sodium Nitrate is also a chemical preservative and a red food coloring. It has been know to cause cancer from its very powerful substances called nitrosamines. Potassium Iodide, which is not a man made chemical per se, can be toxic if given in to large a quantities. An element that occurs naturally, it can cause thyroid issues in dogs and be harmful to dogs that have existing thyroid issues. In essence, if it sounds strange, it is probably going to be either a preservative or a coloring additives. These are not healthy for your dog. If you can't pronounce it, it probably is not good for your dog. Giving your dog food that has these ingredients would be like giving him a diet of Twinkies. You wouldn't do that, would you?

Statistics behind the ingredients:

Finding stats for what goes into dog food is very hard to come by as they are a very closely guarded secret by the pet food industry. Here are some of the ones that I was able to dig up:

  • The majority of all the generic pet foods are owned by five companies: Nestle, Del Monte, MasterFoods, Procter & Gamble, and Colgate-Palmolive.
  • These five companies raked in over $15 billion last year alone.
  • Almost all of the major dog shows (Westminster, National Dog Show, AKC/Eukanuba, etc) are supported, have supported, or heavily endorse these brands.
  • In the last 10 years, many of the major dog food recalls have been from these companies for excessive amounts of additives in the food.
  • In 2007, the deadliest recall by these five companies resulted in the sickening of over 17,000 dogs and many more cats, with mortality rate reaching 20%. The cause: melamine, a chemical used in PLASTICS AND FERTILIZERS, added to falsify the amount of protein that was in the food. The product came from China

One can find many more recalls if dig around in the major search engines of the Internet. The choice is up to you.

The ingredients themselves and where they come from.

The majority of the ingredients that are in the generic brand of dog food are going to be grain, something that is a a grain by product, and meat or bone meal byproducts. Yes, you heard me right, bone meal by-products. Very little meat is actually added to the kibble, and when I say meat I am only referring to the cattle, sheep, swine, and goats. Since both sheep and goats are rare in the processing plant, compared to the over 37 million cows and 100 million hogs, nearly all the meat by products com from these two species.Most of the meat is not the actual cuts like Tri-Tip steak or Boston butt, but the bruised, diseased, and non-human grades of the cuts. In addition to the grain and the "meat", producers add in all sorts of vitamins and minerals to make up for what would be in the food naturally. Almost always, the generic brand of dog food will have the first item listed on their as being either corn or some other grain or grain by-product. Most of these products come from the US but there have been some instances of ingredients coming from outside the US. But what about the natural brands? If you want to do a comparison between natural vs the other guys, stay tuned for part 2 of this series. And feel free to engage the comments section to add to the discussion, (just keep things clean and respectful)


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