A Nutrition Challenge

A while back, on the original blog, I spent a week writing about selecting a dog food (here’s the first post in the nutrition series). Today I found out a certain brand of food was going to be releasing a “grain free” variety of their food and after looking at the ingredients, I was really upset. Although the food is grain free, the ingredients are sub par (particularly for the cost). It really irked me because this seemed like a really devious move by the company (though business savvy) to get customers back by jumping on the grain-free band wagon without actually improving their ingredients.

Average consumers are becoming a little more educated in their dog food selections–checking that meat is a first ingredient and some going as far as looking for grain-free options, but many do not have all the knowledge needed to evaluate the ingredients list as a whole (and know some of the ‘sneaky’ ways companies manipulate the ingredients list). This food may look really good to a consumer at a cursory glance but the ingredients list is lacking. I guess it just bothers me that people who made a switch to a better food may be duped to go back to this food because it’s now “grain free” even though the ingredients quality isn’t very impressive.

Let’s, for a moment, take a look at the ingredients list of of this food…

Chicken, Pea Protein Concentrate, Potato Starch, Dried Potato, Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat, Dried Beet Pulp, Flaxseed, Chicken Liver Flavor, Powdered Cellulose, Lactic Acid, Cranberries, Apples, Peas, Carrots, Broccoli, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Vitamin E Supplement, Potassium Chloride, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, Taurine, Beta-Carotene, Phosphoric Acid, Rosemary Extract

Just looking at this list quickly it looks great, meat as the first ingredient, lots of fruits, lots of vegetables and vitamins. Unfortunately, the more one really studies the list the less appealing it seems and unless a consumer is really educated on canine nutrition and how to read the labels, they may miss some big pieces of information. Let’s look at the first 5 ingredients as listed on the bag:

1. CHICKEN –sounds good right? Well, when they weigh the ingredients to decide their order in the list, the “chicken” listed includes all the natural moisture but before they actually put the chicken into the kibble, it is dehydrated. As a result, the actual weight of the chicken going into the kibble would likely put it down to number 4 or 5 on the ingredients list.

2. Pea Protein Concentrate– PPC is a vegetarian source for protein. It is often used as an inexpensive protein source in livestock feed. There has been research done with salmon that indicate that feeding a diet high in PPC can lead to intestinal disease–there is NO research that I am aware of that shows the same response in dogs.

3. Potato Starch– Potato Starch is a very fine powder that is made from skinned potatoes that have been dehydrated and ground down (different from potato flour). Essentially this is just dried potato without the skin (and the skin does have nutritional value).

4. Dried Potato– Dried potatoes are simply dehydrated potatoes pieces

5. Chicken meal– Chicken that has been processed and cooked down to remove all moisture before being weighed.

When we take into account the first ingredient was weighed including moisture before it was added to the food, here’s what the first 5 ingredients probably look like:

1. Pea Protein Concentrate
2. Potato–without skin dehydrated and ground into a fine powder
3. Potato-with skin dehydrated
4. Chicken–(once dehydrated the first ingredient is probably in the 4th spot)
5. Chicken Meal–dehydrated and processed chicken

The food doesn’t look quite as good as it did before does it? Now it looks like a very starch heavy food that is lacking in meat protein sources. Although I wasn’t really hopeful that this company would come out with a quality grain-free food, after looking at the ingredients, my skepticism seemed to be confirmed.

I’m not saying grain-free is the way to go or that you shouldn’t feed XX brand of food. I just hope you take a gander at your dog’s food and evaluate it. For tips on evaluating your dog food, check out my previous blog post, Deciphering Dog Food.

Making an educated decision about what we feed our pets is important. Don’t blindly purchase food simply because someone has suggested it or you’ve used it for years–read the ingredients list and evaluate it for yourself.

  1. Great post, Tena!

  2. Are there any dog foods out there that can actually HARM your pup? It’s nice to have good, healthy options, but would they be allowed to sell food that does damage? (Honest question :D) Obviously, just like with people there are foods that are better than others but even somebody who is “blindly purchasing food” is still going to have some sort of nutritional value for their pup, yes?

    Like I said – honest question. I have seen a LOT lately about why some foods are not so great for your pup & my family has never been super picky about what ours get. Our last two pups lived to be 16 & 15 so I feel like we were doing something right šŸ˜›

    • Unfortunately, Jess there are things in some foods that I think can be dangerous (they are above the level of risk I want to expose my dogs to).

      Some foods use BHA/BHT/Ethoxyquin as a preservative. BHA/BHT are connected to a variety of side effects from dry skin and allergies all the way to kidney and liver function problems (potentially resulting in death) and research has indicated they are carcinogens–most countries have banned their use in human foods but that’s not the case for dog foods. Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative that some studies have indicated may be a carcinogen. It is regulated as a pesticide by the FDA if that gives you an idea about what type of chemical it isā€“so itā€™s one to be avoided, in my opinion. I do think feeding dog food and even treats with BHA/BHT/Ethoyxquin is a risk, and one that I’m not willing to take. I feel that it’s like smoking, sure there are some people who can smoke their whole lives without getting lung cancer but many more smokers will die of complications from lung/mouth/respiratory cancers.

      Another dangerous product in dog food is actually the culprit for some recent recalls (after dogs got sick) is corn/corn gluten/corn gluten meal. The vast majority of corn based products in dog food are made from the corn that is “not fit for human consumption.” Well what that means is that the corn could be moldy, rotten, or contaminated with things like petroleum (would you want to consume fuel?). When too much moldy corn is used in a dog food, it can become over run with aflatoxins. Like the name implies, these are naturally occurring and highly toxic organisms that can lead to some serious complications, cancer, and even death. About a month and a half ago FDA listed a recall for a bunch of dog foods for aflatoxin contamination and just 2 weeks ago another food was recalled for aflatoxin problems. Now it is totally LEGAL for there to be some aflatoxins in dog food (and even in human foods!!) but the amount is regulated (or supposed to be). Many times, however, the high levels of aflatoxins in pet food are not caught until dogs start getting sick. Dogs can get sick from long-term low/moderate exposure (which isn’t good since dogs need to eat every day) or a shorter term higher dose exposure. Whether or not a dog recovers depends on their exposure and how far along any liver damage may be or other side effects.

      Those are just two of the things that are in dog food that I feel can actually HARM dogs. I have some major concerns about “meat” and “meat meal” in dog foods because these sources of meat can be from sick livestock, parasite ridden road kill, rodents killed potentially with poison etc. But there is no documented research so I can’t say for sure that this “harms” dogs but i think it does have the potential.

      Dogs will not starve if they are fed low-quality foods, they will get their nutrition and needed calories (*if it is an AAFCO certified food) but they can be exposed to known carcinogens and toxic organisms that can cause a variety of serious side effects.

      • Thank you VERY much for taking the time to write that all out for me! Printing & taking to my parents tonight šŸ™‚ I assume a lot of that is true for kitties as well and they’ve got five right now!!!

        • It’s very similar for kitties. It’s almost more important for kitties to have a kibble that is full of meats not starches/grains because they are obligate carnivores which means they can not survive on a diet lacking in meat proteins. Kitties should also get at least some of their water from the moisture in food–well, kibble is lacking in moisture, so providing a canned or fresh or moist food is ideal. We have dry kibble out for the cats all day but feed them a wet-food meal at night so they are getting some of the water they need from their food.

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