Are you one of the growing number of dog owners who are concerned about what their dog is eating? Ensuring that your dog has a balanced and nutritious diet is one of the best things that any owner can do for the health of their companion. Not only does it strengthen their immune system, but a good diet can also keep their coat shiny and their digestive system in good health.
Unfortunately, a plethora of dog food brands can make the decision as to which dog food to purchase even more difficult than it already is. The bags are often plastered with a variety of sayings and eye-catching buzzwords, such as “Complete and balanced nutrition” and “All natural wholesome ingredients.” However, if you’re prepared to venture beyond all of the marketing hype and explore a little deeper, there are a number of things that you can look for to ensure that your pooch gets nothing but the best!
Which Ingredients Should You Avoid?
Unfortunately, many dog food brands found right on the shelves of your favorite pet store or supermarket are loaded with ingredients that can really have a negative impact on your dog’s health. Attempting to analyze all of the ingredients in your dog’s food can be overwhelming for event the most dedicated owner, so to make things easier here are several ingredients that you should look to avoid:
- Propylene Glycol. If you’re familiar with auto care, then the chances are that you already know what this is. For those who don’t know, this is a major ingredient in anti-freeze! This ingredient is present into many well-known dog food brands, and is added to prevent the growth of bacteria and reduce moisture. However, dogs do require a certain amount of intestinal bacteria to help their bodies digest and absorb their food. When they consume this ingredient, it reduces the amount of this “good” bacteria that they are able to produce. In addition, propylene glycol can also cause dogs to develop intestinal blockages, and may be a contributing factor to certain cancers.
- Ethoxyquin. This particular ingredient is fairly common because it is used as a preservative. Despite its popularity though, it is still unhealthy for dogs. As a matter of fact, ethoxyquin was originally developed as a herbicide. As awareness about the impacts of nutrition on canine health has increased over the years, some veterinarians have noted that ethoxyquin is linked to a variety of different illnesses. Some of these illnesses include kidney and liver cancer, leukemia, blindness and immune deficiency syndrome. It is certainly in your dog’s best interests for you to avoid this dangerous ingredient in their food.
- Corn Syrup. Corn syrup is commonly used in dog food to help sweeten it up, making dogs more attracted to it. This may sound harmless but over time it can contribute to diabetes, insidious weight gain, hyperactivity and even changes in mental behavior.
- Corn. Corn is used by dog food manufacturers as filler to ‘bulk up’ their food, primarily because it is very cheap. In small doses corn is typically harmless, however care does need to be taken with any foods that feature it as an ingredient, as it can develop mold and fungus which, in turn, may cause life-threatening illnesses.
- BHA/BHT. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated-hydroxyanisole (BHA) are two ingredients that are equally dangerous and to be actively avoided. BHA serves as a preservative and has been linked to many cases of kidney damage in dogs. Commonly found in food for humans as well, BHT is also used to prevent food from spoiling. The bad news is that it has been linked to various cancers in the digestive system, in both humans and dogs.
What Should You Be Looking For?
Now that you know what to avoid when purchasing food for your dog, let’s take a look at the key things that you should be looking for in their food. Here are some tips and tricks on choosing the healthiest and most nutritious dog food for your canine companion:
- Check the First Ingredient. The first thing that you should check when shopping for dog food is the first ingredient on the list. Believe it or not, you can tell a lot about the value of a food simply by taking a few seconds to read the first ingredient- this also applies when you’re shopping for ‘people food!’. You should favor options that have a meat, such as lamb or chicken, listed as the first ingredient because this means that it contains more protein than preservatives and unhealthy fillers. Do your best to steer away from varieties that have wheat, soy, animal fats or by-products as the first ingredient.
- Natural Preservatives. The best dog foods are the ones that contain natural preservatives or even better, the ones that contain none at all. Some examples of natural preservatives include ascorbate (vitamin C) and tocopherols, which is also known as vitamin E.
- Consider Grains. One of the biggest controversies in discussions about dog food is the use of grains. Grains are a common ingredient in most dog foods on the market. They are positive because they are a carbohydrate that dogs can use as a great source of energy. On the other hand, there are many owners who refuse to feed their dogs any kind of grain because they are concerned that they may be damaging to their health. Some dogs can be allergic to grains and gluten- if you are at all in doubt or concerned about this, please consult with your veterinarian. Otherwise, as long as they are not one of the primary ingredients, grains shouldn’t be an issue.
- Check for Adequacy. Be sure to read through the dog food labels to find a nutritional adequacy statement. Something along the lines of “This food offers complete and balanced nutrition for all life stages” is vital to look for. Furthermore, if your dog is a senior or puppy, or if they are suffering from a health issue such as obesity, you may want to consider purchasing a dog food that specifically targets their age, body type or illness.
Although it is a decision that is so often made lightly in the food aisle, dog owners should really take the time to choose a quality food product for their dog. The bottom line is that in order to find the best food for your dog, you need to know what to look for. Take on the help of the previously listed tips and tricks as well as the information about which ingredients to avoid and you will be well on your way to an educated and wise dog food purchase!