EVERY pet owner should know exactly what is in the food they are feeding their pets. If you have not looked at the ingredient list in your pet's food, I suggest you go get it right now and read the ingredient list. If the first ingredient is corn, ground corn, corn gluten meal or anything similar, my advice would be to throw it in the trash because there is no good nutritional value for your dog in it and you need to start looking for another food. You should not see the word "meat" at all. (Seeing meat and bone meal just makes me cringe!)
Instead you should see specific kinds of meat such as beef, chicken, lamb, turkey. They should be listed just as the name or meal such as chicken meal. They should be the first ingredient listed or at the very least, one of the top 3. Any further down the ingredient list means there is hardly any in there. You should not see the word "by-products". You should not see BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) or
ethoxyquin. All 3 are used as preservatives and have been linked to cancer. Instead you should see "natural" preservatives such as Vitamin C (ascorbate) or Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols). The food should not be multicolored. While it might look more pleasing and "pretty" to us, it just means it filled with more cancer causing color dyes and/or sodium nitrate. Check your labels for both. These are the bare minimums that you should be aware of when feeding your pets. All pet owners should read the following article by the Animal Protection Institute: Get the Facts: What's Really in Pet Food.
For many years I didn't really give pet food much thought. Like most people I just picked up some food each week at the grocery store and many times I even picked one of the cheaper brands. Hey, all packages say "complete nutrition for your pet" so they must be
fine. Right?? When I got my great dane I was more concerned about nutrition because of how big these puppies grow and how many health problems they can have and started feeding a better quality dog food but I still fed my cats grocery store food though I started making sure I picked up Purina because they are such a big, well-known company so their food must be good, right?. Then when I was working at the vet's office I started becoming even more aware of the different foods and the effects they could have on our pets.
As I started learning more I realized how little I knew and how many false assumptions I had made. in part due to the television and magazine ads I saw. At that point I moved onto better quality foods. Iams was the big name back then and of course there was that "special" food that could only be bought at the vet's, Science Diet. The vets were always prescribing that so it must be terrific!
After I began my pet sitting business I joined a number of national organizations and groups with different pet professionals. Nutrition was always a big topic. I started listening to stories and reports from many different people. I started researching and reading everything I could find out about pet food. I learned how to read a pet food label - what ingredients I should look for and different labeling terms used by companies and what they really meant. I found out that those delicious looking scenes of fresh cut beefs and fresh vegetables that the TV commercials were showing were completely deceiving! Wow!! What an eye opener!!
I was appalled when I learned some of the disgusting things that could be included in pet food and how little regulation there was on it. I learned that my hands were often greasy after touching dry food because of the rancid fat sprayed on the kibble. I learned about all the chemical preservatives in many of the foods and read about the theories relating this to the increase of cancer in our pets today. I learned that Hill's (the makers of Science Diet) has ties with the vet schools. I actually read the ingredient list on some of the prescription diets and was shocked. They charged that much money for that?! I found out that Iams had been bought out by Proctor & Gamble. At first we thought it was good because it was now available in grocery stores but then we found out that the ingredients had changed.
I also learned about raw food diets and why they are becoming so popular today. There are different versions of "raw" diets and they grow in popularity every day as they are based on what dogs were meant to eat. There are lots of good websites and yahoo groups out there to help people get started. It's actually quite easy. I feed my dog Xena dehydrated raw food from The Honest Kitchen. You just mix it with hot water for a nice warm meal. She loves it and is thriving.
At first I didn't think I could afford to feed these high quality foods to my pets. I had 6 cats and a dog after all. They ate a lot of food. Then I found out that I didn't need to feed as much food as the better food was not filled with all that useless crap (that they mostly pooped out!). I also found out how
much healthier they would end up being. First that meant less vet visits and I knew they could be very expensive. Also I wanted my pets around as long as they could be so I wanted to give them the best chances of a long, healthy life. I also saw a huge difference in the general well-being of my pets. I saw their energy level increase, a spring to their step, shinier coats and a brightness in their eyes and no more urinary infections for my cat that continued to have issues with the vet prescibed diet and I knew I had made the right decision.
Their coats became silky and shiny and they had less itching and skin issues went away. It just made sense! Cats are carnivores and almost ALL of the grocery store foods started off with grains (like ground yellow corn!!) as one of the first few ingredients. Cats (and dogs) were meant to eat meat - not corn! As I realized what was really in the cheaper foods I soon came to the conclusion, How could I NOT feed my beloved pets a good quality food?!? Some people give the excuse, "But my dog (cat) only likes such and such brand." Many kids would also choose cheese curls over veggies too but that doesn't mean that's what they should be eating.
Here is a list of foods that are highly recommended by some well-known pet journals and others:
Taste of the Wild
Eagle Pack Holistic Select
Natural Balance Ultra Premium
Castor & Pollux Organics
Dr. Fosters & Smith - Chicken & Brown Rice
Some foods vary depending on which formula you buy. Some under the same brands can vary quite a bit.
A good local place to buy food is Lancaster Agway on Rte. 70.. Another good place, further away but worth the drive, is Dave's Soda & Pets in Hadley, MA. They have everything there, a very large variety of excellent foods and their own brand of dry dog & cat food is pretty good too!
There is also The Pet Source at 117 Great Rd. in Stow, MA, The Pet Barn on Main St. in Holden, MA and Peterborough Agway in Peterborough, NH. PLEASE do NOT buy pet food or ANY products from any store selling puppies! You do not want to support those horrible puppy mills in any way.
Recently Petco has started carrying SOME higher quality food. They have an aisle with some of the foods listed above.
Good Links to Read More:
Dog Food Rating Chart