Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Doggy Diet Details

After the pet food recall scare of 2007, many pet owners have become increasingly interested in just exactly what it is that they should feed their pets. Some pets owners are feeding homemade diets and raw food diets in an effort to have total control over the food their pets eat. Many books and articles have been written on how to better feed our pets, but one of the best resources for deciding what is right for your pet can be found using the Whole Dog Journal (WDJ).

Although WDJ is a huge proponent of homemade and raw food diets, they realize that this type of feeding may not be right for all people and their pets. So not only do they consistently review books on canine nutrition and offer advice for "at home" feeders, they also review both dry and wet dog food on an annual basis.

The February 2011 issue reviews dry dog foods and outlines the types of ingredients a pet owner wants to look for on the labels of the pet food they are considering.

First, a bit about labels. According to the FDA rules, ingredients must be listed in order by weight with the heaviest ingredient at the top of the list, and then the next heaviest and so on. Additionally, these ingredients must contain at least 95% of the meat ingredient that is named. For example, if the first ingredient on a dog food label reads chicken for dogs, then, 95% of this particular ingredient must be what it says it is before water or condiments are added. When water and condiments are added as part of processing, the main ingredient (in this case chicken) must still represent 70% of the named product. The rules grow more complex and complicated as you read on. Note that animal protein may not always be at the top of the food ingredient list. For more information about dog food labels click here:

According to the Whole Dog Journal the components that you should look for on a dog food label are as follows:

1) Named animal protein - look for a specific named animal protein such as beef, chicken, duck, veal, salmon, etc. Be wary of proteins with non-specific generic names, such as "meat" or when a specific animal protein is not on the top of the ingredient list.

2) A named animal meal is essential when the primary protein source is a fresh meat. Water that occurs naturally in fresh or frozen meat can make the product heavier, thereby driving the ingredient to the top of the dog food ingredients list due to its total weight. In contrast an animal meal contains very little water. Animal meal can be used in a secondary role, increasing the total protein content when taken together with the primary ingredient. Again, this animal protein meal should be "named", such as chicken meal or beef meal and should not have a non-specific name such as "meat" meal.

3) Vegetables, fruits and grains should be incorporated into the dog food in their "whole" or natural form with minimal processing. Keeping them in their natural state keeps the vitamins and nutrients found in the ingredients intact. Remember, that these ingredients should not come before the animal protein source on the dog food label, but should be used to supplement the protein source.

4) Next, WDJ recommends staying away from foods with meat by-products, added sweetners, artificial preservatives and artificial colors.

5) Pay attention to the best buy date on your pet's food. WDJ recommends looking for foods with best buy dates as much as 10 to 11 months from the date of purchase. This is a sign that the food is very recently made. Be careful to check for artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin) which can extend the life of pet food for up to two years.

6) Finally, discuss your pet's nutritional requirements with a veterinarian. Nutrition has a huge impact on the health of your pet, so your veterinarian's input and understanding of your pet's nutrition is essential to the overall well-being of your furry friend. Certain foods or protein sources may not be the best for a pet suffering certain medical conditions such as diabetes kidney or bladder stones, irritable bowel syndrome or other chronic conditions, so make sure your vet is aware of the diet your pet is eating.

When switching to a new food, remember to do it slowly over the course of a few days to make sure that no stomach upset occurs. Also, remember that the amount you feed is important too. I've found that the amount I feed my dog varies based on the food my dog eats. I recently changed diets for my senior dog and went from feeding him 9 cups a day to 2 cups per day. No kidding!! So read the label, and use it as a guideline. Always feed for the weight your pet should be not the weight that he is (especially if he is overweight). Then, consider how much your pet exercises and his/her metabolism and adjust upward or downward in half cup increments (if you have a Lab) to find the amount that keeps your dog fit and at a lean body weight.

One of the most rewarding aspects of rescue work is watching the transformation that takes place in a dog once he or she is given proper nutrition. There is a noticeable difference in almost every physical aspect of the dog, so we can only imagine that good things are happening internally as well. It's that important.

1 comment:

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