Dog Food Safety

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by Mary Grace Mauneymmauney@mistermigs.com

March 7 is World Health Day, and this year the World Health Organization is focusing on food safety. Therefore, we at Mister Migs decided that it would be appropriate to talk about the healthiest, safest food choices for your dog.

Many people believe that a dog can eat anything. This is not so! While some pets are certainly happy to try, this doesn’t mean that it’s good for them. Different kinds of animals have different dietary needs and restrictions, and every animal within a breed or species will have individual needs of its own as well. While the exact specifications for your pet are something to work out with your vet or through further research of your own, we hope that this article will be a good guide to get your started!

Firstly, don’t trust advertising. Sure, a particular dog food brand may proclaim itself the best, but of course it does---every product does. A high price tag is no guarantee of quality either; many expensive and cheap brands alike contain harmful filler ingredients like cereal by-products, peanut shells, weeds, feathers, and other things that not only lack any nutritional value but can also be tough on your pet’s digestive system. Even worse, there can be toxic dyes, preservatives, and other dangerous substances. The boiled-down meat contained in the food often comes from unsafe sources, such as zoo animals, diseased or dying livestock, and even roadkill. That’s definitely not healthy for your pet!

So, how does one avoid such putrid foodstuffs despite their pretty packaging? The answer is to read the labels, and to read between the lines. Label claims like “Super Premium” “Choice” “Veterinarian Recommended” “Organic” “Natural” and so on are not regulated terms; there is no standard that must be met for a brand to use them, therefore they don’t mean much. If something is simply advertised as being “flavored” (beef-flavored, lamb-flavored, etc.) this does not mean that it in fact contains any of the ingredient in question; it merely has been flavored as such. The claim “Complete and Balanced” is, however, regulated, and a dog food must meet certain standards to display it on a label.

When reading the list of ingredients, check whether a specific type (beef, chicken, etc.) of meat or meal (dried and ground meat) is specified in the ingredients list, but avoid non-specific meat/meal or the word “by-products” as well as non-specific fat sources like “meat fat” or “lard” (look instead for Omega Three and Omega Six fat sources, which indicate a higher quality dog food). Avoid foods with too much grain or with unspecified grain sources; if your dog food contains grain at all, it should be things like rice, barley, and oats, not ground corn, soybean meal, or other such “filler” materials. While preservatives are a necessary evil, some are safer than others. Tocopherols (Vitamin E), and Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) are the good ones, while artificial preservatives, chemical additives, and sweeteners are bad news.

You’ll want to be sure that the ingredients are sourced locally from USDA inspected facilities, or from reputable countries. However, since this information is not available on the backs of cans or bags, you’ll want to turn to the web for research; there are many sites available that are dedicated to pet food safety. Check ‘em out—it’s just a Google away!