Features February 2012 Issue

Hallmarks of Quality Dog Food (What to Look For)

1. Lots of animal protein at the top of the ingredients list

Ingredients are listed by weight, so you want to see a lot of top quality animal protein at the top of the list; the first ingredient should be a “named” animal protein source (see next bullet).

2. A named animal protein

Chicken, beef, lamb, and so on. “Meat” is an example of a low-quality protein source of dubious origin. Animal protein “meals” should also be from named species (look for “beef meal” but avoid “meat meal”).

3. An animal protein meal in a supporting role when a fresh meat is first on the ingredient list

This is to augment the total animal protein in the diet. Fresh (or frozen) meat contains a lot of water, and water is heavy, so if a fresh meat is first on the list, another source of animal protein should be listed in the top three or so ingredients. Fresh or frozen meats do not contain enough protein to be used as the sole animal protein source in a dry food; they contain as much as 65 to 75 percent water and only 15 to 25 percent protein. In contrast, animal protein “meals” – meat, bone, skin, and connective tissue that’s been rendered and dried – contain only about 10 percent moisture, and as much as 65 percent protein.

4. Whole vegetables, fruits, and grains

Fresh, unprocessed food ingredients contain nutrients in all their natural, complex glory, with their fragile vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants intact. Don’t be alarmed by one or two food “fractions” (a by-product or part of an ingredient, like tomato pomace or rice bran), especially if they are low on the ingredients list. But it’s less than ideal if there are several fractions present in the food, and/or they appear high on the ingredients list.

5. A “best by” date that’s at least six months away

A best by date that’s 10 or 11 months away is ideal; it means the food was made very recently. Note: Foods made with synthetic preservatives (BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin) may have a “best by” date that is as much as two years past the date of manufacture.

What You Don’t Want to Buy:

1. Meat by-products or poultry by-products

Higher-value ingredients are processed and stored more carefully (kept clean and cold) than lower-cost ingredients (such as by-products) by the processors.

2. A “generic” fat source

Such as “animal fat.” This can literally be any fat of animal origin, including used restaurant grease and fats derived from roadkill. “Poultry” fat is not quite as suspect as “animal fat,” but “chicken fat” or “duck fat” is better (and traceable).

3. Added sweeteners

Dogs, like humans, enjoy the taste of sweet foods. Sweeteners effectively persuade many dogs to eat foods comprised mainly of grain fragments (and containing little healthy animal protein).

4. Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives (i.e., BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin)

The color of the food doesn’t matter to your dog. And it should be flavored well enough to be enticing with healthy meats and fats. Natural preservatives, such as tocopherols (forms of vitamin E), vitamin C, and rosemary extract, can be used instead. Note that natural preservatives do not preserve foods as long as artificial preservatives, so owners should always check the “best by” date on the label and look for relatively fresh products.

Comments (10)

The editor and contributors to WDJ work hard to research and provide accurate, authoritative information supported by well qualified veterinarians, behaviorists, trainers, and other dog professionals. WDJ neither publishes nor accepts revenue from advertising. WDJ is supported wholly by its subscribers. When you subscribe you become part of the enterprise -- not only do you start receiving hard copies of the newsletter, but you get full access to all previously published articles, the same access as those who have been WDJ subscribers for years.

So please don't complain about "teasers." If the excerpt you read sounds good and you want more -- subscribe -- do it for your dog.

Estie Dallett, JD, PMCT, PPG, APDT
Civil Dogobedience LLC
A strong supporter and subscriber.

Posted by: Estelina D | October 4, 2013 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Have always liked wdj but didnt like the teaser thing. I intended to renew m subscription so no big dealbut the teaser is a bit deseptive. :(

Posted by: PET PRUNERS GROOMING B | December 15, 2012 10:32 PM    Report this comment

"WDJ needs to look at all aspects of the food not just the ingredients - who developed the diet, what is there background, where the ingredients come from, and the track record of the company who is producing the products."

I have been a subscriber to the Whole Dog Journal for two years now and I appreciate all of the in-depth information they give to pet owners. This article is just scratching the surface- WDJ DOES look at all aspects of the diet. I'm posting a link to their 2012 "Approved Dry Foods List"

http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/15_02/features/Top-Dry-Dog-Food-Review-2012_20460-1.html

Melissa, Atlanta, GA

Posted by: Melissa T | August 2, 2012 11:07 AM    Report this comment

I am trying to find out about commercial foods best to buy. Where is the list?

Posted by: Unknown | July 27, 2012 8:20 AM    Report this comment

I wonder why recalls do not effect whether or not a company makes a quality product? What good is it when a meat is listed as the first ingredient if the third ingredient in contaminanted? WDJ needs to look at all aspects of the food not just the ingredients - who developed the diet, what is there background, where the ingredients come from, and the track record of the company who is producing the products. Helen L from PA

Posted by: Amy L | June 25, 2012 5:04 PM    Report this comment

your teaser is bs and so is your website

Posted by: Unknown | May 24, 2012 11:33 AM    Report this comment

Why aren't specific good and bad dog foods listed? I signed up for access to this sight and I am under the impression that you have to "subscribe" for a $20 fee to get specific information. Is this true?

Posted by: Unknown | May 16, 2012 6:43 PM    Report this comment

Why aren't specific good and bad dog foods listed? I signed up for access to this sight and I am under the impression that you have to "subscribe" for a $20 fee to get specific information. Is this true?

Posted by: Unknown | May 16, 2012 6:43 PM    Report this comment

I was drawn here by a teaser which advertised food reviews, but I cannot see them! What gives?

Posted by: Unknown | May 12, 2012 12:40 AM    Report this comment

I just came across your web site, it is great. The type print is wonderful for my older eyes. Keep up the great work. Thanks

Bob V, from Pa.

Posted by: Unknown | May 9, 2012 8:55 AM    Report this comment

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