Features February 2015 Issue

Next-Level Selection Criteria

For some dog owners, a better dry dog food is just one more step on a journey to finding the healthiest diet in the world for their dogs. It’s generally accepted among dog owners that this means a home-prepared diet comprised mostly of meat. Beyond this broad description, there isn’t consensus. Opinions vary about the supremacy of raw vs. cooked, using raw bones or other sources of dietary calcium, what sort of fat source is ideal, whether it’s advisable to include any grains or not (and if so, what kind and in what amounts), whether organic is healthier or not . . . . Name any concept in nutrition; its value and application to dogs is being debated.

So it makes sense that even when one journeys from the lofty heights of home-prepared diets, back down to the kibbled valley floor, there is debate here, too. Keep in mind that (despite my tongue-in-cheek heights-and-valley metaphor) the vast majority of dogs in this country eat dry dog food, so there are even more opinions out there about kibble than any other type of dog food.

Now, stir in a lot of scientific data and medical opinions; there have been far more nutritional studies and feeding trials conducted on kibble than any other type of canine diet.

So, if you are one of the majority of dog owners who have chosen to feed kibble – but you are committed to finding and feeding the best possible kibble that exists – you will probably employ more than the basic selection criteria outlined on page 6. You may want to investigate some of the following aspects of dog-food formulation, ingredient sourcing, and manufacturing. Just keep in mind that the relative value of all of these lines of investigation, and anyone’s ability to confirm the veracity of a company’s answers, are debatable, as well.

In-depth questions for dog-food companies:

Where do your ingredients come from – are any of them sourced from outside of the U.S.? Which ones: animal proteins and fats, oils, carb sources, herbs or other botanicals, vitamins and minerals? Which ingredients do you use that are so-called “human grade” (the legal term is “edible”) before they arrive at your manufacturing facility? (Once an ingredient arrives at a pet-food plant, it can no longer be legally referred to as “edible” – which makes it difficult, if not impossible, to verify these claims.) Do you use any organic ingredients? What about genetically modified ingredients?

Where are your foods made? In your own plant, or are they made by a contract-manufacturer (also known as a co-packer)? What sort of certifications have been earned by the plant? If your products are co-packed, what sort of oversight does your company employ to ensure the ingredient sourcing and the manufacturing process are accomplished to your specifications?

What tests are employed in your manufacturing facility to ensure manufacturing accuracy and ingredient- and finished-product safety? Do you employ a “test and hold” system to prevent the release of products before test results have been returned? What tests are conducted, and how long are the products held before being released? If my dog has a health problem that my veterinarian thinks might be related to your food, or there is a recall of this food, who will I be able to speak to? What will your company do for me and my dog?

Be advised that some companies won’t even have a person who will answer your call, or return your emailed inquiry – and that is a valuable selection criterion in itself! To read the extensive list of approved dry dog food companies that meet all of the Whole Dog Journal's selection criteria, look no further than the "Whole Dog Journal's Approved Dry Dog Foods List 2015."

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