We’ve had a LOT of mail, email, and phone calls since we published our dry dog food review last month, mostly from people who wanted more information. We are thrilled that people are finally learning to be concerned with the food their dogs eat. We’re also pleased that a large percentage (perhaps a full three-quarters) of the people who contacted us asked, “What about the three foods that were on your list last year (Beowulf’s Back to Basics, Solid Gold’s Hund ‘N Flocken, and Wysong) that weren’t on your list this year?” What loyal readers! You guys are all over it!
To answer the question for all three foods: They still meet all our criteria; they are still good foods. We like them! We like them! We really like them!
Develop your critical eye
However, just because a food is not on WDJ’s “Top 10” list does not mean it is not a good food. We have striven to “teach you to fish” . . . and then handed you a few fish, too, just to get you started. But we don’t want you to think these are the only good foods out there. And we don’t want you to blindly buy any of the foods on our list of favorites because they are “the best”; there is no single food that is good for every dog.
We want to teach you to recognize the hallmarks of good foods – whole meats, present in the first three ingredients, whole grains, whole vegetables. We want you to be able to look at any dog food label and be able to instantly detect signs of lowered quality: less-expensive “generic” sources of protein and fat (such as “animal fat,” rather than “beef fat,” or “poultry meal,” rather than “chicken meal”); meat by-products of any kind; meat sources low on the order of ingredients; inclusion of multiple food “fragments,” castoffs from the human food industry; sweeteners (which can attract dogs to poor-quality food); and, of course, artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors.
We’re trying to “teach you to fish” – to teach you to recognize good foods – so you can conduct your own in-store label review before buying the food and trying it out on your dog. (We’re puzzled about the company that has defended their food, which we put on our “Not Recommended” list, on the basis that we “assessed the label and not the food.” Isn’t what’s on the label what’s in the food?)
(Speaking of our “Not Recommended” list: We apparently listed one food there in error. According to the makers of Natural Life, their foods no longer contain poultry meal, meat meal, or animal fat, and their newest labels reflect this. Unfortunately, at the time we conducted the research for our article – and even as we go to press with this issue – the company’s own web site was still reporting the old ingredients list.)
Your job is not over once you select a food, however. Then you have to watch your dog. Note his coat quality; energy level; presence or absence of vomiting, gas, diarrhea, or constipation; freshness of breath; and signs of any health or behavior problems. It doesn’t matter if WDJ, your veterinarian, your dog’s breeder, or anyone else calls a food the “best” in the world; if it doesn’t agree with your dog, switch!
Further, if your dog looks and feels great, and you’re feeding him something we haven’t named, or even, feeding him something on our “Not Recommended” list, don’t panic! How your dog looks and feels really is the most important thing. Some exceedingly healthy dogs can assimilate terrible foods and still look good. Count your blessings . . . and be prepared to upgrade if his health begins to deteriorate.
Another large chunk of our mail was from readers who wanted our opinion of certain foods, many of which we had never heard of. Response A: See the “teaching you to fish” lecture, previous paragraphs. You can do it! Hold up that label to our list of selection criteria, and you’ll be able to tell, at least, the difference between a junk, filler-filled food and a contender. Response B: Maybe we’ll have to start a “Food of the Month” column to keep abreast of the latest offerings . . . In the meantime, we’re preparing another article, to be published in a month or two, about some of the new foods you’ve introduced us to.
The balance of our mail seemed to be from newer readers. “How can you say that Science Diet is junk? My vet says it’s the best!” was a typical question from these readers. Our opinion that the Purinas, Science Diets, Iams, and Eukaneubas of the world are “junk food” is somewhat shocking to food neophytes, especially if your local pet store employees are calling them “premium foods” and charging big bucks for them! Don’t worry; we talk about dog food a lot, and you’ll soon see an underlying theme in most of our Case Histories. We can’t count the dogs we’ve heard about who were brought to the brink of death with a steady supply of these foods, and who were brought back to health with improved diets.
We still feel that the best food for dogs is real food. Why shouldn’t the food that sustains your family be able to sustain a dog? WDJ will continue to explain how and why to make and feed (or at least, supplement) your dog’s diet from scratch.