Find Proper Dog Food Nutrition and Diet Solutions
It shouldn’t be so difficult to learn exactly what’s in your dog’s food.
When WDJ first reviewed dog food, back in 1998, there was but a handful of companies making what we considered good foods. Seriously, I stretched to find five companies that had products that contained only good-quality ingredients – and more importantly, didn’t contain unnamed animal fats and meat by-products. And just about every question I asked a pet food company was answered with, “I’m sorry that’s proprietary information!”
The industry has come such a long way since then. There are dozens and dozens of good foods on the market today – and not only are the makers of the best ones proud to tell us where their products are made, but also, many of them have invited me to tour their plants, meet their executives and the plant workers and managers, and some have even taken me to see their ingredient suppliers. This sort of openness with a consumer advocate/critic of the industry is meaningful.
And yet, in my view, pet food makers still have a long way to go to completely earn the trust of the most discerning and demanding dog owners. I was sort of horrified to discover that many of the companies whose products I consider top-of-the-line didn’t have information at their fingertips regarding the typical nutritional content of their products. How could that be?
A number of times, we’ve been asked why we we’re so demanding and critical of pet food makers, and whether we hold the makers of our own food to the same sort of standards we demand for dog food. Do we need to know the provenance of every ingredient in our breakfast cereal? Do we want to know how much of every single nutrient is present in our spaghetti sauce?
Well, no. But there is a significant difference between the diet of most dogs and most humans: We eat a wide variety of foods; our dogs eat whatever we feed them, and most people feed their dogs the same type of food every day. If our bodies are lacking certain nutrients, we can act on a craving for a food that can supply us with those nutrients; we deny dogs the same opportunity. If we eat a diet that makes us feel unwell, we can at least explain to a doctor what we’ve eaten and how we feel, and she can most likely determine what the problem is.
In contrast, veterinarians are often educated to believe that all foods that are labeled as “complete and balanced” are nutritionally equivalent, even though the nutrient values for foods of a similar type are all over the place.
In my view, if a dog receives only one type of food every day, day in and day out, it had better truly be “complete and balanced,” containing appropriate amounts of the nutrients dogs need – not too little and not too much. The only way to determine this is to ask, “How much of all these nutrients actually are in your foods?” Lacking a prompt and confident answer in the form of the immediate delivery of a typical nutrient analysis, I wouldn’t recommend feeding a single product, or even a single company’s product. Personally, I’d try to hedge my bets and achieve some amount of “balance over time” by switching my dogs from one company’s foods to another with each and every can and bag.
Truly, it’s an exciting time to watch the pet food industry. The investment in innovation and quality control has never been higher, and I increasingly meet well-educated, passionate people who seem truly committed to producing safe, superior foods. I hope they will help lead the industry toward greater transparency in formulation, ingredient sourcing, testing, and more.