Editorial November 2015 Issue

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.

Comments (2)

CritterMama, I too am very concerned about what I feed my dogs. They are my babies!! And to the above article about what is in MY food, YES...I want to know every ingredient in MY food and my dog's food. It is my right to know and not only that, my health and my dogs' health depends on it!!
Several holistic vets have told me that NO Kibble is good, no matter what the ingredients! Even if it has all the good stuff in it, kibble is processed under extremely high heat. This "heat" destroys all the nutrients of the food. So, I guess, you might as well be feeding your dogs cardboard?? I suppose there is still some nutritional value, but why spend $70 on a bag of dog food and still not be giving your pup all the nutrients they need.
I am starting to make my own dog food and love that I found this site. Some of the posts here are giving me great ideas on how to give them all the nutrients that they need.
I will no longer be spending $70 every 3 weeks on food that does not give my dogs a balanced diet. I have decided that I can do that myself, probably for less money.

Posted by: gihutson | December 30, 2015 11:56 AM    Report this comment

The most interesting comment here is around mixing it up....in terms of different types of food for my dogs. Currently my Boxer/Pit Bull mix is experiencing some type of allergic reaction to God knows what. Vet has given us an anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic and Prednisone just in case it's a bee or wasp. The condition continues to come and go. Symptoms are skin redness everywhere including her gums turning bright red! The first round she was itchy and miserable. That has abated this time. We feed both dogs Blue brand dog food but not a recent change. She is getting ready to have surgery to repair her ACL and I really am worried about this condition being present during the procedure. So worried and at my wits end!

Posted by: CritterMama | November 8, 2015 1:47 PM    Report this comment

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