Reading pet food labels, Part 1 – The Ingredient List

Do you know what your pet is really eating?  Pet food labeling is often a combination of deceptive marketing and misleading ingredient information.  This is the first part of a series of posts to provide some important tips on choosing the right food for your pet.

Part one, the ingredient list:

1. Read the ingredients every time you buy food, even if it is the same food each time. Why?  Ingredients change.  Pet food companies will often change ingredients in order to control costs, which may mean a decrease in quality or an addition of an ingredient that may not benefit your pet. Look for changes in ingredients, or ingredients that you do not understand – this is a way to add in fillers and ‘miscellaneous’ body parts.

2. Know what the ingredients mean.  True meat will be listed as such – chicken, beef, lamb, etc… and will consist of muscle and associated tissues ( this is the ‘meat’ that we buy and eat at the grocery store).  Meat-based meals and by-products will contain a variety of other body parts, which although not harmful, may not have significant nutritional benefit for your pet.

3. The order of ingredients.  Ingredients are listed in order of descending weight before processing.  High moisture ingredients such as meat may be listed first, but after processing are not actually the predominant ingredient in the food.

3. Which ingredients are best?  The fresher the better.  Pet food that use fresh meats, vegetables, and fruits are going to be the healthiest.  Grains, though not necessarily harmful in small amounts, should not be a primary ingredient in any food for a dog or a cat.

Bottom line – feed pet foods with ingredients that sound like real food – things you recognize and would eat yourself or feed your family.  Would you order ‘chicken by-product meal’ at a restaurant, or prepare it for dinner at home?  Probably not….then don’t feed it to your pets either.

Part 2 – Sifting through the marketing hype – what can you really believe?

Feeding your pet a healthy diet

Are you bewildered by the number of choices that are available when it comes to choosing a pet food for your dog or cat? Pet food manufacturers have created foods for different breeds, life stages, food sensitivities among many other categories. This has made choosing a pet food complicated, confusing, and unfortunately often unhealthy for your pet.

Regardless of age, breed or size, dogs are still dogs and cats are still cats. Although dietary needs may change in the case of specific medical conditions, basic nutritional needs will stay the same. Dogs and cats should be eating a meat-based, high moisture content diet.

Here are a few basic tips :

1. Avoid corn, wheat, soy and dairy in processed foods.

2. Feed a diet that has a high moisture content by adding equal amounts of water to dry food, or adding canned or fresh food to the diet.

3. The fresher the better:

  • Most fresh:  Raw food
  • More fresh:  Home-cooked or any healthy leftovers such as meat and vegetables
  • Fresh:  Canned commercial foods
  • Least fresh:  Commercial dry foods

You can easily do a combination of the the above by using a grain-free commercial canned and /or dry as a base and adding fresh food as you have it available – even healthy leftovers such as meat and vegetables are a great addition to your pet’s diet.

Caution:  In order to avoid teaching your pet to beg at the dinner table, always feed its meals in a separate dish and location.

Try adding a few pieces of fresh meat to your pet’s next meal and chances are he will love you for it!