(From: dog Food guide)
If you spoke to five different veterinarians or animal nutritionists, you would get five different answers in regard to the dog food ingredients that are most important to avoid. This speaks to a major problem within the pet food industry – that there are so many low-quality ingredients used by pet food manufacturers, that they can’t all be included in one list. But why exactly do pet food manufacturers use low-quality ingredients in their products? The main reason is money – the lower the quality of an ingredient, the lower the price. That means that the manufacturer can cut their own costs for production while still charging pet owners like you the same price.
So what are the top ten worst dog food ingredients you should be on the lookout for? The list could go on forever, but here are our top choices for ingredients you should avoid in your dog’s food:
- Corn – There is a great deal of debate regarding the value of corn as an ingredient in dog food. Some say that it is a valuable source of digestible fiber and protein, but others say that it little more than a filler ingredient and a common allergen. We believe that corn doesn’t have a place in high-quality dog foods, especially if it is used as one of the main ingredients.
- Wheat – Wheat products, particularly whole-grain wheat, are considered healthy and nutritionally valuable for humans but not for dogs. While some whole grains can be good sources of digestible carbohydrate and dietary fiber for dogs, wheat contains a protein called gluten that can cause serious allergic reactions in dogs. Wheat is also much more difficult for dogs to digest than other grains like brown rice or oatmeal.
- Soy – Soy is one of the top most common food allergens for dogs but many pet food manufacturers use it in their products because it is an inexpensive source of protein. Not only can soy trigger food allergies in dogs, but it also contains chemicals called phytoestrogens that mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen which can cause a variety of health problems in dogs. Soy also contains goitrogens, substances that may inhibit proper thyroid function.
- Fillers – As a general rule, you should avoid any dog food that uses a lot of ingredients which do not provide significant nutritional value – this is the case with fillers. Common fillers used in pet foods include things like rice bran, corn bran, soybean hulls, wheat mill run, modified cornstarch, oat hulls, and the like. These ingredients provide very little in the way of nutrients but they add bulk to the product which is why they are so valuable to pet food manufacturers – they can make more of their product at a lower price point.
- By-Products – The word “by-product” on a pet food ingredients list should immediately send up a red flag. While not all by-products are inherently dangerous, the quality of different by-products varies significantly so you can never really tell what you are getting. Animal by-products (like chicken by-product meal or poultry by-products) usually consist of the leftovers after the parts of a slaughtered animal that are fit for human consumption are removed. This may include things like feet, undeveloped eggs, bones, and organs (excluding giblets like liver, hearts, and necks).
- Plant Proteins – Dogs are carnivorous by nature which means that their bodies are biologically adapted to deriving nutrition more efficiently from animal products than plant products. Plant proteins like pea protein, potato protein, and the natural protein content of beans and legumes are not necessarily bad for your dog, but they are less biologically valuable than animal proteins. You also have to consider that many low-quality pet food manufacturers use plant proteins in their products to increase the protein content without adding more expensive meat.
- Coloring Agents – There is simply no good reason to include coloring agents in dog food – the only purpose is to make the product look more appealing to humans. Coloring agents you may see in low-quality dog foods include dyes like Red 40, Blue 2, and Yellow 5 as well as titanium dioxide, a white powder often used as a dough conditioner.
- Artificial Flavors – In the same way that you won’t find artificial colors in high-quality dog foods, neither will you find artificial flavors. Flavoring agents are only necessary when a product is not palatable enough on its own – many low-quality dog foods rely on artificial flavors to make the product more appealing to dogs. Artificial flavors may include things like animal digest, glandular meal, and anything that precedes the word “flavor”, except for natural flavors.
- Artificial Preservatives – Preservatives in dog food are used to extend the shelf-life of a product so that products can last longer before being sold and so they won’t go bad immediately after the bag is opened. Unfortunately, most of the preservatives used in low-quality pet foods are artificial and made from potentially dangerous chemicals. For example, BHA and BHT are known to have a carcinogenic effect on animals and have also been linked to organ damage. Ethoxyquin is another artificial preservative and it has been made illegal for use in human food but continues to be used in pet food.
- Sweeteners – Similar to artificial flavors, sweeteners play no nutritional role in dog food – they are simply used to make a product more palatable and appealing to dogs. Some common sweeteners used in dog foods include corn syrup, fructose, and sugar. These ingredients can add unnecessary calories (thereby increasing a dog’s risk for obesity) and may also increase the risk for dental problems.
Again, these are just a few of the many low-quality ingredients that sub-par pet food manufacturers try to sneak into their products. For the most part, if an ingredient sounds like a chemical (like propylene glycol) or has a number in it (like Red 40), it probably isn’t good for your dog. The exception to this rule, of course, is for synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements which can sometimes have strange names. Just remember that the ingredients at the top of the list are used in the highest volume, so those ingredients should all be of high quality and sound nutritional value for your dog.