From Whole Dog Journal….
How to select the right dry dog food (kibble) for your unique dog in 10 steps.
By Nancy Kerns
How do you select your dog’s food? Do you just buy what your dog’s breeder recommended? Get whatever dog food is on sale? Ask the sales clerk for his opinion? Well, that’s too bad; none of these methods allow for a thorough dog food analysis, or take into account all the factors that should be considered in order to buy and feed the food that best suits your dog and you. There’s a better way!
1. Buy the best dog food you can afford.
Good dog food costs a lot more than low-quality dog food because good dog food is made with better-quality ingredients, which cost more than low-quality ingredients.
That said, the most expensive food is not necessarily the best, nor does the price always correlate precisely with a food’s quality. There are lots of low-quality foods that are sold for good-food prices, because some companies spend a ton on marketing and advertising!
There are bad, better, good, and best foods at every price level. You should have an idea of how much you are willing to spend; look for the best foods you can find at the level you can afford.
How can you determine which foods are the good and bad ones at your price point? Read on!
If you have more than one dog, don’t forget that you can, and maybe should, feed each of your dogs a different food. Your adolescent Lab-mix might be able to eat practically anything and look like a million bucks, but your arthritic, allergic Border Collie might need a grain-free food with a novel protein in order to keep physically sound and not constantly itching.
2. Don’t always choose the same dog food, or even dog foods from the same company.
Many companies use the same vitamin/mineral pre-mix in every one of their products. This means that the nutrient levels in all the foods in the company’s product line will likely have very similar nutrient levels. If you feed the same food (or even different foods from the same company) for months or years on end, your dog could develop problems caused by nutritional deficiencies or excesses.
It seems odd, but there is a wide range of nutrient levels allowed in foods that are legally described as “complete and balanced.” Some products have levels of some minerals or fat-soluble vitamins that are inadequate or excessive. These imbalances won’t cause problems in a short period of time, but if you never vary your dog’s diet, the deficiencies or excesses compound over time and can cause health problems. Periodically switching your dog’s diet to products from different companies prevents this.
3. Look for the AAFCO statement on your dog food’s label and make sure the food is “complete and balanced” for dogs in your dog’s life stage.
Some foods are formulated to meet the nutritional requirements of adult dogs only. If you are feeding a puppy, a high-performance athlete, a pregnant or nursing female, a dog who needs to gain weight, or a debilitated dog, you should look for a product that is formulated for dogs “of all life stages.” Products labelled with that statement must meet the higher nutrient requirements of puppies and pregnant or nursing mothers.
4. Check the protein and fat levels in the dog food’s Guaranteed Analysis.
The minimum levels of protein and fat that are guaranteed to be present in the food are listed in the “guaranteed analysis” (GA) section on the label. When you switch your dog’s food to a new one, you should be aware of how much protein and fat the old food contained, and how much is present in the new food. If the new food contains a lot more fat than the old food (as just one example), you will probably need to reduce the amount you feed your dog.
5. Look for the “best by” date on the dog food.
In general, you want to buy and feed the freshest food available. If a product is within six or fewer months of its “best by” date, we’d look through the pile for a fresher bag.
6. Save so-called “novel” proteins and exotic carbohydrate sources in store-bought dog foods for dogs who really need them.
There is zero benefit to feeding ostrich or alligator or even rabbit or quail to a dog who easily digests the most common animal proteins used in pet food (such as chicken, beef, lamb, and pork). However, if your dog ever develops an allergy to or intolerance of these common animal proteins, it will be invaluable to be able to employ more exotic animal proteins in an “elimination diet” (in which a protein that the dog has never eaten before is used).
The same principle applies to exotic carb sources. Carbohydrates such as quinoa, chickpeas, peas, and others are showing up in mainstream foods more and more frequently. Avoid them unless you need them for an elimination trial.
7. Look for dog food ingredients that your dog is allergic to or intolerant of.
This is (obviously) so you can avoid feeding a product that will distress your dog.
If you have proven, through your own feeding trials of various products, that your dog reacts badly to certain ingredients, you should be reading the ingredients list of every product you buy, to make sure the problematic ingredient isn’t present in the product. Don’t count on the fact that the ingredient wasn’t present in the last bag of the same product; food manufacturers do change their formulas from time to time.
8. Look for the following; these are good things you want to see on the ingredients list of your dog food:
– Lots of animal protein at the top of the ingredients list. Ingredients in pet food, just like human food, are listed in order of the weight of that ingredient in the formula, so you want to see a named animal protein or named animal protein meal first on the list. (“Named” means the species is identified: chicken, beef, lamb, etc. “Meal” means a dry, rendered product made from an identified species.)
– When a fresh, named meat is first on the ingredient list, there should be a named animal-protein meal immediately or closely following that fresh meat. Fresh meat contains a lot of moisture (which is heavy), so if meat is first on the list, it acts like a diluted protein source; while it adds an appealing flavor and aroma to the food, it doesn’t actually contribute that much protein. That’s why another named source of animal protein should appear in the top three or so ingredients.
– When vegetables, fruits, grains, and or carbohydrate sources such as potatoes, chickpeas, or sweet potatoes are used, they should be whole. Fresh, unprocessed food ingredients contain nutrients in all their complex glory, with their vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants intact. Don’t be too alarmed by one or two “fractions” (a by-product or part of an ingredient, like tomato pomace or oatmeal), especially if they are lower on the ingredient list. But the more fractions present in the food, and the higher they appear on the list, the lower quality the result.
9. Don’t buy dog foods that contain the following ingredients; these are things to look out for:
– Meat by-products, poultry by-products, meat by-product meal, and poultry by-product meal. Many of the animal tissues that are defined as animal by-products are highly nutritious, but they are also considered waste products of the human food industry.
– “Generic” fat sources. “Animal fat” can literally be any mixed fat of animal origin; it need not have originated from slaughtered animals. Meaning, it can be obtained from renderers that process dead animals. “Poultry” fat is not quite as suspect as “animal fat,” but “chicken fat” or “duck fat” is better (and traceable).
– Added sweeteners. Dogs, like humans, enjoy the taste of sweet foods. Sweeteners effectively persuade many dogs to eat foods comprised mainly of grain fragments (and containing less healthy animal protein and fats).
– Artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives (such as BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin). The color of the food doesn’t matter to your dog. And it should be flavored well enough with healthy meats and fats to be enticing. Natural preservatives, such as mixed tocopherols, can be used instead.
10. Contact your favorite dog food makers and ask them for the complete nutrient analyses of their products.
It was a shock to learn, not long ago, that pet food companies don’t have to show regulators (or anyone else) any sort of proof that their foods contain all the nutrients that dogs need. Instead, they fill out and sign an affidavit stating that “This product meets the nutrient levels established in the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for (growth/reproduction, maintenance, or all life stages).”
In our opinion, since pet food companies make food that’s meant to provide 100 percent of the nutrients dogs need, they ought to be able to show some proof that their finished products do, in fact, contain the nutrients, in appropriate amounts, that they are supposed to, so we have begun asking companies to provide us with these analyses.
Children get more satisfaction from relationships with their pets than with their brothers or sisters, according to new research from the University of Cambridge. Children also appear to get on even better with their animal companions than with siblings.
The research adds to increasing evidence that household pets may have a major influence on child development, and could have a positive impact on children’s social skills and emotional well-being.
Pets are almost as common as siblings in western households, although there are relatively few studies on the importance of child-pet relationships.
”Anyone who has loved a childhood pet knows that we turn to them for companionship and disclosure, just like relationships between people,” says Matt Cassells, a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the Department of Psychiatry, who led the study. “We wanted to know how strong these relationships are with pets relative to other close family ties. Ultimately this may enable us to understand how animals contribute to healthy child development”
This study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, was conducted in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, part of Mars Petcare and co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of a larger study, led by Prof Claire Hughes at the University of Cambridge Centre for Family Research. Researchers surveyed 12 year old children from 77 families with one or more pets of any type and more than one child at home. Children reported strong relationships with their pets relative to their siblings, with lower levels of conflict and greater satisfaction in owners of dogs than other kinds of pets.
”Even though pets may not fully understand or respond verbally, the level of disclosure to pets was no less than to siblings,” says Cassels. “The fact that pets cannot understand or talk back may even be a benefit as it means they are completely non-judgmental.
“While previous research has often found that boys report stronger relationships with their pets than girls do, we actually found the opposite. While boys and girls were equally satisfied with their pets, girls reported more disclosure, companionship, and conflict with their pet than did boys, perhaps indicating that girls may interact with their pets in more nuanced ways.”
“Evidence continues to grow showing that pets have positive benefits on human health and community cohesion,” says Dr Nancy Gee, Human-Animal Interaction Research Manager at WALTHAM and a co-author of the study. “The social support that adolescents receive from pets may well support psychological well-being later in life but there is still more to learn about the long term impact of pets on children’s development.”
Reprinted from http://healthypets.mercola.com/
By Dr. Becker
I frequently discuss “prescription” pet diets here at Mercola Healthy Pets in terms of the cheap, biologically inappropriate ingredients they contain, much like most other processed pet foods on the market.
I typically don’t talk as much about the high cost of these diets or the fact that there’s nothing in the majority of them that requires a prescription, because my focus is usually on the low-quality ingredients instead.
But if you’ve ever purchased one of these “special” dry or canned diets for a pet, you know how expensive they are, and you might be interested to learn that a group of pet parents recently filed a class action lawsuit against several pet industry companies, alleging they engaged in price fixing of prescription dog and cat food in the U.S. in violation of anti-trust and consumer protection laws.
Defendants Include 6 of the Biggest Pet Industry Players
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California and lists the defendants as Mars Petcare, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Nestlé Purina Petcare, Banfield Pet Hospital, Blue Pearl Pet Hospital and PetSmart. Read the full complaint.
The plaintiffs, pet owners who purchased prescription diets from one or more of the companies, assert they conspired with each other to falsely promote “prescription” pet food. The specific pet diets mentioned in the complaint include:
- Hill’s Prescription Diet
- Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets
- Royal Canin Veterinary Diet
- Iams Veterinary Formula
The complaint points out there’s no reason for the foods to require a prescription, since they contain no drug or other ingredient not commonly found in non-prescription pet diets. The lawsuit further alleges:
“Retail consumers, including Plaintiffs, have overpaid and made purchases they otherwise would not have made on account of Defendants’ abuse and manipulation of the ‘prescription’ requirement.”
Lawsuit Accuses Big Pet Food of Abusing Their Dominant Position in the Marketplace
Mars PetCare is the largest supplier of pet food in the world. Nestlé Purina Petcare is in second place, and Hill’s Pet Nutrition is No. 4.
PetSmart is the largest pet supply chain in the U.S., Banfield is the largest veterinary clinic chain and Blue Pearl is the largest veterinary specialty and emergency care chain.
The lawsuit argues that these companies abuse their position as the biggest players in the industry to promote “prescription” diets for dogs and cats.
Veterinarians actually hand pet owners written prescriptions for a certain kind of pet food, and the pet owners go to PetSmart or another location to purchase the prescribed food. These pet guardians, according to the complaint, are typical of people who consistently follow the advice and direction of medical professionals.
Why Is a Pet Product Containing No Drugs or Other Controlled Substances Being Sold by Prescription Only?
However, the “prescription” dog and cat diets manufactured by Mars, Purina and Hill’s are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they don’t contain drugs or other controlled substances. According to Tim Wall, writing for PetfoodIndustry.com:
“The case document states that the American public reasonably expects a prescription requirement implies that a substance is medically necessary, contains a drug, medicine or controlled ingredient, has been FDA evaluated and legally requires a prescription. The plaintiffs allege that the prescription pet foods do not meet these criteria.”1
The lawsuit asserts that the prescription requirement allows the defendants to “… market and sell Prescription Pet Food at well-above market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of the Prescription Authorization.”
There are legitimate reasons why “prescription” diets for specific medical conditions should not be fed to healthy animals.
For instance, feeding a diet intentionally lower in protein and phosphorus may be warranted for end-stage kidney disease patients, but it would be a poor choice for healthy or growing animals.
The deception about “prescription” ingredients in the foods, for the most part, is legitimate. There is one exception. One human-grade, fresh pet food company producing medical diets that actually do contain therapeutic ingredients, such as Chitosan to bind phosphorus in their kidney formula.
‘Defendants Are Engaged in an Anticompetitive Conspiracy’
The complaint further asserts that the positioning of the pet food as “prescription” is effective in part because all the defendants work together to promote it. The veterinary clinic defendants write the “prescriptions” for the food, which is made by the pet food company defendants, and sold by defendant PetSmart.
Many people are unaware that Mars owns 79 percent of Banfield. Guess who owns the remaining 21 percent? PetSmart (which is why many Banfield clinics are located inside PetSmart stores). Mars also owns 100 percent of Blue Pearl. According to the complaint:
“Defendants are engaged in an anticompetitive conspiracy to market and sell pet food as prescription pet food to consumers at above-market prices that would not otherwise prevail in the absence of their collusive prescription-authorization requirement.”
The lawsuit alleges that selling the pet food as “prescription” is unfair and deceptive under California consumer protection laws. I’ll definitely keep an eye out for activity on this class action lawsuit and update you when there’s progress.
Meanwhile, if your own veterinarian is in the habit of recommending “prescription” pet food for your dog or cat, I encourage you to ask for balanced, homemade recipes instead. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a lot of money for poor-quality pet food that will not improve your furry family member’s health in the long run.
Living in a Winter Wonderland?
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones living in one of the balmier states, you’ve felt the cold chill of winter arrive. For some of us, cold weather is regarded as a mere nuisance; for others, it’s a fun time filled with snowboarding, skiing and other winter joys; and still others will find this time of bone-chilling weather and huge piles of snow a veritable nightmare to endure.
Whatever your viewpoint on winter, one thing remains the same for all of us with pets: it’s a time when our beloved babies need a little extra care. Luckily, PetMD has compiled a list of tips to protect your pet from the dangers of winter.
1. In or Out?
Does your pet spend most of the time in the backyard? You might want to keep her indoors during the freezing months, especially if you live in bitterly cold areas. No one wants an icicle for a pet — they’re simply not that cuddly.
2. Bare Naked Truth
If you must keep your pet outdoors, consider this: Would a fur coat alone (even if it is faux mink) keep you warm against the elements? No? Well, your pet’s fur coat isn’t enough protection for your pet during winter, either. Be a pal and provide your dog with a warm, dry, and draft free shelter outside; the shelter should also comply with any state laws that apply.
3. No More Frozen Dinners!
Because it takes more energy to stay warm when it’s cold, outdoor animals eat more during the winter. Likewise, fresh, running water is vital for maintaining your pet’s health. Keep an eye on the water bowls and make sure they haven’t turned into little skating rinks for fleas (boo, fleas!). While ice pops might be a fun treat, your pet really doesn’t want to have to lick a frozen lump of ice to get his water.
Indoor animals, meanwhile, have different dietary needs. They conserve energy by sleeping more in the winter. Dogs and cats also exercise much less when they do go outside, so you may need to adjust the amount of food accordingly. After all, no one wants an overweight pet.
5. Frosty the Biting Snowman
We’re not talking about the latest horror movie offering from Hollywood. Frosting is a serious problem during winter, especially for paws, tips of tails, and ears. This makes it even more important in keeping your pet warm, especially if they’re an outdoor pet. Get special booties, coats, and maybe a hat for your pet during her walks, and look for early warning signs of frostbite such as firm, waxy skin and blisters.
6. The Deadly Drink
The worst of all the wintertime chemical spills is antifreeze, which often leaks from a car’s radiator. It may taste delicious to your cats or dogs, but it is extremely deadly — even the smallest sip can be fatal. If your pet starts acting “drunk” or begins to convulse, take him to the vet immediately. Better yet, keep all pets away from the garage and clean up any accidental spillage. You should also not let your dog wander too far during his walks. Who knows what dangers lie in your neighbors’ driveways?
7. Salty Solution
Do you live in an area with cold and icy winters? Then you are probably accustomed to salt on the sidewalks and roads. However, the types of salt (typically calcium or sodium chloride) used to melt ice and snow and keep it from refreezing are somewhat harsh on delicate paws — not to mention they corrode concrete and damage the beautiful vegetation. Protect your pet’s paws, and keep him warm during walks, by outfitting him with booties.
8. Joy Ride
Cars are particularly attractive to animals in the winter-time, especially frigid cats that love to climb up under the hood and curl up on the warm motor. This, as you can imagine, has led to many mishaps when motorists start their car … ouch! Avoid such accidents by tapping your car’s hood before starting the vehicle. Sure, you may wake Kitty from her deep slumber, but she’ll thank you in the long run.
Wintering with your pet is mostly common sense. If you’re cold, your beloved pet will most likely be cold too. So snuggle up, keep your pet warm and safe, and sooner than you can say “Jack Russell,” we’ll all be hitting the beaches for some summertime fun.