It’s easy right? You go to the pet food isle in your local grocery store. Pick something based on the cute dog on the front of the bag or nice pictures of fresh meat and veggies and you go pay for it. Done! Then your dog gets the runs, or barfs, or farts until everyone trapped inside the house decides they want to move out. What went wrong? It’s dog food, why is there a problem? Well not all dog foods are alike? In fact most commercially processed bags of food have a wide range of potentially high quality or extremely sketchy ingredients. The fact is both bags look the same to you as the consumer. In fact most of the foods that are terrible for your dog look their best sitting on that shelf. There is little to no truth on the front of that bag. A brand could legally say their food is unicorn flavored and that is A-OK with AFFCO the only food guideline organization that many brands voluntarily use as their legal notice on the bag. Dog food is unregulated until there is something wrong and only then does the USDA get involved to issue a potential recall. It’s a free for all, so you as the consumer has to be educated to make even a good guess let alone a great one.
First off, feeding two cups a day of one brand is not the same as a another. All dog foods come with their own recommended feeding guideline and they vary widely. The most common reason dogs experience digest “upset” is that they are getting too much volume. Most dogs are overweight according to the American Association of Pet Products (APPA). In 2017 a full 54% of dogs could stand to lose a few pounds. Most of us pour a bowl too large for the daily exercise and metabolic requirements of our furry friends. When I give advice to people in my store most peoples eyes go wide when I turn that bag over and review what they should be feeding. It’s almost always much smaller than what they give now. Some people even let their dogs eat as much as a they want. It’s a rare dog that stays slim while free feeding, I do not recommend it ever. My dogs personally are a breed that is prone to being overweight (daschunds) and they have never gotten to eat the full amount the bag recommends. They are seniors now and eat about 60% of recommended amounts, but even when they were young and full of energy, they would start to get chubby at 80% of recommended feeding guidelines. They were not getting miles of exercise daily and their needs were less than average back then. I am also a huge sucker for my adorable dogs and they get more than a few treats a day, so I make sure to balance myself out with smaller meals. If there is digestive upset, check your bag and consider their activity. You are probably feeding too much.
Now its’ time for the quality part. This is a huge topic, but there are some basics that can guide you well. There are so many bad ingredients, but some are worse than others! Here is what to avoid:
Corn – In any form corn is a cheap ingredient but it’s America’s number one for crops so there is an awful lot of it. Corn gluten meal, corn middling, whole grain corn. All of these are all terrible in dog food. Why? Many of these crops are grown for cattle feed or have been rejected for some reason for human consumption. Often they contain aflatoxins that contribute to leaky gut in dogs. Leaky gut is basically micro tears in the digestive tract that allows undigested particles of food to enter the body and blood stream. This can trigger a systemwide immune problem and cause a host of problems and discomfort. It’s legal to put a crop that has tested positive for these toxins in dog food, and when many brands are tested after a recall these toxins are present.
Wheat – It’s cheap, just not as cheap as corn. Wheat is number three on the list of crop size for America. Again there is an awful lot of it, and there are also a huge amount of by-products from making food for people. Often the parts that remain after making flour, are used for dog food. The problem there is that partial ingredients are often nutritionally devoid. The nutrition has been stripped away so using it as a dog food ingredient is often just to create filler with nothing left then to take up space. I’ve never seen a whole wheat ingredient in all the dog foods I have reviewed, so I am assuming that it would be far to expensive to use it that way.
Soy – Most of the Soy in dog food is a by product from making soybean oil. The USA is the leader in soybean production, and we export up to 90% of this oil to other countries. That means we have lots and lots of leftover ingredients that are waste otherwise. Soybean mill run is a top ingredient in many dog foods, it’s really just the shells and often decomposes faster than whole grains so it’s often preserved with BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin. All of these preservatives are legal but known to cause the big C word, cancer. This ingredient is never whole in dog food, so it’s always filler!
By-Products – Defined as: an incidental or secondary product made in the manufacture or synthesis of something else. It’s garbage unless they can sell it to dog food manufacturers. There are other places where by-products have merit but in the unregulated world of dog food it’s mostly sinister or greedy. Meat by products are slaughterhouse scrapings that are often preserved with carcinogenic agents to keep it from going rancid. It’s not the whole hearts, livers and kidney’s that would be useful to your dog, but rather feathers, connective tissue, bone fragments and parts that are not useful to another industry. Grain by-products have typically been stripped of the proteins, vitamins and minerals they have in their whole form.
Buying dog food that is good for your dog can be easy if you ignore the front of the bag and look solely at the feeding guidelines and ingredient list. A meat source (chicken, lamb, beef, salmon, etc.) should be listed first and hopefully more than once. If it’s not, skip it all together and look for an ingredient list that does list a meat source first. If the ingredients read well but you have to feed your dog twice as much in a day as the bag next to it that shows it has more fillers. Foods that have large feeding guidelines are telling you they have less calorie dense ingredients and you will be picking up a much larger pile of crap at the end of the day. By knowing what shouldn’t be in your dog’s food you have a good idea of how to buy the best bag possible in an isle full of pretty colors, promises and bad ingredients.
in the Moab Area
Corona Arch - Easy/Moderate. 1.3 Miles one way. Trailhead is 25 minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).
Mill Creek Pathway - Easy. 1.1 Miles. Little to no driving. Starts at the intersection of 100 South and 100 West,
a block off of Main Street.
Portal Overlook - Hard. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 20 minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to Potash Road (Utah 279).
Grandstaff Canyon - Moderate. 2.0 Miles one way. Trailhead is 10-minute drive from Moab.
North on US-191 to the River Road (Utah 128)