Commercial Dog Food & What You Should Know About It

Categories: Dog Food & Nutrition
By Amy Wence
With all the brands of commercial dog food out there, it can be tricky knowing which one to choose. They all claim to be healthy and nutritionally complete, so how do you weed out the good from the bad? Unfortunately, there are a lot of low grade dog foods on the market today, many of which can be found at your local grocery store. Part of the problem is that the pet food industry is inadequately regulated, as was revealed by the major pet food recall in 2007, which cost many pets their lives. As tragic as the recall was, it taught pet owners a very important lesson; know what’s in your pet’s food. With that said, the first place to begin when choosing a high quality premium dog food is always the ingredient list. All good quality foods will list specific protein sources such as chicken, turkey, beef, or fish as the first ingredient. It’s even better if the meats are human-grade quality. Never buy a food that lists a generic protein source, such as meat meal or meat by-product. This is a red flag that signifies a very low grade food source. By-products are the parts of the animal that are not fit for human consumption (I will spare you the gory details) and should be avoided when choosing a dog food. Also, avoid any foods that contain corn gluten meal, wheat gluten meal, corn meal, or ground yellow corn. These cheap fillers are a sure sign of very poor quality food. They are waste products from the human food industry and are unsuitable protein sources for dogs. Artificial preservatives, like BHA (Butylated Hydroxysanisole), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Ethoxyquin, TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone), and Sodium Metabisulphite are also bad. Instead, look for natural preservatives, like Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Rosemary-, Sage-, or Clove Extract, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ascorbic Acid and other forms of Vitamin C. A high quality food will not have any artificial colors, sugars, or sweeteners either. Good foods will list high quality grain sources, such as oatmeal, barley, brown rice, etc. They will also have whole fruit or vegetable sources listed, like sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, green beans, etc.
Dog Food Ingredient Quiz
Now that you know what ingredients to look for when choosing a high quality dog food, you are ready to put this knowledge to the test! Below you will find three partial ingredient lists from some popular brand name dog foods. Can you rate them from highest to lowest quality?
Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Beet Pulp (sugar removed), Natural Chicken Flavor, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast
Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, sugar, sorbitol, tricalcium phosphate, water, salt, phosphoric acid, animal digest, potassium chloride, dicalcium phosphate, sorbic acid (a preservative), L-Lysine monohydrochloride, dried peas, dried carrots, calcium carbonate
Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Oatmeal, Ground Barley, Ground Brown Rice, Tomato Pomace, Rye Flour, Canola Oil (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a natural source of Vitamin E), Tomatoes, Rice Bran, Deboned Whitefish, Natural Chicken Flavor, Carrots, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Apples, Blueberries, Ground Flaxseed, Ground Millet
Ingredients: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Dried Beet Pulp, Soybean Oil, Dried Egg Product, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, Choline Chloride, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine

Dog Food Quiz Answers (from highest quality to lowest):
Premium high-grade food: blue (Super5Mix Recipes Complete Health Chicken Recipe by Wellness)®
Mid-grade, but still lower quality: yellow (Iams Healthy Naturals)
Low Quality: green (Science Diet Adult Active by Hill’s)
Very Poor Quality: purple (Beneful Original by Purina)

Author: Sabine Contreras, Canine Care & Nutrition Consultant
Author: Mary Straus (Whole Dog Journal)
Pet Food Nation, Joan Weiskopf (M.S. Veterinary Clinical Nutritionist), P. 55-69
The Whole Dog Journal, Feb 2009 Issue, Vol 12, No. 2, P. 3-5