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How to chose a good dog food

meb999
December 8th, 2005, 03:33 PM
Not sure if I'm posting this in the right forum....feel free to move it :-)

I found this on a Boxer forum and thought it was amazing. It explains really clearly how to chose a good kibble food for your dog and what the ingredients mean. Hope you guys find it as usefull as I did! Sorry if it's too long!!


Choosing a good kibble (dry dog food)

Choosing a good kibble for your boxer doesn’t always seem easy. The labels on the packages appear designed to confuse, and beyond identifying whether a food is chicken or lamb-based, people often come away feeling they need a science degree to decipher the rest. And while an ingredient may sound good and conjure up images of plump juicy meat parts, you need to be aware that the definition of what constitutes that ingredient (if it even has a definition) can be quite different. Well, we can’t change the labelling laws here – but we can give you an overview of what we think you should be looking for in a good quality dry dog food.

First and foremost, dogs are carnivore/omnivores – a good proportion of their diet needs to be meat protein sources. Plant proteins tend to be more difficult for dogs to digest, are less palatable and offer less nutrition. Grains are lower than vegetables on the digestibility and nutritional adequacy scale.

So, look at the top five or so ingredients - these form the major portion of the food. The ingredients in dog food are required to be listed in order of weight. So that means that the first ingredient on the list is the one with the greatest volume in the food. We want this to be a named meat source – eg. Chicken, beef or lamb. Never unidentified “meat” and never a "by-product". Note also that since the list runs in order of weight, it is better to see “chicken meal” than “chicken” at the top of the list. “Chicken” includes a high degree of water content, “chicken meal” does not – so with “chicken” it is quite possible that once the water content is removed, it may actually be the fourth or fifth ingredient, not necessarily the first as suggested.

Within the first five ingredients we want to see at least two (preferably more) named meat sources, and as few grains as possible. The first ingredient should certainly be a named meat source. Grains are almost unavoidable in kibble, but they are not a natural source of food for dogs, are often undigestible (what’s the point of a food if your dog can’t digest it?) and are common allergens. Whole ground grains are far better than grain fragments (floor sweepings?) which typically have little or no nutritional value. Brown rice (a whole grain) is better than white rice, which has been stripped of about 75% of its nutritional value. Whole fruits and vegetables are better nutritional sources than grains.

Looking further down the list, we prefer not to see any corn products in the food (corn, corn meal, corn gluten meal, corn syrup, etc) as corn is very difficult to digest, of little nutritional value, and a very common allergen in boxers. Same goes for wheat products/fragments and for beet pulp or molasses (sugar). It should go without saying that we would never buy a food with any form of corn or wheat in the top five ingredients.

We do not want to see any by-products in the food, especially of un-specified source. The AAFCO definition of “chicken by-products” for example is “ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.” Now some of that stuff is OK – nothing wrong with chicken necks. But it is impossible to ascertain the quality and most of the ‘good stuff’ such as hearts, livers, and kidneys don’t go into by-products, they are useful elsewhere, unless the quality is too low. By-products are really those parts that can’t be used anywhere else and a lot of it isn’t OK. Without any ability to determine quality, we prefer to avoid by-products.

Do not forget to look at the preservatives used. Some of these are carcinogenics. Some common cacinogenic preservatives to look for and avoid are: BHT, ethoxyquin, BHA and propylene glycol (a less toxic form of anti-freeze). Citric acid as a preservative can also be problematic as it dramatically increases the risk of bloat if the food is moistened before feeding (according to veterinary research). In our opinion, it is better to purchase a food using tocopherols, ascorbic acid (Vitamin E) or anti-oxidants such as rosemary extract. Better yet, purchase a food that doesn’t contain preservatives at all (there are a few).

We do not want to see any artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners added to the food.

Cunning deceptions and other issues:
“Splitting” This is where the manufacturer “splits” the total amount of an ingredient into component parts to make it appear as though there is a lesser amount of the ingredient. An example would be an ingredient list that read like “chicken meal, ground corn, brown rice, corn gluten meal, lamb meal…”. Looks OK – the top ingredient is chicken meal. But is it really? Well, probably not. The manufacturer has “split” the corn content into component parts of ‘ground corn’ and ‘corn gluten meal’. As a total, the corn content is probably greater than the chicken meal (remember that we don’t know the %, only the order of weight).

Unlisted preservatives: The pet food maker is only required to disclose on the ingredient list those ingredients and preservatives that they themselves added to the food. Some ingredients – usually fats, and some fish products – have preservatives (usually ethoxyquin) added before they arrive at the pet food factory. You will not see this included on the ingredient list. Note that the use of ethoxyquin to preserve food for humans is strenuously debated as it is thought by some to be carcinogenic. The amount of ethoxyquin allowed in human food is a fraction of that allowed in pet food.

Let’s look at some examples:

EXAMPLE 1: Ingredient list for ‘Go! Natural’ adult chicken formula:

Chicken Meal, Chicken Meat, Whole Brown Rice, Whole White Rice, Hulless Barley, Sunflower Oil, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols (vit E), citric acid (vit C) and Rosemary extract), Salmon Meal, Dried Whole Potatoes, Rice Bran, Natural Chicken Flavour, Dried Whole Apples, Dried Whole Carrots, Ground Flax, Bee Pollen, Dried Whole Garlic, Ginger, Dried Alfalfa, Dried Whole Egg, Beta Carotene, Dried Whole Cranberries, Kelp, Yucca Shidegera, Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulphate, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Vitamin A acetate, Cholecalciferol (vit D), dl alphatocopherol acetate (vit E), ferrous sulphate, **zinc proteinate, zinc oxide, niacin, calcium pantothenate, copper sulphate, **copper proteinate, manganous oxide, riboflavin,
calcium iodate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vit B6), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite, cobalt carbonate, menadione sodium bisulphate complex (vit K), Vitamin B12.
** these items are chelated minerals.

Analysis: our opinion

Top 5 ingredients Chicken Meal, Chicken Meat, Whole Brown Rice, Whole White Rice, Hulless Barley
comment Two named meat sources in the top five ingredients (good). The next three are grains (two of which are rice) – brown rice is a whole grain though and rice/barley are much better than corn/wheat.

Other ingredients Sunflower Oil, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols (vit E), citric acid (vit C) and Rosemary extract), Salmon Meal, Dried Whole Potatoes, Rice Bran, Natural Chicken Flavour, Dried Whole Apples, Dried Whole Carrots, Ground Flax, Bee Pollen, Dried Whole Garlic, Ginger, Dried Alfalfa, Dried Whole Egg, Beta Carotene, Dried Whole Cranberries, Kelp

comment Plenty of whole fruits and vegetables, which is good to see, along with whole eggs. Chicken ‘flavour’ is not so good – we prefer not to see artificial flavourings in food (there is no definition/regulation of the word ‘natural’ for pet foods).
Dried whole eggs are good.

The rest Yucca Shidegera, Glucosamine, Chondroitin Sulphate, Potassium Chloride, Dicalcium Phosphate, Vitamin A acetate, Cholecalciferol (vit D), dl alphatocopherol acetate (vit E), ferrous sulphate, **zinc proteinate, zinc oxide, niacin, calcium pantothenate, copper sulphate, **copper proteinate, manganous oxide, riboflavin,
calcium iodate, thiamine mononitrate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vit B6), folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite, cobalt carbonate, menadione sodium bisulphate complex (vit K), Vitamin B12.

comment Nothing startling here
Preservatives Mixed tocopherols (vit E), citric acid (vit C) and Rosemary extract

comment Uses naturally-occurring preservatives. Note the use of citric acid (don’t pre-moisten this food)

Conclusion Looks pretty good. We note that the top five ingredients contain 2 forms of ‘chicken’ and 2 of ‘rice’, plus chicken fat at #7. If these ingredients were not ‘split’, the top five would still include 2 named meat protein sources (since the salmon meal would make it into the top 5) and it is thus very likely that the food contains a reasonable amount of chicken versus grains.
We appreciate the range of whole fruits and vegetables in this food, and note that the grains used are ‘whole’ and do not include common nasties such as corn, wheat or beet pulp.
We have some reservation about the use of ‘chicken flavour’ but within an otherwise good ingredient list, don’t feel it is worth getting too excited about this one.
We do note the use of citric acid as a preservative, which is fine but means that this food should not be pre-moistened before feeding.



EXAMPLE 2: Ingredient list for ‘Purina Pro Plan’ adult lamb and rice formula:
Lamb, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, chicken meal, beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols (source of Vitamin E), oat meal, pearled barley, fish meal, dried beet pulp, natural flavors, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, salt, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, vitamin supplements (E, A, B-12, D-3), zinc sulfate, ascorbic acid (source of Vitamin C), ferrous sulfate, riboflavin supplement, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, biotin, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid, copper sulfate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, sodium selenite. H-4470

Analysis: our opinion

Top 5 ingredients Lamb, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain wheat, chicken meal

comment Two named meat sources in the top five ingredients, but we note that the first is lamb (inclusive of its water content) and the chicken is the fifth ingredient. We are not confident that the total meat content of this food is high compared to the grains. We prefer not to see brewers rice (by product of alcohol industry), corn gluten meal or wheat in a dog food.

Other ingredients Beef tallow preserved with mixed-tocopherols (source of Vitamin E), oat meal, pearled barley, fish meal, dried beet pulp
comment Beef tallow is a low quality animal fat which we prefer not to see in pet food.
Oat meal and barley are fine (barley is a whole grain) but we are not so happy to see beet pulp included. Fish meal is another meat protein source, but is likely to be preserved with ethoxyquin.
Food contain no whole fruits or vegetables.

The rest Natural flavors, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, salt, L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, vitamin supplements (E, A, B-12, D-3), zinc sulfate, ascorbic acid (source of Vitamin C), ferrous sulfate, riboflavin supplement, niacin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, biotin, thiamine mononitrate, folic acid, copper sulfate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, sodium selenite. H-4470

comment We prefer not to see artificial flavours and colours added to dog food (“natural flavours”) or the use of salt.

Preservatives Mixed tocopherols

comment Uses naturally-occurring preservatives

Conclusion Not a food we would choose. We note that the top five ingredients do contain 2 named meat protein sources, but since the first ingredient is ‘lamb’ inclusive of its water content and the second meat ingredient doesn’t occur until 5th on the ingredient list, we are not convinced that this food contains a reasonable proportion of meat protein versus grains.
There are no whole fruits and vegetables in this food, and note that the grains used are ones we prefer to avoid (corn gluten meal, brewers rice and wheat) and which are common allergens. We would not buy a dog food with corn or wheat in the top five ingredients, and prefer not to see these grains at all.
We do not like to see artificial flavours or colours added to dog food, nor the use of salt.
Naturally occurring preservatives are used in this food.




Large breed and puppy foods

Boxers are not large breed dogs. It is true that a few (but by no means all) food manufacturers have decided that any breed of dog that is likely to weigh over 50lb as an adult is a “large” breed and therefore needs to be fed a food formulated for large breeds. We disagree – with the exception of a few abnormally large individuals, boxers are, and always have been, a medium sized breed. They should not be fed large breed food.

It is probably more helpful though, if we examine the rationale for creating a large breed formulation in the first place. Over-nutrition of puppies – most especially excess amounts of protein and calcium – is implicated in the development of a number of growth and bone development disorders in dogs. It also greatly exacerbates the development of hip dysplasia, which occurs most frequently in large and giant breeds (it occurs commonly in the boxer too).

So for these dogs, pet food manufacturers have come up with reduced protein and calcium formulas, often with glucosamine and chondratin supplements added “to ease painful joints”. Well, glucosamine and chondratin may be useful supplements in easing the pain of arthritic and otherwise damaged joints (the jury is still out on that one) but the small amounts added to pet food are unlikely to be effective. More importantly, there is no evidence to suggest that they may be helpful in preventing the development of joint conditions in the first place. We are not believers in bombarding a dog’s system with supplements and additives in the hope of preventing a condition that the dog doesn’t actually have.

Has anyone spotted the biggest flaw yet? Puppy growth problems are at least partially attributable to over-nutrition, and excess amounts of protein and calcium commonly found in puppy formulas. In some cases, puppy foods can have protein levels up to around 44% (versus around 22-25% for adults). So why would you feed a puppy formula in the first place? There is no reason to suspect puppies need different food from adults – and post-weaning, they certainly wouldn’t have got different food in a natural environment. Humans and other mammals don’t feed their children different food either…

Our advice would be to avoid the large breed and puppy formulations completely, and to choose instead a good quality adult or all-life-stages food instead. If you do choose to feed a puppy food, please ensure that the protein and calcium levels are not excessive and switch to an adult food by around 4-6 months.

Allergic dogs

Food allergies are common in boxers, and we recommend that you avoid foods that contain ingredients such as corn (any form), wheat, brewers yeast, any form of by-products and artificial flavours and colourings (even if it’s called “natural” flavour – there is no regulation of the word natural in pet food). These grains are the most common allergens and in any case, are not a good nutritional basis for dogs as they are not well designed to digest grains.

Sometimes dogs can be allergic to particular meat proteins though. Turkey and beef are common culprits, though dogs can also be allergic to chicken, lamb, fish – in fact just about anything. Some manufacturers do produce foods made with fewer and less common meat protein sources and without grains that can be very useful for allergic dogs. Examples include duck and potato, venison, bison, or fish and potato formulas.

If you suspect your dog has allergies, then choosing a food with a low number of grains and only one or two different meat protein sources is a good start (eg. a food with chicken and lamb, rather than chicken, turkey, lamb and fish). Common signs of food allergies are red itchy skin, ears or feet, persistent ear infections, diarrhoea and throwing up, and raised bumps on the skin.

technodoll
December 8th, 2005, 04:13 PM
yep good post - here is the link to the original site:

http://www.boxerworld.com/feeding/

Prin
December 8th, 2005, 07:19 PM
It's ok, but I disagree with this:
We disagree – with the exception of a few abnormally large individuals, boxers are, and always have been, a medium sized breed. They should not be fed large breed food.Large breed food is not for giant breeds, and is not specific enough to make a big enough difference in medium sized doggies. It's just more dense, so they'll eat less. People assume that the calcium levels are lower in large breed dog foods, but they're not low enough to be out of the normal range for regular dog foods. ;) If I had a boxer, I'd feed large breed food because they're so high energy and anything that helps them eat a bit less quantity-wise is a good thing.