The Importance of Reading Dog Food Labels
When was the last time you bought dog food and bothered to read the label? Or did you just grab the first bag or can off the shelf and head to the checkout? For most of us, it’s the latter. We figure that since the food is being sold in a pet or popular grocery store, it must be safe for our dogs to eat. But, we should pay attention and read dog food labels before actually buying said dog food. In this post we dive into The Importance of Reading Dog Food Labels.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. You’re probably in awe right now – the truth is you haven’t read the dog food label since day one. That’s not only alarming, but it’s also dangerous. Just because a product is sitting on a store shelf doesn’t mean it’s automatically good for our furry buddies.
The Reality of the Dog Food Industry
Many low-quality pet foods out there are loaded with unhealthy ingredients that can seriously harm your dog’s health in the long run. While nothing will poison them right then and there, the fact that you’re not reading labels means you could be inadvertently feeding your dog a diet that’s unnecessarily low in nutrients or high in fillers and additives.
Yes, a regulatory agency is supposed to make sure pet foods are safe and nutritious – the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the Canadian equivalent, the Pet Food Association of Canada (PFAC). But here’s the thing: the guidelines set by these organizations are voluntary.
In other words, companies don’t have to follow them. The lack of a mandate means that companies can pretty much put whatever they want in their products and still call it “dog food.”
As a result, many popular brands outnumber the healthy options on store shelves, which is why it falls on pet parents to be extra vigilant about what goes into their dog’s food bowl.
Why Dogs Need a Healthy (Balanced) Diet
The importance of reading dog food labels all comes down to what our dogs need to live a healthy life. Dogs need a well-balanced diet just like we do, and if they’re not getting the right mix of nutrients, it’ll lead to all sorts of problems down the road. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to read labels carefully and make sure the food you’re buying is good for your dog.
What to Look For (and Avoid) When Reading Dog Food Labels
Now that you’re enlightened as to the need to read labels, it’s time we teach you what you should be looking for – and avoiding – when choosing the right food for your pup.
Ingredients to Look For
When choosing the right food for your dog, you want to look for products that contain high-quality ingredients.
1 – Meat
Don’t forget that your teeny weeny chihuahua is still a carnivore at heart, so you want to ensure there’s plenty of meat in their food. The first ingredient listed on the label should be a meat protein, i.e., chicken, beef, or lamb.
While vegetables shouldn’t make up the bulk of your dog’s diet, they are an important source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre.
Fun Fact: Did you know that sweet potato are actually a superfood for dogs? They contain nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, and B6, and manganese.
But not all vegetables are dog friendly.
Don’t feed your dog excessive quantities of onions, garlic, or anything in the Allium family, as they can cause anemia. Also, avoid broccoli and avocados altogether as they can cause stomach upset.
3 – Fats and Oils
Fats and oils are an important source of energy for dogs and essential vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Look for products that contain healthy fats like chicken fat or fish oil. Fats and oils help absorb fat-soluble vitamins, support a healthy coat, and keep your dog’s skin healthy.
4 – Carbohydrates
While carbohydrates shouldn’t be the main energy source for dogs, they’re an important (and cheap) source of fibre and vitamins. When choosing a food for your dog, look for products that contain healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, oats, and brown rice.
5 – Probiotics
Probiotics are live microorganisms (aka “good” bacteria) that benefit gut health. They help with digestion, nutrient absorption, and the immune system. You’re lucky if you come upon products containing probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animals.
Ingredients to Avoid
When you’re next at the store, take a closer look at those labels. You might be surprised to find some of the following ingredients listed:
Artificial colours and flavours
These are added to make the food more appealing to dogs (and their owners). But they offer no nutritional value and can even be toxic.
Butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene are preservatives often used in dog food. Some studies have linked them to cancer.
These parts of the animal are left over after the meat has been processed for human consumption. They include things like lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, blood, bones, and intestines. While they may not sound appetizing, by-products can be a source of protein and other nutrients.
Just be sure to avoid foods that contain “meat meal” or “poultry by-product meal,” as these are highly processed and of lower quality.
Fillers are cheap ingredients used to bulk up the food. They offer no nutritional value and can be harmful to your dog. Common fillers include corn, wheat, and soy.
Go For Fresh Food (…and Read Dog Food Labels)
In a perfect world, you could feed your dog fresh, whole foods every day. But we understand that’s not always possible (or affordable). If you can swing it, opt for fresh, human-grade dog food with quality ingredients.
Some companies offer frozen or fresh dog food delivered right to your door. But research first as not all these companies has gone through the FDA’s voluntary pet food safety program.
When it comes to food, you are what you eat. The same goes for your dog, so take a couple of minutes to reading dog food labels before buying them. By reading labels and knowing what to look for (and avoid), your four-legged buddy is getting the nutrition they need to live a long, healthy life by your side.