Saturday, January 24, 2009

Watch your dog to see if you are buying the right pet food

Here’s a common dilemma: Consumers faced with a bewildering array of dog food options, each carrying a carefully crafted rationale designed to convince them that this is the pet food for their much loved pooch. Without a degree in veterinary science, how can they sleep at night with an easy conscience, knowing that they are feeding Fido the right food?
They should take heart. Just as sophisticated computers still can’t match the cleverness of the human brain, all the jargon and lab tests in the world can’t beat what their eyes can plainly see if they’re observant.
Here are some of the more obvious ways that a dog food reveals its contribution or otherwise to a dog’s well being:
Coat: A good pet food will help to stimulate a thick and shiny coat.
Eyes and Ears: Ear infections and goopy eyes can indicate a dietary intolerance.
Skin: Itchy skin or paws can also indicate a problem with the diet.
Wind: Occasional flatulence is common and natural but constant bouts can point to a diet that may be inadequate in terms of quality and indigestible content. Dogs are not well equipped to metabolize carbohydrates which can ferment in the intestine and create some interesting aromas.
Vitality: On a high quality meat based diet, as opposed to a high carbohydrate diet, it should be apparent that their dog is generally consuming less quantity, producing less stool volume and is more healthy and active.
Unfortunately, you can’t judge a pet food by what a dog is prepared to eat because dogs don’t always know what’s good for them. Ice cream is a good example.
There appear to be two schools of thought when it comes to making pet food. One is driven by the formulators who want a palatable product which meets the basic legal nutritional requirements at the lowest cost. There’s no shortage of manufacturers in this category. If you consider that the basic protein level needed to comply with regulations is only around 18% and fat around 8%, that leaves tons of room to bulk out the remainder with inexpensive carbohydrates and by-products¹.
The other school focuses on achieving optimum health. It puts ingredient quality at the top of the list and prices the product accordingly. These are the people that insist that every ingredient is the best they can possibly lay their hands o, companies that opt for a high meat content, no preservatives, colorings, fillers or grains, and processes that preserve original nutritional value.
In pet food, as in most other products, you get what you pay for. If what the pet food dog owners are buying is cheap, chances are the ingredients are cheap. If they are currently using a pet food for their dog that is at the cheaper end, they should try a high meat content pet food for a change (remembering to gradually introduce it) and keep their eyes open for some pleasing results.
¹Nancy Kerns - Why We Like Whole Foods. The Whole Food Dog Journal, February 2005
Contributed by Mike Hodge

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