Today’s better educated owners are growing increasingly picky about what they feed their pet, and manufacturers have been quick to respond with a wide range of foods geared towards this market. Choosing a good kibble for your dog 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.
But how much do we really know about what we’re feeding our dogs and cats? While an ingredient may sound good and conjure up images of plump juicy meats, you need to be aware that the definition of what constitutes that ingredient can be quite different. We can help give you an overview of what we think you should be looking for in a good quality dry food. Most of the major dog and cat food companies are divisions of giant food conglomerates-that produce tons of offal and by products from the manufacture of human foods. Using this material that would otherwise be garbage may be good business sense-but is it good for your pet?
Learning to decipher labels is a good beginning for those of us who wish to discover just what exactly we are feeding our pets. Look at the top 5 or so ingredients-these form the major portion of the food. The ingredients in dog and cat food are required to be listed in order of weight. That means the 1st ingredient on the list is the one with the greatest volume in the food. This should be a named meat source-i.e. chicken, beef, lamb, etc. Within the top 5 ingredients we would like to see a minimum of 2 named meat sources, preferably exclusive of their water content-in other words, in ‘meal’ form. The next thing we will look for is a food that contains a few grains as possible. Grains are not a natural source of food for dogs or especially cats and are often indigestible and common allergens. Whole ground grains such as barley, oatmeal and rice are far better than low quality grains such as corn, wheat and soy.
Do not forget to look at the preservatives used. BHT, BHA, Propylene glycol and Ethoxyquin are considered to be carcinogenic and are banned or heavily regulated in the human food industry and should be avoided at all costs. Citric acid can be problematic when used as a preservative as it can dramatically increase the incidence of bloat if food is moistened before feeding. Ideally, kibble is preserved with tocopherols, ascorbic acid (Vitamin E) or anti-oxidants such as rosemary extract. Kibble without artificial color, flavor or sweetener is preferable.