As you all know I am passionate about dog health and nutrition, we get out what we put in. Since starting The Splendid Smallholding back in June 2020, I constantly strive to educate my customers and followers on how improve their dog's health through diet.
Recently I felt that I am fighting a losing battle against the huge companies who can spend millions on fantastic marketing, eye catching packaging and large ad campaigns.
According to a survey I conducted 80% of dog owners buy their treats in large supermarkets whilst doing a weekly shop as it's convenient. Psychologically we are shopping for ourselves when we visit a supermarket. You have got your chicken for your Sunday dinner and all the trimmings, and you turn down the pet isle to pick up Fido's feed and see... "Tasty roast chicken dinner flavour complete dog feed." You say, "oh that sounds gorgeous, he will love that." But how many turn that packet over and look at what is in there?
Too many of us are humanising dogs, because we think it looks tasty, we presume that it must be amazing for our pooches. Firstly, lets start to break down the above made-up dog feed.
"Tasty" - Means; delicious, mouth-watering or appetising. It's an adjective designed to pull humans in.
"Roast Chicken Dinner" - It makes Fido part of the family; he can enjoy a roast chicken dinner himself.
"Flavour" - if it is just a flavour what is it flavoured with? Is there any chicken in there at all?
"Complete dog feed" - The only bit here that is actually legally required on a dog feed packet”.
But you are sold, you've not even turned the packet around to check if there's beef in there that Dave the Doberman is allergic to. Why should you, your brain is thinking chicken and not any chicken but a tasty roast chicken dinner!
One more example for you guys but with dog treats this time,
"Tempting meaty bites rich in Venison"
"tempting" - Appeals to all dogs including fussy eaters.
"Meaty" - Means; Nourishing, hearty, substantial - Conjures images of a "proper healthy treat”.
"Rich in Venison" - Only Rich in venison - doesn't mean it's 100% venison. In fact, it doesn't give you any idea of percentage of venison at all. Turn over the packet and find the main ingredient to be Chicken meal, cereals, fats, animal derivatives and finally maybe 8% venison.
OK...so you've seen through the marketing BULL S**T and you've whipped that packet round to check out the back! Where do you start?
Just like human food the ingredients on dog feed products has to be in weight descending order. The highest percentage ingredients go right at the beginning so start there.
So, what does everything mean? Lets get down to deciphering ingredients
MEAT AND ANIMAL DERIVITIVES
So this is a tricky one as according to European law, "All the fleshy parts of slaughtered warm-blooded land animals, fresh or preserved by appropriate treatment, and all products and derivatives of the processing of the carcass or parts of the carcass of warm-blooded land animals".
Pretty Vague right? The problem here is that this encompasses all meat, from the very best quality to the worst. Many companies, instead of declaring the meat composition, will opt for this instead to protect their recipes If you are buying your feed from such a business that is valuing profit over your ability to see what you are feeding your dog this would be enough to make me stop buying their feed.
MEAT MEAL, CHICKEN MEAL, FISH MEAL
I don't even want to talk about this it makes me want to vomit. Basically, it's made up of all the parts of animals that are not consumed by humans. Tendons, eyes, bits of bones, sinew etc. Antioxidants have to be added to any meal to stop it from going rancid. Natural ones include vitamin C but the controversial ones are BHA, BHT and Propyl gallate. BHT is actually a banned substance in human consumables in the EU as it has been found to have links with cancer.
If these artificial chemicals are added this happens at the meat meal production plant and not the Pet feed plant and as such the manufacturers do not have to declare these on labelling. For this reason, it's best just to avoid any feed with Meal in there if you cannot be 100% sure of the content.
NO ADDED PRESERVATIVES
If you see this run for the hills, throw that pack on the floor, stamp on it and run away screaming! This means that no preservatives have been added by the feed manufacturer. It doesn't mean that the companies producing the meal, fats and cereals haven't added anything in there. You want to see "NO PRESERVATIVES OR ADDITIVES"
Scarily, it’s completely legal. FILLERS
A filler is anything in dog feed or treats that adds bulk and they contain little to NO nutritional value. Examples include Corn gluten Meal, Maize, Gluten Meal, Pea Protein, rice, Soy Potato. The key is where are these ingredients in the list on the back. You want to be looking to see if they come top 6 as these will make up the highest % of your dog’s feed. No dog owner wants to be feeding your dog with empty calories and not the best source of protein.
SPECIALITY DOG FEED AND TREATS
One of my huge annoyances are dog feeds and treats that claim to aid certain ailments, breeds or conditions but do little to nothing to help.
Take joint care treats and feed with added Glucosamine to help maintain healthy joints. The problem is the amount of Glucosamine required to have an effect is a lot more than we see present in feeds and treats. Don't get me wrong, some feeds will have an appropriate amount, but the price will be racked up because it's a "speciality feed". You are better off buying a great quality food and a high-level supplement and adding it in so you know Fido is getting the right amount to make a difference.
There are so many feeds on the market targeted at Renal failure, joint care, coat health, working dogs, pancreatitis and liver problems. I urge you to do your own research before you feed the first thing that your vet recommends or because the label says it is appropriate. If your dog has renal problems, you want a low protein level but still a high-quality protein and low phosphorous so this should be the key to your search.
"Knowledge is power" and as dog owners we owe it to our four-legged friends to feed them good quality food and avoid where we can pump them full of empty calories, low level proteins and harmful chemicals. So, the next time you are in a shop, pet food store or online do Rex a favour and flip to the ingredients to check out the bits that matter.