A lawsuit against pet food manufacturer Nestlé Purina Petcare, the company behind such well-known brands as Beneful and Friskies, was filed recently, claiming that consuming Beneful – specifically, consuming propylene glycol, one of the ingredients found in Beneful — has led to the deaths and prolonged illnesses of thousands of dogs. In fact, according to the team of attorneys who are spearheading this campaign, “more than 3000 complaints against Beneful have been filed in the past four years,” which describe heartbreaking scenarios involving internal bleeding, liver malfunction, and alopecia. Yikes. If the allegations prove to be true, that’s a lot suffering caused by a company that would like us to believe that our pets are its passion.
Any person who owns a dog will tell you that their dog is a part of their family. The level of care, concern, and affection that some dog-owners lavish on their pooches can rival the level of care, concern, and affection they show in their human relationships. But while dogs get treated like members of our families — just with four legs instead of two — we often look to professionals to guide us in our efforts to care for our canine companions. We spend hours at the grocery scanning nutrition facts labels when we’re deciding on what to feed our children, but when it comes to shopping for our pets, most of us will just grab whatever bag of chow has a gold seal and “Veterinarian Approved” stamped onto it. We expect companies like Nestlé Purina (and really, all companies that manufacture products for public consumption) to do the work for us, to be honest about the kinds of ingredients they use in their products and to care about our dogs as much as we do. After all, only soulless monsters would deliberately put man’s best friend in danger, right? But since this isn’t a perfect world and many of us have stopped leaving the care of our children’s nutrition in the hands of “professionals,” maybe it’s time we do the same for our dogs. Here are five tips on how to pick a healthy dog food that will keep your dog happy and give you peace of mind at the same time.
The first five ingredients on the nutrition facts label of any dog food, wet or dry, are the most important. Like in food manufactured for humans, ingredients are listed in descending order, with the item contributing the most, mass-wise, to the recipe before processing taking that coveted first spot. Experts on canine nutrition recommend that an easily-digestible, high-quality animal protein be in the top five ingredients of any dog food that you buy, with a “meal” made of animal protein not far behind. The further down you get in the list, the less of that ingredient appears in the recipe, so if “chicken by-product” is second on the list and “chicken” doesn’t appear until eighth or ninth on the list, you might want to pass on that bag and check out a different one.
…and then leave five.
Out of the recipe, that is. There are five ingredients that many experts on canine nutrition claim should never be included in your dog’s kibble. If they are, in any quantity, switch it out, pronto. They are: ethoxyquin, BHA/BHT, propylene glycol, animal by-products, and corn and corn syrup. The list of the proven consequences of consuming some of these kinds of ingredients — which range from diabetes, obesity and blindness to liver damage, kidney failure and death — is extremely long. Keep them away from your dog at all costs.
Search for that seal of approval.
Be wary of the claims that pet food manufacturers place on their products. Buzzwords like “Veterinarian Approved,” “natural,” “number-one,” or “scientifically-proven” are vague and can oftentimes be misleading. Instead, be on the lookout for a nutritional adequacy statement from AAFCO – the Association of American Feed Control Officials – that will let you know whether or not that specific food meets the nutritional requirements of your dog (which are different than the nutritional requirements of humans, FYI).
Look to the future.
Make sure that the “best used by” date on the bag is at least six months away, with eleven or twelve months being the ideal. This means that the food was recently manufactured, thus ensuring freshness. Be careful, though – a “best used by” date for two or more years from now means that synthetic preservatives are used in the manufacturing process, which you definitely want to stay away from.
Remember that “Less is more” and “The simpler, the better” are sayings because they’re usually true.
A short list of ingredients with easy-to-understand ingredients that don’t sound like they came out of a science fiction novel is ideal when it comes to pet foods, since it cuts down the chances that the blend includes potentially harmful or detrimental ingredients. Also, there’s no reason why the appearance of your dog’s food should be fancy – colors usually mean artificial coloring and preservatives are present in the food. Remember that the most important thing to picking a good dog food is that it provides the nutrition necessary for your dog to live a healthy life – your dog isn’t snobby about what he eats, and he doesn’t care what it looks like, so you shouldn’t be or care, either.