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When wandering down the dog food aisle, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the options leaving pet parents wondering what ingredients to look for and maybe more importantly, which dog food ingredients to avoid. One of the biggest mistakes pet parents make is choosing food based on the packaging and price. Dog food manufacturers spend a lot of money marketing and packaging their products to make them more appealing to the eye. Choosing the best food comes down to reading the label and ignoring the packaging.
Here’s a list of some popular ingredients to avoid.
White flour: This offers no nutrition. Look for food with whole grains.
Unnamed meat and rendered fat: Dogs need protein and meat, but beware of a label that doesn’t list the meat source. Unnamed meats and rendered fats are often low-quality sources of protein and can come from diseased animals or other questionable sources. Pet parents want to know what their dog is eating and that it’s not just the “leftovers.”
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): MSG is a tricky one because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require manufacturers to list this ingredient. It is often used as a flavor enhancer for foods containing low-quality ingredients. However, it is a common allergen in dogs. The easiest way to avoid it is to look for high-quality ingredients that don’t need flavor enhancers.
Anything artificial: This category includes colors, sugars, and flavors. Artificial colors serve no purpose other than to make the food appear more appetizing. Artificial coloring can be difficult to digest. While artificial sugars can add flavor to dog food, it also causes obesity, which leads to a plethora of health problems. In dog food, artificial flavor is usually seen as “bacon flavor” and can contain potential allergens and MSG.
Chemical Preservatives: Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are chemical preservatives that act as antioxidants and protect fat molecules in food. Food often tastes better for longer periods when these chemicals are added. However, high doses of these chemicals have been known to cause cancer in rodents. Sodium tripolyphosphate (STPP) is another preservative to avoid and is often used as an insecticide, fungicide, and rodenticide.
Soy: Dogs’ digestive systems have difficulty breaking down plant-based proteins; soy is also a common allergen for dogs. Make sure to buy food that contains high amounts of animal protein.
Fillers: Fillers are ingredients that offer no nutritional value to dog food and are often difficult for dogs to digest. Filler ingredients to avoid are cellulose, corn, and brewers rice.
Salt: High amounts of salt can lead to dehydration and other health problems.
Wolf Labeling: While this isn't an ingredient, it's important to mention that a dog's digestive system is different from that of a wolf. Even though dogs are descended from wolves, they've evolved to have different dietary requirements.
When buying dog food, look for high-quality ingredients, such as named meats, and avoid artificial ingredients and chemicals. The main source of protein should be in the title and 95% of the diet should come from the first three ingredients. Also, look for labels that include the stages of life (puppy, adult, senior). Finally, ignore the packaging and price — just because food costs more, doesn’t mean it contains high-quality ingredients.
A veterinarian or animal nutrition specialist can recommend the appropriate diet and supplements for individual pets. Probiotics for dogs are natural supplements that support digestion and intestinal health. For more on dog health advice, Fuzzy members can always contact a Fuzzy veterinarian via in-app 24/7 Live Vet Chat to ask about pet health, food, or supplement questions.