We love our pets. Our dogs are members of our family. They deserve the same quality food we eat, even if it does just come from a bag. I don’t cook for my dogs. I don’t think they need the same level of variety as the human family members, but I do think they deserve wholesome real ingredients.
What’s really in dog food?
Here is a list of concerning ingredients you might find on your dog food label and should avoid. Disgustingly there could be floor sweepings, mycotoxins, propylene glycol anti-freeze, euthanized shelter animals in your pets’ food.
By-products means just about anything from the cow or chicken or other source of protein. This includes internal organs and cast-offs from the meat and poultry industry that would not be consumed by humans. It has even been rumored to include cancerous growths and road kill! Animal Planet confirms, “According to the Animal Protection Institute (API), certain pet food companies were accused in the past of including carcasses and road kill in their by-products mix, and some industry insiders reportedly admitted to it.”
Just as the name implies, fillers plant-based sources of small amounts of protein that are used in place of ingredients with nutritional value dogs need like meat. Fillers include soy, corn, wheat, oats, etc. They are typically by-products of human food production, and some are even called “floor sweepings” from grain factories. Often dogs react to these fillers negatively. It shows up in their fur and skin. Fillers can also include things like peanut shells, weeds, cotton seed hulls, etc. and are used for fiber in the pet food. Even wood pulp is used! The Dog Food Project lists the following filler ingredients:
|Cellulose||AAFCO: Purified, mechanically disintegrated cellulose prepared by processing alpha cellulose obtained as a pulp from fibrous plant materials.Dried wood is the most common source for cellulose (I’m not kidding.). It is cleaned, processed into a fine powder and used to add bulk and consistency to cheap pet foods. I would consider this ingredient appropriate for termites, but certainly not for dogs or cats.
|Corn Bran||AAFCO: The outer coating of the corn kernel.An inexpensive source of fiber that serves as a filler ingredient to add bulk to poor quality pet food.
|Corn Cellulose||AAFCO: A product obtained from the cell walls of corn.Obtained by use of a chemical process, it is used to add bulk and consistency to cheap pet foods and has no nutritional value.
|Oat Hulls||I have not been able to locate an official definition for this product so far.Most likely what is left over from dehulling the whole oat kernels after harvesting, comparable to peanut hulls. It is not the same as oat bran (the hull that protects the grain itself), which is a quality source of dietary fiber and removed prior to rolling and/or flaking. Thumbs down for this filler ingredient.
|Peanut Hulls||AAFCO: The outer hull of the peanut shell.No nutritional value whatsoever, and are used exclusively as a cheap filler ingredient. Possibility of pesticide residues being present.
|Rice Hulls||AAFCO: The outer covering of rice.An inexpensive byproduct of human food processing, serving as a source of fiber that is considered a filler ingredient.
|Soybean Mill Run||AAFCO: Composed of soybean hulls and such bean meats that adhere to the hulls which results from normal milling operations in the production of dehulled soybean meal.An inexpensive byproduct of human food processing, commonly referred to as ‘floor sweepings’. An inexpensive filler with no real nutritional value.
|Wheat Mill Run||May also appear as “Wheat Middlings”.AAFCO: Coarse and fine particles of wheat bran and fine particles of wheat shorts, wheat germ, wheat flour and offal from the “tail of the mill”.An inexpensive byproduct of human food processing, commonly referred to as ‘floor sweepings’. An inexpensive filler with no real nutritional value.|
3. Artificial preservatives
Unless you buy raw dog food in the freezer or refrigerator section of the store, you pet food will have preservatives. Not all preservatives are bad. Natural preservation like tocopherols are found in many human beauty and food products, though this vitamin E based preservative should be avoided if your dog has a soy allergy. 1-800-Pet Meds warns,
Artificial preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) or ethoxyquin are considered to be unhealthy preservatives for pets, yet they are still allowed in small doses in pet food. In addition, it is believed these preservatives may cause cancer when consumed over a long period of time.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has this to say about ethoxyquin:
In the 1990s, CVM began receiving reports from dog owners attributing the presence of ethoxyquin in the dog food with a myriad of adverse effects, such as allergic reactions, skin problems, major organ failure, behavior problems, and cancer. However, there was a paucity of available scientific data to support these contentions, or to show other adverse effects in dogs at levels approved for use in dog foods. Subsequent studies by the manufacturer of ethoxyquin showed a dose-dependent accumulation of a hemoglobin-related pigment in the liver, as well as increases in the levels of liver-related enzymes in the blood. Although these changes are due to ethoxyquin in the diet, the pigment is not made from ethoxyquin itself, and the health significance of these findings is unknown. Nevertheless, CVM has asked the pet food industry to voluntarily lower the maximum level of use of ethoxyquin in dog foods from 150 ppm (0.015%) to 75 ppm. Regardless, most pet foods that contained ethoxyquin never exceeded the lower amount, even before this recommended change.
4. Propylene Glycol
Propylene glycol is an ingredient in anti-freeze. It is used in dog food to keep it moist. It has been recognized as not safe for cats, but it still remains in some dog foods.
The FDA explains:
For example, propylene glycol was used as a humectant in soft-moist pet foods, which helps retain water and gives these products their unique texture and taste. It was affirmed Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for use in human and animal food before the advent of soft-moist foods. It was known for some time that propylene glycol caused Heinz Body formation in the red blood cells of cats (small clumps of proteins seen in the cells when viewed under the microscope), but it could not be shown to cause overt anemia or other clinical effects. However, reports in the veterinary literature of scientifically sound studies have shown that propylene glycol reduces the red blood cell survival time, renders red blood cells more susceptible to oxidative damage, and has other adverse effects in cats consuming the substance at levels found in soft-moist food. In light of these new data, CVM amended the regulations to expressly prohibit the use of propylene glycol in cat foods.
Propylene glycol is found in human food too. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified propylene glycol as an additive that is ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in food.” That being said, humans vary their diet a lot. Dogs eat from the same bag every day.
Digests are used to flavor dog food. It can appear on a label as “animal digest” or simply “digest”. The Dog Food Project describes what these terms means:
|Animal Digest||AAFCO: A material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind or flavor(s), it must correspond thereto.A cooked-down broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.
|Digest||May also appear as dried, or spray dried. Sometimes the type and part of animals used is specified, such as in “Chicken Digest”, “Lamb Digest” or “Poultry Liver Digest”AAFCO: Material which results from chemical and/or enzymatic hydrolysis of clean and undecomposed animal tissue. The animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed. .A cooked-down broth made from specified, or worse, unspecified parts of specified or unspecified animals (depending on the type of digest used). If the source is unspecified (e.g. “Animal” or “Poultry”, the animals used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill, animals euthanized at shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on.|
These are just five ingredients to avoid. There are actually many others. From artificial food colorings to mycotoxins, dog food can be really dangerous for your beloved pet.
There are many good brands of dog food that do not include these ingredients. We have a lot of big dogs, but we still feed them organic food.
We were sent a sample of [amazon_link id=”B00NYIGLTE” target=”_blank” ]Bravo![/amazon_link]. This dog food is freeze-dried raw food. It does not contain artificial preservatives, flavors or colors. It is grain and gluten-fee, and it is made in the USA. Obviously, it does not contain any of the ingredients listed above! It is raw, which is how nature intended our canine loved ones to eat.
Raw nutrition that’s easy to store and serve.
Now you can serve your dog a real, homestyle meal brimming with high quality animal proteins and nutrients that’s incredibly easy to make. To create Homestyle Complete Dinners, we start with premium, raw, freeze dried meat or poultry as the #1 ingredient. Then we add organs and chickpeas, plus a generous helping of garden vegetables and cranberries, as well as natural herbs such as turmeric and sage. These uniquely delicious recipes are designed to provide complete and balanced nutrition for dogs of all ages and breeds. And since they don’t need to be refrigerated, you can take them wherever you go.
Why Homestyle Complete is so healthy for dogs.
- Raw meat or poultry is the #1 ingredient plus organs, garden vegetables and cranberries
- Raised without added hormones* or antibiotics
- No artificial preservatives, flavors or colors
- Grain and gluten free
- Natural with added vitamins and minerals
- Made in the USA by a family-owned company
- Tested for food safety before shipping
*Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry and pork.
I love how the freeze-drying process still allows you to feed your dogs raw food without the hassle and storage in your refrigerator. I am a vegetarian, so handling raw meat for my dogs is a little off-setting. I’ve done it for pups, but I can’t make it a daily habit.
I also like how small the package is for the quantity it makes. My dogs love the Bravo! food, which is probably what is most important :). I do wish it was made from organically-grown ingredients.
Don’t be swayed by marketing terms like “premium” and “natural” found on pet food bags and cans. They often can’t be trusted. According to the FDA:
Other Label Claims
Many pet foods are labeled as “premium,” and some now are “super premium” and even “ultra premium.” Other products are touted as “gourmet” items. Products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products.
The term “natural” is often used on pet food labels, although that term does not have an official definition either. AAFCO has developed a feed term definition for what types of ingredients can be considered “natural” and “Guidelines for Natural Claims” for pet foods. For the most part, “natural” can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product. As mentioned above, artificial flavors are rarely employed anyway. Artificial colors are not really necessary, except to please the pet owner’s eye. If used, they must be from approved sources, the same as for human foods. Especially for high-fat dry products, some form of preservative must be used to prevent rancidity. Natural-source preservatives, such as mixed tocopherols (a source of vitamin E), can be used in place of artificial preservatives. However, they may not be as effective.
“Natural” is not the same as “organic.” The latter term refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown or animals were raised. There are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods for pets at this time, but the United States Department of Agriculture is developing regulations dictating what types of synthetic additives, such as vitamins and purified amino acids, may be used in pet foods labeled as organic.
It’s important to know what is in your dog food. There is even a current lawsuit right now against Purina for the death of a dog. Filed in a federal court in San Francisco, the suit accuses Purina of including toxic ingredients that lead to internal bleeding and the death of the dog. There have been thousands of complaints filed by sick dog owners regarding Beneful, and it could turn into a class action lawsuit. NBC News reports:
The lawsuit claims toxins in Beneful are to blame, listing propylene glycol and mycotoxins as possibly harmful substances in the dog food.
While the suit alleges propylene glycol is a known animal toxin and component of automotive antifreeze, Purina says on its website that the type it uses is “an FDA-approved food additive that is also in human foods like salad dressing and cake mix.”Mycotoxins are a group of toxins produced by mold found in grains, a major ingredient in Beneful. Mycotoxins pose a health risk to dogs and consumer complaints on Beneful report symptoms consistent with mycotoxin poisoning, according to the lawsuit. Cereghino said he and his team plan to collect further data and perform testing of the products for toxins.