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Pet Food Labels: What's Good and What's Not?

Pet Food Labels: What's Good and What's Not?

Understanding pet food labels has huge pay-offs for your pets health

The saying "you are what you eat" applies to our animal friends just as much as it rings true for us humans. Nutrition plays a vital role in our pets overall health, so it is our job as owners to ensure we understand pet food labels and exactly what we are feeding our beloved pet.

Substandard ingredients that can be found in the majority of grocery store pet food  can present long term threats to both cats and dogs overall health. Most pet food companies seem to take delight in making pet food labels as confusing as possible, however with a little diligence, you can ensure you are feeding your pet quality ingredients.

Here are some things to steer clear of if you see on a pet food label:

  • Artificial colours, flavours, sugars, sweeteners or propylene glycol. 
  • BHT, BHA, ethoxyquin, propyl gallate: these are all artificial preservatives
  • Formulas containing corn or soy: both these ingredients add no nutritional  value and can cause upset in your pets system
  • Meat by-products and digest: non-specific meat by products can contain numerous unsavory ingredients like beaks, feathers, hooves, hair and scrap meat of unknown origin. (By products derived from human grade meats are the exception.)
  • Poor quality proteins like corn gluten meal, soy protein, wheat gluten meal and rice protein concentrate.

However, there are some great ingredients which your pet will love, and you can feel safe with: 

  • A clearly named meat should be listed at the top of the ingredients. For example “lamb’, ‘beef’ or ‘chicken’. Avoid any product with non-specific description such as ‘meat’ or ‘poultry’. 
  • Grain free: dogs have no nutritional need for grains so they are generally just used as filler.
  • High quality commercial pet food consists usually consists of just meat, vegetables and a vitamin/mineral mix.

While navigating the confusing world of pet food labels can be tricky, spending a little time de-coding the ingredients list can have huge pay offs for your pets health, and your peace of mind. See: Feeding Your Dog a Natural Diet.

Image: Project D/Shutterstock

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Science Notes
The main ingredients I avoid, as a minimum, are corn, wheat, grain, meat by products, BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene), Ethoxyquin, Food Dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6, 4-MIE), PG (Propylene Glycol) and rendered fat.
Related Tip

Composting dog waste is an excellent way to reduce landfill and feed your garden.  The usual way to do this for pet dogs is to dig two below-ground composting holes, as this reduces smells to a minimum. (You dig the holes, not your pet dogs. Although, it's an even bet you'll get a couple if you owned my dog.)