Some people buy the canned dog foods brands that look like a real dinner—with meat slices, rice, peas, and carrots in gravy for their dogs. They look much more appetizing than the stuff that comes out of the can in one big lump. Are they better? Nope, you’ve been fooled by the magic of marketing and technology. Try this experiment: empty a small can of this stew-type dinner into a strainer, wash off all the sauce or gravy under running water, and spread out what’s left on a plate.
Now take a close look at those meaty chunks or slices. They are probably soy (textured vegetable protein) pressed into meat shapes. There’s nothing wrong with feeding a dog soy protein, but if you think you’re feeding him roast beef, you’re mistaken. The gravy? Mostly gluten, water, and salt. The peas and carrots? Sure, there are a few bits in there, but they’re adding more visual appeal to you than they are nutritional value to your dog. If meat and vegetables are what you’re looking for in a canned dog food, choose a variety that’s named for the meat only (just Beef, not Beef Entree or Beef Dinner) and add a variety of cooked vegetables from your own refrigerator.
Dog food brands myths
Many people are concerned about dog foods contain corn and wheat and they think that dogs can’t digest grains. This is one of many myths suggesting that certain foods are allergenic, indigestible, toxic, or otherwise bad for dogs. (For a list of toxic foods for dogs click here) Here are the facts about some of the most commonly cited food culprits.
1. Meat by-products
These can include internal organs (such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and brain), bone, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels, and other animal parts that people rarely eat. It’s true that they contain less high-quality protein than does meat, which is defined as the muscle tissue of an animal. However, under FDA rules, meat by-products do not contain hair, horns, teeth, hooves, roadkill, or dog and cat carcasses. They can be a good natural source of such nutrients as glucosamine and calcium, and dogs find meat by-products very tasty.
Some meat by-products come from plants that are USDA certified to process meat for human consumption. Others come from plants that produce pet food only. So-called “4D meats” are those that have been rejected for human consumption because the animals were disabled, diseased, dying, or dead at the time of inspection. The FDA does allow the use of meat from certain disabled animals in pet food if it is processed to destroy potential disease-causing microorganisms. The thought of sick animals being turned into pet food is disturbing, it’s true. In reality, most of the 4D animals that are rerouted to pet food processors are cattle that have broken a leg on their way to the meatpacking plant or in a holding pen, and dairy cows who can’t walk because their blood calcium levels are depleted from making milk. If you want to avoid any chance that your dog food contains meat from such animals, look for a food that says it uses only USDA-certified meat. Human-grade is meant to convey the same idea but has no regulatory meaning.
Veterinary dermatologists estimate that 10 to 20 percent of dogs who are itchy year-round have a food allergy. Some of those food-allergic dogs may be allergic to wheat. The vast majority of dogs are not allergic to wheat and can digest it perfectly well.
This is an ingredient that’s often condemned on dog enthusiast websites as filler, meaning a cheap ingredient that is indigestible or has little or no nutritional value. Cracked corn, cornmeal, and the like may be less expensive than meat, it’s true, but they do have nutritional value: they contain complex carbohydrates, linolenic acid, and essential amino acids. Most dogs digest corn just fine, and most dogs are not allergic to it. If you are concerned about the amount of filler in particular dog food brands, just check the fiber content on the back label: the percentage of fiber is the percentage of indigestible material. Note that all dogs need some fiber, especially fermentable fiber, so the food that contains the least fiber isn’t necessarily the best food. Reduced-calorie dog foods, designed to help dogs lose weight, usually contain more fiber and less fat than the regular versions.
A few dogs are allergic to soy, but most are not. Soy is a digestible and less expensive source of protein than meat. It does not cause bloat. The worst thing about soy, in my opinion, is that it can be used to trick dog owners into thinking they are buying a food that contains a lot of meat when it doesn’t.
Lean, unseasoned pork is a good protein source for dogs. It is no more allergenic than any other meat.
Following the melamine poisonings of 2007, gluten got a bad rap. But unless it has been adulterated, gluten is neither toxic nor unhealthy. It is the purified protein fraction of a grain, such as wheat or corn.
Some people believe that preservatives cause cancer, but most scientists say that by preventing the oxidization of fat and fat-soluble vitamins in food, preservatives protect health rather than harming it.
8. Mill run
This is the hulls of grains that remain after they are ground, cracked, or flaked. It is added to dog food as a source of fiber.
9. Brewer’s rice
This is the dried extract of rice that remains after brewing. It is commonly used in pet food brands because it is higher in protein than whole rice. It is digestible and safe to eat.
10. Beet pulp
This is the material that remains after sugar is extracted from sugar beets. It is added to dog food as a source of moderately fermentable fiber. When fermentable fiber reaches the large intestine, it is broken down and used for food by the good bacteria, or probiotics (such as Lactobacillus and Enterococcus), living there. It does not contain sugar, and it does not produce gas in the stomach or cause bloat.
11. Peanuts and peanut butter
Unless they are contaminated with mold toxins or bacteria, or a dog is allergic to them, peanuts and peanut butter are safe to eat.