The canine species has been around for thousands of years,
but suddenly there is a lot of talk about human food, leftovers
or raw meet not being good for dogs. Amazing how dogs were
able to survive without a pet food industry that has not even
been around for a century. So what is actually in some of these "premium brand"
commercial dog food products that makes them so bad?
Many of the products in the market use ingredients that are
simply waste from human food manufacturing operations (blood,
intestines, crushed bones, feathers and even diseased or dead
animals). So much for that juicy steak on the packaging! These
waste ingredients have a name: they are usually called "meat-and-bone-meal"
or "by-products" on the ingredient label. Along with these
by-products you'll find additives, preservatives and mineral
mixes that are commonly added in higher amounts than deemed
necessary because the manufacturing process can degrade these
supplements. As if this would not be horrible enough, there
have been countless reports that even euthanized pets from
veterinary clinics are being delivered to pet food rendering
plants where they are processed into food.
If you want to know what you are actually feeding your dog,
you need to understand what's on the label: The ingredient
list is a key to what actually is in your dog's food. First,
ingredients must be listed in descending order of predominance
by weight and the ingredient names are legally defined (visit
and Drug Administration for details).
With that in mind, the first ingredient should always be a human
grade meat meal such as "Chicken", "Chicken meal" "Lamb meal"
and so on. Avoid foods that are not specific about the actual
protein source but instead start out with ingredients such
as "meat", "meat-meal" or "poultry". These refer to animal
parts as the main ingredient that could have be obtained from
any source without control over quality or contamination (including
dead or dying animals, pigs, horses, and perhaps even rats, road kill, animals
euthanized at shelters and so on).
Further, avoid ingredients including:
--> Corn, Wheat, Glutens as well as Ground Whole Grain Sorghum: Fillers that are difficult to digest for dogs.
--> BHA, BHT, Propyl Gallate, Ethoxyquin: Used to prevent
fats and oils from spoiling. Additives that have been found
to cause cancer in rats.
--> By-products, Animal digest: May include organs, bones,
blood, fatty tissue and perhaps even cancerous or diseased
tissue containing parasites or euthanized animals.
Here is an example: Just compare the labels* - You be the
* Click on the image to enlarge; Ingredients
as listed on the original packaging material in June
One of the things you can do for your dog is to stop buying
commercial dog food al together. Instead, prepare meals yourself.
There are plenty of articles about this topic online, or perhaps
you even want to check out some of the books sold at Amazon.com
that provide very specific information on animal nutrition
or home prepared diets. If preparing meals for your dog at
home is not feasible, look for high-quality holistic food
brands and supplement them
with fresh, organic foods, especially meat. When Andy was a puppy, I fed him "Chicken Soup for the Puppy Lover's
Soul" as the basic dry-food ingredient mixed with a healthy
portion of salad, raw chicken, fish, oatmeal, vegetable oil
etc. All of these additional ingredients are fresh and human-grade.
I am not a nutritionist, but I can read and understand food
labels. If you are unsure about what to feed your dog, you
should first learn how to read labels. There are some excellent
online resources available that provide extensive information
on pet food labels, ingredients, nutrition, and what to avoid.
Keep on reading about what human foods are good or bad for dogs.
Update 2021: There has been a tremendous awakening about the quality of dog foods since I first wrote this article in 2008. Today, there are many excellent commercial options that are based on human-grade ingredients. I feed my dog Kimba the frozen version of Just food for dogs - It is high quality and convenient if you don’t have the time to cook at home.