Dog food can be a tricky thing to shop for. What brand is trustworthy? Where is the dog food manufactured? What ingredients should you be looking for, and more importantly, what ingredients should you be steering clear of?
Dog food manufacturing is held to a lesser standard of quality than food meant for human consumption. While this might seem obvious, the result is that dog foods are routinely recalled for failing to meet even the minimum standards of nutrition and safety for canines.
The manufacturing process of major pet food brands can be impossible to know, but there are things you can do to ensure the quality of your pet’s food. Learning about ingredients you need to avoid is an easy first step.
Meat and Bone Meal
Many popular brands of dog food list “Meal”, “Bone Meal”, or “Meat Meal” as one of the primary ingredients. Meal is a product made from the renderings of deceased and butchered animals, most often from the bone, blood, skin, and unused tissues. While Meal is primarily protein, it is also made with up to 30% ash that’s produced from the incineration of bone.
This may sound grizzly, and that’s because it is. Bone Meal in and of itself does not pose a risk to dogs because their digestive system is meant to handle small amounts of bone and connective tissue. However, because of the way it’s made, Meal is often a source of toxins, either due to poor quality ingredients or industrial contamination.
Will your dog get sick if you feed them food with Meal in it? Probably not, but consider that Meal is often nutritionally devoid and has historically been a source of disease and toxins.The Mad Cow Disease outbreaks in the 1990s have been traced to feeding of Meal to livestock.
The United States has fewer laws and regulations that govern the use of Meal products in animal food, but it is now tightly regulated all across Europe.
Corn And Corn Products
Corn is one of the most widespread and commonly used cereal crops in the entire world. There is ongoing debate about whether or not corn is inherently bad for dogs, but the general consensus is that it should be avoided if possible.
Corn does contain several healthy vitamins and minerals, but they are often wasted because corn is incredibly difficult to digest. Most often, corn is used as a cheap filler ingredient in dog food and it provides little to no nutritional benefit.
Corn can appear on an ingredient label in a number of different forms, all of which should be avoided when possible:
- Corn Syrup
- Corn Meal
- Corn Cellulose
- Corn Gluten
- Corn Germ
Corn is not inherently bad for dogs. However, corn is often a calling card of low quality dog food because it’s used as a cheap filler ingredient in place of nutritious foods.
All food, and especially food rich in protein and fats, needs to be preserved to some degree if it’s going to be sold in stores. That being said, you need to be especially cautious when looking at what preservatives are in your dog’s food. Ethoxyquin is one such ingredient that you should be wary of.
Ethoxyquin is a chemical used to prevent fats from turning rancid, but is also widely used as a pesticide around the world. While approved for specific human uses in the US, Ethoxyquin has been made illegal for human consumption in all of Europe and Australia. While the US continues to allow its use, Europe has completely banned Ethoxyquin in pet food manufacturing as of 2019.
Scientists have traced the use of Ethoxyquin to kidney disease, liver issues, anemia, and many other serious organ problems.
Monosodium Glutamate, better known as MSG, is a food additive that is used to enhance flavor and make food more desirable. This ingredient is tricky to judge because, unless you have an allergy, MSG is commonly and safely used in human food every day.
The problem with MSG being used in dog food is that it’s often used to cover up low quality and unhealthy ingredients. Dogs don’t need to be convinced to eat nutritious foods like beef liver, salmon, or lamb. If a food needs to have MSG in it to be appealing to a dog, chances are the food is low quality and should be avoided.
Leave the Mess, Enjoy the Rest
Identifying what ingredients to avoid in dog food is a key part of responsible pet ownership. Trying to parse all the scientific mumbo jumbo can be intimidating at first, but you’ll quickly learn what to buy and what to avoid.
A general rule of thumb is that if you don’t recognize an ingredient, you don’t want to feed it to your dog. As always, if you are concerned about your pup’s nutrition or dietary needs, you should consult a trusted veterinarian before making any major decisions.