What’s for Dinner?

Chicago Pet Sitters is extremely interested in the health and well being of your pet. While we offer dog walking and pet sitting, we are also big advocates of a healthy diet. Have you ever taken a look at what you are putting into your dog or cat’s digestive system?

Dog Food

There are now online tools to help owners select the right food for them, like Dog Food Advisor, for example. Using their site, where they break down each positive and negative ingredient, here are the findings.

Let’s take a look at the ingredients of the low-quality dry dog food, Kibble ‘n Bits. This is a brand that can be purchased at your local convenience store. While perhaps convenient when you’ve just ran out of food, it can cause serious damage to the health of your dog. Reading the back of the label, the ingredients are listed according to what the food contains most of to least of.

Ingredients: Corn, soybean meal, beef and bone meal, ground wheat, animal fat (BHA used as preservative), corn syrup, wheat middlings, water sufficient for processing, animal digest (source of chicken flavor), propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, caramel color, peas, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), sodium carbonate, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), choline chloride, calcium sulfate, wheat flour, carrots, green beans, titanium dioxide (color), yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40,BHA (used as a preservative), blue 1, dl-methionine

When you look at this, your first thought should be: What are all of those ingredients? Here’s what Dog Food Advisor has to say:

“The first ingredient in this dog food is corn. Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain. And aside from its energy content, this grain is of only modest nutritional value to a dog. For this reason, we do not consider corn a preferred component in any dog food.

The second ingredient is soybean meal, a by-product of soybean oil production more commonly found in farm animal feeds. Although soybean meal contains 48% protein, this ingredient would be expected to have a lower biological value than meat. And less costly plant-based products like this can notably boost the total protein reported on the label — a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The third ingredient is beef and bone meal, a dry rendered product from (beef) tissues, including bone, exclusive of blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents”. Beef and bone meal may have a lower biological value than most other meat meals. Scientists believe this decreased protein quality may be due to the ingredient’s higher ash and lower essential amino acid content.

On the brighter side, beef and bone meals are concentrates and contain nearly 300% more protein than fresh meat. In any case, beef and bone meal is not considered a better quality dog food ingredient.

The fourth ingredient is wheat. Wheat is another cereal grain and subject to the same issues as corn (previously discussed).

The fifth ingredient is animal fat. Animal fat is a generic by-product of rendering, the same high-temperature process used to make meat meals. Since there’s no mention of a specific animal, this item could come from almost anywhere: road kill, spoiled supermarket meat, dead, diseased or dying cattle — even euthanized pets. For this reason, we do not consider generic animal fat a quality ingredient. What’s worse, this fat is preserved with BHA, a suspected cancer-causing agent.

The sixth ingredient is corn syrup. Corn syrup is a glucose-rich, high-calorie item of questionable nutritional value to a dog.

The seventh ingredient includes wheat middlings, commonly known as “wheat mill run”. Though it may sound wholesome, wheat mill run is actually an inexpensive by-product of cereal grain processing. Unfortunately, the variations in nutrient content found in wheat middlings can be a critical issue in determining their suitability for use in any dog food — or even livestock feeds.

In reality, wheat middlings are nothing more than milling dust and floor sweepings — and an ingredient more typically associated with lower quality pet foods.

The eighth ingredient is water, which adds nothing but moisture to this food. Water is a routine finding in most canned dog foods.

The ninth ingredient is animal digest. Animal digest is a chemically hydrolyzed mixture of animal by-products that is typically sprayed onto the surface of a dry kibble to improve its taste.
From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.”

Whew! This is a recipe for disaster. Literally.

Alternatively, let’s look at a high-quality food like Evanger’s Grain-Free Chicken, Sweet Potato and Pumpkin dog food.

Ingredients: De-boned chicken, sweet potato, chicken meal (a natural source of glucosamine), chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, a source of natural vitamin E), fish meal, ground flax seed, pumpkin, yeast culture, alfalfa meal, alfalfa nutrient concentrate, natural chicken flavor, fruits and vegetables (carrots, peas, tomato, celery, beet, parsley, lettuce, watercress, spinach, cranberries, blueberries), canola oil, potassium chloride, dried egg, kelp meal (ascophyllum nodosum), New Zealand green mussel, sea cucumber, eggshell meal, chicken cartilage (source of glucosamine), vitamins and minerals [vitamin E supplement, zinc amino acid chelate, iron amino acid chelate, selenium yeast, vitamin B12 supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, d-calcium pantothenate (source of vitamin B5), copper amino acid chelate, manganese sulfate, thiamine mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), biotin, manganese amino acid chelate, magnesium amino acid chelate, riboflavin supplement (source of vitamin B2), vitamin D3 supplement, calcium iodate, pyridoxine hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), lecithin, dried chicory root, folic acid, cobalt carbonate], hydrolyzed yeast (source of beta glucans), Lactobacillus acidophilus fermentation product, Enterococcus faecium fermentation product, Lactobacillus casei fermentation product, Lactobacillus fermentum fermentation product, Lactobacillus plantarum fermentation product, taurine, Yucca schidigera extract, glucosamine HCL, chondroitin sulfate natural preservative (natural mixed tocopherols, citric acid), rosemary extract

Here are the comments from Dog Food Advisor:
“The first ingredient in this dog food is chicken. Although it is a quality item, raw chicken contains about 80% water. After cooking, most of that moisture is lost, reducing the meat content to just a fraction of its original weight. After processing, this item would probably account for a smaller part of the total content of the finished product.

The second ingredient is sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are a gluten-free source of complex carbohydrates in a dog food. They are naturally rich in dietary fiber and beta carotene.

The third ingredient is chicken meal. Chicken meal is considered a meat concentrate and contains nearly 300% more protein than fresh chicken.

The fourth ingredient is chicken fat. Chicken fat is obtained from rendering chicken, a process similar to making soup in which the fat itself is skimmed from the surface of the liquid. Chicken fat is high in linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid essential for life. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, chicken fat is actually a quality ingredient.

The fifth ingredient is fish meal, another protein-rich meat concentrate. Fish meal is typically obtained from the “clean, dried, ground tissue of undecomposed whole fish and fish cuttings” of commercial fish operations. Unfortunately, this particular item is anonymous. Because various fish contain different types of fats, we would have preferred to have known the source species.

The sixth ingredient is flaxseed, one of the best plant sources of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Provided they’ve first been ground into a meal, flax seeds are also rich in soluble fiber. However, flaxseed contains about 19% protein, a factor that must be considered when judging the actual meat content of this dog food.

The seventh ingredient is pumpkin. Pumpkin is a nutritious addition high in complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene and dietary fiber.

The eighth ingredient is yeast culture. Although yeast culture is high in B-vitamins and protein, it can also be used as a probiotic to aid in digestion.

The ninth ingredient is alfalfa meal. Although alfalfa meal is high in plant protein (about 18%) and fiber (25%), this hay-family item is more commonly associated with horse feeds. From here, the list goes on to include a number of other items.”

For dog and cat food, what you pay for is what you get. Help us keep your pet happy and healthy by taking into consideration the diet of your four-legged family member!