In my many years working as a dog trainer and then a certified canine and feline behavior consultant, I have seen how many people do not understand the value of quality food for their pets. Many people believe the ads that they see on TV, most of those brands are not considered good. The food that you can buy at a discount store or supermarket are not the best either. But how to sort through the many foods available.
To begin with, you have to understand the labels. While it is true that the first ingredient has to be the largest percent in the food, what is not clear is that it is usually the smallest percent of the food. For example, the first ingredient is listed as chicken at 10%, then next ingredient and all subsequent ingredients are each less than 10%, but put together they equal 90% of the food. This makes the rest of the ingredients more important than the main ingredient.
Labels can be misleading, for example, unspecified meat can be anything including diseased animals or road kill. Another issue with food is the source of the fat. Some food companies use the leftover fat from restaurants that has been stored in 55 gallon drums and has turned rancid. The pet food companies are allowed to use this fat if they process it in a certain way. Companies that produce food for human consumption also may use the leftovers from the human food production, such as cereal fines. Another consideration are the fillers in the food. Many times, they are indigestible roughage that does not have any nutritional value. You can see the results of these foods by the amount of stool that the pet produces. High quality food usually reduces the amount of stool by half. By having a large amount of indigestible roughage, the pet has to eat more food to get the nutritional value that their body needs, and guess what, you have to buy twice as much food.
Often people will tell me that they cannot afford the higher priced quality food. But in reality since the pet will have to eat much less of the better food, the cost per serving is usually less than the cheap food. Also, the savings in veterinarian bills makes the better food a real value.
In terms of good health, young dogs and cats can look healthy on poor quality food, but in the long term they will not be as healthy and from middle to old age they may have more health issues from living on a poor diet. In some cases, they may not live as long as they could have on better food. The effects of poor food are evident at a younger age in working dogs, such as police, detection and search dogs.
Last but not least, a pet’s behavior can reflect a poor diet. When I was mentoring a future dog trainer, on the first night of group training, I would point out the dogs that were being fed poor quality food and was correct 99% of the time. I was able to tell by the dog’s behavior alone. When I told the class to switch to a better brand, the ones that did would always come back the next week amazed at the difference in their dog’s behavior. When I work with dogs or cats that have behavior issues, their diet is always one of the first things I evaluate.
The good news is that there is now a site that evaluates dog food and does a good job. If the dog food brands listed also sell cat food, it is safe to say that the cat food will be a high quality as well. Go to the site below and read the criteria that they used to select quality foods. Please spread the word about this post so that as many pet owners as possible can feed their pets the right food.