As more pet parents consider feeding their dogs and cats a healthier diet, learning about the ingredients in your pet’s food becomes all the more important. While many leading dog food and cat food brands cover the front of their bags with beautiful photography or illustrations of healthy ingredients, the ingredient listing on the back is where you can determine whether your pet’s food is of the highest quality.
How to Compare Dog and Cat Food
>> The first ingredient is the most important because there is more of that ingredient than any other. All dog foods and cat foods must list the ingredients of their food in order of weight. When you compare food labels, be sure the first ingredient is some type of whole food, like chicken, fish, or grains. Many times, you’ll find ground yellow corn as the main ingredient in mainstream brands, which can be difficult for dogs and cats to digest, and has been linked to allergies in some dogs.
>> The top 10 ingredients usually comprise 80 percent or more of a dry pet food’s entire formula and give you a real insight into the formula’s overall quality.
>> Some dog food and cat food brands define their ingredients in several different ways so that the ones of lower quality appear further down the ingredient list. For example, a product list could contain chicken, ground corn, corn gluten, ground wheat, and corn bran. If you were to group all of the corn ingredients as one, they might far outweigh the amount of chicken in that food, and be the first listed ingredient.
>> Be sure to read all of the ingredients at the end of the listing to know if any artificial preservatives and colorings are being used.
The Kinds of Ingredients You’ll Find in Quality Pet Food
>> Real meat, such as chicken, fish, or lamb is a source of high-quality, highly digestible protein. Proteins are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction, repair, and energy.
>> Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, and oats supply complex carbohydrates to maintain your dog or cat’s energy level.
>> Veggies and fruit provide essential phytonutrients, antioxidants, and enzymes. Plus, they give natural vitamins, minerals, and fibers that have been shown to promote health and wellness.
Watch out for These Low-Quality Products
>> Poultry [Chicken] By-Product Meal consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.
>> Artificial color and chemical preservatives like BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propylene glycol. They provide no nutritional value and have been associated with possible toxic side effects.
>> Corn, wheat, and soy have been linked to allergic reactions in some dogs. Choosing the best dog food or best cat food for your beloved pet isn’t easy, especially when there are so many brands touting themselves as being healthy. Next time you’re in the store, take a minute to review the dog food or cat food you’re using now. With what you’ve learned about pet food labels, that minute could mean a big difference in the health of your pet.