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Dog food ingredients - What are you really feeding your dog?

Why are dog food ingredients lists so hard to figure out? It's like some secret language. But you need to learn to translate your ingredients in your dog food. If you don't, you could be feeding your best friend food that prevents optimal health and even causes some health problems down the road.  Sometimes is seems like you need a degree to figure out all the ingredients in your dog food. What do all these terms mean? The dog food companies basically tell you not to worry about it - they will take care of your beloved pet. But consumers got a terrible wake-call with the massive pet food recalls over the last few years. They may know what is best for our dogs, but that is not what they are giving us. Thankfully, more organic and all-natural pet foods have been springing up, giving us healthier dog food choices.

What you need to do is learn how to compare your dog food to other brands. There are a couple of tips to help in deciphering the dog food ingredients label:

1. You can get a feel to the quality of the dog food by looking at the first 5 - 10 ingredients, as these make up the majority of the dog.

2. Look for the chemical preservatives BHA, BHT, or Ethoxyquin. These preservatives have been banned from use in human food as they are linked to kidney and liver damage. However, they are still used in inferior dog foods. Look instead for natural preservatives, like vitamins C and E (ascorbic acid and tocopherols).

3. A trick some dog food companies use, legally, is to break up one ingredient into several "sub-ingredients," thus moving these ingredients lower in the ingredient list. This is especially true for inferior grains. For example, instead of seeing "corn" listed, you might see corn bran, corn gluten, and corn flour, even though they are all derived from corn. Now, another ingredient that weighs more than either of these sub-ingredients, will be listed before these.

4. It makes sense that a quality dog food will have a meat listed in the first 2 ingredients. But you really want to see a meat meal. The meat meal is the same as meat, but most of the moisture/liquid has been removed first. Therefore an ounce of meat weighs more than an ounce of meat meal (and is higher in the ingredient list), but there are more nutrients and protein in an ounce of meat meal than an ounce of meat. But when the dog food gets processed, the meat is first dehydrated. So you would be getting less of the actual meat if meat is listed instead of meat meal. Very confusing!

So you really do need to read and understand your dog food ingredients label to figure out your dog food. You might be surprised to find out your current food is garbage, or that it is a fantastic food for your beloved pet. Whatever you do, though, don't look at the dog food packaging. Instead, look at the actual ingredients label. The bag may say it is made with fresh chicken and vegetables, but a look at the ingredients list will tell you the truth.

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