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Top Rules for Choosing Commercial Foods

1.   Read labels. Call the manufacturer’s toll-free number posted on the label with any questions. Check out ingredients with this cool wizard developed by a pet food company to get definitions for ingredients. Find the exact legal definitions at the FDA website.

2.   Buy food that’s closest to fresh. Frozen, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods are better than canned foods which are in turn better for your pet than dry kibble.

3.   The first ingredient should be one or more “named” animal proteins (like lamb, beef, chicken or venison).  “Meat” can mean anything. Important: manufacturers trick us by putting, say, lamb first followed by corn gluten, corn meal and brewer’s rice; the three carbs added together outweigh the lamb.

4.   Accept no by-products (like meat by-products). Legally, they’re the non rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals, including but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low-temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. Icky sounding, but not completely horrible if a meat source is named (chicken by-products are far better than poultry by-products) and are better if canned (where they are canned fresh, not rendered or processed) than in dry food. However, this is a cheap product with inconsistent ingredients.

5.   Accept no meat-and-bone-meal and beef-and-bone-meal. Because of “mad cow disease” scares, meat meals are banned in countries like Japan and France. These are the worst ingredients imaginable.

6.   Accept no “animal” products, such as “animal digest.”  Digest is a flavor enhancer which can contain varying parts from animals of unknown origin.  Yum.

7.   Reject all corn products and gluten meals. Corn and gluten are common allergens. Wheat gluten was contaminated in the 2006 major pet food recall in a attempt to boost protein content with melamine.

8.   Reject chemical preservatives (like BHA, BHT, propyl gallate, ethoxyquin, propylene glycol).

9.    Avoid “light” or “senior” or “special needs” or “breed-specific” foods. These variations on regular pet food are mostly marketing gimmicks, sold at a premium, with little or no real benefit to your pet. “Natural” or “human grade” foods are terms generally seen on better-quality foods but have no legal definition.

10.  Feed several brands and flavors with different protein sources your dog or cat tolerates well, and rotate them frequently. *By Jan Rasmusen and Jean Hofve, DVM

“I have found changing my dogs food all the time gives them a stronger stomach so they are very unlikely to get an upset stomach from any changes in diet.”

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