In our first segment on Dog Nutrition, we talked about the essential nutrients that should be present in a quality dog food. In part two, we offered insight into the ingredients that could be lurking in your pet’s food that are not always identifiable simply by reading the label. Today, we will review commonly used ingredients that should really should NOT be in your pet food.
Additives such as Glyceryl Monostearate, Phosphoric Acid, and Propylene Glycol are often found in poor quality pet foods and should be avoided. These ingredients are unnecessary and in some cases can be toxic if consumed in large amounts. These chemicals should not be present in a food that your pet is eating on a daily basis.
Inexpensive fillers such as corn gluten meal and wheat gluten, while not necessarily harmful (though there is an alarming increase in gluten intolerance amongst our canine friends), offers virtually no nutritional value to your pet. What exactly is "gluten"? Well, it’s an inexpensive human by-product of what's leftover from various grains like wheat, barley, and rye. What's left is a "rubbery protein residue" known as gluten.(www.dogfoodadvisor.com). Unfortunately, there are a number of pet food manufacturers that use this as a cheap protein replacement to inflate the protein percentage noted on the label - remember, not all proteins are created equal. If you see these ingredients listed anywhere, you should question the nutritional value of the food you are feeding your beloved pet.
Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates/Fiber:
Similar to protein, not all grains are created equal when it comes to their nutritional value. Human food by-products such as brewer's rice, oat hulls, corn cobs, wheat middlings, grain fragments, and other cereal fines are inexpensive, low quality carbohydrate substitutes considered unfit for human consumption. Sadly, you will find these ingredients in many of the dog foods not only sold in the big box commercial pet food stores, but also in some over-priced prescription foods found on the shelves of many veterinarians' offices.
Various sugars and sweeteners are sometimes added to your pet's food as a way to improve the flavor, while also masking the bitter taste of some less desirable ingredients. Sugar comes in various forms ranging from natural sugars like honey and molasses to processed sources such as sorbitol and corn syrup. Even the controversial beet pulp ingredient, touted as a digestive aid, is made from sugar beets, adding to the total amount of sugar present in your pet’s food. Our canine friends suffer from sugar addictions just as we do, and feeding them a food high in sugar can lead to the same health issues that humans face when consuming with too much added sugar. Obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and allergies are just a few examples of the growing list of health concerns connected to this unnecessary ingredient found in a number of pet foods.
Perhaps the most alarming of ingredients that may be present in your pet food are the use of artificial preservatives such as ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). BHA and BHT are banned in many countries for human use, yet are still permitted in the U.S. and often used in pet food to preserve fats and oils for extended shelf life. Government directed studies have shown the use of these artificial preservatives to be human carcinogens "based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in experimental animals" (National Toxicology Program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). If these preservatives allow the food to have an unnaturally long shelf life, what do you think they could be doing to your pet's digestive system?
The list of potentially harmful, or at best, unnecessary, ingredients commonly found in pet foods goes on and on. I encourage you to do your research so you can find comfort in knowing that the food you have chosen to feed your pets on a daily basis is providing them with the necessary nutrients they need to live a long and healthy life. They trust us unconditionally...let's make sure we are giving them the best of what they deserve!
Association of American Feed Control Officials, www.aafco.org
Dog Food Advisor, www.dogfoodadvisor.com
National Toxicology Program, US Department of Health and Human Services, www.ntp.niehs.nih.gov
The Dog Food Project, www.dogfoodproject.com