Hallmarks of Quality In Dog & Cat Foods:

In order to help out the pets and their friends who come to the Chico Animal Hospital, we have listed some things to look for when purchasing an animal’s food, to make sure that the food is of high quality for helping the pet live a healthy life.

Make sure that there are lots of animal proteins at the top of the ingredients list
The ingredients of the food are listed by weight, so you want to see a lot of top quality animal proteins at the top of the list- the first ingredient should be what is called a named animal protein source- such as chicken, beef, lamb, etc.. “Meat” is an example of low-quality protein source of dubious origin. Animal protein “meals” should also be from a named species- for example- look for “beef meal” but avoid “meat meal,” as you don’t know what meat is in the meat meal- as it can be anything!!

When a fresh meat appears high on the ingredients list, look for an animal protein meal in a supporting role, to add to the total animal protein in the diet. Fresh or frozen meats do not contain enough protein to be used as the sold animal protein source in a dry food- they contain around 65 to 70 percent water, and only 15 to 25 percent protein. Animal protein meals (things like meat, bone, skin, and connective tissue) contain only about 10 percent moisture, and as much as 65 percent protein.

By the way- what is meal? Basically it is a grainy powder made from meat, bone, skin, fat, and connective tissue through the rendering process. It is whatever remains of the carcass from meat being stripped off for human consumption. The remains are cooked in giant vat, cooked at high temperature until most of the moisture is gone, and then ground to a fine powder.

Whole vegetables, fruits, and grains
Fresh unprocessed foods like these do contain wholesome nutrients. Don’t be alarmed by one or two food fragments, especially if they are low on the ingredients list. But if there are several present in the food, and/or they appear high on the ingredients list, the lower the quality the food will be.

Best by date
Look for a best by date that is at least 6 months away. A best by date that is 10 or 11 months away is ideal- it means that the food was made very recently. Foods made with synthetic preservatives (BH, BHT, ethoxyquin) may have a best by date that is as much as 2 years past the date of manufacture.

What to look out for:
Meat and/or poultry by products- or product meal

In the scheme of things, usually lower value ingredients, such as a meat by product are not processed or stored as well (kept clean and cold) as the higher quality ingredients (i.e. - whole meats) thus resulting a greater chance of oxidation (rancidity.)

Added sweeteners
Dog food companies may add sweeteners to entice the dog to eat the food more. Sweeteners are usually grain fragments, which are little in the way of healthy animal protein.

Artificial preservatives
These are usually things like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Natural preservatives are things like tocopherols (forms of vitamin E,) vitamin C, and rosemary extract. Be wary- natural preservatives do not preserve the food as long as artificial preservatives, so again, check the best by date on the dog food label.

Artificial colors
Think about it- the color of the dog food makes no difference to the dog. These nutritionally, useless chemicals are used to make the dog food more appealing to the owner!!

Joint health foods:
These foods are basically a marketing scheme for the consumer. The glucosamine that is most beneficial to our pets comes from shellfish. Most of the glucosamine that is in dog food is usually from poultry cartilage. And, unfortunately, the level of glucosamine added to these foods is way below the therapeutic level. Glucosamine should be given to the dog separately from the dog food.

Probiotics and prebiotics:
We highly recommend both of the above for our pets. Probiotics are living organisms that support healthy digestion in the intestinal tract. Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon for proper digestion. Prebiotics are stable substances, probiotics are not. Heat (as in the heat from processing dog food, especially the high heat used for making canned food) makes probiotics inactive. Some dog food companies claim that the probiotics are added to the food after the food is processed and cooled. However, it is probably true that none of these probiotic bacteria are still alive and active by the time the dog consumes the food. Just the oxidative process of food as it ages would kill off these bacteria. Again, both probiotics and prebiotics should be given to the animal separately from the dog food.

Herbs, berries, fruits, ect.
Again, this is mainly a marketing thing to humanize the dog food, making it appealing to the pet’s owner. Look, this food has blueberries in it; it must be healthy and good, right? Check the food label to see where in the lineup these types of ingredients are listed. Usually, anything that is 10th or lower on the list is in very small amounts in the food, usually so low as to be negligible. If you want your pet to have the benefits of these types of ingredients, feed them separately from the dog food.

If you have any questions about the food that you are feeding your pet, please call us at the clinic: 530-342-0518.