You are at the store looking at food for your dog. You grab a bag, take a look at the ingredients. The first ingredients state chicken or beef and you think “that looks like high-quality dog food”, but is it really?
The reality is the dog food industry is filled with many tricks and gimmicks that companies use to confuse you and make their food seem much better than it really is. Here are a few tips on how to see past the smoke and mirrors:
THE ORDER OF INGREDIENTS
The first ingredients listed on the bag make up the highest percentage in the recipe. Generally, it’s good to see protein sources as the first few ingredients (this can signal high protein). The rest of the ingredients on the bag are listed in descending order of percentage in that dog food. Do keep in mind that ‘ingredient splitting’ is the exception, which we will cover later.
MEALS AND BYPRODUCTS
Look out for animal meals and rendered animal products e.g. Lamb meal or Chicken meal. These are concentrated animal products created by super-heating and separating out the proteins and fat. Generally very high in protein, which sounds fantastic for your pet. However, the animal parts used in these products can include slaughterhouse waste and meat from animals in poor condition, which is often handled outside the usual cold chain due to the final rendering process being a high-temperature one. Some kibble and other products based on rendered meals may include meat from the so-called 4 D’s: diseased, dying, disabled, and down. The FDA allows for meat from these kinds of animals to be put into our dog food since many dry foods are heated to such high temperatures.
Most importantly, the quality of raw meat vastly outweighs that of any meal - and most raw dog food brands, like Huntaway, don’t include any animal byproducts in their recipes.
CARBOHYDRATES & FILLERS
Look for names like corn meal, corn flour, white rice, brown rice, pea flour, pea protein, etc. on ingredient lists. While these may sound like harmless grains, our furry friends don’t benefit from high amounts of carbohydrates. When these fillers are listed in the first five ingredients, they tend to make up a large percentage of the recipe, which is cheaper for the companies who make the food, but less healthy for your dog.
SAME INGREDIENT, DIFFERENT NAME
Watch out for the same ingredient listed under different names. Otherwise known as ‘ingredient splitting’, in some dry dog foods, the same ingredient will be listed under different names, so that it can be put further down on the ingredient list. This is a way dog food companies can put meat as the first ingredient to make it seem like the main ingredient, when in reality, the filler takes the prize as the #1 ingredient.
THE SALT RULE
When you’re looking at ingredients lower on the list, anything that comes after salt makes up less than 1% of the recipe. Sometimes this will be vitamins and minerals, but sometimes it’s also wholesome ingredients that companies want you to think are in their recipes in higher amounts.
Most importantly, if you feel unsure about a dog food, call or email their customer support team and ask questions. Ask about the percentage of meat in their recipe, or where they source their ingredients. Generally, if a company is hesitant to answer your questions, steer clear.
Take a look at Huntaway’s recipe for our Signature Range Frozen Wild Venison Raw Dog Food. The ingredients list is: Venison Meat, Venison Heart, Venison Liver, Venison Kidney, Venison Lung, Venison Spleen, Venison Trachea, Ground Venison Bone, Swiss Chard, Rapeseed Oil, Carrots, Beetroot, Blueberries, Parsley, Parsnip, Apple Cider Vinegar, Chia Seeds, Brewer's Yeast, Seaweed Meal, Rosemary Extract, Sodium Chloride, Vitamin E.
You’ll see that the first eight ingredients are venison meat and venison organ meat, which lines up with our recipe being 85% venison. This is followed by healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, and lastly, vitamins and minerals required for your dog's health. There are no ingredient splitting, our salt (Sodium Chloride) is right at the end of our list, and you won’t see any fillers included.
The next time you’re out shopping for dog food or perusing online, use these tips to make the most educated choice you can about what food to feed your dog. If you can incorporate any amount of fresh food into your dog's diet, their life will be more vibrant and lengthy because of it.
If you’re looking for a raw dog food delivery service to make your life even easier, give Huntaway a try and see the difference in your dog for yourself!