Dog food ingredients to avoid - how to read dog food labels

Dog food ingredients to avoid - how to read dog food labels

What we feed our dogs will impact their long term health. It is important to get it right and feed your dog as healthy as possible. One important way is to know which dog food ingredients to avoid and to know how to read dog food labels. 

Dog food and dog treat manufacturers quite often see profits over making sure your dog is healthy. Read on to understand dog food labelling and know which dog food ingredients to avoid.

Why is it important to know what is in your dog food?

Would you be happy eating random unidentified food without knowing who cooked it, what is in it or understanding its nutritional value? Some of us might, but most would care about what is in our food which is why it is important to know what is in your dog food. Taking control of your dog’s food could mean a long and happy life with less vet visits!

UK pet food companies must comply with FEDIAF guidelines and contain the basic nutrients that dogs need (By the way, some don't even do this!). This doesn't necessarily mean that the source of the nutrients is as healthy as possible from the freshest and healthiest sources possible. It also means that other stuff can be added to to help preserve the food and give it a long shelf life. Profit profit profit!!! 

It is important to know what is in your dog food because you are what you eat. Your dog could be eating harmful chemicals and ingredients that might not be suitable for them, have harmful chemicals or just be generally unhealthy for them!

How to read what is in your dog's food - Reading dog food labels

You would have thought that just looking at the ‘ingredients’ would be enough to understand what is in your dog's food. Unfortunately not. Loads of companies hide artificial flavourings, preservatives and colourants in the ‘additives’ section of the dog food or dog treat label- so watch out! This makes it very hard to read what is in your dog's food. Just because an ingredient is an ‘additive’ doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad though!

When you read your dog food label, make sure you check out the 'ingredients' section and the 'additive' section. Read on to understand what the ambiguous words mean. 

What to look out for on your dog food label - harmful ingredients on dog food label. 

Non-specific ingredients in dog food. When dog food labels use the word 'derivatives', ‘by-products’ and ‘unknown’ is is a big warning sign!!! If the company can't explain what is in their food then it is a good idea to avoid completely. Make sure that you know what is in your dog food through avoiding these general terms - these ingredients could be harmful to your dog. 

Generally speaking, if you are unsure what an ingredient is, then take a pass. Especially if your dog has sensitivities and problems digesting food. FEDIAF guidelines state that ingredients must be listed in order of quantity. So if the first ingredient on a label is ‘animal derivative’, not only do you know that the bulk of the food is an unknown animal, but it is also part of the animal that is a waste or ‘by-product’. This could mean anything, your dog could be eating a food mainly composed of feet, bones, eyeballs, sinue or offal. Or, sorry to say it, disabled, cancerous or partially decomposing meat that is considered ‘waste' material and not fit for human consumption. 

If you see 'animal derivatives' on your dog food label and your dog has sensitivities to a certain type of protein, it is hard to understand if that food will be suitable next time you buy it. Each time you buy that food, if it is a different 'batch', it will contain a different animal/ animal parts. 

Are derivatives of vegetable origin good for dogs?

Are derivatives of vegetable origin good for dogs? Although safer than 'animal derivatives', in my opinion, derivatives of vegetable origin are still a pretty disgusting set of ingredients. Derivatives of vegetable origin are essentially what is left over after vegetables have been treated, processed or just a waste product again. Derivatives of vegetable origin are most likely full of chemicals and definitely a waste product with little nutritional value.

What is scary with any ‘derivatives’ is that the manufacturer can change their recipe at any point, as long as the percentage derived from the source is the same! This means that dogs with particularly sensitive tummies might be ok with one batch of a brand of food and then the next minute have severe reaction!

Ingredients to look out for in dog food

What other ingredients should you look out for in dog food? One of the scary ingredients that a lot of dog foods contain is sugar. This includes all the sugars associated with it, glucose, fructose etc! Dogs shouldn't be eating sugar. Sugar in dogs can cause diabetes, obesity and dental disease. Also, if your dog eats sugar-laced food, they may also become fussy and start to refuse healthier foods going forward!! So this is one to watch out for all you fussy dog owners out there. 

If you feed your dog a prescription diet, please look for sugar on the label - it’s so unhealthy. Veterinary professionals are not trained in nutrition as standard and do not realise that the expensive prescription diets that their clinics provide are sometimes full of sugar. Prescription diets for dogs are not healthy at all, they are there to make money off vulnerable dog owners. 

Another ingredient to look out for in dog food - which is also found in prescription diets-  is animal fat. Dogs who eat a lot of animal fat will be susceptible to heart problems, overweight issues, diabetes and pancreatic disease later on in life. If you see animal fat in your dog food ingredient list then please give it a miss. It has little to no nutritional value and your dog will suffer long term. If you feed your dog a raw food diet, it is also worth ensuring that the animal fat content is low in this too. Some cheaper raw food companies will be adding more animal fat to boost profits - because it is a waste product. Again, when you read animal fat on a label, you also do not know what animal this is from. If your dog has an intolerance to a certain type of protein, then this will be a problem. 

Chemicals in dog food

Non-organic dog food will obviously contain pesticides and herbicides from the food chain, but some dog foods add chemicals in! Both in the ingredient list and the additive list can contain some of the worst nasties - chemicals in dog food. If your dog food has ‘artificial colours and flavours' make sure you avoid at all costs. These can actually make your dog ill and develop serious health conditions. Preservatives and antioxidants are also chemicals to avoid. There is no need for these cheap chemicals to be in dog food apart from to keep costs down. You’ll end up paying more in vet bills and stress and hurt through feeding your dog these chemicals day in day out! 

It all sounds so confusing doesn't it - is it easier to not think about it and just feed your dog what they like or what is cheapest? Think about this from a human perspective. Fast food is cheap. Fast food is "yummy". But is it the healthiest for us as humans. Absolutely not. It is time that owners felt empowered to make positive dietary decisions about their dog's food so they live as long as possible.

If you would like your dog to try human grade, organic, fresh dog food, please take a look at our Starter Kits where you can try for free (Just pay P+P of £3.95). Our customers are either hugely health conscious or those who notice a dramatic improvement in their dog's health. 

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