What's in your Dog's Food? Nasty ingredients and Shady Business Practices

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Since I started cooking for Winston, a lot of people have asked me for the recipe...and admittedly I've been a bit hesitant to share. I am NOT a vet, doggy nutrition expert nor do I have any knowledge beyond my own experience and common sense :P

I would HIGHLY recommend consulting a (holistic) vet before changing your dog's diet because you want to be absolutely sure that you are giving them the best nutrition in the best proportions and they are not deficient in essential vitamins, minerals.  

WITH THAT BEING SAID, many owners are unknowingly feeding their pets garbage (for lack of a better term).  I admit to being one of those owners who THOUGHT I was giving my pets good food...only to read the label and discover corn, grains and a bunch of filler products...imported from China.

Why is that an issue? Quality control and food safety standards are shabby at best. There have been countless cases of illness and death due to pets consuming these unregulated products.
On top of that, they are getting subpar nutrition and the ingredients used can cause anything from behavior issues, tummy troubles to cancer.

You can do your own research and googling on this...but I will just say this...Your pet is part of the FAMILY...feed them accordingly. Do you really want to play russian roulette when it comes to the safety and health of your fur baby?

So what CAN you do?

I am a firm believer in being an advocate for your pets and the master of YOUR education as their parent. That means...doing your research, reading labels, googling companies, manufacturing practices, and information.

You may be thinking I am a crazy dog lady...but this is a process that can occur over time. You don't have to soak it all in a once but I do recommend
1) checking your current label
2) finding a quality brand that uses quality ingredients and follows top notch safety standards.

Did you know for those big labels it's actually cheaper for them to pay for lawsuits from dead/poisoned dogs than it is for them to test their products? Shocking and disturbing....to say the least!

An awesome resource I use often to spot check the quality of Dog food: Dogfoodadvisor.com/

You can search for your dog food and see how it rates, they list the ingredients (including any controversial ingredients) and break down what it all means. You can also sign up for notifications on Dog food + treat recalls.

Grocery stores generally do not carry higher quality brands- I recommend searching for a local pet store. You will find they are usually very passionate & knowledgeable about which brands they carry. (Not Petsmart or Petco...again...they typically carry lower quality brands.) I used to think Science Diet was the creme de la creme of dog food...but it's actually just an "average" rated product. You can get something MUCH better for your money.

If you don't have anything local or you don't want to lug a big bag of dog food home, you can simply order from a site like Chewy.com (I believe they offer 20% of your first autoship order).


I wanted to share this blurb about "BY-PRODUCT MEAL" with you. Go check the label on your current dog food and see if it contains any "By Product Meal" and then promptly throw it away! 

Animal by-product meals are defined by AAFCO as the “rendered product from animal tissues, exclusive of added hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents, except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” 
Poultry by-product meal is defined as the “rendered carcasses of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” If the label states turkey by-product meal, the meal must be from turkey. 
By definition, generic meals and by-product meals can contain road kill, dead zoo animals and dead and diseased livestock. Euthanized animals can also make an appearance in rendering plants, and there is an allowable level of barbiturates allowed in rendered meats. While the heat used in rendering will kill any pathogens, it won’t necessarily reduce the amount of antibiotics and drugs that would be found in meats. The rendering industry also admits that meat wrappers can be mixed in with raw materials, as discarded grocery store meats will go to rendering.
These meals are of very questionable origin and often an inconsistent mixture of several protein sources. While AAFCO definitions state the source of the protein for meals, they don’t specify the freshness of the sources or how they were handled. So any meat not for human consumption, such as spoiled or rancid meats that might sit in the hot sun at the farm or rendering plant, would also be allowed in by-product meals. (DogsNaturallyMagazine.com) 

  • AVOID Fish Meal, Animal Meal, Meat meal, Poultry Meal, Bone Meat and generic "Meat"
  • AVOID corn gluten meal, soybean meal, soybean grem and ALL SOY.  (Most corn is GMO and linked to cancer and other health issues. Soy is also GMO, can distrupt hormones, lead to autoimmune diseases,  and can damage the intestinal flora leading to tummy troubles). 
  • AVOID Fish Oil, Salmon Oil
    Fish/salmon oil is GREAT for your pets and their coat, but only when it is handled/stored properly and added to food at the time of consumption. When it's added to your dog food, it's unstable- once exposed to air it turns rancid!
    Sythentic vitamins added to processed food so they reach minimum standards. Quality and food safety is low and sythentic vitamins aren't processed by the body as effectively as the real deal. 
  • AVOID Natural flavor (of ANY/ALL kinds), gelatin, powered milk, citric acid, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extracts, soy isolate, isolate, carrageenan (and more!)
    These will often contain MSG which can kill or damage brain cells, lead to obesity, liver inflammation, and diabetes. Carrageen is a thickener that has been linked to canger and GI inflammation. 
  • AVOID ALL colors and dyes *EX: Red #40
    These are added ONLY to make the food more visually attractive to the consumer. They have been shown to cause behavior disorders in children. 

While this is NOT a complete list of ingredients to avoid, I hope it at least gives you a small picture of the issues low quality processed foods can cause and how much havoc they cause on the body. 

Food is tricky because unless you are dealing with an allergy, a reaction, or something...the effects are not always apparent. It can take years for poor quality food to show up as cancer, liver failure etc...and by then, it's usually too late.

No more Doggy Bags, Dogs get their own cooked meals! 

Now that we're talked a little about dog food you can purchase, let's talk about the good stuff...dog food that you MAKE.

When did it become DOG FOOD...and not just FOOD FOR dogs?

More owners are cooking for their pups than ever. In the 1960s, there was a HUGE campaign from the pet food industry to push dog food. They spent $50 million a year on advertising and funded reports, ads and articles that warned against table scraps (aka real foods) and emphasized the benefits of dry food. (Side Note: It IS smart to be cautious about table scraps and ensure the foods you feed your pets are healthy and non-toxic.) 

Sneaky marketing tactics and the convenience of dry food shaped the dog food industry we see today.

Our generation has started to question things- and many owners want to feed like pets the same quality that they eat (free range, gluten free, organic). When you cook for your fur baby, you know exactly what is going in their dinner...vs some mystery kibble with additives and unknown processing practices.

I would venture to say that most people who started cooking for their pup did so out of frustration or a health scare.

Why did I become a "Dog chef"?

I started cooking for Winston after losing an eye to glaucoma and his digestive issues (he was regurgitating his dry food EVERYDAY).

After visiting countless vets, xrays, CT scans, (unnecessary SURGERY- insert very angry face), prescription dog food, thousands and thousands of dollars later...no one could figure out WHY he couldn't keep his food down.

We started going to a holistic vet for acupuncture and answers.  After examining him and working with him, she came up with a recipe guideline to follow to help reduce inflammation.
It took me a few times of making it to get a system down, but now that we are in our groove...this pup eats VERY well and he stopped regurgitating his food!
In my next post, I'm going to share the recipe I use to make Winston's food. I add his homecooked meals to 1 cup of (5 Star) dry food per day. It cuts down on how much I need to make, the crunchiness helps knock some of the tartar off their teeth and he gets a nice crunchy chew haha

You do not have to do what I do- and every dog/situation is different. Again, I would just make sure you confer with your vet.