Had a couple of Pms regarding this thread, so thought id post what I wrote on "another" forum
Hope this helps
What to look for in a complete food:
Did you know that the commercial petfood industry is a billion pound business just in the UK? There are literally hundreds of different brands to choose from, let alone individual products within each brand, so its no wonder that people get confused deciding what is the best type of food to feed their dogs. People want convenience, but they also want to ensure that whatever they choose will benefit their dog nutritionally.
Its important to say that not one brand or brand product will suit every dog. Each dog is different and may have individual intolerances, taste preferences or specific health issues that need dietary restrictions. Its also fair to point out that if there was an “ideal” complete as the marketing people like to tell us, every product would have similar ingredients and typical analysis (eg protein & carb levels) , and they don’t. The variety between just one product range by one manufacturer is enough to send you into confusion.
As every commercial petfood on the market contains different ingredients, and each one has the potential to cause symptoms of allergy or intolerance in some dogs you have to learn by trial and error which ratio works best for your dog. So it’s not surprising that people feel confused or are persuaded by clever marketing that they are feeding their pet a good quality food, when the truth is they are not
So when choosing a commercial brand of Food what should you look for?
Meat/ Fish etc should be listed as the first ingredient. Meat is easily digestible and should be the main protein source. Also look for a named meat…i.e. chicken meal, as opposed to “meat meal” as it could contain absolutely anything. The meat content should always be high.
Purchase dried foods in smaller bags and vary the protein sources regularly. I.e. Chicken one month, Lamb another. Buying a huge 20kg bag which is open for a few months before it’s used up will “go off” and not be as nutritionally viable. Keeping food in tight storage containers improves longevity too. Food allergies are also more likely to develop if the dog is fed the same food all the time.
Select Naturally preserved food. I.e. Preserved with Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols), Vit C (Ascorbic Acid) instead of chemicals.
Low Grains- (rice, wheat, maize, corn, barley, oats to name a few). Be careful to read the label and check ALL grain sources. Food labelling can be deceiving and just because they label meat first doesn’t mean it’s the main ingredient. Grains tend to be split to hide the overall content so for e.g. wheat, Maize, prairie meal etc when all added together means that grains are the main ingredient.
What to avoid:
Fancy Packaging – Because the marketing department will love you for that. What’s important is the ingredients and breakdown, so the most basic packaging may be ingredient wise superior to others. Dont forget advertising, especially on TV, costs money so that cost has to be absorbed in the food. Bakers is a good example of fancy bright packaging, TV coverage and the nutritional content is horrendous.
Artificial Preservatives – (BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin) , another sign of a low quality food. These are usually labelled as permitted EC additives, EC permitted colourants and antioxidants. Ethoxyquin is banned from use in foods for human consumption except for the use of very small quantities as a colour preservative for spices. Find a food with natural preservatives such as Vitamin E instead.
Meat Derivatives , digest or by products (meal is Ok). These descriptions basically translate to horns, hooves, beaks, feathers to name a few. There is some disagreement whether whole meat is preferable to meal. Meal means it has been dehydrated, so if a meal is listed as the first ingredient, there is greater likelihood that the food contains more meat than grains. When whole meats such as chicken, lamb, turkey etc are listed as the first ingredient, there may actually be much less meat due to the weight of the moisture in the meat. Both whole meats and meals are considered acceptable as long as they are identified and not generic (e.g., not "meat meal" or "meat and bone meal").
High in Grains- Avoid food that have grains as the main ingredient. Better to choose a brand that has a smaller percentage of grains where possible as these tend to be high in carbohydrates which are difficult for a dog to digest and will tend to increase weight in our dogs. They are present in many commercial brands and are more likely to cause digestive intolerances. These include wheat, maize, corn, rice etc and if the main ingredient, should be avoided. Wheat and oats also contain Gluten.
Salt and sugar. Sugar can damage the pancreas and drain vitamins and minerals from the body. Yeast also thrives on sugar. Excessive salt content leads to kidney and heart problems.
High in Carbohydrates . Food should be high in protein in the form of quality meat ingredients, not high in carbohydrates from grains. Contrary to many myths and popular beliefs, there is no harm in feeding a high quality protein diet to dogs of any age, including puppies and seniors. Studies have proved that protein does not cause joint issues in puppies, nor lead to kidney disease in older dogs. In fact, protein is extremely beneficial: it supports the immune system and the central nervous system, contributes to wound healing, helps build lean muscle, and is required for skin and coat health. There is absolutely no reason to limit the amount of protein you feed your dog. However you must ensure it is high digestible protein from Meat/ Eggs as opposed to grains. Look for foods that are high in proteins from meat sources, rather than the typical high-carbohydrate diets that are more commonly available. Dogs find it hard to digest complex carbohydrates that are used in dog food mostly as an inexpensive source of calories (grains are also used to supply low-quality protein in some foods), and to help bind dry food together into kibble. Studies indicate that highly digestible protein, low-carb foods with moderate amounts of fat also help dogs lose weight better than the traditional high-carb, low-fat (and often low-protein) weight loss diets.
Low Price: generally the lower the price, the lower the quality of the food especially at the lower end. Eg £15 and under for a large 15kg bag of dried food will definitely mean very poor ingredients.
Ive added a bit of a “biography”of what ingredients actually translate to in our head.
Understanding Food Labels:
Ingredients are listed on a pet food label in order of pre-cooking weight; heaviest to lightest. Ie,the first five or so ingredients, by weight, make up the majority of the pet food. So even if you just look at the first 3-4 ingredients and understand them, you’ll be on the right track as to whether its good or not.
So whats good and whats bad? Not an easy question as it may not be bad if it only makes up a small percentage, but on the other hand even the smallest amount may have an effect on your dogs overall health.
Ive listed some examples (in alphabetic order) and tried to explain what they are, and if to be avoided. Its certainly not an exhaustive list, and I can add to this as time goes on.
Animal Fat : Animal fats are a mixture of fats rendered from different animals. The source of these are diverse and include restaurant artificial preservatives and factory by-products. The mixture of different animals makes it hard to avoid particular ingredients if your dog has an allergy or intolerance. First you can never be sure which animal fats are present and secondly they can vary batch to batch so that even if your dog can tolerate it, this could be different in a later batch of dog food.
Due to the nature of animal fat, they tend to be preserved with such as BHT, BHA or Ethoxyquin to prevent rancidity as it is hard to preverve them naturally. Avoid!
Ash: Ash content is given as a percentage. It isn't an ingredient that is added but the total mineral content of the product after incinerations look for a product with a named fat source i.e. Chicken fat or lamb fat.
Derivatives of Vegetable Origin: This term allows the use of anything that is not classed as a cereal. It is generally waste material from the Human food preparation industry. By the time it is processed at high temperature, it contains no nutritional value except as another fibre source. It is inexpensive to use and is classed as another bulking agent "Derivatives of vegetable origin" is a generic term used to describe by-products of vegetable origin. This is yet another term that is commonly used in pet foods that covers many different ingredients so that pet food manufacturers can use the cheapest available. Avoid!
Official definition: Derivatives resulting from the treatment of vegetable products in particular cereals, vegetables, legumes and oil seeds.
Cereals: Cereals" is a term used to cover many different grains used in pet foods. When you see this as an ingredient, it means that you cannot be certain what is actually in your dog food because they are not using a "named" ingredient. This allows manufacturers to use the cheapest grain available at the time of manufacture and this can change batch to batch. Try and Avoid!
Corn/ maize/ prairie meal- All the same thing. Labelling is clever and they will split these down so that it looks like meat is the main ingredient. Add all of these together and Corn is infact the main ingredient. Corn is a frequently used pet food ingredient; however it can be difficult for dogs to digest. Used as a carbohydrate source, it is cheap and in the main is used as a filler. In high amounts Avoid
EC permitted additives: The term "EC permitted additives" covers a large range of different chemicals, allowing a pet food manufacturer to use any of them without having to individually name any of them. This includes artificial colours and flavourings which are known to cause hyperactivity. More worryingly, pet foods using this term can contain preservatives such as BHA, BHT and Ethyoxquin which have been shown to cause cancer. Avoid!
Grains: These can be Wheat, Rice, Maize, Barley, Oats. Its preferable to choose Oats, Rice, millet, Barley based, as opposed to wheat or Maize but never choose one that has grains as their main ingredients.
Meal: Can be classed a Chicken meal, lamb meal etc.
Meals are prepared by the heating, drying and grinding whole or parts of warm blooded land animals from which the fat has been partially extracted or physically removed. The product has to be free from hooves, horn, bristle, hair and feathers as well as digestive tract content. A quality ingredient.
Meat: Fresh un-dehydrated meat. A good product highly digestible product that should be top of the ingredient list. A quality ingredient
Meat v meal: EG: Chicken and Chicken Meal are meat ingredients providing essential meat protein. Chicken is obviously chicken meat; Chicken Meal is chicken meat with the moisture removed. Any meat contains a high amount of moisture, up to 70% moisture. Chicken Meal is chicken with the moisture removed and thus provides the dog or cat with more protein nutrition by weight. These are both quality ingredients.
Propylene Glycol is a preservative that is used in pet foods. It is best avoided as it known to cause problems such as hair loss, dull coat, diarrhoea etc . Avoid!
Rice: Rice is the most digestible of all grains and is known to be low in allergy risk and so is found in many "hypo-allergenic" pet foods. If just listed as rice, it will be white rice. Brown rice is usually listed just as that and is rich in unsaturated fatty acids and B Vitamins. OK if not listed as main ingredients.
Rosemary/ Rosemary extract: Rosemary is used in pet foods as a preservative as it is a natural antioxidant. Quality Ingredient
Seaweed: Or otherwise known as kelp. Is a great source of iodine and minerals. Quality ingredient.
Soya/ Soy : Soybeans are widely used in dog foods as a protein source. However, Soy is commonly known as a cause of food allergies in dogs. Avoid
Sugar beet pulp: added as a source of fibre. Not really much food value. Not an easy ingredient to avoid, but not harmful.
Tocopherols: Tocopherols (vitamin E) are a naturally occurring antioxidant which is used to preserve pet foods. Tocopherols are often made from edible vegetables oils. The use of Tocopherols in a dog food is a good indication of a better dog food. Quality ingredient.
Vegetable Protein extracts: All products of vegetable origin in which the proteins have been concentrated by an adequate process to contain at least 50% crude protein, as related to the dry matter, and which may be restructured or textured.
Wheat/ wheat gluten: Wheat is a grain used as a carbohydrate source in dog foods, however it is associated with causing allergies in many dogs. Avoid!
Pet Food Label "Rules"
The 95% Rule: If the product says “Salmon Cat Food” or “Beef Dog Food,” 95% of the product must be the named ingredients. A product with a combination label, such as “Beef and Liver for Dogs,” must contain 95% beef and liver, and there must be more beef than liver, since beef is named first. A better quality product.
The 25% or “Dinner” Rule: Ingredients named on the label must comprise at least 25% of the product but less than 95%, when there is a qualifying “descriptor” term like “dinner,” “entree,” “formula,” “platter,” “nuggets,” etc. In “Beef Dinner for Dogs,” beef may or may not be the primary ingredient. If two ingredients are named (“Beef and Turkey Dinner for Dogs”), the two ingredients must total 25%, there must be more of the first ingredient (beef) than the second (turkey), and there must be at least 3% of the lesser ingredient.
The 3% or “With” Rule: A product may be labelled “dog Food with beef” if it contains at least 3% of the named ingredient. Avoid!
The “Flavour” Rule: A food may be labelled “Turkey Flavour dog Food” even if the food does not contain such ingredients, as long as there is a “sufficiently detectable” amount of flavour. This may be derived from meals, by-products, or “digests” of various parts from the animal species indicated on the label. Avoid!
Its not imperative that you understand Every ingredient in a petfood, however by just basically understanding a bit of the above, it will help you make a better informed choice when selecting a food for your dog.
I can’t name and go into every brand of dogfood for obvious reasons, but if you like the look of a particular food then please post the details and i will be more than happy to analyse it for you.
Some other good sites to find further information on Commercial petfood and how your brand rates.
Quality v Value
Its important to a lot a people to be able to budget their pets food into the overall cost of their household bills. The super Premium brands such as Orijen, although are superior in terms of ingredients are not always affordable to all.
Also convenience is sometimes an issue. Some of the more reasonable priced foods which are also high quality, eg Greendogfood, can only be ordered online from specialist pet places, which again is not always convenient for people.
In these instances the best thing to do is find a reasonably priced, quality food that is easily accessible (ie from the supermarket, PAH etc) , and just add bits of high quality human type protein based food additions to bump up its quality.
Low priced top grade foods could be tins of value sardines, eggs, Offal, cottage cheese and left over meat scraps. All these foods are easily accessible and cheap and will boost the nutritional content of the chosen commercial food.
My Ratings of Premium, Quality, Value and Convenience Brands
This list is by no means exhaustive, and new products come onto the market all the time. Ive listed them into price categories for ease, and please feel free to offer suggestions and inform us of products that you have come across.
prices based on the bigger bags from 12kg-15kg.
Super Premium (£45 + range)
Acana - http://www.acanapetfoods.co.uk/
Applaws - http://www.applaws.co.uk/
Orijen - http://www.orijenpetfoods.co.uk/
Taste of the Wild - http://www.tasteofthewildpetfood.com
(over 65% meat)
Premium Foods (£35-45 Range)
Barking Heads http://www.barkingheads.co.uk
Greendogfood (45% meat content) http://www.greendogfood.co.uk
Naturaldogfood Co - http://www.naturaldogfoodcompany.com/
Arden Grange premium - http://www.ardengrange.com
Quality (under £35)
Wainrights - (PAH) 26% meat
PAH own brand - 32% meat
The above is basically the highest meat content for the price analysis and based n the quality of ingredients. Thats why you dont see for example JWB listed, as it is only 27% meat content yet would sit in the £45+ bracket so to me the quality v price is not as good as the ones listed above.
NatureDiet -over 60% meat , rice or potato and Veg . Around 80p per 400g
NaturesHarvest - over 60% meat as above
Natures menu - Over 60% meat
Applaws - Over 60% meat
At times, we all have run out of food and have had to pop to the supermarket to get doodles some food. Or the supermarket is the only accessible place to purchase it. Unfortuntaley the supermarket does tend to stock very low quality Petfood, but if we are faced with it, the below are the better ones to purchase.
Available at Asda and Tesco
(free from artificial colourings and preservatives)
Joe&Jacks (dried) - Available at Sainsburys
Naturalise (similar to naturediet)- Available at Asda
Butchers Tripe mix (wet food).
Dont forget you can always stock up on value sardines, Value Frozen minced meat too