I grew up believing that processed commercial dry dog food is what you fed your dog. You bought the cheapest stuff on the shelf at your local grocery store which likely was what your parents fed their dogs. After all — it’s just a dog and there was really nothing else to know about it. Once in awhile you’d toss Fido a bone or some table scraps and he was happy. You never gave a thought to reading the ingredients label. Why should you? You mindlessly believed that commercial dog food manufacturers knew what they were doing and that they cared about what you fed your dog so they put nothing but good things in it. The bag said “dog food” so you didn’t question it, it’s just how things were.
When my children were small there was no such thing as reading ingredient labels. I trusted that the food manufacturers knew what they were doing and that what they put in whatever they made was good quality stuff. I believed their commercials, bought their products — and didn’t check if what I was feeding my children really was nutritious. Wasn’t this was all taken care of for me? Buy it, feed it, done. If I didn’t read the labels of my children’s food why would I read dog food labels?
I’ve always been one to want to make my dog’s meals as tasty as I can and give them a variety of foods which of course, includes people food. I’d add things like canned soup and vegetables to their meals. The problem is that there’s quite a growing list of ingredients in people food that can make a dog very sick and even kill him. Because there has been found to be so many ingredients that are harmful to dogs in people food — I now read labels and I read them two or three times before I buy anything because the print is so small it’s easy to miss something. I’ll even read the labels again on things that have been in my cabinets for awhile because I’ve found that between the time I bought it and the time I want to feed it there may be something new found to be harmful in that can. I’m also only human and can mistakenly buy something for them that I don’t realize at the time of purchase may be harmful.
Pet food makers use preservatives such as Ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT and others to give longer shelf life. These are are toxic to dogs. I don’t know of any dog that’s dropped dead on the first meal. These are sneaky killers because they slowly build up in your dog’s system which is like silently poisoning your dog. I learned about these preservatives probably 20 years ago or more when we got our Yorkie, Damien.
Many vets sell name brand pet foods, the same foods which I found out years ago contain the preservatives I mentioned above. You’d think a vet would know better. Not always so. They’re human just like anyone else and can be just as misinformed or tempted just like anyone else. Don’t kid yourself, there are also vets that stock and recommend these foods because they get some pretty lucrative kick-backs. Yup, in some cases it’s all about the money and what the pet food manufacturers give them as “rewards” for selling their food.
I’m not labeling all vets as greedy idiots — certainly not. But there are a large number of them that really could do with more education and less on the side of greed. I think it would be very cool if all the vets in our country banded together and stood up to these pet food makers forcing them to remove the harmful ingredients from their products. That’s a pretty far fetched idea but putting a huge dent in their sales would certainly make these manufacturers sit up and take notice.
I think some vets try really hard to keep up with all the latest treatments for pet ailments and some are even interested in pet nutrition. In order to further their education there are conventions and seminars available to them. But who sponsors some of these events? You got it! The pet food manufacturers that put the poison in the food in the first place! What a perfect place to push their products!
Thank goodness someone some where along the way starting investigating what’s really in commercial dog food! I don’t have a clue who started this adventure but if he or she were standing in front of me I would thank them from the bottom of my heart. What they started ain’t over yet and I hope it never will be! The movement into canine nutrition is growing! More and more people are taking the time to learn what dogs really need and changing their dog-feeding habits for the better!
I stumbled into more seriously investigating and researching dog food when I realized within days after Riley came to live with us that something was wrong. He’d been a stray so no one knew how long he’d been on his own scavenging for food. He wasn’t skin and bones but he was thin. The vet wanted him to gain a few pounds but he wouldn’t cooperate. When I was growing up, my Dad put dry dog food in their bowls and the dogs ate it. Not Riley! It seemed awfully strange that a dog that had probably been digging in the trash and eating garbage to survive would turn away from his bowl of dog food. People told me I was driving myself insane because a dog would eat when it’s hungry. But did I have to let my beautiful dog go hungry for days on end because he wasn’t interested in eating what I put in his bowl? Should a dog be forced into survival mode in their own home and eat every few days just because he has to in order to survive? No! I finally realized Riley was telling me something and that something was, what was in the bowl was not good for him and so he wasn’t going to eat it willingly. It’s not like a dog can drive over to the grocery store and buy their meals. Riley was my dog, my responsibility and it was my job to see to it that he was healthy and happy.
I joined a German Shepherd forum board, did a lot of reading and asking questions and followed links all over the Internet. I learned about things like grading dog food. I learned from a gal that bred Shepherds and ran our then local pet supply store that even though the dry food I’d been feeding Riley (Canidae) got an e A+ grade — it’s not always the best choice for putting weight on or keeping it on a German Shepherd.
So, we switched dry foods. No change. So we switched again, and again and again — about every 3-4 months we switched foods because each and every Grade A food we tried didn’t do for Riley what he needed it to do, and he just was not interested in eating it on any kind of consistent basis. So, then we switched to Grade A canned food which is expensive and so we mixed dry with it to save a little money. No change. Went to straight canned food – name brand after name brand. Nothing worked to put weight on him. Nothing worked to get him to eat like a “normal” dog. The canned food made for messy stools.
During the entire food switching process I learned that many dogs have allergies to the grains in processed commercial dog foods and that grains were many times the main staple of dog foods — makes a great cheap filler for the manufacturer! As if that’s not bad enough, some dogs can have behavior problems that have been associated with some of the ingredients in some dog foods. The worst part of this is that one of the top reasons dogs are euthanized are due to behavior issues which means people are killing their dogs as a result of what they’re feeding them! If your dog is displaying aggressive or other unsavory characteristics — try changing his food before you kill him! You may have to try several different foods but at least give your dog the benefit of the doubt.
So we then went through the whole dry/canned food switching but stuck with nothing but grain-free products.
To make things even more difficult, every few months whatever Grade A food we were currently feeding our dogs would be found to have some harmful ingredient in it and/or was being recalled. So, we’d switch again. Ugh. I really thought I was going to run out of quality food options and let me tell ya — I was getting dizzy!
One of the really cool benefits of feeding grain-free dog food of most any kind is that grain-free solved one really disgusting issue for us. You know how some dogs will eat their own (or another dog’s) poop? Yeah — Nissa was a real pooh-connoisseur — ugh — absolutely DISGUSTING! That was definitely a period in our life with her that we were very grateful she’s not a kissy dog!
There are at least three different schools of thought on why dogs scarf up these revolting snacks.
Number 3 was what we found out was Nissa’s reason for eating poop. Within two days of feeding nothing but grain-free this problem was solved. This didn’t solve all our problems but I count this as one of the best things that came out of my dog food learning curve.
At our house, we believe that if you really care about your dog — you care what you feed them. Although at this point I hadn’t found the perfect solution to our dog food issues, with each step things got better. Riley gained the weight he needed to gain and even a couple of extra pounds but he continued to have bouts with a touchy tummy and would vomit every few weeks. Both dogs have beautiful shiny, soft coats and are in excellent health. At Riley’s last vet check, the vet raved about how white and clean his teeth are — and no — that’s not from giving them dental treats either. I’m convinced all those crazy things do is coat their teeth with slimy stuff and cost money. It’s not from brushing their teeth either. There’s no way I’m going to put my dogs or myself through that!
The better the food you feed your dog the more healthy it will be. People who feed cheap grocery store dog foods spend more money at the vet (if they even bother to take their dog to the vet and way to many don’t) because their dogs may wind up with allergies (and allergies are not easy to diagnose – cha-ching!) the need for dental cleanings and other health problems that could well be avoided by feeding a quality food. Those $25 bags of cheap food can wind up costing you much more in vet bills. The bigger the dog the more a dental cleaning costs because the more a dog weighs the more anesthetic it needs and the major cost is the anesthetic.
Because many people put their dog’s health low on the priority list, many dogs live their lives in misery. For example — would you like to live your life scratching yourself raw? That’s just one example of what can happen if there are ingredients in your dog’s food that he’s allergic to. When you’re not feeling well you may be grumpy and snap at people. When a dog’s not feeling well it too may snap at people, but in the dog’s case — snapping at people could buy it the Needle of Death because their uninformed owner thinks it’s got a behavior problem.
I won’t kid you, feeding high quality commercial dog foods is expensive! Aside from a lack of education on the part of a large number of dog owners, the expense is probably the top reason that more people don’t feed good quality dog food. There are still to many people that think of dogs as some kind of secondary level life which is so very sad considering how much dogs give to people if we let them. We don’t have a problem paying for quality food because we feel strongly that our dogs are worth every penny. If feeding these foods would have cured all the issues we’ve encountered we would stick with what works. But we still aren’t where we wanted to be and there’s always the possibility that someone will find something unnecessary and/or harmful in whatever food were currently feeding.
The big name dog food makers that you see commercials for on tv and ads in many magazines put their money into selling you on their products not into true dog nutrition. They like to be “in your face” so that you don’t forget their names which does nothing for the quality of their foods. You probably won’t see ads on tv for the higher quality dog foods and the print ads you’ll see for them are pretty much limited to the popular dog magazines and web sites. I think they do a much better job of trying hard to make a better food and that’s where their money goes which is a credit to them. Think about this — no matter what it is, if you have a good product you don’t need to splash your name all over the place — word of mouth will do the trick for you.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned through all of this is that I don’t trust commercial dog food manufacturers. Their main goal is to make money and in doing so they over price what they sell and include cheap ingredients masquerading as fancy packaging lingo which allows them to make huge profits at the expense of your dog’s health. If you knew the damage that could be done — you would never allow these popular commercial products in your dog’s food bowl. You couldn’t pay me enough money to purchase our dog’s food at the grocery store and buying at a pet supply store is a very close second to that, although it does make me smile that some pet supply stores are now starting to stock the better foods. If you can’t break away from the dry dog food habit, at least research and consider feeding your dog a high quality food.
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