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— September 4, 2012 —

What does your dog eat?
The very confusing topic of dog food.
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

This week, I would like to discuss the things that people feed their dogs. Lots of people wonder if the dog food they are giving is really the best. A lot of people go out of their way to provide the highest quality, all natural diets for their dogs. There are people who just try to do something of decent quality and there are those who simply fall for the best advertising.

Before I begin, I will say this. I am not an expert on dog nutrition. I am not trying to say that you should feed your dog this one food and he will live a long healthy life and I am most certainly not a vet. I have done a fair amount of research and I have seen good results. My dogs tend to live to the high end of their life expectancy and they are generally healthy throughout their lives. What I AM saying is this. You should take a little time to research what you are feeding your dog and know if it is healthy or not.

There are a million and one options for feeding your dog. There are kibbles, frozen raw patties, freeze dried raw and canned foods. Add to this the option of making home-made dog food and you could wind up spending forever deciding what is best. I have fed home-made raw for many years and have been happy with the results. It is a little more work, but I believe it’s worth it. Again, I won’t tell anyone exactly what to feed, but there are many great websites that can help you decide how to do a healthy home-made diet.

When it comes to kibble, there are just too many choices out there to discuss them all. What I will say is this.
READ THE INGREDIENTS! If it contains corn, corn meal, sugar, flour and so on, it’s probably not a great food. Another general rule of thumb is if your kibble is more than one color, it’s probably not good food. If the manufacturer dyes the food pretty colors they’re trying to appeal to you, the human, not your dog. A quick google search of, “What’s really in dog food.” will also be an eye opener. I dare say that if you have a weak stomach, you may not want to read the results.

Even among quality foods, there will be foods that just don’t agree with a particular dog. Some foods are just too rich, or may contain something a dog is allergic to. Here again, researching the ingredients of your dog’s food can help. Blue Buffalo, a relatively high end food, has had numerous complaints from dog owners saying it is too rich for their dogs and had caused their dogs to have diarrhea.

A great resource is this dog food rating system:
(copied from www.abouttimecanecorso.com/BreedInfoKibbleRating.shtml)
Dog Food Quality Rating System

The quality of the kibble you feed your dog is extremely important to his well being, and will play a big role in his health and life span. With so many brightly colored and heavily advertised kibble brands available, most people have a difficult time determining which are actually quality healthy nutritional foods, and which are simply well packaged and marketed fillers and by-products. Whether you are curious as to how your current brand measures up, or simply trying to make the best well informed decision for your new pet, we’ll give you the tools you need to make the best decision for your dog.

We recommend only feeding kibble that rates an A or A+ per this system to ensure optimum health and wellness for your pet. Innova/Evo, Canidae, Natural Balance, Foundations and Solid Gold are among the highest rated foods. What may be surprising to many is to see Science Diet, Purina, and Pedigree at the bottom, with an F (Failed) rating, and Iams & Eukanuba with very poor quality D ratings. Don’t be fooled by advertising that you see everywhere promoting kibble brands. Quality food companies put their money into the best quality ingredients for your pet, not into mass advertising and marketing.

How to grade the quality of your dog food brand:

Start with a grade of 100 points:
  1. For every listing of “by-product”, subtract 10 points
  2. For every non-specific animal source reference, such as “meat” or “poultry”, meat, meal or fat, (not to be confused with actual protein source stated such as chicken, lamb, turkey etc), subtract 10 points
  3. If the food contains BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin, subtract 10 points for each
  4. For every grain “mill run” or non-specific grain source subtract 5 points
  5. If the same grain ingredient is used 2 or more times in the first five ingredients (i.e. “ground brown rice”, “brewer’s rice”, “rice flour” are all the same grain), subtract 5 points
  6. If the protein sources are not meat meal and there are less than 2 meats in the top 3 ingredients, subtract 3 points
  7. If it contains any artificial colorants or preservatives, subtract 3 points for each
  8. If it contains corn (ground corn, corn gluten, whole grain corn etc) subtract 3points
  9. If corn is listed in the top 5 ingredients, subtract 2 more points
  10. If the food contains any added animal fat other than fish or flaxseed oil, subtract 2 points
  11. If lamb is the only animal protein source, subtract 2 points
  12. If it contains soy or soybeans, subtract 2 points
  13. If it contains wheat, or components of wheat such as gluten, subtract 2 points
  14. If it contains “digest”, subtract 5 points
  15. If it contains salt, subtract 1 point

Extra Credit Bonus Points:
  1. If any of the meat sources are organic, add 5 points
  2. If the protein source is meal vs meat, add 5 points
  3. If the food is baked not extruded, add 5 points
  4. If the food contains probiotics or prebiotics, add 3 points
  5. If the food contains fruit, add 3 points
  6. If the food contains vegetables (NOT corn or other grains), add 3 points
  7. If the animal sources are hormone-free and antibiotic-free, add 2 points
  8. If the food contains barley, add 2 points
  9. If the food contains flax seed oil (not just the seeds), add 2 points
  10. If the food contains oats or oatmeal, add 1 point
  11. If the food contains sunflower oil, add 1 point
  12. For every different specific animal protein source (other than the first one; count “chicken” and “chicken meal” as only one protein source, but “chicken” and “fish” as 2 different sources), add 1 point
  13. If it contains glucosamine and chondroitin, add 1 point
  14. If the vegetables have been tested for pesticides and are pesticide-free, add 1 point
  15. Bonus credit — If the food contains NO grains, add 10 points

Kibble's Quality Score:
100 + = A+ (Excellent Kibble Quality!)
94–100 = A
86–93 = B
78–85 = C
70–77 = D
69–below = F (FAILED — Very Poor Kibble Quality)

A couple of examples of ratings from kibble you may be feeding:
Innova Evo / Score 129 A+
Canidae / Score 117 A+
Natural Balance Duck and Potato / Score 114 A+
Diamond Large Breed 60+ Formula / Score 99 A
Science Diet for Large Breed Puppies / Score 69 F
Science Diet chicken adult maintenance / Score 45 F
Benful (Purina) / Score 17 F
Ol Roy / Score 9 F

You may ask, why does it matter? The dogs don’t know what the rating is. All they care about is if they like it. When you feed your dog keep this in mind. Everything that happens to humans in 70+ years will happen to your dog in 10–15 years. That is their average lifespan (relative to breed and size) and the effects of poor nutrition and poisonous additives in magnified in dogs. That extra $5 to $10 you spend a week on feeding your dog will pay you back in longevity. It will also save you money at the vet because better food makes for healthier dogs. Whether you decide to feed homemade raw, cooked or a commercial dog food, we hope you will take a little bit of time and research what you are feeding. Your dog will thank you.