How to Pick the Best Food for Your Dog

Yellow licking snoutDo you grab a big bag of pet food from your local supermarket without looking at the label? Or are you overwhelmed by the seemingly countless number of ingredients you can’t even begin to pronounce or recognize?

Picking the best food for your dog can be a challenge. Some subtle—and not so subtle— ingredients in your dog’s food could be depriving him of proper nutrition or even be making him sick. We talked to holistic veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney to break down the hidden dangers lurking in pet food and lay out some simple steps to improve your furry friend’s diet.

Quality over quantity

You would never give your dog low-quality junk food that could cause cancer, but sadly many pet parents are unknowingly doing just that. Many popular commercial foods are filled with ingredients dogs have difficulty digesting—like corn, beef, soy, and wheat—or even known carcinogens.

“The most important thing owners need to think about is the quality of the ingredients that go into their pet’s mouth every day,” Dr. Mahaney explains. “Most commercially available pet foods are made with feed-grade ingredients—those are the ingredients that have been deemed unfit for human consumption.”

What’s wrong with feed-grade ingredients?

There’s a higher allowable level of toxins, which then penetrate the food.

“Especially mold-based toxins that commonly grow on grains,” Dr. Mahaney adds. “These cause long-term problems like kidney disease, liver disease, and digestive problems.”

Feed-grade ingredients include:

  • By-products
  • Non-specified meat meal
  • So-called 4-D meat.

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Switching to a Raw Diet

The commercial pet food industry is a scary business. From questionable ingredients that can make your dog sick to misleading marketing tactics, navigating the shelves to choose a healthy and affordable food is a daunting task.

We consulted canine nutrition expert Sabine Contreras, author of The Dog Food Project, to find out what’s really in commercial dog food and now, we’re going raw.

The health benefits of a raw diet made it a no-brainer.

The Honest Kitchen dehydrated chicken food

“It’s species-appropriate and addresses many health concerns, including dental care, digestive health, skin problems, allergies, obesity, and more,” Contreras says. “I don’t recommend it for immune-compromised animals and it’s important to be careful with dogs who don’t tolerate much fat, but the average dog will benefit greatly from eating a raw diet instead of processed kibble.”

Some folks may have the time to whip up homemade food for their pets, but I’m not one of them. I want to give my dogs the best but I need convenience, too. So we decided on The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated food, which Contreras assures is quite a step up from kibble.

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Free Weight-Loss Contest for Bay Area Pets

Just call it Biggest Loser: Pet Edition. One Bay Area vet clinic is launching a weight-loss contest for your dog or cat, and it’s free!

weight loss challenge

Dr. Kristina Hansson came up with the weight-loss challenge to help overweight patients like the cat pictured here.

Cornerstone Integrative Veterinary Hospital in Marin County was inspired to start this weight-loss challenge due to a startling trend in pet ownership: roughly 50 percent of our furry friends are now overweight, which is leading to a number of health issues.

“Most don’t realize their pets are overweight, they just think they are a bit chubby,” Cornerstone owner Dr. Kristina Hansson says. “But when explained all the problems associated with obesity, they tend to take it very seriously.”

To enter the contest, schedule a free consultation with the office in September, where they will assess your pet and do a weigh-in. All overweight cats and dogs are eligible and the winner will receive a one-year wellness plan valued at over $2,000.

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Overweight Pets; Fighting the Obesity Epidemic

Chances are if your pet is overweight, you don’t even know it. At least that’s what a survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) says. Roughly 45 percent of pet owners with an overweight or obese pet thought their animal was at a healthy weight.

The majority of dogs and cats in U.S. households are now overweight, with 52.5 percent of dogs and 58.3 percent of cats above their ideal weight. Dr. Brandy Vickers of Avenues Pet Hospital in San Francisco says it’s something she sees all too often.

“I would say two-thirds to four-fifths of the pets I see for regular check-ups are overweight to obese,” Dr. Vickers says.

dachshund pit bull mix

Sundown is at an ideal weight, according to the Nestle Purina weight chart. If you compare this picture to the chart below, you’ll see he matches up with the side view of the number 5 dog.

Overweight and obese animals are subject to the same diseases as humans and there has been a sharp increase in pet disease, including diabetes, hypertensions and cancer. But all these debilitating conditions are preventable by keeping your pet at a healthy weight.

You might be overwhelmed if you have an overweight pet, so we’re laying out the professional tips for getting your furry friend back in shape.

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FDA Moves to Regulate Pet-Food Production

The Food and Drug Administraton announced Friday it is proposing new regulations for the pet food industry. The announcement comes after thousands of pets have been sickened and hundreds have died from contaminated chicken jerky treats originating in China.

You may find it shocking this is the first time the FDA is taking steps to protect pet food from disease-causing bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants. But we at YDB have provided some sobering facts about the commercial pet food industry, and are glad to hear the FDA is now taking a stand to protect pets.

The proposed rule would create regulations for commercial food sold in stores as well as the feed given to livestock that will eventually be used in commercial food. The entire process would be regulated, from manufacturing and processing to packaging and holding of animal food. 

“Unlike safeguards already in place to protect human foods, there are currently no regulations governing the safe production of most animal foods,” Dr. Daniel McChesney, an FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine official, says. “There is no type of hazard analysis. This rule would change all that.”

The proposed rule will also hold pet foods exported to the United States to the same FDA safety standards as foods produced in the U.S. It would require facilities to have a food safety plan, analyze potential hazards and take steps to minimize those hazards. 

However, the new rule will not address the make-up of pet food; things like allergens in pet food will not be regulated, which can be an issue for many dogs, including Yellow Dog. Common allergens found in commercial dog food are beef, corn, soy, wheat and fillers such as dried beet pulp.

The proposed rule has been published in the Federal Register, with a 120-day public comment period. Three public meetings will be held on the proposed rule in College Park, Maryland, Chicago and Sacramento, California.

Dog Food Recall; Dogswell Treats Unsafe

A number of Dogswell and Catswell duck and chicken jerky treats are being voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer for trace amounts of an antibiotic not approved in the United States. The treats were manufactured in China and include Breathies, Happy Heart and Happy Hips, among others. The potentially contaminated treats have a “Best Before” date of January 28, 2015. Any packages marked with earlier dates are also at risk of containing the antibiotic residue.

The products include chicken and duck breast jerky with the following names: Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality, and Vitakitty.

Check your doggy (and kitty) cupboards!

Major Pet Food Recall; Natura Pet Food

In K9 News:

A massive recall is underway for Natura Pet Food products. The FDA has found salmonella in one of the company’s products. The product line includes popular brands such as Innova and EVO! Here’s a full list of what foods could put your dog at risk. Check your dog’s food immediately if you purchase this brand!