“IS YOUR DOG’S FOOD MAKING HIM SICK?” (via Pauline Larsen)

pugfoodSome pet caregivers still recall the huge 2007 pet food recall for melamine contamination from ingredients imported from China. More than 40 pet food brands, including some of the best known names, were involved in the 2007 recall. Have things changed? Not much. According to About.com Pet Supplies, not a month has gone by in 2013 without several recalls. Last month both Nestle Purina and Proctor and Gamble recalled products. The Veterinary Information Network reported health problems linked to sweet potato treats similar to those related to chicken jerky treats (also sourced from China) which they had reported earlier this year. The seemingly endless list of recalls leave people worried that the items they bought on Monday will be recalled on Friday. How do you determine which foods and treats are safe for your dog? Read the labels carefully, and PLEASE don’t buy ANY treats sourced in China. Not chicken jerky treats, chicken tenders, chicken strips, chicken treats, or sweet potato treats. Buying only food and treats made in the U.S. won’t remove all risk of winding up with a tainted product, but it will certainly improve your chances of keeping your pet safe. I recommend not feeding any commercial treats. Most of them are NOT healthy, and there are many great easy-to-make recipes for homemade treats.

Pet food/treat packaging usually has a toll free number listed on the packaging. Take the time to call, and be prepared for vague, unsatisfactory responses. Be polite but insistent about the source and origin of ALL ingredients, and locations of production facilities. (Being imported from a responsible place does not mean that they were not sourced in China, shipped to another destination, and then sent to the U.S. pet food companies.)

Human grade ingredients means that meats and everything, including the grains are USDA inspected. …ask for authentication of this claim. There are few regulations as far as the ingredients in pet food, and commercials show fresh chickens and whole grains. Realize that the green nuggets are NOT green vegetables…they are nuggets that are dyed green with very little vegetable content. Same with other colored kibble or treats. With much confusing, misleading info in pet food labeling and advertising, bear in mind that most of the ingredients in most pet foods, including meat by-products and meat meal, are at the low end of the food chain, and are NOT human grade: they come from whatever remains of the animal parts not deemed fit for human consumption.

The hallmarks of a high quality pet food or treat include:

*A whole meat source should be listed as one of the main ingredients. (Primary sources are listed first on labeling)

*Superior sources of protein. This means either whole meats or single source meats. Generic fats such as “animal fat” can be anything from recycled grease from restaurants to a mystery mix of various fats. What do you think is in “animal digest,” for example?

*Natural preservatives. No artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors. A healthy product with top quality ingredients shouldn’t need additives or extra sweeteners..

Choices have to be made regarding what to feed your companion animal, and cost doesn’t necessarily guarantee the best nutrition, and “premium,” “natural”, and “gourmet” are simply gimmicky marketing terms which are usually meaningless.. To find out how a specific food is rated, go to http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com; you can also request that they notify you of any new food or treat recall. With literally hundreds of different brands available, navigating the maze of canine nutrition can be overwhelming, but if your dog’s food is negatively impacting her health and well-being, changes need to be made….not easy, but possible!

Larsen can be contacted at Paw Prints, Box 373, Newell, Iowa 50568 or by e-mail at plarsen@rconnect.com.

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