It can be hard to tell fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition and choosing your dog’s food. Dr. Lauren Pagliughi, DVM, provides her professional expertise to Just Right by Purina, and today she is addressing three common dog food myths:
INTERNET MYTH: Grains are just filler ingredients.
INDUSTRY FACT: The term “filler” doesn’t have a place in the pet food industry. It takes an extraordinary amount of work to formulate the right nutrients in the right amounts for complete and balanced nutrition. It would be a waste of money and valuable space to use an ingredient that has no purpose!
Properly processed grains used in dog food are highly digestible, safe and nutritious. Grains provide your dog carbohydrate for energy and important nutrients like protein, fat, vitamins and minerals. However, dog owners should be able to express their preference of grain or grain-free for their own dog. Personalized dog food lets owners make that choice. If you choose grain-free dog food, expect to see high-quality substitutes for grains that still provide 100 percent complete and balanced nutrition.
INTERNET MYTH: Ingredients tell me everything I need to know about my dog’s diet.
INDUSTRY FACT: If you’re just looking at ingredients, you’re missing a lot of information.
- NUTRIENTS: Healthy living doesn’t come from healthy ingredients. Healthy living comes from nutrients — the important stuff inside the ingredients that are the building blocks for your dog’s body. Look at the Guaranteed Analysis section too to get a fuller picture.
- QUALITY: You can get steak at a fast food chain or at a fancy steakhouse in NYC. Both ingredient labels will say “steak,” but the quality will be drastically different. The same goes for dog food. Reading an ingredient label tells you absolutely nothing about the manufacturer’s reputation. Instead, look for a pet food company that follows AAFCO recommendations, and talk to your veterinarian with any questions.
- HARD-TO-PRONOUNCE INGREDIENTS? They’re not as scary as they sound and they’re there for a reason. About half of the number of ingredients (and only 1 percent by volume) in commercial dog food are vitamins and minerals with hard-to-pronounce names. The FDA requires pet food manufacturers to list each ingredient by its chemical name. This provides a more accurate look at the ingredient’s structure and how it interacts in the body. Because of this, even natural ingredients can be a mouthful. But that doesn’t mean that unfamiliar names are any less safe or any less vital.
INTERNET MYTH: The pet food industry is hardly regulated. Plus, its quality and safety practices are extremely lax.
INDUSTRY FACT: Pet food is a very highly regulated industry. Its standards for safety and quality are equal to or greater than the human food industry! So what keeps pet food companies in check?
- FDA: Pet food is regulated at the federal level by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and enforced by each state’s feed control official. The FDA — the same organization that regulates human food — requires that all food be safe, produced under sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances and be truthfully labeled.
- AAFCO: The Association of American Feed Control Officials provides strict standards for pet food companies to ensure a product is “complete and balanced” for a particular life stage and species. Complete and balanced means that your dog’s food provides him the right amount of every nutrient that his body needs: every day, at every meal. Can you imagine if humans had the perfect nutrient-packed food too?
- THE COMPANY ITSELF: Sometimes it’s not enough just to meet the minimum. Reputable companies go above and beyond when it comes to quality and safety practices. Purina, for example, conducts 30,000 quality checks involving ingredients, packaging, receiving, processing, and packing in a typical 24 hour production.