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Dog Food 101.

If you are only interested in what is the best dog food you can buy and you are not interested at this time in knowing the reasoning behind the selection go here now:

Best Dog Food List 2020.

The two senses that are fully developed in the dog at birth are touch and taste. Dogs have about 1700 taste buds on their tongue, while humans have about 9000. This does not mean that dogs don’t get as much enjoyment from their food as humans. Just as in humans the sense of flavor is the result of both taste and smell. [10] Humans have about 5 million scent receptors while dogs average about 220 million.

“Dogs have an extraordinarily acute sense of smell; it is about a million times more sensitive than that of people. They can detect odors at extremely low levels and can distinguish odors that are subtly different. This is why dogs are able to sniff out drugs and explosives at airports, search for human victims at disaster sites (including victims deep under water), and follow the scent track of criminals.” [42]

“Odor molecules dissolve in the moisture that coats the inside of the dog nose. Signals are then sent from the olfactory membranes in the nose to the olfactory center of the brain, which is 40 times bigger in dogs than in people.” [42]

“Dogs also have an organ on the roof of the mouth that allows them to “taste” certain smells. As in people, taste and smell in dogs are closely linked. However, dogs gain much more information about food from smell than from taste. Dogs have only about one sixth the number of taste buds that people do, and their distinct sense of taste is actually quite poor.” [42]

A dog’s choice of foods first is based on the smell, then texture, and taste. Dogs can have a preference for a certain size and texture of foods. While we cannot fully appreciate how dogs experience the world, I think it is safe to say not even your dog wishes to eat the same food at every meal for months or years. Unless dictated by a specific health requirement it would be thoughtful to not feed your dog the same boring food all the time considering your dog’s sophisticated nose that allows her to appreciate the scent of each individual ingredient. Variety can also serve a practical purpose for your dog which is covered below.

Many believe their dog enjoys its food because they quickly inhale the same food for years and eats it in record time. In reality it may be that he is not so much enjoying his food, as much as he is eating everything as fast as he can because he doesn’t want to go hungry nor does he understand there is not a food shortage. This behavior can be developed before 8-weeks of age and is often learned due to how they were fed. It would be far better they learned at an early age that there is no reason to eat like a vacuum, be defensive, or guard your food bowl.

Adult dogs can do well on one meal a day but there are more advantages then trying to minimize bloat to feeding them twice a day. In addition to reducing hunger between meals especially when you are eating in front of them, one of the best reasons to feed your dog twice a day is that it gives you one more opportunity to provide them with something of value provided that you are feeding them something they enjoy. Free feeding is leaving a food bowl filled with a surplus of food available for the dog all day. (For health reasons this is not recommended) Two possible problems with this type of unregulated feeding is first it requires the dog to self-regulate the amount of food it eats. Second you likely will not notice a change in the amount of food your dog is eating or other problems your dog encounters during eating as soon as you would with scheduled feedings. (lack of hunger, tooth problems causing pain which limits the amount of food the dog will eat, etc…) This could result in the delay of a medical diagnosis.

Dogs have an internal clock that has “proven to be accurate to within 30 seconds in a 24-hour period.”[23] It is this internal clock that lets your dog know it is feeding time if you feed your dog at the same time each day. Dogs like routines, and some dogs, like some people are stressed without it. But be careful, a strict routine can cause stress in some dogs. If a routine becomes so predictable as to time, any disruption in this pattern can cause the dog to be stressed. Varying feeding times by at least 30-minutes can be helpful. Varying the feeding time by up to 2-hours can make the exact time unpredictable thereby lowering potential stress or problematic high-arousal which can occur when feeding times are set and predictable. There is still a routine, but it is not so rigid to cause anxiety when specific times are missed. This varying of times is beneficial especially when the owners schedule is unpredictable.

Choices.

There is no shortage of choices when it comes to feeding your dog, nor is there a shortage of opinions on the food we should be feeding. Our understanding of nutrition is always subject to change as new discoveries are made. The information contained here has been obtained from a variety of sources. Noted here are many of the things I take into consideration when evaluating dog food for healthy dogs. Each dog is an individual and the information here is not meant to be complete or appropriate for all dogs.

Pet owners have two primary options with regards to what they feed their pets. They can feed a home prepared food, or purchase a commercially prepared food for their pets.

Generally speaking your choices are:

Dry dog food (extruded kibble)

Baked kibble (less common)

Commercial Fresh and lightly cooked.

What is best type of food?

Which of these options is best to feed is dependent on who is providing the answers. Some will say to just feed a food that meets minimum standards according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which has established the minimum nutrient levels (Nutritional Adequacy) that are used as a standard for dog and cat food. ” Nutritional Adequacy statement ” (AAFCO statement) Almost every pet food label will state the food is formulated to meet the minimum nutritional levels established by AAFCO from low quality foods to premium expensive foods. The question is do we wish to feed an adequate food or choose optimal nutrition.

Others go further and say “that the ingredient list is one of the most useless aspects of the pet food label!” In addition to the nutritional adequacy statement they state even more important is whether the manufacturer employs ““at least” one “full-time” qualified nutritionist”, and that the manufacturer own the plant(s) where their food is manufactured. You will also be advised to stay away from raw or fresh foods. After reviewing the history of contaminated foods, seriously ill dogs, deaths, and pet food recalls from large and small companies with and without a nutritionist employed full-time I would not make my decision based on those recommendations. Pet Nutrition Alliance provides false sense of security.

Susan G. Wynn, DVM, DACVN (board certified Veterinary Nutritionist) recommends a raw diet and like Dr Richard Patton says that the higher percentage of raw vs processed food (kibble) fed, the better the diet. Both will tell you some is better than none! 20% is a good start.

“Puppyhood exposure to raw animal-based foods might have a protective influence on AASS incidence in adulthood, while puppyhood exposure to mixed oils, heat processed foods and sugary fruits might be a potential risk factor of AASS incidence later.”

“Although it is not the chief consideration for some pet owners, for others the cost of the food is very important. There are a number of commercial foods available today that are advertised as being more economical to feed while still providing superior nutrition. However, it is important for pet owners to know that to produce a low-cost product, ingredients that are of lower quality, and thus lower cost, must be used. Therefore a cheaper product is probably going to be a lower-quality food, even though the guaranteed analysis panel may not reflect this. In addition, when considering the price of a pet food, the actual cost of feeding the animal must be calculated, not just the cost per unit weight of the food. Most low-quality, cheap ingredients have significantly lower digestibilities than the ingredients used in premium foods. A greater quantity of a food with low digestibility must be fed to an animal to provide the same amount of nutrition as found in a food with higher digestibility and nutrient availability. As a result, owners may find that they have to feed significantly larger portions of the cheaper food to their pet (see Chapter 18, pp. 177-180 ).” Dog and Feline Nutrition: by Linda Case [22]

“Most commercial pet foods are based on high-glycemic, genetically engineered (GE) corn, wheat, rice or potato — grains and starches that have no place in your pet’s diet, creating metabolically stressful insulin, glucagon and cortisol spikes throughout the day.

Carbs also break down into sugar, which fuels degenerative conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.

Low-quality proteins and fats (not fit for human consumption) are combined with the starches, processed at high temperatures, a process that creates cancerous byproducts , like heterocyclic amines, and then supplemented with a synthetic vitamin/mineral blend, usually from China .” [14]

The Worst Pet Foods for Carcinogenic Glyphosate Exposure.

“Puppyhood exposure to raw animal-based foods might have a protective influence on AASS incidence in adulthood, while puppyhood exposure to mixed oils, heat processed foods and sugary fruits might be a potential risk factor of AASS incidence later.”

Are Your Dog’s Food And Water Bowls Safe?

HOW TO DETERMINE QUALITY?

Guaranteed Analysis & Typical Analysis.

Dog and cat foods in the USA are required to list a “Guaranteed Analysis” of the nutrient content of the food. The guaranteed analysis lists protein, fat, fiber, and moisture percentages as minimums or maximums and is not meant to provide exact percentages. The actual amounts can vary a little or a lot from the guaranteed analysis so I will show you how to determine this. Pet food manufactures in the USA are not required to list “ash” or “carbohydrates” in the food but some will provide this information if asked or have it listed on their website. A typical analysis differs from a “guaranteed analysis”. A “Typical Analysis” reports the “typical” averages for the food. These percentages are generally much closer to the actual food composition than what is reported with the guaranteed analysis. A typical analysiss following European guidelines includes protein, fat, fiber, ash, and moisture if more than 14%.

We cannot compare foods based on the “Guaranteed Analysis” alone since these numbers do not represent the full nutrient profile of the food. Differing types of foods (dry, canned, dehydrated, raw, etc…) have different amounts of moisture (water) so they will have great differences in the percentage of protein and fat listed on the label. Just subtracting the moisture content and comparing foods on a dry matter basis is not sufficient. To determine the actual amounts of protein, fat, and carbs in a food we need to know the calories.

Quality & Digestibility.

Quality can vary greatly and it is affected by the source, type of ingredients, formula, heat, processing, fiber, and ash content. We are missing two important measurements to help us choose pet food. Overall (dry matter) digestibility and amino acid digestibility. This is important because commercial pet foods are represented as “complete and balanced” and our animals are generally not fed a wide rotating variety of foods that could negate a nutritional deficiency. Ingredients can look the same as listed but protein can be poor, moderate, or high quality. For a food to be high quality it needs to be both highly digestible and contain the proper amino acids available to have actual nutritive value once digested. Of the three major nutrients in pet foods (protein, fat, carbs) protein consistently has the lowest digestibility of the three. [45]

Good vs. Poor Digestibility: “ The term digestibility coefficient refers to the percent of a food that the dog absorbs into his or her body during the process of digestion. As a rule of thumb, dry dog foods with digestibility values of 75 % or less will be of very poor quality, those with values between 75 and 82 % are classified as moderate in quality, and foods with digestibility values that are higher than 82 % are of high quality. If you see products with 88 % or more reported digestibility, you have a rock star.” https://thesciencedog.com/2017/02/01/digestibility-matters/ [45]

Protein is required in the diet but “animals do not have a requirement for protein per se but have an amino acid requirement.” [4] Proteins are made up of amino acids and dogs have a requirement for 22 amino acids like other animals. “10 are essential and must be provided in their diet. ” Proteins that provide optimal proportions of all essential amino acids are referred to as high quality proteins .” [4] Quality proteins are highly digestible and provide usable essential amino acids. Protein quality and digestibility can be affected by ash content, cooking time, temperature, and fiber content. [4] “Proteins of plant origin generally have lower digestibility than animal proteins because plant fiber and carbohydrates lower digestion, due to a reduced degradation rate of nutrients in the gut and increase bacterial activity” [4] “a large portion of protein in cereal-based dry pet foods typically comes from grains, including rice, corn, wheat and barley.” [4]

A poor coat, gas/flatulence, and poor stools can be a sign of a low quality protein diet. [3] [27] [28]

There are also differences in forms of protein. e.g. raw, cooked, dehydrated (heat or cold), meals, and by-product meals. There can be vast differences in the quality of meals. Meal quality is affected by the quality of the ingredients , cooking time, and processing temperature.

The nutritive value of various meat by-products varies widely. As an example, meat by-products such as liver, kidney and lungs have excellent nutritive value whereas other meat by-products such as udder, bone and connective tissue have poor nutrient availability. [4]

Nutritionists at the University of Illinois measured the protein quality of four types of pet grade chicken.

Raw chicken.

Steamed chicken (cooked to 200 degrees F for 10 minutes)

Retorted chicken (processed as in canned foods; cooked at.

250 degrees F for 30 minutes)

Chicken meal (rendered/dried)

The results of this study showed that steamed chicken (cooked to 200 degrees F for 10 minutes) had the highest digestibility and had the highest “digestibility values for all of the essential and non-essential amino acids” – greater than 90 percent for all but two amino acids.

1. Steamed chicken – high quality.

2. Raw chicken – high quality.

3. Retorted Chicken (Canned) – moderate quality.

4. Meal – low quality.

Meals are made from rendered (unknown quality of ingredients cooked and dried into a meal) The quality of “meal” can vary greatly. “Chicken meal, however contains mostly rendered chicken necks and backs, which means it provides more ash per unit protein than poultry by-product meal.” [4]

A concern with meals that has surfaced again recently is meals containing pentobarbital resulting in the death of dogs. Pentobarbital should NOT be found in animal Food.

“ Most of us probably think that pentobarbital comes from a couple of bad actors that use a euthanized animal when they know they aren’t really supposed to. New evidence is showing that it may be a much more pervasive problem throughout the animal food supply than originally thought, and we have reason to believe rendered products can be a source for pentobarbital, if not controlled.” Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) – NGFA‐PFI FEED AND PET FOOD JOINT CONFERENCE September 18, 2018 – Steven M. Solomon, D.V.M., M.P.H.

Since pet food companies are not require to provide a true quality score (digestibility & nutrients) we are left with evaluating the ingredients, calories, guaranteed or typical analysis, and running our own calculations to gain insight on each food. To do this we start with the listed guaranteed analysis and the calories content.

Amount of protein, fat, carbs & calorie breakdown.

Essential nutrients – balanced or over/under.

o Source (farm to table, trusted or foreign)

o Quality (food or feed, organic, human grade)

o Quantity (ingredient splitting, fairy dust, etc)

Essential Nutrients – is anything lacking? To much calcium?

Added Supplements (potential source of problems – over or under)

My ideal food.

If feeding kibble the goal is a high quality and high protein food. Min of 32% “Guaranteed Analysis” on dry kibble. ( If high quality animal based protein )

Homeskooling target: Protein 90+ g per 1000 calories – At a minimum 75 g per 1000 calories if high quality food animal based protein.

Higher protein is recommended for weight loss and senior dogs. The lower the protein the higher the fat and or carbs will be and that is not recommended. Dogs have no requirement for carbs, but they do need protein and fat.

Dogs fed animal based higher protein diets vs animal and plant based protein diets “had better body composition and a muscle-specific protein pattern identical to that in healthy young-adult dogs.” [21]

… PET FOOD MATH CHEAT SHEET.

“Avoid diets at the current time which appear to rely heavily on legumes to meet the protein content of the diet. This is difficult to evaluate on the label. If a fresh meat is first on the ingredient list, followed by a legume or legume protein, it’s likely the legume that provides more contribution to the diet since it’s dry whereas the meat is mostly water. Similarly, if there’s a number of legumes listed and only one meat, that could also be a sign. Or if a legume is the first or second ingredient. Legumes can afford some nutritional benefits, but their history as a significant protein source is less well known. It may end up being perfectly safe, but the reason for higher inclusions (vs. meat) is generally for sustainability, processing, or cost.” https://justinshmalberg.com/blog/2019/7/3/dilated-cardiomyopathy-and-grain-free-diets-thoughts-on-the-fda-update?fbclid=IwAR171TanjB8k_Dc52tXBfuKqoHHx9PYRkofirdZfixuTrnaQXQtq-RVP7NM.

Feed The Best You Can You Afford.

To start, just select the best food you can afford . Make your best selection and we will offer guidance on how to improve whatever type of food under HOW TO MAKE THE FOOD YOU FEED BETTER! Choose convenience, price, or quality. Choose two because you cannot have all three. Kibble is convenient and is the lowest cost to feed, but you cannot have optimal nutrition. Purchasing commercial raw is convenient and can provide optimal nutrition if formulated correctly but it comes at a high price. You can feed raw or fresh food more economically by making and purchasing all the ingredients yourself. But in order not to induce nutritional deficiencies you will need supplements and or a professional nutritionist to provide you exact recipes. “ Owners of several big dogs could rapidly go broke feeding a fresh or raw diet, but to the extent that the dry kibble can be reduced, or lowered as a percentage of the diet, nutrition will be better .” “ The solution is to feed as much raw, frozen, canned or freeze dried pet food as your budget will allow .”

To compare the daily cost to feed differing foods first determine the number of calories your dog needs each day. Start by looking at the amount of food they are currently eating to determine the calories. Most commercial pet foods list the calorie content on the label. Calories on pet foods are generally listed as “kcal” which is the same as a “calorie” on human food labels. Calories will usually be listed as kcal/kg which the number of calories per kg which is 2.2lbs. (e.g. 3678 kcal/kg) Additionally calories will be noted for calories per cup (419kcal/cup), or for fresh frozen per oz (8 oz.: 422 kcal/patty) Like people all dogs are different and will have differing calorie needs. The feeding guides on pet food labels are just a starting point and the recommendations may not be appropriate for your dog.

With dry food determining the cost to feed per day and how long a bag of dry food will last can be a bit complicated because dry foods have differing densities and weights. The typical dry food is close to 4 oz per cup and has about 4 cups per pound. But foods can vary widely. One food can have close to 3 oz a cup (5 ¼ cups/lb) and another about 5 ¾ oz a cup (2 ¾ cups/lb). With the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet you can determine the cost to feed per day based on the calories your dog eats. The cheat sheet will calculate how many days the food will last and how much to feed.

… PET FOOD MATH CHEAT SHEET.

Raw Foods.

Raw foods formulated for pets are available from commercial manufactures and sold in pet stores as either frozen or freeze-dried. Foods that are dehydrated with heat can be excellent quality but they would rank below foods not exposed to heat like in freeze-drying. But just as with other types of pet foods some are excellent while others are poorly formulated. For specific information on how to evaluate a commercial raw food here is an excellent article: Guidelines for evaluating commercial “complete and balanced” raw diets. “ If one does not see specific foods or supplements for iodine, manganese, and vitamin E, the foods likely will not meet the definition of complete and balanced, and may not be healthy. Note that while some manufacturers claim that spirulina is a source of manganese and/or iodine in their foods, it’s not likely to provide enough to meet the recommended amounts. ” [13]

“ Puppyhood exposure to raw animal-based foods might have a protective influence on AASS incidence in adulthood, while puppyhood exposure to mixed oils, heat processed foods and sugary fruits might be a potential risk factor of AASS incidence later .”

Handling raw foods while preparing meals for your pets is really no more risk than handling raw food for humans. Whether preparing food for humans or animals it is recommended to thoroughly wash your hands and clean all surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat or pet foods. If human members of the family have a compromised immune system I would avoid feeding a raw meat based diet.

“When feeding, avoid handling raw products, wash your hands and food preparation surfaces thoroughly, and monitor your dog carefully for signs of illness or gastrointestinal infection.”

You should wash your hands after handling any pet food or treats.

“The results of this study showed that a large proportion of commercially available raw dog foods arrived containing levels of microbes that exceeded acceptable limits and that these levels were detectable immediately upon thawing. Keeping the food in the refrigerator led to rapid increases in these numbers, even when products were stored properly (and especially rapidly, when they were not).” Frozen – Let it Go.

The Raw Deal.

Many professionals recommend against pet owners preparing their dogs meals due to nutritional imbalances that can occur. Books like the “Small Animal Clinical Nutrition” recommend feeding a commercially prepared food for consistency and better nutritional balance. But after stating all the challenges of formulating a home prepared food for your dog even this book concedes it is possible to make nutrient balanced food for your dog at home and it provides recipes to make complete and balanced meals for both dogs and cats. The book lists homemade recipes for healthy dogs and cats, and recipes for those suffering with a urinary, gastrointestinal, heart disease, kidney disease, or just overweight issues.

Raw meat based diet influences faecal microbiome and end products of fermentation in healthy dogs.

No one food or diet is great for every dog. Dogs can thrive on a raw or home-cooked diets. The key is that home prepared meals need to have the proper ingredients in the proper ratios to include vitamins and minerals for the food to be nutritionally complete. If you include vegetables in home prepared foods lightly cooking them can increase digestibility, but cooking too long may increase vitamin loss. When adding vitamin and mineral supplements they can be destroyed by heat so they should be kept separate from the food and not added until just before serving.

………………100% HUMAN-GRADE VITAMINS.

“Many (and I would say most) homemade and prey-model diets and even some commercially available raw diets are nutritionally unbalanced. This can cause dogs to become deficient in antioxidants, or the correct amounts of trace minerals and vitamins, or the right fatty acid balance for appropriate and balanced skeletal growth, and organ and immune health. Just because nutritional deficiencies aren’t obvious in your dog doesn’t mean they don’t exist.” [12]

“Although fresh meat is a good source of protein and some minerals, it doesn’t represent a balanced diet. Wild dogs eat nearly all the parts of their prey, including small bones, internal organs, blood, brain, glands, hair, skin, teeth, eyes, tongue and other tasty treats. Many of these parts of prey animals provide important nutrients, and in fact, this is how carnivores in the wild nutritionally balance their diets.” [12]

“There are only two options for assuring nutritional adequacy in homemade diets: feeding a more expensive, whole food recipe that contains a significant number of diversified ingredients necessary to meet nutrient requirements, or using supplements. Most homemade diets lack the correct calcium and phosphorus balance as well as essential fatty acid balance.” [12]

When Raw is not Appropriate to Fee d.

” Although raw diets represent the most nutritionally bio-available and natural diet for dogs, there are times when dogs should not be fed raw animal proteins. Dogs with bowel problems such as gastroenteritis, which might include bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or all of the above, should not be fed a raw diet during flare-ups. When the bowel is not moving at its normal rate, there is increased risk for bacteria present in raw meat to incubate and multiply in the bowel pockets and then to enter the bile duct and damage the liver .” [2]

Can my dog eat this diet while on chemo or radiation?

Eye-Opening Study Confirms the Healthiest Pet Food.

How to evaluate the life stage of food?

Dog and cat foods will have a “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” which will indicate what type of pet and what stage of life the product is suited for. Start with the “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” which will state whether the food is “Complete and Balanced”. ( This is just one of many things to take into consideration )

“Complete and balanced” for:

All Life Stages”

Growth/reproduction (Puppies, gestation/lactation)

All Life Stages, including for growth of large size dogs (70 lb or more as an adult) (See below)

FOR INTERMITTENT OR SUPPLEMENTAL FEEDING ONLY.

A food that is “ Complete and Balanced ” for “ All Life Stages ” is designed to meet adequate nutritional levels established by the AAFCO for pregnant dogs, nursing dogs, growing puppies, and mature dogs. A food “Complete and Balanced” for “ Adult Maintenance ” is designed to meet the nutritional levels for adult dogs but not pregnant, nursing dogs, or puppies.

If the label states the food “ is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only ” it does not provide complete nutrition so it is not “ Complete and Balanced ”.

The “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” is determined in one of two ways. This can be accomplished generally with either feeding trails or formulating a food to meet the nutrient profiles established by AAFCO for nutritional adequacy.

Complete and Balanced?

Feeding Trials.

Many in the pet food industry consider AAFCO feeding trials a better standard to determine if a food meets the minimum guaranteed analysis because the food is actually fed to dogs. But this is no guarantee that you are getting a quality food for your dog. A feeding trial for adult dog food typically uses eight dogs over one year of age. These dogs are tested on the food for six months and during that time they will undergo limited blood tests. For the feeding trial to be valid, only six of the dogs need to complete the test without losing more than 15 percent of their body weight while eating the food. This is not exactly a gold standard for determining quality foods. “ trials do have limitations with respect to catching long-term nutritional problems ” [3] The AAFCO testing protocols is not a guarantee that a food will prevent long-term nutrition or health problems, nor is it “ intended to ensure optimal growth or maximize physical activity .” [4] “ This type of protocol will usually detect the vast majority of nutrient deficiencies but might not detect some nutrient excesses that may be harmful when fed over a longer period .” [4] According to Ryan Yamka, PhD , board certified in companion animal nutrition by the American College of Animal Sciences and a fellow with the American College of Nutrition the answer is no; “Do AAFCO feeding trials matter? The answer is simply no,” … “ Having said that, there is a place for feeding trials when we begin to investigate various nutrient levels that go beyond today’s knowledge or to test new non-essential nutrients and ingredients in our foods. Unfortunately, it is not the archaic AAFCO feeding protocols the industry currently utilizes today .”

ANIMAL FEEDING TEST FOR ALL LIFE STAGES (AAFCO)

AAFCO Feeding Test.

FORMULATED FOR ALL LIFE STAGES.

FORMULATED FOR MAINTENANCE.

Puppy Nutrition.

Growing puppies generally need twice the number of calories per day as an adult dog weighing the same. Foods for puppies and growing small or medium size dogs typical will have over 400 kcals/cup and often have calcium levels that are over 1.1 %. When puppies are young and growing rapidly they should be feed up to 4 times a day to meet their nutritional needs. [1] (Do not free feed) “ Generally, dry foods that are formulated for growing puppies contain between 380 and 450 calories (kcals) per cup of food. Foods that are designed for large breed dogs should be moderately restricted in calories to support a moderate growth rate and lean body condition .” [5]

Large Breed Puppies.

Knowledge of nutrition is always growing and research supports feeding large breed puppies a reduced calorie and calcium diet (comparatively speaking) to support a moderate, and not maximal rate of growth. Choose a food formulated for large breed puppies “Brand X ” Puppy Large Breed is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages, including for growth of large size dogs (70 lb or more as an adult). “

The most important considerations in feeding a large breed puppy is finding the right balance of calories and dietary calcium levels to control the rate of growth to prevent orthopedic diseases such as dysplasia, osteoarthritis and chronic pain.

It is recommended that large breed puppies maintain a “body condition score” (BCS) of 4 on a 9 point scale. With large breed puppies I recommend you work with a nutritionist to help evaluate any food you feed.

Is the food working for growing puppies and dog ?

IDEAL FOR ALL DOGS IS 4 & 5.

A puppy is growing fast and they can develop nutritional deficiencies in a short period of time if not feed a quality diet. Once the puppy’s growth plates close (14-18 months of age) the nutritional damage is permanent. Puppies should be kept lean (not plump) throughout growth. The goal would be a “body condition score” (BCS) of 4 on a 9 point scale. You won’t limit their growth by keeping them lean. “Adult size is genetically determined; feeding for a lean body condition simply slows down rate of growth, it does not stunt growth. Dogs attain adult size at a gradual and healthy rate if fed with careful attention to their body condition.” [5]

Puppies should be alert, active, and inquisitive. If the food is working you should see:

Tight feet (Not splayed feet)

Straight legs and pasterns (unless breed standard is different)

Full coat & healthy.

Supple, smooth skin.

No inflamed or irritated membranes (e.g. ears, feet)

Stool (Poop) is moist and firm, and has a mild odor.

Transitioning To A New Food.

If your dog is sensitive to food changes, change gradually over one or even two weeks. Some sensitive dogs may require a change over 4-6 weeks. [25] Since the calories/kcal will likely be different with the new food slowly blend in the new food and replace the same amount of calories/kcal you have removed from the current food. Changing foods gradually will provide the digestive tract time to adjust to a different food.

Ingredients.

95%, 25%, & 3% Rule.

What is the 95%, 25%, and 3% rule? This is the percentage by weight of a named ingredient before processing or cooking.

95% Rule.

The 95% rule primarily applies to canned foods. A food labeled “Beef Food For Dogs” would need to be 95% beef by weight before cooking.

25% Rule.

A food named Beef “dinner”, “entrée”, “recipe”, or “formula” is required by law to contain at least 25.1% beef before processing.

3% Rule.

A food using the word “ with ” e.g. “Super Dog Food With Beef ” is required by law to contain at least 3% beef before processing.

“When evaluating dry dog foods, a general rule of thumb is that the first five ingredients that you see in the list provide 80 % or more of the food’s nutrients.” [5]

What’s in the Ingredients List?

Ingredients are listed by weight before processing from greatest to least by weight.

Trace Minerals & Electrolytes.

Emulsifiers & Thickeners, Sequestrants.

Once you have selected a category of food to feed and determined it’s appropriate for your dog’s life stage, check out the ingredients. Whether you are feeding a raw, canned, or a dry dog food, look for quality ingredients. Start by avoiding the ingredients on the “Ingredient To Avoid” list.

Be wary of commercial pet food that lists ingredients in generic terms like, meat (mystery meats), animal or meat by product, and poultry by-products. Per AAFCO regulations generic (mystery meats) can only be from beef, lamb, pig, or goats. [24]

Look for named sources such as; lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, etc… or dehydrated chicken, dehydrated beef, lamb meal, turkey meal, beef meal, chicken meal, etc. A named animal protein generally indicates a higher quality product than generic meats or plant-source proteins. “ Because most animal-source proteins are generally of higher quality than plant-source proteins, foods that include an animal source protein as its primary protein source is recommended. ” “ The most commonly used concentrated plant-sources of protein are corn gluten meal, soybean meal and most recently, pea protein and potato protein. ” [5] (See DCM below)

“ As with human foods, federal law requires that pet food companies report all included ingredients in decreasing preponderance by weight on their product’s label. This means that ingredients that are listed first are present in the highest amount in a given product. However, and here is the catch, the weight of each ingredient includes the moisture (amount of water) present in the ingredient at the time of processing. This makes interpretation a bit tricky because some ingredients contain a lot of water (up to 70 %) while others contain very little water (12 % or less). The result is that an ingredient that is listed first on the list may appear to be the most important component of the food, when in effect it contributed a lot of water and much less in the way of essential nutrients. When evaluating dry dog foods, a general rule of thumb is that the first five ingredients that you see in the list provide 80 % or more of the food’s nutrients. ” [5]

Healthy Fruits & Vegetables.

I’m neither a nutritionist nor a veterinarian; I’m a dog owner and trainer who read’s labels and the ingredient list. On the puppy and adult food ingredient labels below “Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas” are located at the bottom of the ingredient list more than twenty places below salt. It would appear these were added for marketing reasons not for any real nutrition in these amounts. Interesting to note, both these foods are manufactured by a large pet food company that employs multiple veterinarians and nutritionists. I’m not a nutritionist but I will make the leap and say I think the ingredients in these amounts are less than a few grams per pound of food and are contributing no measurable nutrients. I would call this “ fairy dust ”. And expensive “fairy dust” at that!

PUPPY FOOD – IT APPEARS THESE WERE ADDED FOR MARKETING REASONS NOT FOR ANY REAL NUTRITION IN THESES AMOUNTS.

ADULT DOG FOOD – IT APPEARS THESE WERE ADDED FOR MARKETING REASONS NOT FOR ANY REAL NUTRITION IN THESES AMOUNTS.

DCM & “Grain-Free” foods.

Many have moved to feeding grain-free foods in recent years to avoid the potential of mycotoxins found in products containing grains. “ Comparison of mycotoxin concentrations in grain versus grain-free dry and wet commercial dog foods ” One concern now is the number of dogs eating “grain-free” foods being diagnosed with dog dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Although at this time the number of dogs is statistically low overall it is prudent to reconsider whatever we are feeding our dogs. I believe Dr. Justin Shmalberg offers excellent advise on the subject. “Avoid diets at the current time which appear to rely heavily on legumes to meet the protein content of the diet. This is difficult to evaluate on the label. If a fresh meat is first on the ingredient list, followed by a legume or legume protein, it’s likely the legume that provides more contribution to the diet since it’s dry whereas the meat is mostly water. Similarly, if there’s a number of legumes listed and only one meat, that could also be a sign. Or if a legume is the first or second ingredient. Legumes can afford some nutritional benefits, but their history as a significant protein source is less well known. It may end up being perfectly safe, but the reason for higher inclusions (vs. meat) is generally for sustainability, processing, or cost.” Dilated Cardiomyopathy and Grain-Free Diets: Thoughts on the FDA Update Dr. Justin Shmalberg.

My goal would be to select foods that do not appear to rely heavily on peas, lentils, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, and other legumes or potatoes to make up a substantial amount of the protein content in the food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an alert about reports of dog dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating pet foods containing peas, lentils , other legume seeds , or potatoes as main ingredients . “These reports are unusual because DCM is occurring in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease.” DCM is a disease of the heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart that often results in congestive heart failure.

“Breeds that are typically more frequently affected by DCM include large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. It is less common in small and medium breed dogs, except American and English Cocker Spaniels. However, the cases that have been reported to the FDA have included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds.”

“Taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM.” This was a problem with cats in the 1980s. Cats require taurine in their food and it is considered essential in their diet. Taurine has not been considered essential for dogs since they can synthesize taurine from the amino acids cysteine and methionine. The FDA issued their alert after a significant number of dogs developed DCM that were on foods containing high levels of peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes. These dogs were found to have low levels of taurine in their blood. The exact cause is not known and is currently being studied. It may be that certain dogs have a higher requirement for taurine in their diets. The cause may be low or poor quality proteins in the diet, or be caused by ingredient interactions. DCM in dogs has been studied for years although the cause is not certain there have been low taurine levels in dogs that are associated with lamb meal and rice foods, rice bran, cellulose, beet pulp, and high fiber diets.

FDA asks pet food industry for DCM-related information.

FDA needs pet food producers to report on any changes in ingredients, processing or formulation.

For updates on DCM.

 Best Dog Food List*

Gluten Free Foods.

“An intolerance to gluten-containing foods, most commonly seen in Irish Setters.” [26] Families with gluten intolerance members may choose to feed their dog a gluten-free food so members of the family can interact with the family dog.

How to Know if Your Pet Needs Gluten or Grain Free Dog Food.

Ingredient Splitting.

“ The most commonly employed technique to change the ingredient declaration order is referred to as “ingredient splitting.” In this method, an ingredient that may be perceived by the consumer as less desirable (such as corn) is “fractionated” into different components such as corn, corn meal, or corn gluten, in part so that the individual inclusion levels are less than the more desirable animal protein source ” [3] “ In fact, a large portion of the protein in cereal-based dry pet foods typically comes from grains, including rice, corn, wheat and barley .” [4] Ingredient Splitting.

” This same principle is used in dry pet foods in which “fresh” meats are highlighted. The ingredient list may look like this for a lamb and rice dog food that claims to provide “real lamb meat.” Lamb, brewers rice, ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, oat groats, poultry by-product meal, beef tallow. Lamb appears first on ingredient list because its moisture content is higher than that of the other dry ingredients. The predominant portion of the food contains a mixture of grains (rice, corn, oats) rather than “real meat. ” – Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th Edition.

IT APPEARS PEAS PROVIDE FOR A LARGE AMOUNT OF THE PROTEIN IN THIS FOOD. HENCE THE REASON FOR ADDED TAURINE AND THE SYNTHETIC AMINO ACID DL-METHIONINE. (SEE “GRAIN-FREE” ABOVE)

LARGE AMOUNT OF PEAS. (SEE “GRAIN-FREE” ABOVE)

Carbohydrates.

“Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates (Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2016) and have evolved to thrive on a diet high in animal protein and fat (Buffington, 2008; Verbrugghe et al., 2012). However, dogs can tolerate low levels of carbohydrates and are therefore classed as omnivorous carnivores (Swanson et al., 2011).” [11]

Dogs have “no minimum dietary requirement for simple carbohydrates or starches” [4] and “do not need carbohydrates, as long as they are eating a high protein diet.” (Protein covered below) The standard dry dog food (kibble) requires starch (carbohydrates) which is processed into uniform pieces of kibble through a process call extrusion using heat and high pressure to make essentially an air-popped kibble. Much the same way human cereals and other high starch products are made. The dry kibble is than sprayed with fats and other flavoring to make the food palatable.

Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that “Moderate amounts (up to one-third by weight of the recipe) of high protein, mineral rich carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, yams, and low gluten grains such as oats and rice, are healthy for most adult dogs, as long as the fats in the recipe are balanced and the meats lean.” “I think a strong argument can be made that moderate levels of carbohydrates from nutrient rich sources are healthier for most adult dogs than diets high in saturated fats (typical raw beef products) or polyunsaturated fats (typical chicken products).” (See fats below)

When energy needs are high (e.g. during growth, gestation and lactation) carbohydrates can supply energy (calories). “ foods fed to growing animals and those with high-energy needs should contain at least 20% carbohydrates. ” [4]

HIGH ENERGY NEEDS.

As noted above the goal would be to avoid dry kibble due to high soluble carbohydrates (starch). The majority of dry kibble dog foods have between 30-50% or more of the calories coming from carbohydrates which is high. Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that the gold standard for carbohydrates would be 6% of the calories would come from carbohydrates. Note that the percentage of calories is not the same as the “guaranteed analysis” %. You can use the Pet Food Math Cheat to determine the percentage of calories from carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

“Carbohydrates provide a significantly less expensive source of energy than protein and most fats”, so many people purchase foods with “considerable amounts of carbohydrates to reduce the cost of the dog food” . The goal when feeding carbohydrates is to feed “the correct type of carbohydrates. Not all carbohydrates are the same. “Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate—it is primarily plant cell walls resistant to digestion.“

“many human athletes engage in a strategy called “carbohydrate loading” or “carbo-loading.” Although this has been shown to work well for many human athletes competing in endurance events, we now know that carbo-loading is not an effective strategy for our dog athletes, who have been shown to be a different animal altogether.” [5]

“Carbo-loading is not an effective nutritional strategy with dog athletes because metabolically dogs are naturally more efficient at using fat as a fuel for exercising muscles than carbohydrate (glycogen), even when exercising at relatively high intensities.” [5]

“Although the majority of these studies have been conducted with pulling dogs and hunting dogs, Shay Hill, of Massey University in New Zealand, recently studied the importance of fat versus carbohydrate in the diets of sheep-herding dogs in her PhD dissertation research. Her results were in agreement with previous studies—she found that a diet that was high in both fat and protein and low in digestible carbohydrate supported the best running and working performance in her group of hard-working herding dogs.” [5]

Functional Carbohydrates.

Functional carbohydrates include cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and bok choy and fresh, whole fruits, such as apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe and watermelon. Functional carbohydrates are packed with health-promoting vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) that promote health at the cellular level.”

Protein.

“animals do not have a requirement for protein per se but have an amino acid requirement.” [4] Proteins are made up of amino acids and dogs have a requirement for 22 amino acids like other animals. 12 are considered non-essential since their body can make these, and 10 are essential and must be provided in their diet. “ Protein from animals, unlike protein from most plants, contains balanced amino acids and a complete range of protein-type nutrients, including taurine and carnitine .” [7] ” Proteins that provide optimal proportions of all essential amino acids are referred to as high quality proteins .” [4]

Meat e.g. beef, lamb, pork, venison, buffalo, goat, etc…

Primarily muscle meat but may include fat, sinew, gristle, tongue, or heart.

Contains 60% or more moisture.

Meats do not include bone unless listed.

If any other mammal is included e.g. buffalo or venison it must be identified.

Meat Meal e.g. beef meal, lamb meal, pork meal, etc…

Generic listed meat (mystery meats) can only be from beef, lamb, pig, or goats.

Primarily muscle meat but may include fat, sinew, gristle, tongue, or heart.

Products deemed unfit for human consumption.

Cooked/rendered and processed into ground dry meals.

heated to a high temperature (220° to 270° F) [37]

Meat and Bone Meal.

“Though similar to meat meal, it can include bone in addition to whole carcasses.” [2]

Generic listed meat (mystery meats) can only be from beef, lamb, pig, or goats.

Animal By-Products.

Can include lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, udders, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue and stomachs/tripe and intestines freed of their contents.

“This may consist of whole carcasses, but often includes byproducts in excess of what would normally be found in meat meal and meat and bone meal.” [2]

“As with meat, unless the byproducts are derived from cattle, pigs, sheep or goats, the species must be identified.” [2]

Poultry e.g. chicken, turkey, duck.

Can include meat, skin, bone, whole carcasses/frames with various bits of meat and connective tissues.

Contains 65% or more moisture.

If the bone has been removed, it can be called deboned .

Poultry Meals.

Can be named meat or generic mystery meats. e.g. poultry meal, etc…

Can include meat, skin, bone, whole carcasses/frames with various bits of meat and connective tissues, backs, and necks.

 “Chicken meal, however contains mostly rendered chicken necks and backs, which means it provides more ash per unit protein than poultry by-product meal.” [4]

Cooked/rendered and processed into ground dry meals.

Products deemed unfit for human consumption.

Cooked/rendered and processed into ground dry meals.

heated to a high temperature (220° to 270° F) [37]

Poultry by-product meals.

Can be named meat or generic mystery meats. e.g. poultry meal, etc…

Can include meat, skin, bone, whole carcasses/frames with various bits of meat and connective tissues, backs, necks, heads, feet, organs, stomach, and intestines.

Cooked/rendered and processed into ground dry meals.

heated to a high temperature (220° to 270° F) [37]

Products deemed unfit for human consumption. Cooked/rendered and processed into ground dry meals.

Plant Protein.

“ The most commonly used concentrated plant-sources of protein are corn gluten meal, soybean meal and most recently, pea protein and potato protein. ” [5] Other plant based protein sources are corn, rice, fava beans, chickpeas, lentil, quinoa, sorghum, barley, and millet.

“ If an animal is consuming a diet containing predominantly plant protein sources, protein requirements may be higher than if the animal is consuming a diet containing predominantly animal protein sources.” [29]

“Most plant proteins do not contain taurine, an essential amino acid for cats, and under some circumstances possibly a conditionally essential amino acid in dogs. Animal-based protein sources are recommended for both dogs and cats due to their pattern of essential amino acids .” [3] Foods formulated to derive protein from plants often add synthetic amino acids to make up for deficiencies. ” Synthetic amino acids currently added to some pet foods include L-methionine or D, L-methionine, L-lysine, L-arginine and taurine .” [4] Protein excess (toxicity) is not a practical problem unless fed at a very high level; ” synthetic amino acids mistakenly added to foods at very high levels can cause toxicity .” [4] “ Methionine excess can result in a hemolytic anemia with methemoglobinemia with Heinz body formation. However, the risk appears to be associated with purified amino acid supplementation, not with the consumption of intact dietary protein .” [3]

My preference is to choose foods that derived their nutrition from whole foods ingredients. I prefer to avoid foods that add synthetic vitamins like menadione sodium bisulfite a synthetic vitamin K, and synthetic amino acids like DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, L-Lysine Monohydrochloride,L-arginine, L-Tryptophan, and L-Tyrosine. With the recent concerns with DCM many food companies are now adding L-carnitine and taurine to their foods since a taurine deficiency has been associated with some nutritionally related DCM cases.

ESSENTIAL AND NONESSENTIAL AMINO ACIDS FOR DOGS AND CATS.

Nonessential amino acids.

Essential amino acids.

Taurine (cats only) May be conditional in some dogs.

Case, Linda P.; Daristotle, Leighann; Hayek, Michael G.; Raasch, Melody Foess. Dog and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals (Kindle Locations 867-873). Elsevier Health.

Protein quality can vary greatly and it is affected by the source, type of ingredients, heat, processing, fiber, and ash content. Ingredients can look the same as listed but protein can be poor, moderate, or high quality. For a food to be high quality it needs to be both highly digestible and contain usable essential amino acids that have actual nutritive value once digested. [8] Since AAFCO does not require a true quality score for pet foods we are left with evaluating the ingredients, calories, guaranteed/typical analysis, and running our own calculations to gain insight on each food. To do this we need to know the guaranteed analysis and the calories content.

“When evaluating dry dog foods, a general rule of thumb is that the first five ingredients that you see in the list provide 80% or more of the food’s nutrients. ” [5]

“ when a high-moisture ingredient is listed first on the ingredient list of an extruded food, keep reading and pay special attention to the protein sources that immediately follow on the list. When a dry protein source (typically a meal) follows the fresh meat, this will be the protein source that actually provides the bulk of the protein to the food .” [5]

The food ingredient list below has a minimum of 23% protein and looking at the early ingredients listed it appears to be a lower quality heavy plant based protein food.

Ingredient list: Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Chicken Flavor, Brewers Rice, Dried Beet Pulp, Fish Meal, Dried Egg Product, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil. Further down the ingredient list we find DL-Methionine.

Although this food lists “chicken” as the first ingredient once the moisture (apprx 75%) is removed it likely would fall in the list to just in front of “chicken flavor” since it likely contributes only a very small amount of protein. Most pet food grade “chicken” is comprised of spent carcasses, basically chicken frames composed of small bits of muscle meat plus a lot of connective tissue and bone so I would consider it a low/moderate protein, low quality food, that is heavy plant based protein food.

Tastes Like Chicken – The Science Dog.

“It is these chicken frames, plus varying amounts of internal organs, intestines, heads, and sometimes feet, that are sent to rendering plants and processed into chicken meal. They are also the primary source of the “fresh” chicken in dry dog foods that are marketed as chicken first. Although this labeling trick implies that this is the same chicken as the food that consumers purchase in the supermarket, it is not. Rather, this chicken is also a by-product of the human food industry – frames (and other stuff) – prior to being turned into a dry protein meal. The same applies to commercially produced raw and fresh cooked foods. Unless the producer specifies “human grade” (technically called “edible”), the chicken ingredients of their products are chicken by-products – not supermarket chicken breast and leg meat.” https://thesciencedog.com/2019/01/15/tastes-like-chicken/

Another clue to the plant based content in the ingredient list above is the addition of DL-Methionine. “Methionine is usually the first limiting amino acid in most commercial pet foods that contain animal tissues and plant protein sources.” [16]

Amino Acid Additives.

Taurine (particularly important to cats)

Why high protein?

The goal is a high quality and high protein food. Min of 32% “Guaranteed Analysis” ( If high quality animal based protein )

Homeskooling ideal target: Protein 90+ g per 1000 calories – At a minimum 75 g per 1000 calories if high quality food animal based protein.

Higher protein is recommended for weight loss and senior dogs. The lower the protein the higher the fat and or carbs will be and that is not recommended. Dogs have no requirement for carbs, but they do need protein and fat.

Dogs fed animal based higher protein diets vs animal and plant based protein diets “had better body composition and a muscle-specific protein pattern identical to that in healthy young-adult dogs.” [21]

” In commercial pet foods, the protein quality of ingredients varies tremendously .” [5] Quality proteins are highly digestible and provide usable essential amino acids. Protein quality and digestibility can be affected by ash content, cooking time, temperature, and fiber content. [4] “Proteins of plant origin generally have lower digestibility than animal proteins because plant fiber and carbohydrates lower digestion, due to a reduced degradation rate of nutrients in the gut and increase bacterial activity” [4] “a large portion of protein in cereal-based dry pet foods typically comes from grains, including rice, corn, wheat and barley. Some plant products (e.g. soybean meal and corn gluten meal) are concentrated sources of plant protein.” [4]

“Take Away for Dog Folks: In this study, steamed chicken was evaluated as the highest protein quality, followed closely by raw chicken. Retorted chicken (canned) was of moderate quality, while the chicken meal, the form of chicken that is included in almost all dry, extruded dog foods, lagged dramatically behind and was found to be an incomplete protein source for both adult and growing dogs.” [15]

“Poor quality proteins can lead to profound nutritive failure, accompanied by a rapid decline in weight, loss of appetite” [4] Companies will make claims that their foods are highly digestible or have superior digestibility but these claims are meaningless without being backed by an actual measure reflecting digestibility in percentage points.

What about insect protein sources?

75% or less poor quality.

75% – 82% moderate quality.

82% and above high quality.

Highly digestible food will produce well-formed, firm feces and low feces volume. With a quality food your dog should not defecate (poop) more than the number of feeding per day. Additionally foods low in digestibility can be the cause of gas (flatulence), loose stools, and occasionally diarrhea. Low cost foods may reflect the low-quality ingredients that are used. Poor quality foods that are low in digestibility will require the dog to eat more to get the nutrition it needs.

Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that the gold standard is 49% of the calories would come from protein.

With the number of overweight and obese dogs I think it reasonable to increase protein and limit carbohydrates. “ Limiting dietary carbohydrate is an important component of metabolic control for weight loss. There are three key advantages to limiting dietary carbohydrate to 20% (DM) or less: 1) lower glycemic index, 2) metabolic shift from energy storage to energy usage and 3) increased satiety .” Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th Edition Note that dry matter basis and the percentage of calories is not the same as the “guaranteed analysis” %. We will show you how to determine the percentage of calories later with the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet .

“Adult and senior dogs were fed diets with varying amounts of protein from chicken and corn-gluten meal, and their body composition (muscle versus fat tissue) was analyzed. In addition, levels of key blood and muscle proteins were measured.

Compared with dogs fed a diet with 100% chicken protein, dogs fed diets with decreasing levels of chicken and increasing levels of corn-gluten meal had the following:

Decreased lean tissue.

Increased body fat.

Decreased levels of blood proteins routinely used as markers of superior nutritional status.

This was independent of the overall dietary protein level (12% or 28%), which was also examined in each of the four test groups.

As dogs age, body composition and muscle-specific proteins decline. Therefore, another study looked at the differences between feeding senior dogs a 32%-protein chicken-based diet, a 32%-protein chicken and corn-gluten meal diet, or a 16%-protein chicken-based diet. Senior dogs fed the 32%-chicken protein, chicken-based diet had better body composition and a muscle-specific protein pattern identical to that in healthy young-adult dogs. However, those results were not seen in either of the other two diets.”

“Animals with protein deficiency have scaling, loss of hair pigment, and patchy alopecia. Hair shafts become thinner, and the overall hair coat quality is poor with dry, dull, brittle hair shafts.” [3]

Senior Dogs.

“some older dogs may have reduced digestive efficiency, the quality of the protein that is in the food is very important” [4]

“not only should we not reduce protein for healthy older dogs, research has shown that healthy aging animals benefit from slightly higher levels of dietary protein. They need this to help to support lean body tissue and possibly also to support a healthy immune system.” [5]

“There is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding optimum protein intake for senior dogs (Case et al., 2011; Wannemacher & McCoy, 1966). Many people believe that protein overworks older kidneys and that protein should automatically be decreased in an older dog’s diet. This is false. Dietary protein does not stress or harm the kidneys of otherwise healthy senior dogs. On the contrary, healthy older dogs require slightly more protein. Protein minimizes loss of lean body mass that accompanies the aging process. [2]

“Protein reserves are also important because the body mobilizes protein as a natural part of its response to stress, including disease, infection and injury; therefore, loss of protein reserves inhibits an animal’s ability to respond to stress. In direct opposition to common recommendations, senior dogs actually benefit from moderate to high levels of high quality, readily bioavailable dietary protein” (Case et al., 2011).” [5]

“ Higher in protein: “How much protein does a senior dog need?” is a question vets get often and for good reason. The protein stores of a senior dog turn over more rapidly than in younger dogs, and like humans, dogs can start to lose muscle mass as they age. Extra protein supplies amino acids that help make up for that loss, and these keep aging pups stronger and more mobile. Senior dog diets would therefore ideally have more than 75 grams of protein per 1,000 calories .” https://www.nomnomnow.com/learn/senior-pet-care/senior-dog-food-guide.

Fats.

Can be a named source or a mystery blend. e.g. animal fat, poultry fat.

Fats provide needed energy (calories) for dogs but it should also provide a good balance of fatty acids beneficial to dogs. Balanced fats are comprised of saturated fats (30-40% of total fat), monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, omega-6, omega-3’s, LA/ALA, EPA & DHA.

“a high fat diet is not a problem for dogs metabolically—they thrive on high fat diets and do not experience the cardiovascular problems with dietary fat that humans are more prone to develop” [5]

“Carbo-loading is not an effective nutritional strategy with dog athletes because metabolically dogs are naturally more efficient at using fat as a fuel for exercising muscles than carbohydrate (glycogen), even when exercising at relatively high intensities.” [5]

“Dog can tolerate high levels of dietary fat if fat is gradually introduced and adequate intake of non-fat nutrients in maintained. ” [4]

BALANCED RECIPES & HOW TO IMPROVE FOOD.

“Most dogs do not eat balanced fat diets, and consume little, if any, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), probably the most important fat for the brain and eyes. Even most dogs fed homemade diets do not eat the proper balance of fats because modern feedlot animals have different amounts and balance of fats than do wild prey animals. Poorly balanced fats are one of the major weaknesses of almost all commercial and most homemade dog foods. ” [7]

Some companies include fish oils which is a primary source of omega-3’s (DHA). “Although the original DHA content of the food is listed on the bag, it is not necessarily the amount of DHA that is in the food when you feed it to your dog. Extrusion processing (where the food is quickly cooked under high pressure, the way most dog foods are processed) and long-term storage make oxidation of the DHA likely.” [7] DHA is fragile and will oxidize, which means it will turn rancid. No DHA in the diet is better than rancid DHA. “ Rancid fats reduce the nutritive value of the protein, degrade vitamins and antioxidants, and can cause diarrhea, liver and heart problems, macular degeneration, cell damage, cancer, arthritis, and death. ” [7]

“the best way for dry and frozen food feeders to ensure the proper balance of fats and to avoid rancid fats is by feeding a properly stored (see Chapter 7), recently made, basic food without added fish oils or EPA and DHA. Instead add these fragile fats yourself” [7]

Fats should be in the proper balance and proportion to protein and carbohydrates. Whereas endurance sled dogs in extreme racing conditions will consume over 10,000 calories and day on a high fat diet, the average dog will be better served on a diet with far fewer calories and fat. Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that the gold standard is 44% of the calories would come from fat. We will show you how to determine the percentage of calories later with the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet.

FIBER.

“Fiber is the part of the plant material that the dog cannot digest; it’s considered to be a carbohydrate.” [7] There is no AAFCO minimum recommendation for fiber since “Fiber is not considered essential in the diets of cats and dogs” [11] “The measure of fiber is typically reported on pet food labels as “ crude fiber ”. This analytical method does not capture all forms of fiber and largely reports the insoluble portion. A better value used for human foods is total dietary fiber, which includes both soluble and insoluble fibers.” Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition. Wiley. [3]

Crude Fiber underestimates total dietary fiber (up to 4-fold).

“Common sources of soluble fiber are fruits and gums, with gums more commonly used in pet food as they are frequently used to improve canned food texture. Insoluble fiber generally increases fecal bulk but does not soften feces as it does not have the ability to absorb water. Insoluble fiber generally comes from grains in the diet (although fiber from whole grains is typically “mixed” with both soluble and insoluble fibers) and is added in the form of cellulose.” [3]

“For all nutrients for both human and dogs diets, obtaining nutrients from whole foods, rather than from highly processed food ingredients is preferable” Basics of Dog Nutrition Course by Linda Case https://courses.thesciencedog.com/courses/basics-of-dog-nutrition Food sources provide a mixture of fiber types and considered better then extracted types single ingredients.

“In general, a dry dog food that contains between three and seven percent fiber (listed as “crude fiber” on the label) is considered normal and beneficial.” [5]

“a small amount of fiber (<5%) that contains both rapidly and slowly fermentable fibers is recommended in foods for healthy pets” [4]

“ A dry food that reports a crude fiber content that is higher than 5 or 6% has added fiber .” [5]

Soluble fibers (also prebiotics which are fermentable)

Oats & oat hulls.

Locust bean gum.

Crude Fiber.

Insoluble fibers (less fermentable)

Cellulose.

Rice bran.

Beet pulp.

ASH.

Ash is the inorganic material left after organic material has been burnt. Ash is what’s leftover after the food has been incinerated and the protein, fat, and carbohydrates of all been burned away. Ash can come from bones, animal meals, and mineral supplements. It is generally the mineral content of the food.” e.g. bone meal, calcium, phosphorus, and trace minerals. [7]

There is no AAFCO minimum or maximum recommendation for ash since each mineral has its own minimum recommendation and several have a maximum recommendation depending on the “life stage” the food is formulated.

“Ash analysis is of little value either for expressing mineral requirements or for indicating the useful mineral content of foods” …“ash may not be a measure of total inorganic matter present, because some organic carbon may be bound as carbonate, and some inorganic elements (e.g., sulfur, selenium, iodine, fluorine and even sodium) may be lost during combustion.” [4]

“Ash content is generally “between 2% and 10% using higher values with dry, higher protein foods” [3] Higher moisture foods will generally have 1 1/2% – 2% ash. Protein sources containing higher quantities of muscle meat will contain less ash. A food with high ash content is likely made with a large amount of bone e.g. “chicken frames,” “the part of the chicken that is left over after the chicken meat for human consumption has been removed or from chickens that have been removed from the human food supply for other reasons.” Although a food may have a higher than average protein content we don’t know the protein quality since frames would also contain a lot of connective tissue which lowers the protein quality.

“bone meal can contain a great deal more bone ( raising the ash content and lowering the protein quality ).” [16] Another concern is contamination from lead which can come from bone meal. [17]

“High-quality dry pet foods generally contain between 5% and 8% ash.” (dry kibble) [16] Higher moisture foods will generally have 1 1/2% – 3% ash. (e.g. canned, fresh, and frozen raw) The % of ash varies based on the moisture content of the food.

*High levels of ash can negatively affect a food’s digestibility. [16] (High levels of ash is relative to moisture content – see general range)

Vitamins.

Vitamins can come from whole foods, whole food supplements, or be chemically-synthesized. When food is cooked or heat processed vitamins levels in the food can be inadequate so many companies add synthetic vitamin pre-mixes to their foods. Improper formulation of pre-mixes can result in insufficient vitamins or can result in toxic levels being added to pet foods. [38] [39] [

“ as we learned during the 2007 recalls, vitamins, amino acids, and taurine are typically synthesized chemically and unnaturally in Asian pharmaceutical factories. ” [6]

Fat-Soluble Vitamins.

Vitamin A – retinol: beta-carotene (synthetic form)

Vitamin D – cholecalciferol D3, ergocalciferol D2.

Vitamin E – alpha-tocopherol: alpha-tocopherol acetate, d-alpha-tocopherol: dl-alpha-tocopherol, Vitamin E Adsorbate (synthetics)

Vitamin K – Menadione Sodium Bisulfate (synthetic form) ( K3 – synthetic vitamin K)

Menadione Sodium Bisulfate Complex.

Natural vitamin K from foods would be K1 and K2.

Water Soluble Vitamins.

Vitamin B1 – Thiamine, Thiamin Mononitrate (synthetic form)

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin.

Vitamin B3 – Niacin, Nicotinic Acid (synthetic form)

Vitamin B5 – Pantothenic Acid, d-calcium pantothenate.

Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine, pyridoxine hydrochloride (synthetic form)

Vitamin B9 – Folate, Folic Acid (synthetic form)

Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin.

Choline – “Many animals are capable of synthesizing adequate choline for their needs and so do not require a dietary source.” [16]

Vitamin C – L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate/Source of vitamin C (Used as an antioxidant) “neither dogs nor cats have a requirement for vitamin C”

Minerals.

 Minerals can come from whole foods, whole food supplements, or synthesized mineral supplements can be added to pet foods. Chelated minerals are referred to as organic minerals although they are produced synthetically. Chelated minerals are bound to a chelating agent which are usually an amino acid (protein) or organic acid.

When pre-mixes are added to foods there is a possibility of inadequacy or excessive amounts being added. [40]

Chelated Minerals (Synthetics)

If minerals are not derived from whole foods look for the more bioavailable from such as chelated minerals; e.g. zinc proteinate.

Chelated minerals are bonded to a protein for higher absorption than standard synthetics.

Copper Proteinate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate.

Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, zine proteinate, zinc acetate, zinc gluconate.

“Zinc acetate or zinc gluconate is recommended, since the sulfate form may be associated with gastric irritation and vomiting in people.” Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition. Wiley.

Iron Proteinate, iron amino acid, chelate.

Synthetics (Feed Grade)

Oxides & Sulfates.

Iron – ferric or ferrous,

Iron oxide “is only added for color because the iron found in this form is biologically unavailable. ” [6]

Copper – Copper Sulfate.

Zinc – Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Oxide.

Trace Minerals.

Iodine – Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide (iodine supplement)

Manganese – Manganese Proteinate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate.

Electrolytes.

Enzymes.

Coloring agents.

“coloring agents are often added to enhance consumer appeal.” [5]

Red 40: Allura red.

Yellow 5: tartrazine.

Yellow 6: Sunset Yellow.

Titanium dioxide (a whitener)

Carotenoid pigments; e.g. Annatto, lycopene, zeaxanthin.

Caramel Color [43]

Palatability Additives.

A commonly used palatability enhancer is digest .

Emulsifiers and Thickening Agents.

“In canned pet foods, gums, glycerides, and modified starches are included for the production of a thick sauce or gravy.” [16]

Propylene glycol (in dog food only, propylene glycol is unsafe for cats and is prohibited from use in cat food)

“carrageenan, guar gum, gum arabic, and carboxymethylcellulose. These agents can also be sprayed onto the outside of a dry food so that when water is added to the food before feeding, they create a gravy or thick sauce.” [16]

Functional Ingredients.

Functional ingredients are included in pet foods with the intent of providing specific health benefits. [16]

Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate.

Green-lipped mussel powder.

“ When your intent is to choose a food that provides benefit from omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) to dogs, a general rule of thumb is to select a food that reports a ratio (proportion) of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids of between 7:1 and 5:1 .” …” Alternatively if you see no fish products and instead find flax, flaxseed oil or canola oil, this means that the omega-3 fatty acids that are in that food are in the form of ALA, which is important but provides less therapeutic benefit to dogs than fish oil sources .” [5]

Skin and coat condition.

Lower urinary tract health.

Prebiotics: (fiber)

Chicory root extract.

Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) (oligofructose)

Probiotics.

Probiotics function is to promote gastrointestinal health and may also benefit skin health and immune function. [16]

Preservatives (Antioxidants)

Antioxidants are added to protect fat, certain vitamins and other food components from the damaging effects of oxidation (rancidity) and other toxic compounds. [1] [5] “ naturally-derived preservatives do not preserve foods as long as artificial preservatives, the shelf life of naturally-preserved dog foods is often shorter than that of products that are preserved with artificial compounds. ” [5]

Synthetic.

BHA – Butylated hydroxyanisole.

BHT – butylated hydroxytoluene.

TBHQ – tertiary butylhydroquinine.

“According to an article by Shona Botes on NaturalNews.com, the Food and Drug Administration allows amounts of up to 0.02% of the total oils in food to be TBHQ, but consuming high doses (between 1 and 4 grams) can cause nausea, delirium, collapse, tinnitus and vomiting. Long-term, high doses of TBHQ in laboratory animals have shown a tendency for the animals to develop cancerous precursors in their stomachs and begin to present DNA damage.” [41]

Natural.

Vitamin E: Mixed tocopherols.

Overweight.

Lean dogs have longer lives.

Median life span was significantly longer for dogs in which food was restricted. [9]

Lean dogs have healthier lives.

“diet restriction also was associated with a longer median time to first treatment of osteoarthritis (the most common chronic disease among dogs in this study) and a longer median time to first treatment of any chronic condition.” [9]

Overweight dogs and cats have an increased risk for urinary stone formations. [4]

The problem with dry dog and cat foods are the high carbohydrates. Many veterinarians and nutritionist recommend if your dog or cat is overweight cut the carbs!

Using the gold standard pet food formulator Steve Brown recommends carbohydrates would be 6% of calories. (Dry kibble ranges from 20% to 60%+) The ideal remaining calorie breakdown would be 49% of the calories would come from protein, and 44% from fat. Remember that the percentage of calories is not the same as the “guaranteed analysis” %. We will show you how to determine the percentage of calories later with the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet.

“ Limiting dietary carbohydrate is an important component of metabolic control for weight loss. There are three key advantages to limiting dietary carbohydrate to 20% (DM) or less: 1) lower glycemic index, 2) metabolic shift from energy storage to energy usage and 3) increased satiety .” [4] (DM = dry matter)

One challenge when searching for dog food for a dog with a moderate activity level is finding one that has a percentage of fat that is no more than 50% of the protein listed. Higher fat diets are a great energy source for active dogs but most dogs will get more calories than they can burn on a high fat diet. For dogs that are overweight I avoid foods marketed for the “less active” dogs. If you checked the label you may find that this food has the same calories or more than the food you are feeding now. Many of these foods contain a high fiber content which can reduce the overall digestibility and insoluble fiber like cellulose can reduce mineral adsorption. “ A dry food that reports a crude fiber content that is higher than 5 or 6% has added fiber .” [5] High fiber can lead to increased need to defecate and a larger volume of feces. Instead I would limit treats and slightly reduce the amount of food feed, and increase their daily exercise. There’s an old saying, if your dog is fat you’re not getting enough exercise!

HIGH FAT > MORE THAN 50% OF PROTEIN.

BALANCED FAT < LESS THAN 50% OF PROTEIN.

NutriScan Test Kit.

Food Intolerance & Sensitivity.

Feeding the best food and ingredients is great unless your dog or cat has an intolerance or sensitivity to them. Food intolerances/sensitivities can manifest in (GI) gastrointestinal issues, chronic itching, gas rumblings, chronic gas, chronic burping, chronic skin, ear and foot infections, especially with the presence of yeast.[2] I have found that a small amount of an offending ingredient causes issues. Reactions can be cause by the differing proteins, or oats, millet, quinoa, lentils, barley, salmon oil, herring oil, etc. Dogs can experience allergic reactions the same as people. But food intolerance or sensitivity is more common than a food allergy. NUTRISCAN: Salivary Diagnostic Test for Food Intolerance.

If your dog or cat has itchy skin, diarrhea, gas, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease your dog or cat likely has a food sensitivity or intolerance. Does your dog lick obsessively? It may be due to a food sensitivity or intolerance. Having been down this road more than once the first place I start is with a food intolerance/sensitivity test by NutriScan since food intolerance/sensitivity it is more common than a food allergy. NutriScan helped eliminate the guesswork without putting my dogs through weeks/months of food trails and continually going to the vet to manage symptoms.

Does your dog eat grass regularly? Some grass eating is normal but excessive grass eating can be due to illness or gastrointestinal issue like a food intolerance. After running a NutriScan food intolerance test on each of my own dogs and then eliminating several foods from their diet their grass eating reduced about 95%.

Food intolerances/sensitivities can build up over time with exposure to offending ingredient(s). Rotating foods every two to three months can do more then add to our dog’s enjoyment of his food, it may help to avoid the development of particular food sensitivity and food allergies. The greater the length of time and frequency a particular food is consumed the greater likelihood an intolerance/sensitivity can develop over time.

“dogs and cats may develop food allergies after prolonged exposure to one brand, type or form of food. In contrast, adverse reactions due to food intolerance may occur after a single exposure to a food ingredient because immune amplification is unnecessary.” [4]

Allergy reactions show up in allergy blood test as antibodies (IgE and IgG), but food sensitivity & intolerances are tested with a dog’s saliva for a differing set of antibodies (IgA and IgM). With the NutriScan kit you collect saliva with a small cotton dental rope. You can do this at home or at the vet’s office. Then ship the kit back to Hemopet for testing.

limited ingredient diet.

A limited ingredient food (Limited Ingredient Diet – LID) does not have a standard definition. It generally means the food is limited to one animal protein. Some manufactures state that their food is limited to one animal protein and one carbohydrate. And still others define it further as having an overall lower number of ingredients. Selecting a food with a single identified animal protein is a desirable goal since it is recommended to rotate and feed a variety of differing proteins and brands of food over time to help correct for any excesses, insufficiencies, or imbalances. Another advantage is that dogs fed the same food over time are more likely to develop particular food sensitivity and food allergies.

Many owners select a limited ingredient food in an attempt to avoid foods that may be the cause of food allergies or food intolerance/sensitivities. Food elimination diets are often used to test for adverse food reactions (AFR). “The elimination diet trial should be performed for a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks and ideally 10 to 12 weeks… Although maximum improvement may take up to 10 to 13 weeks,” [Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition] “It is noteworthy that dietary trials confirm or rule out adverse reactions to food but do not indicate the underlying mechanism (allergy or intolerance).” [Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th edition]

A problem found with several limited ingredient diets is that they often contain additional food ingredients not listed on the label.

” ten of twelve pet foods tested herein as limited antigen diets may not reliably rule out a diagnosis of AFR, and the use of homecooked diets should be considered whenever the dog fails to respond to dietary restriction” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jpn.12045.

“ten of the twelve selected commercial dry limited antigen diets, all novel protein diets, were unsuitable for use in diagnostic food elimination trials because they contained ingredients belonging to one or two zoological classes (mammalian, avian or fish) not listed on the label.” https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/jpn.12045.

Thyroid Disease ( Dr. Jean Dodds)

Hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder of dogs. Nearly 90% of cases result from autoimmune thyroiditis, the heritable autoimmune disease that progressively destroys the thyroid gland. Classical clinical signs of hypothyroidism only appear once >70% of the gland is damaged. Thyroid Testing.

Certain foods contain naturally occurring substances called goitrogens that can interfere with the thyroid gland’s production of hormone. “The two main groups of goitrogen-containing foods are cruciferous vegetables and soy products.” “The grain millet is also mildly goitrogenic. Limit feeding of these foods if your dog displays signs of thyroid imbalance.” [8]

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