Do you ever wonder what's really in your dog food? I know I do, and that's why I've been checking out ingredients on dog food packaging for some time. When you do that you're probably not going to be too impressed in a lot of cases, and you may consider a home made dog food diet.
When reading dog food labels, the order of the ingredients tells you how much of each item is in the food. This isn't an exact amount, but what it does tell you is relative amounts. For example, if the label reads like:
corn meal, chicken, rice
Then the dog food has more cornmeal in it than chicken, and more chicken in it than rice.
So the first thing I look for is where animal protein figures on the list. The reason I do this is that dogs have descended from a long line of carnivores. Dogs were domesticated from wolves a long time ago. Wolves are meat eaters and so it makes sense that the best thing to do for your dog is give him what he naturally needs-meat. Sure he can get by on cornmeal, but that isn't necessarily the best thing for his health.
The second big item to note when it comes to analyzing dog food is that some meat items are listed as "by products". What on earth is a by-product? According to About.com, chicken by-products are described as follows:
Definition: Chicken by-product meal consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.
Well, that's not exactly breast and thigh meat. Do you want your dog eating chicken feet as his main source of protein? Probably not. I don't either, so I prefer brands of dog food that have by-products lower down on the list of food items.
Unfortunately if you're looking for bargain food you're going to be getting items like corn, corn meal, and by-products as the top ingredients. An example I like to use is comparing Purina Dog Chow to the more expensive line sold by the same company, Purina One. Dog Chow consists of lower quality ingredients like chicken by-products and corn meal. Purina One, on the other hand, has real meat in it. How do you know this? Its going to say "chicken" instead of "chicken by-products". I think this is better food for dogs.
Here's a secret tip: be careful changing your dog's diet. Dogs have sensitive digestive systems and changing your dogs diet abruptly can lead to problems like diarrhea. It could even lead to bloat, but I can't prove that. So start off by mixing in the new dog food a little bit at a time.
All of this begs the question-if you want your dog to eat real meat, why not just put her on a home made dog food diet? That's exactly what thousands of people are doing.
If you do a home made dog food diet, some items you might consider are cooked chicken, steak, pork, and a carbohydrate like rice. You're going to need to do some research to make sure that your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs, to maintain proper dog health supplements are going to be necessary on that kind of diet. Vegetables will also have to be included.
I own a large number of dogs, so preparing home made meals is just not realistic for me. I barely have the time to make my own dinner. But if you only have one or two dogs, it might be something you should consider. But talk to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is getting all of the nutrients she needs.