When is Chicken Not “Chicken” in Dog Food?

anatomy-of-the-chicken-with-textOne of the main quality meat ingredients used in dog food is chicken. In fact, chicken may well be the ideal meat source for dogs. It offers all the necessary protein for health and is a food that dogs naturally eat.

However, when it comes to what goes into the finished product, not all “chicken” is the same in dog food. In an effort to reduce costs, many manufacturers use inferior forms of chicken (or different processing methods) to reduce the amount of chicken meat in the final food. The dog owner may be none the wiser, as the packaging on many poor grade foods doesn’t represent the actual quality of the product. As a result, many dog owners think the food “must be good” if the packaging says it is – when that can often be far from the case.

The prices of dog foods vary widely. There are two factors which determine the price of dog food:

  1. the quality of the ingredients. Obviously, the better the ingredients used the more expensive it is to produce the food, and
  2. marketing. If a company spends more on marketing their product, then this is a cost that they must recoup from the only place possible – the customer. That is why there is not always a direct correlation between price and quality.

Because of this, it is important for the dog owner to understand the ingredients in the food, and what they actually mean on the label. With most health problems in dogs caused by food, understanding what you are really feeding your pet is the most important decision you can make for its health and wellbeing.

Dog food labels are confusing and this is particularly so when it comes to the use of “chicken”. This is by far the most expensive ingredient in a dog food and manufacturers go to some length to ‘disguise’ the reduced amounts of actual chicken meat in their food by describing “chicken” in different ways.

There is a lot of confusion out there, even among pet professionals. Here are the different types of “chicken” found in dog food and how they affect the quality of the final product:

  • “Chicken flavour”. This is the least amount of chicken. In fact, legally (and therefore virtually always), a food with “chicken flavour” need have no chicken in it at all. The producer is merely adding some flavour as a way of getting the dog to eat what are unappetising ingredients (usually cereals and waste products) – and as a way of making you think there is some chicken in the food. There isn’t.
  • “With real chicken”. There is something called the “with rule”. By law, for a food to use the word “with” it needs to contain a minimum amount of that ingredient. And that amount is? Just 3%! If the food you are feeding says “with real chicken” that will be all your dog is getting – and again the rest of the food is going to be made up of low nutrition (and even harmful) fillers.
  • “Chicken”. Well at last we’re getting to food that has a decent amount of actual chicken meat in it. For a food to say it contains chicken it must have actual chicken flesh in it. If it is the first ingredient on the label, it must be the greatest by weight in the food… or must it?
    In fact, if the food is based on “chicken” there is not nearly so much chicken as you might expect. The reason is that chicken meat contains 70% water. When the food is processed it is of course dehydrated, meaning it loses up to 80% of its weight and volume. So if chicken is the main ingredient by weight BEFORE processing then it certainly won’t be AFTER it has been dehydrated. Foods based on “chicken” actually end up with quite a low amount of chicken in the final product.
  • “Chicken meal”. This is the highest quality form of chicken of all. Chicken meal is simply chicken meat that has been dehydrated BEFORE it is added to the food for processing. It reduces the moisture from 70% to 10%, also killing many harmful bacteria in the process. If “chicken meal” is the first stated ingredient on a food, there is actually FOUR TIMES the amount of actual chicken in the final food than a food based on “chicken.” These are the ideal foods for dogs – and of course they love the taste too because there is lots of meat in it, not tasteless cereals and fillers.
  •  “Chicken by-product.” Many people (including vets) confuse “chicken meal” with “chicken by-product” but they are at opposite ends of the scale when it comes to quality. “Chicken by products” are all the bits of the animal that are left when the actual meat is taken off. The include organs, feet, beaks and even undeveloped eggs. Chicken by products are not necessarily bad and do have a high protein content. But they are only added as a way of reducing cost – which points to the fact that there are undoubtedly other low-cost ingredients in the food as well.

If you want a dog with minimal health problems, stick to a food that uses “chicken MEAL” at the first ingredient. The bonuses are that your dog will enjoy the food more and you won’t need to feed as much either (so a bag will go further).

Pro Pac and Earthborn Holistic both use ONLY chicken meal as the first ingredient in their foods (and no by-products either). It’s why these brands have led the field in dog nutrition for decades.

For more information about Pro Pac and Earthborn Holistic call 0800 DOG FOOD (within New Zealand) or visit www.petfooddirect.co.nz

Dogs That Aren’t Right: Is Your Dog Really Healthy?

little-dogOne of the sad truths in our modern society is that the majority of our pet dogs are living below optimum health. Many of their problems aren’t necessarily obvious (and many owners seem to be unaware of it). The consequences of these health problems are reduced life expectancy, discomfort and unhappiness for the dog, and higher vet bills and distress for the owner.

The other sad truth is that many of these health problems are avoidable. The saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is so true when it comes to pet health.

The major preventable health problems in dogs are:

  • overweight or obesity
  • joint pain and stiffness
  • lethargy
  • hyperactivity
  • skin problems: rashes, itching, flaking
  • ear infections
  • paw irritations (shown by biting and licking)
  • bad odour (in coat, breath and rear end)
  • dull coat

The way to prevent (or at least minimise) health problems in dogs is to play close attention to its nutrition and lifestyle. As an owner, you have total responsibility for this – after all, a dog can’t make health decisions for itself. Here are the main things to do to ensure your dog has the best health possible.

  1. Feed a quality food. Poor nutrition is the #1 cause in health problems for dogs. Avoid foods that contain by-products and are low in actual meat content (this includes virtually all supermarket foods). Also steer clear of anything with artificial flavourings, colourings or preservatives. If you were to eat nothing but junk food you would expect to have health problems. The same is true of your dog.
  2. Don’t over feed. Don’t leave a bowl lying around with food in it for your dog to eat during the day and if you’re not sure how much to feed, feed less than you think. It is very easy for a dog to be overfed, which is why the majority of dogs, sadly, are overweight. For more information on how much to feed your dog (and the signs to look for for overfeeding) go here.
  3. Make sure fresh water is always available. Dogs often drink a surprising amount of water and it is vital to their health that it is on hand when they need it. Keep the water bowl filled, especially if you are going out for the day.
  4. Don’t over-exercise your dog. Dogs absolutely love to play. The problem is, they don’t know how to tell you when they need to stop. It is not a good idea to tire your dog out through walking or playing as this will put a strain on their body. Obviously moderate exercise is important, but keep it at that – moderate.

Just doing these few simple things will go a very long way to keeping your dog in optimum physical condition for a long and happy life.

Pro Pac Superpremium and Earthborn Holistic Grain Free are two of the healthiest and most affordable quality dog foods on the market. Feeding these foods will help ensure your dog stays in great physical condition. For more information visit Petfood Direct at www.petfooddirect.co.nz

Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Dog

healthy_dog_treats_sKeeping your dog healthy is obviously one of the main responsibilities you have as a dog owner. A healthy dog means a happy dog, giving you much more pleasure of ownership. Your dog will have more energy, be more responsive to you and will have a calmer and more settled nature. However, keeping your dog healthy goes much further than that. You will avoid costly vet bills, which can escalate dramatically, especially as the dog gets older. Most of the minor and major health problems that dogs can develop can be minimised or eliminated by keeping your dog healthy.

One of the most important things in avoiding health problems in your dog is to be aware of the warning signs. These are symptoms that, if not addressed, can develop into major issues. The good news is that if detected early, they can be dealt with relatively easily.

Here are some of the signs that your dog is not is healthy as he should be:

  • Smelly skin, coat and breath. Many people accept that offensive “doggy’ smell as normal, but it isn’t. The smell can also pervade places where the dog spends time, such as it’s bed. Your dog should smell ‘sweet’ or, preferably, not at all. If you’re in doubt if your dog has a “doggy” smell, ask a neighbour or friend – you may have become desensitised to it!
  • Poor coat. A dog’s coat should be shiny and soft. And I mean REALLY shiny and soft. If it is dull, wiry or greasy, it suggests your dog is not as healthy as he could be.
  • Aggressive or hyperactive behaviour. Although training of course plays an important part in a dog’s behaviour, if your pet acts unpredictably or aggressively it can be a sign of health issues.
  • Skin conditions. Itching, scratching, rashes, flaky skin – these are all signs of poor health in a dog.
  • Stiff joints. Many people expect that dogs will develop joint and muscle problems when they get older, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Observe your dog’s movement, especially first thing in the morning or after it has been inactive or asleep for a while. If it appears to be stiff or having problems with movement, then it points to less than optimum health.

If your dog has any of these symptoms, you should address them before health issues become more major. Fortunately, there is one very simple and effective way to reduce or eliminate these in dogs and keep them in optimum health:

Feed a good, healthy food.

Dr Michael Fox, author of 40 books on dog health and former vice president of Humane Society International states:

“It has taken me 20 years as a vet to realise that 90% of health problems in dogs result from the food they are eating.”

Choose a quality food and you will not only reduce or eliminate all the symptoms above, but you will be doing the best thing possible to ensure your dog’s long term health and happiness.

A quality food is one that has a high meat content and has no by-products, cheap fillers, preservatives, flavourings or colourings.

Pro Pac and Earthborn Holistic are two foods that have been independently rated as amongst the highest quality on the market. We ourselves have seen remarkable improvements in dogs’ health since they have switched to these foods (see www.petfooddirect.co.nz for a number of reports from dog owners).

If your dog displays any of the symptoms above try him or her on Pro Pac or Earthborn Holistic and judge your results for yourself.

Pro Pac and Earthborn Holistic are both available in New Zealand from Petfood Direct. For more information and to order visit www.petfooddirect.co.nz or call 0800 DOG FOOD (0800 364 366).

Food Allergies in Dogs – Myth vs Fact

There is a lot of misinformation regarding allergies and pet food, but there is no doubt it is quite a common problem. Fortunately Pro Pac and Earthborn Holistic is one of the least allergy-creating brands on the market. This is based on the choice of ingredients in each formula.

Below is an excerpt from a recent article which highlights many good points about food allergies in dogs:

By Dr. Jennifer Coates, PetMD

Allergies are a common problem for dogs. Typical symptoms include itchiness resulting in excess scratching, biting, or licking, and sometimes chronic or recurrent skin/ear infections. While dogs most frequently suffer from allergies to environmental triggers (e.g., pollen, molds, and dust mites or flea bites), allergic reactions to food are possible, and are frequently a source of greater controversy.

Diagnosing canine food allergies is not easy. It typically requires a food trial during which a dog eats ABSOLUTELY NOTHING other than a food containing protein and carbohydrate sources to which he has never been exposed before. Another option is to only allow your dog to eat food that has been processed in such a way as to make it hypoallergenic. A food trial needs to continue for at least eight weeks before its success or failure can be evaluated. This is easier said than done!

I think the difficulty we have in definitively diagnosing food allergies in dogs is at least partially responsible for some of the myths that have developed around the condition. Let’s look at a few, along with the truths behind them.

Myth: Dogs are typically allergic to corn, wheat, soy, and other plant-based ingredients.

Truth: In a study of 278 cases of food allergies in dogs where the problem ingredient was clearly identified, beef was by far the biggest culprit (95 cases). Dairy was number two at 55 cases. Wheat came in third with 42 cases. Soy and corn were actually minimal offenders, coming in at 13 and 7 cases, respectively.

In fact, protein sources are more often to blame than grains. Beef, dairy, chicken, egg, lamb, soy, pork and fish were responsible for 231 of the food allergies, while wheat, corn and rice combined accounted for only 54. (Some dogs were allergic to more than one ingredient, which is why these numbers total more than 278.)

Of all of the above grain ingredients, Pro Pac only uses corn (the least offender), and then only in some of the formulas (corn is actually a quality ingredient, but that’s another story…..). We’re confident it’s why we get so many dogs that have moved to Pro Pac and Earthborn Holistic from other foods that find any allergy problems clear up.

If you have any issues with allergies feel free to give us a call anytime. We’re obviously not vets but we do understand dog nutrition better than most.