There is a lot of debate on whether pet parents should buy packaged pet food for their dogs. At this point, the opinion on what’s healthy and which is the right way to feed your dog is still up for speculation as pet owners are divided by their beliefs. There are a lot of dog owners who advocate the benefits of the BARF diet while there are others who rely on home cooked meals. The rest still rely on commercial dog food products.

First of all, putting all dog food products of a certain type (like canned food) under one bracket and saying that they are all unhealthy is both hasty and incorrect. The truth really is that a dog food is good or bad depending on what ingredients it contains. Therefore, if you want to pick out a good dog food from an aisle full of inferior products you need to read the label.

Ingredients You Don’t Want on the Label

Artificial Coloring Agents: Compared to humans, dogs have limited color perception as they see in shades of blues, yellows, and grays. Therefore a brightly colored dog food is really for your benefit. Simply put, the artificial colors do not make the food look more appetizing to a canine brain. Food colors can, in fact, be harmful to dogs. Food dyes are linked to cancer, organ damage, hyperactivity, and allergic reactions.

Corn and Corn Syrup: Some manufacturers add corn as a cheap filler. Corn contains some amount of protein, which helps manufacturers to display a higher protein percentage on the label. However, most of that protein goes unutilized as dogs face a hard time digesting corn. Corn syrup, on the other hand, is a type of refined sugar. While it adds sweetness, making the food more palatable, it can lead to serious health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and behavioral issues such as hyperactivity.

BHA/BHT: Both BHA and BHT are banned in Japan, the U.K, and several European nations. However, these chemicals are still widely used to make dog food. Typically used to preserve fat, these chemicals were found to cause cancer in rats. Till science proves it to be safe for humans, we suggest staying clear.

Sodium Tripolyphosphate: Sodium Tripolyphosphate AKA STPP is yet another preservative that’s doing more harm than good. Often present in detergents, this compound is classified as an insecticide by the EPA.

Soy: Much like corn, soy is really not meant for canine digestive systems. While it’s protein-rich, it simply has less bio-availability compared to meat. Soy can also leave your dog feeling bloated and gassy. In some rare cases, soy can also lead to allergic reactions.

Ethoxyquin: Sometimes used as a preservative in dog food products, ethoxyquin is a type of herbicide that’s associated with an array of health issues including liver and kidney problems. This popular additive is shrouded in controversy. FDA deems it safe as long as it’s within regulations. Safe or not ethoxyquin is definitely an ingredient you need to watch out for. Look for pet food products that use Vitamin C or E as natural preservatives.

Carrageenan: With more than 70% of wet canned dog food using this ingredient, carrageenan can be really hard to avoid. There is still a lot of debate with more than a few studies showing contradictory results. However, according to a published and widely accepted study, carrageenan is linked to intestinal inflammation and ulceration.

Artificial Sugar: Artificial sugar can end up causing more harm in dogs than actual sugar. Xylitol, a popular sugar substitute, is known to be toxic to dogs and can potentially cause liver problems and seizures. Sorbitol is another artificial sweetener that’s linked to minor gastric issues in dogs. Artificial sugar does not add to the nutritive value of the food and can potentially be harmful. We suggest rejecting any pet food that contains artificial sugar.

Unlike with flea and tick killers where we judge the quality of a product such as Frontline plus by its effectiveness in ridding the unwanted parasites, when it comes to our pet’s food we tend to think more about health benefits that are not that obvious. Now as with anti parasites medicine we know the ingredients had to be tested and approved and hence are safe for both pets and humans when handled properly, when t comes to dog food some ingredients are downright unhealthy, even if legally used. Read on for some ingredients that you should avoid feeding your dog.

3 Things You Should Look for on the Label

Now, that you have a general idea what not to buy, here’s how to find a good dog food product.

High Animal Protein Content: Pet food that uses chicken, turkey, beef or salmon as its primary ingredient. Stay clear of unclear label listings such as meat by-products.

High Moisture Content: Vets recommend buying dog food products that have a high moisture content. Look for products that contain 60 to 70% moisture.

Grain-Free: Dogs are not meant to have grains and thus looking for grain-free dog food is always a good idea.