Do You Wonder if Commercial Dog Food is Killing Your Chihuahua?
Like most Chihuahua owners, I’m sure you care deeply about the health and well being of your precious Chi. Therefore, you need to be aware of the appalling state of affairs in the commercial pet food industry. Many of the brand names that you know and trust are quite simply using ingredients that can harm your dog.
An analysis of these ingredients can be alarming, even downright disgusting! They take a lot of stuff that is not fit for human consumption, including animal “by-products”, things like hooves, organs, stomachs and bowels…with the contents still in them, sick and diseased animals, even road kill and euthanized dogs and cats in some documented cases. Then they mix in the refuse from vegetable and grain processing. Stuff like ground corncobs, stalks and husks, rotten and spoiled vegetables and moldy, fungus riddled grains. Then they mix it together, package it up, stick fancy labeling on it and sell it as dog food.
With a few rare exceptions, the commercial dog food manufacturers seem to be more concerned about their profit margins than they are about the health of their customers’ pets. This leads to a strong temptation to “cut corners” by using cheaper, less nutritious ingredients and unsafe or unhealthy chemicals to reduce the preparation time or increase the shelf-life of their products.
Understanding Dog Food Labels
A better understanding of the labeling of commercially prepared dog food probably won’t make you feel any better about feeding it to your Chihuahua. Current regulations require a net quantity statement (minimum % of protein, fat, fiber and water) and a list of the ingredients – that’s all. In other words, the government doesn’t care what goes in the product as long as the manufacturer tells you what it is. And the terms used in the descriptions, like “animal by-products” for instance, don’t even have to be clearly defined.
Some states have additional regulations, usually based on information from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). In fact, many commercially prepared dog foods will use the so-called “stringent” testing controls required by the AAFCO to validate their products. You may be interested to know however, that these controls are minimal. To meet AAFCO’s requirements, a product either has to meet the nutritional guidelines it sets forth or pass a food trial.
These trials, however, are not nearly as scientific as one might expect. In fact, they only require that a minimum of 8 dogs be participants in the test and that the testing period run for a minimum of six months. A product is considered “safe” if the dogs don’t lose more than 15% of their original body weight, don’t die or aren’t removed from the test because of nutritional causes and that at least 6 of 8 dogs complete the test.
Although the AAFCO does provide a little regulation over the industry, the truth of the matter is – commercially prepared dog food is not subject to quality control. According to the AAFCO guidelines, any product that lists a type of meat in its name must contain at least 95% of that particular type of meat minus the water needed for processing. This holds true for beef, chicken, fish and lamb. If a product is classified as a “dinner”, “platter” or “entrée”, the requirement for the percentage of that ingredient drops to a minimum of 25%. A product label that uses the word “with” on the other hand must contain only 3% of the named ingredient. “Flavored” products only have to contain enough of the ingredient to be detectable.
Widespread use of artificial preservatives is another red flag. Regulations only require that the preservatives be listed, not that they’ve been proven safe for your pet. Many of these ingredients including; BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin and other chemicals that have been linked to liver and kidney dysfunction as well as allergic reactions, organ failure and skin problems in dogs.
As a caring Chihuahua owner, the lesson is that you simply cannot blindly trust that a commercial dog food is a safe choice for your pet. Can you still feed commercially prepared foods? The answer is yes, but with extreme caution.
5 Keys to Choosing a Commercial Dog Food
1) Check the label carefully: since ingredients are listed on the label from the highest to the lowest percentage, choose a product that lists a quality protein source such as Chicken, Turkey, Lamb… as the first ingredient. Avoid generic terms like meat or poultry. The listing of an ingredient, however, does not take into account it’s quality. Just because beef is the first ingredient, you should not assume that the beef is the type of beef you would consume. In fact, very few dog food products use human grade beef which must meet FDA standards.
2) Avoid “by-products”: they can include parts that may or may not be digestible such as feet, hooves, blood, fatty tissue, intestines, claws, beaks and even feathers and fur.
3) Watch out for changing ingredients: most dog owners don’t know that many commercial dog food manufacturers adjust their ingredients to take advantage of current prices. Many dogs do not tolerate sudden changes in their diets very well. Keeping a few labels to compare against each other will tell you if this is a practice of the manufacturer of your brand of dog food.
4) Be wary of Veterinary recommendations: Don’t get me wrong, Vets are great people. It’s just very difficult for them to be objective when the food manufacturers are throwing money and incentives at them on a grand scale.
5) Look for “whole” or “organic” foods: The best way to find top-notch foods is to visit Chihuahua owners forums and groups on the internet to ask for advice.
6) Make your own food: OK, I said 5 keys, so this one is a freebie, and it’s something you should seriously consider. It is the only way you can be certain of exactly what you are feeding your dog. And it isn’t nearly as daunting as you might have been lead to believe. Especially for Chihuahuas, since they eat such small quantities. Once again, the best place to start, if you want to pursue this option, is in the Chihuahua care groups and forums on the internet.
Gregg Dickson, co-founder of The Chihuahua Fanatics Club at http://www.chihuahuafanatics.com has developed an online community; a place where people who care for Chihuahuas are joining together to share insights, information and Chihuahua pet care tips.
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