- Non-specific protein source
If a meal lists a non-specific protein source such as ‘meat’, ‘meat by-products’, ‘meat and animal derivatives’, don’t buy it. Pet food labels can state that a meal contains ‘meat’ or ‘animal’, but if the label doesn’t specify the actual species of animal, be very cautious, as it could contain any type of meat or parts of an animal that have very poor nutritional value – such as feathers.
- 'Corn gluten' or 'Wheat gluten'
These are examples of cheap waste products from the human food industry that add to the protein content of the product but provides an inferior source to animal protein. This allows manufacturers to make the protein content seem higher and is often used in poor quality foods.
- 'Flour', 'Grits', 'Germ', 'Bran', 'Middlings' or 'Hulls'
These ingredients may sound healthy but they contain grain fragments or poor quality flours and although they may have the same calories as their whole grain counterpart they provide far less nutritional value. A proportion of grain within a dog’s diet provides a good source of fibre and vitamins but our advice would always be to look for ‘wholegrain’ products, such as brown rice or chickpea flour.
If the type of cereal isn’t specified it is impossible to know what grain source is used. This is particularly important if a dog is prone to dietary intolerance. Identifying and eliminating problem ingredients is impossible unless you know exactly what you are feeding your dog.
- ‘Animal Fat’ or ‘Rendered Fat’
If the origin of the contributing animal is not known this may impact quality or contamination. Many toxins are stored in animal fat so this type of non-specified fat could be laden with potentially harmful toxins.
- ‘Animal digest’
This is cooked-down broth made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals which is often sprayed on low quality foods to provide a ‘meat flavour’ and encourage the dog to eat it. ‘Animal digest’ is best avoided.
- ‘Sugar’, ‘Caramel’, ‘Syrup’, ‘Sucrose’ etc
Sugar carries no nutritional value to a dog’s diet. Continuous intake can promote obesity, nervousness, hyperactivity, cataracts, tooth decay, hypoglycemia, arthritis and allergies. Your dog can also become addicted to foods that contain sugars in much the same way humans do, which can make it very challenging to switch food.
- Colouring – ‘Sunset yellow, E110’, ‘ Tartrazine, E102’, ‘ Patent Blue, E131’
Dogs don’t care what their food looks like, only what it tastes like. Colourings have no nutritional value and are often derived from petroleum products. Food dyes have been banned in human foods because of links to behavioural issues including attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children as well as other health problems. These effects are unlikely to differ for our dogs. The UK Food Standards Agency recommends UK manufacturers of human foods remove these additives from foods. If human food does contain any, the label must carry a warning.
- ‘EC additives’, ‘Preservatives’, BHA(E320)’ and ‘BHT (E321)’
These artificial preservatives and antioxidants are used to preserve fats in pet foods. In humans, debate already surrounds the link between these ingredients and an increased risk of cancer, asthma, and behavioural issues in children. Because of the uncertainty over their side effects, these ingredients are best avoided.
- ‘Table Salt’ or ‘Sodium Chloride’
Although salt is a necessary mineral it is generally found in sufficient quantities in dog food without adding it directly. Like humans, dogs enjoy the taste of salt, so extra is often added to dog food as a flavour enhancer. High levels of table salt can have the same health implications for dogs as it does for us; including high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.