There's been a ton of reaction to the pet food contamination that has been sickening and killing our furry friends, so I've resisted adding my two cents 'til now. But after the initial hullabaloo, the blogging, emailing, and press coverage have quieted down, and that's too bad. Because pets are getting ill and dying at the same or a greater rate than earlier in the crisis. Reporting is spotty, so it's hard to know just how many animals have been affected. But the early reporting was just the tip of the iceberg! Huge quantities of harmful substances have found their way into pet food ingredients. And 90% of the big commercial brands use the same suppliers!! That means that almost ALL of them bought from the Chinese supplier of wheat gluten whose inventory contained melamine.
We did a series of posts of what's in pet food and how to buy good pet food a year or so ago (please see our archives). That's because pet nutrition is something I get very excited about. Dogs are carnivores, and to a great extent, they can be omnivores. They basically need meat and fish, and can use grains and vegetables. So the ingredient list on a pet food package should start with meat or fish, NOT with grain or "water sufficient for processing"! The first ingredients on the list comprise 95% or so of the food. So there has to be high quality protein, at least for young dogs (older dogs can be healthy eating more grains and vegetables), right at the top of the list. Bone meal is acceptable protein if it's good quality product, meaning processed under sanitary conditions and relatively fresh. Discount dog foods buy up pallets of old bone meal that some distributor will move at a low price, so even if it appears on a supermarket brand label, don't buy the food. And don't buy a food whose first ingredient is a starch, like corn or corn meal. It's okay if corn appears as the 5th or 6th ingredient, but not before.
Besides the content, you need to know that the quality of the ingredients is acceptable. As I documented in my earlier series of posts, all of the supermarket brands are made in huge batches with the cheapest possible ingredients - for big conglomerates it's about a business model, not about pet nutrition. For heavens sakes, Walmart is quite outspoken about that. They tell us in their advertising that they're all about PRICE. They squeeze their suppliers to sell more and more cheaply to Walmart. Why in the world would you feed you best furry friend something you bought in Walmart??? The grains and vegetables in big chain supermarket brands are older and of poorer quality to start with than those in small batch foods. The fats and oils are more often than not rancid by-products of the food industry (like used fryer oil that sits around for months before being processed into pet food).
Remember, pet food ingredients are not protected the way human foods are. And gov't scrutiny of our food chain is woefully inadequate! Please, protect your pet. Notice that NO HEALTHY, SMALL BATCH PET FOOD HAS HAD PROBLEMS WITH CONTAMINANTS! Not a single one! So here are some good foods. Go to your local pet store and ask for: Canidae, Merrick, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul, O&M, Bill Jack, Prairie, Red Barn, Pet Naturals of Vermont, Fromm, Diamond Naturals, Precise, or Premium Edge. There are others. Just make sure of two things:
1. The food must be made in small batches (manufactured and packaged by the company on the label and not subcontracted to a big pet food processor). The only preservatives that appear on the package should be natural ones like vitamin E (tocopherals). Chemical preservatives are only necessary if the food spends many months getting from the mixing process to your pet's dish. And they can cause nervous system stress and allergic reactions of which you may not even be aware.
2. The food must contain only human grade ingredients. Lesser ingredients contain bacteria and virii that are not acceptable... and they're not all neutralized by the potent preservatives that big companies use.
The Doggie Den Homepage