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Choosing The Right Dog Food
In the human world, we are obsessed with our diets. We steer clear from preservatives and added sugars. We scrutinise every label and know all our food groups.
But how many of us really pay the same attention to our dog’s food?
Dogs seem far less picky about what they eat which inspires a false sense of security in us. Many don’t give a second thought to the sodium, or preservative content when we really should. Australia’s dog food industry is largely unregulated which is a cause for concern.
Hopefully, in this article, we can convince you that the quality of your dog’s food really matters and how to navigate the minefield of options available to us here in Australia.
Why does your dog’s food quality matter?
You are what you eat – the same goes for our furry friends! The quality of your dog’s food has a direct impact on their health and wellbeing. Some of the nasty chemicals in Australian dog food are hugely damaging to your dog’s long-term health.
The wrong food choice can lead to:
- Liver diseases
- Kidney diseases
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Lackluster coat
- Bad breath
The trouble is that we often don’t catch the signs of our dog’s food being the root cause of a problem until it is far too late. The effects are rarely so immediate and easy to spot as with human nutritional deficiencies. That is unless you take your dog to the vet on a monthly basis since they are well-versed in spotting the early signs of malnutrition.
Therefore, it is paramount that you start with the best possible quality dog food that you can comfortably afford right from the beginning.
What to watch out for in Australian dog food?
So, what’s the problem with Australian dog food specifically? Well, our industry is far less regulated than that of our European or American counterparts. In fact, the Australian pet food regulatory body, the Pet Food Industry Association of Australia (PFIAA), has made headlines numerous times in recent years for falling short.
The biggest issue has been the use of preservatives. Sulphur dioxide, sodium and potassium sulphite preservatives are frequently found in pet meat and pet food products. According to RSPCA Australia, these sulphite preservatives can cause thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency, which can be fatal.
The cost of this lack of regulation has been devastating for us dog owners, so we need to be extra careful when shopping for our dogs.
How to choose the right dog food
How to read a nutrition label
Reading a nutrition label on dog food is similar to human food, with a few key differences. Here are three core tenets to start you off:
- Make sure the protein is listed first
Imagine you order a chicken meal at a restaurant. Your waiter arrives with a plate of potatoes, vegetables, and two measly morsels of chicken. This is what you’re buying if the protein is listed further down the ingredient list. If you are buying “chicken” dog food, make sure that this is the first ingredient listed on the label.
- Avoid “by-products”
Following on from the position on the label, what type of protein is listed on the label? Does it say “chicken” or “chicken by-products”. The latter is a sure sign of poor-quality food.
- Seek out whole food additions
Dogs do well with fruits and veggies too! The predominant ingredient should be some kind of protein but sweet potato or spinach listed are welcomed additions. They provide extra vitamins and minerals for a more balanced diet
Consider your dog’s specific needs
When dog food shopping, consider your dog’s specific physiology and needs at this point in their lifetime. Are they a growing puppy that would benefit from fortified calcium food? Are they elderly and therefore need food to support mobility and cognitive function?
Getting the right food for your dog’s unique requirements will help their mental and physical wellbeing.
Buy from manufacturers that follow AAFCO guidelines
Because the regulation here in Australia still has some way to go, it’s not a bad idea to seek manufacturers that voluntarily abide by the standards of other regulatory boards. The AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is known to have a high standard of quality when it comes to pet food. You can trust that manufacturers that follow this system are top-notch for your dog.
Shop for dog food with confidence
Many animal rights groups are fighting for improved regulation for dog food in Australia. We hope that things will improve in the coming years. But until then, we hope this article has been helpful to you in navigating the world of dog food.
Photo by M Burke