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The labels on pet food divulge a lot about its nutritional value, but understanding it can be challenging. If you are at the pet food aisle of your local supermarket and are having difficulty wading through it and deciding on the best food choice, here are some tips to help you out. A lot of the animal protein in pet food comes from the by-products and scraps leftover from facilities that process meat, and the premium dog food you are looking at may derive its protein from chicken feet.
In addition, the regulations for the ingredients that go into pet food are different for every state. Although there are regulation standards for the definitions, ingredients, and nutrient levels associated with pet food, there is no authority to oversee its enforcement. So if you want to pick out the healthiest science diet food, you should understand the labels.
A Primer for Pet Food Labels
The labeling of pet food can often be misleading. Knowing what to look for might help:
- Pay attention to the name: If the label on your pet food says "Beef for Dogs," it has at least 95% beef. Some products like Wellness 95 Percent Beef Canned Dog Food mention the beef percentage on the label. If the pet food clearly states the type of meat, that is what your pet will get. Another product is the Redbarn beef rolls that specify 50% fresh meat portions in the food.
- Beware of "dinners": The exception to the above rule is when manufacturers combine the meat name with the terms "platter," "dinner," "formula," "entree," or "nuggets." Finding these words on the label means the meat might make up as little as 25 % of the food.
- Stay away from the terms "with" and "flavor": If the pet food says "chicken flavor dog food," it means that the products just need to taste like chicken and might be a chicken meal or chicken by-products. The word "with," as in "with real chicken," means that manufacturers only need to include 3 % chicken by weight.
- Ignore superlatives: Terms like "gourmet," "premium," and "super ultra-premium" mean that the food is not regulated. So they do not mean anything.
- Know the difference between "organic" and "natural": The term "natural" is not an official definition and can be used indiscriminately. On the other hand, the term "organic" has a strict legal definition and cannot be used unless the food meets the Agriculture Department's standards.
- Read the list of ingredients: The actual ingredients are always listed in descending order by weight on the product bag or can. It is the first thing you need to read to find out how healthy pet food is. One example from Merrick dog food is the Merrick real lamb recipe dog canned food with actual lamb contents in the dog food.
- Buy cat or dog food with meat protein: Since they are carnivores, real meat is the best option. Cows, goats, pigs, or sheep should be the ideal meat sources for cat and dog food. The whole meat source should be listed as one of the top two ingredients. Blue Buffalo dog food with red meat is a good consideration for an ideal meat protein food.
- Choose wet pet food: Wet dog food is usually packaged in pouches or cans, is fresher, is higher quality, and has more protein. Dry dog food is often sprayed with fat to lend more taste. Spraying dry food with water or other liquids allows the bacteria on the surface to multiply, which is bad for your pet's health.
Antioxidants are a key component of your dog's food. You should consider a few essential stuff while considering the benefits of antioxidants.
The Advantages of Antioxidants in Pet Food
Have you ever wondered how your pet's food can sit for so long on the store's shelves and then a bit longer on your pantry shelf? Almost all commercially sold pet food is preserved with antioxidants and preservatives. Antioxidants prevent the active ingredients in the food from getting spoiled, and they provide many secondary health benefits too. They play a major role in keeping pet food tasty and nutritious.
Oxidation refers to the breakdown of the fats and nutrients in food when exposed to oxygen. It causes everything from rancidity to discoloration. Antioxidants work to slow down or block the rate of oxygen-induced damage. They are usually added to the foods when processed to give the product more shelf life. However, they work better when added early in the production process. The combination of the antioxidants used in the formula also plays a big role in its efficacy. Specific types and amounts of certain antioxidants tend to work better together.
Antioxidants help protect the body's cells from damage and strengthen the immune system. Every biological system is exposed to harmful free radicals every day. They are produced when the cells are damaged due to oxidation. They are highly unstable and can cause further damage to the cells if left unchecked. Antioxidants slow down the damage from the free radicals and protect the cells from further damage. In addition, they let the immune system function without any interference from harmful free radicals. It prevents the onslaught or worsening of serious health conditions. In young puppy food, antioxidants boost their developing immune system. It is especially critical since their vaccinations will take time to be completely effective. In older dogs, any oxidative injury to the cells in the organs is slowed to a crawl by antioxidants, which provides them a longer and healthier lifespan.
Where Do They Come From?
Naturally occurring antioxidants include citric acids, vitamins C and E, and herbal sources such as rosemary. Vitamin C is obtained from common vegetables and fruits like apples, cranberries, blueberries, tomatoes, and more. Naturally occurring vitamin E is usually mentioned as "mixed tocopherols" in the ingredient list. Citric acids are obtained from citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and limes. Synthetic antioxidants include BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin. BHT and BHA are similar in their chemical structure to vitamin E and are generally used in combination in pet food as they work very well together. They are also stable at very high temperatures.
When scanning for ingredients in your pet's food, remember that cat and dog food brands are mandated to list the antioxidants with their common names. You will also see a notation that says that the ingredient is used for preservative purposes. It is also important to remember that natural antioxidants, although healthier, tend to have a shorter shelf life than their synthetic counterparts. Regardless of the food you choose, check the label to see the expiry date. Store the food in a dry and cool place, in an airtight container, away from light. Foods that are preserved with natural antioxidants lose their freshness sooner. So make sure that you buy smaller packages.