European dog food manufacturers, by law, only use nutrients fit for human consumption in their products. Their premium products are made to fixed formulas. The ingredients are always the same. At the next price level down, foods are manufactured from a varying supply of ingredients to set nutritional and quality standards. While the nutritional value of these foods remains constant, the ingredients vary. This is important to know if you have a dog with a tricky tummy or fixed taste preferences. In the late 1990s veterinary nutritionists realised that by carefully balancing the type of fibre in dog food they could encourage healthy digestion. This is now a fixed feature of the best foods. The best diets, with carefully balanced fibre content, nourish the beneficial gut bacteria and at the same time inhibit the development of harmful or pathogenic bacteria.
How To Read A Dog Food Label
What is in dog food is listed on the label. Unfortunately, labelling laws often prevent dog food manufacturers from putting explicit information on the label. What is there often needs interpretation or an explanation direct from the manufacturer. Labels give information on:
Typical Or Guaranteed Analysis
This usually lists the minimum amount of protein and fat and the maximum amount of fibre and moisture. This says little about the quality of a product.
This gives you more information on quality but usually fails to be specific. Constituents are given in descending order of weight. Meat means muscle. Meat by-products or derivatives means viscera, bone and marrow, natural components of a dog’s diet. Meat meal means dry products rendered from animal tissues. If a product “contains permitted colourant, flavours and preservatives”, the manufacturer’s consumer services will tell you what they are if you ask.
These recommendations are suggestions only, based upon an average dog in average weather and assuming ideal body composition. Your dog is an individual who may need more but often less than what is recommended for your dog to maintain a stable and healthy body weight.
Dog Food Manufacture
Manufacturing processes expose foods to a range of ‘stresses’ such as heat pasteurisation. While these procedures make food safer they can destroy micro-nutrients such as vitamins. All good manufacturers understand this and add vitamin and mineral supplements to their foods. There can be nutritional losses in food preparation. Potential problems are inversely related to the degree of quality control a manufacturer employs in the manufacturing process. The potentially greatest problem with commercially produced dry food occurs after it leaves the factory, spoilage in the package.
Dry Food Shelf Life
Heat, humidity, light, even oxygen can spoil dry dog food. Of all the nutrients your dog eats, fat spoils fastest. Heat sterilisation and vacuum sealing prevents spoilage of canned food but dry dog food needs preservatives. Antioxidants are excellent preservatives. Vitamin E (tocopherols) and Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) are usually called ‘natural’ although they are often synthesised. Natural antioxidants don’t last as long as synthetic ones. To avoid feeding your dog potentially rancid food, use dry food products within six months of their manufacture date. All foods available from the London Veterinary Clinic have been recently prepared. Store your dog’s dry food in a sealed container in a cool, dry location.