Pet Food Ingredients, A Secret Language

As I see daily recalls of our food, our pet food, and our kids toys, I decided to do a bit more research on the pet food ingredients to learn how to read them better. Here’s a few of the key points that are causing pet parents concern.

bright eyes eatingIf the name of the food includes “with”, the food only need to have 3% of the named ingredient. For example, cat food with liver must only have 3% liver. If a food advertises as being beef food, it has to have at least 95% beef on a dry matter basis. Dry matter basis or DMB means the amount of a specific ingredient is shown as a percent of the total solids in a canned or bagged food when the food’s moisture is removed. This provides a means of fairly allowing consumers to compare foods with widely varied moisture content. It levels the playing field and let’s you compare oranges to oranges or apples to apples.

On the other hand, beef entree or chicken dinner only need to have 25% of the specified ingredient. Now, here’s the tricky part. To avoid listing an undesirable ingredient too high in the order of ingredients, some companies split an ingredient into fractional components of the that ingredient (such as corn meal, corn gluten, corn whatever). By separating the components, they can list meat or fish as the first ingredient because they know consumers understand that the label lists the contents from the most prevalent ingredient to the least prevalent ingredient. Watch out when you see several related ingredients itemized like this.

Another thing to watch is for the other types of proteins and grains that may not be in the name of the food, but may be in the content. This is especially important for pets with allergies. I often find brewer’s yeast in foods, and I have a dog that is allergic to it. Likewise, you may find chicken or wheat in a food labeled as hypoallergenic lamb and rice. Even when the food content changes, the manufacturers are allowed a considerable period of time to update the labels. If you observe any signs or symptoms of a problem, don’t ignore it. Contact your veterinarian for a checkup.

Best of all, find a food made by a company you can trust–one with ingredients you understand. There are many more little secrets to deciphering the labels. I’ll try to get another post out soon that talks more about reading cat food labels for additional information that is especially important to cats.