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4 Important Facts About The Safety & Nutrition Of Your Dog’s Food & Treats

Hungry labrador retriever is feeding at home.Providing a well-balanced diet is one of the best things you as a pet owner can do to keep your dog healthy. Not only will well balanced food and treats improved your dog’s coat, it will also strengthen his or her immune system, keep the digestive system on track and help avoid allergies caused by certain foods.

Regulations are in place that govern claims a pet food company can make on its labels. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has established guidelines for regulators including the content percentage for a certain ingredient. For example, if a food is listed as a single ingredient on a label, it must contain at least 95% of that ingredient – not including water. If it’s a combination of ingredients, the combination must make up 95% of the food.

It is important for dog owners to be aware of dog foods that are comprised mainly of cheap and harmful fillers in addition to toxic preservatives, dyes and other carcinogenic agents that are banned from human foods. In addition to these considerations, here are 5 of the most important facts to note in regard to choosing your dog’s food and treats:

  1. Be aware of manufactured “by” vs. “for” on pet food labeling.

A label that states “manufactured for” or “distributed by” is a clear indication that the product was manufactured by another company than the one marketing / selling the product. According to the FDA, a pet food label that states the food is “manufactured by” identifies the company as being responsible for the quality, safety and origin of the product. When companies use their own production facilities, higher quality control standards are set and monitored when any issues arise.

Over the past few years, there has been much discussion about the ‘Made in the USA’ claim on pet foods and treats. Did you know that this claim requires that not only the food itself, but all ingredients be 100% U.S. made? The issue that has been so prominent is that many regulatory authorities are not aware of this requirement – allowing companies to slip by with foods and treats that are not truly 100% of U.S. origin.

  1. Meat content can be misleading.

Ingredients on a pet food product labels are listed by weight. This can be a concern when we consider ingredients that contain large amounts of moisture such as proteins like beef, poultry, chicken and fish. These products most often appear at the top of the list because they contain high levels of moisture. The listing of ingredients on the labels lead a consumer to believe that the product is mostly meat-based, when in actuality, it may not be.

The meat listed at the top of the label is weighed before it is dehydrated. In its natural form, meat is about 70 percent water. However once dehydrated for pet food production, it would actually appear lower on the list that makes up the bulk of the ingredients.

It’s ok to see a specific meat first on a label, and what you want to see second if you prefer a primarily meat-based food, is another specific meat or meat meal. If the second and subsequent ingredients are grains, then the food you are buying is not likely to be primarily meat-based.

  1. Stay up to date on the latest dog food and treat recalls.

Recalls and the heart-wrenching stories of dogs dying after consuming Chinese-made products have resulted in consumers’ lack of trust and close review of product labeling before items are purchased. Even with the strict requirements the AAFCO has in place for “Made in the USA” labeling, consumers need to be conscientious of all ingredients in dog foods and treats, as well as stay up to date on the latest food and treat recalls provided by the FDA.

The most important thing you can do to protect your pet is have a plan if you learn that their food or treats have been recalled. Do not continue to give the product to your pet. Follow this plan if your dog becomes ill and you believe it is due to their food or treats.

  1. When giving human food as treats, beware of a few ingredients that are toxic to dogs.

While dogs can be irresistible at times, there are certain human foods that should never be given as treats or rewards. Not only can some human foods cause weight issues for dogs, others can cause a real hazard to their health. Here are a few that should never be shared with your dog:

-Avocados: Avocados contain a substance called persin that is typically harmless for humans, but in large amounts can be toxic to dogs. If you grow avocados or leave them on your counter to ripen, be sure you dog will not be tempted to try this potentially hazardous food.

-Onions and garlic: An occasional small dose is probably ok, but eating a large quantity at once or smaller amounts regularly can destroy a dogs red blood cells, lead to anemia and cause poisoning.

-Grapes and raisins: This delicious fruit has proven to cause kidney failure in dogs. With just a small amount, a dog can become ill, lethargic and depressed. Keep grapes and raisins off counters and other areas that dogs can reach.

-Macadamia nuts: These nuts or foods containing macadamias can be fatal for dogs. As few as six raw or roasted nuts can make a dog ill with symptoms including muscle tremors, weakness or paralysis of the hindquarters.

-Chocolate: Likely the most common item to keep away from dogs, chocolate contains a toxic agent called theobromine. Even small amounts can cause dogs to vomit, have diarrhea and be excessively thirsty. It also causes abnormal heart rate, tremors, seizures and death.

Learn more about human foods that should not be shared with your beloved pet.

Choosing the best dog food and treats can be challenging in today’s extensive pet food market. Factors including your dogs age, weight, body condition, health history, allergies and preferences should all be a part of your purchase decision process. In addition to relying on the expert advice of your dog’s veterinarian, reading labels closely for ingredients and ingredient sources can, in some cases, be a life-saving decision for your beloved pet. After you’ve made the best selections possible, be sure to watch your pet closely for any adverse reactions to the product for a least a month following.

What challenges do you face when choosing the best food and treat products for your dog? Learn more about The Lavender Leash’s recommended wholesome treats and products made in the USA.

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