Monday, December 21, 2009

Is commercial dog food junk food?

My Labs are four and eight years old. They are healthy. As they age, I want to make sure they stay that way. My friend, Terry, started transitioning his dogs to a raw diet a few months ago. We talk about it a lot. My mind isn’t made up yet but I’m seriously considering doing the same. So … here’s what I’m learning. Last week Terry sent me an email with a link to Dr. Andrew Jones: Here’s one of the things I pulled from his website, which rings true to me:

Dr. Jones:

If you are to use a commercial food, here are some tips to check for quality:

  1. Ingredients are listed in descending order. The first ingredient should be an animal based protein.
  2. The entire protein should be listed first. Avoid foods that list by-products. Avoid those that list the food fractions - i.e. wheat middlings or corn gluten instead of the whole grain. These ingredients are leftovers from the human food processing and don't provide the best nutrition.
  3. Look for natural preservatives. These include Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Vitamin E and mixed tocopherols. Avoid ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT and propylene glycol.
  4. Avoid foods with artificial flavor enhancers, such as phosphoric acid.
  5. Avoid artificial colors. These include azo, azo dyes, and sodium nitrite.
  6. [Should have] essential fatty acids must be added - of utmost importance for allergies, arthritis and cancer prevention.
  7. [Should have] additional antioxidants, such as Vit E, Vit C and flavanoids.



Now, with this information in hand I picked a dog food at random. I’ve never fed it but a lot of people do. Why? Because, according to their website, “Del Monte Foods is one of the country's largest and most well-known producers, distributors and marketers of premium quality, branded food and pet products for the U.S. retail market, generating approximately $3.6 billion in net sales in fiscal 2009.” They’re huge … with an enormous marketing budget. That’s why you may very well feed your dog this:

Kibbles n Bits
(made by Del Monte) Ingredients as of 12/20/09

Cost: 17.6 lb. bag online for $17.99


soybean meal

beef and bone meal

ground wheat flour

animal fat (bha used as preservative)

corn syrup

wheat middling’s

water sufficient for processing, animal digest (source of chicken flavor)

propylene glycol


hydrochloric acid

potassium chloride

caramel color

sorbic acid (used as a preservative)

sodium carbonate

minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite)

choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement

D-calcium pantothenate

riboflavin supplement

pyridoxine hydrochloride

thiamine mononitrate

vitamin D3 supplement

folic acid


vitamin B12 supplement)

calcium sulfate

titanium dioxide

yellow 5

yellow 6

red 40

BHA (used as a preservative)

dl methionine


Here’s the ingredient list for another Del Monte dog food, Nature’s Recipe. I’ve contacted Del Monte to ask what venison meal is, since I can’t find it defined anywhere.

Nature’s Recipe Healthy Skin & Coat Venison Meal & Rice Recipe

Cost: 20 lb. bag at PetSmart - $28.99

venison meal

ground rice


pearled barley

chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols)

pea protein

animal digest

potassium chloride

minerals (zinc proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, iron proteinate, copper sulfate, copper proteinate, manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite)

yeast culture

vitamins (vitamin E supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of vitamin C)


niacin supplement

vitamin A supplement

d-calcium pantothenate

thiamine mononitrate


riboflavin supplement

pyridoxine hydrochloride

menadione sodium bisulfite complex

vitamin D3 supplement,

folic acid


vitamin B12 supplement

choline chloride

yucca schidigera

rosemary extract


Somewhere out there in cyberspace I found a consumer’s diatribe that I enjoyed reading. Here’s part of it:

“Dogs love Kibbles 'N Bits Wholesome Medley. It is like crack for dogs. Being made up entirely of fillers, with little or no nutritional value, your dog will consume large amounts of this food...which means large amounts of the whole grain corn...which means more poop piles for you, the responsible pet owner, to pick up! The Kibbles 'N Bits Wholesome Medley even looks like candy for dogs. It is an assortment of different shapes in muted shades of orange and yellow and green, all thanks to the added colors! My foster [dog] was said to chew his tail. Of course he chewed his tail! This food will cause excessive itching from all the fillers. Dogs without a proper diet will chew on their tails and feet, often to the point of drawing blood.”


For more information about raw diets, go to Dr. Tracy Lord's website:

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