Information on the bag

What does the guaranteed analysis on the bag mean?

It is important that customers read and understand the writing on the bag. This is one of the best ways to determine the quality of the dog or cat food. So what does it all mean?

There is normally the following minimum information on the bag:

1. Protein

Protein is a very important part of a healthy, balanced canine diet. Protein has several roles in the body, such as building and repairing muscles and other body tissues. It is needed to form new skin cells, grow hair, build muscle tissue, and much more. It also assists in creating body chemicals like hormones and enzymes that are needed for normal function. It provides energy (like carbohydrates do) and keeps the immune system strong.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, and dogs require 22 amino acids to make the necessary proteins. A dog’s body is able to make about half of these amino acids, but the rest must come from the food your pet eats every day. Because these amino acids are so important, they are called essential amino acids. Deficiencies of any of the essential amino acids over time can lead to health problems.

Protein Requirements

Protein is found in meats, eggs, and dairy products, as well as some grains and legumes. The dog’s body can’t store protein like it can fat and other nutrients, so this nutrient has to be supplied in the daily diet. Depending on the age and activity level of your pet, protein needs will vary. Animals that work very hard (i.e. hunting dogs, sled dogs, search and rescue dogs) daily require a much greater amount of protein than a dog who doesn’t get much exercise.

Pregnant and lactating animals also need a much higher level of protein to meet their bodily needs. When animals are sick or injured, they will have a greater need for protein to convalesce. Larger breeds of dogs will need to be fed a larger amount of protein as adults to keep their muscles and bodies at optimal condition. As animals get older, the need for protein decreases, but remains necessary.

If protein levels are higher than the animal’s bodily needs, the excess will be removed from the body in the urine. If very high levels of protein are fed for a long period, the protein not needed for energy can be stored as fat. If you feed a diet with too little protein, the animal may show symptoms of weakness, weight loss, and a rough and dull-looking coat over time.

Picking a Quality Food

The guaranteed analysis on the back of the dog food bag will tell you the minimum percentage of protein in the finished product. A higher percentage of protein does not necessarily mean your dog is getting a better food, as not all the protein in the product may be completely digestible.

To get a better idea of the quality of the protein in the food, look for the protein source listed as the first few ingredients on the bag. Quality protein sources to look for include chicken, beef, eggs, lamb, fish, and meat meals. Meat meals are highly nutritious forms of dehydrated meats (water and fat removed) that are concentrated sources of protein. Look for meals with a specific name (such as chicken meal) when examining ingredients.

If your pet has particular protein requirements, ask your veterinarian for suggestions on foods. Otherwise, a good-quality dog food will list one or two sources of quality protein in the first few ingredients and will have a percentage that is about 20-25 percent crude protein. Your dog’s appearance and activity are the best indication as to how well his food is providing him with adequate levels of protein, vitamins and minerals. If it has a healthy appetite, a coat that is shiny and healthy, bright eyes, is active and always ready to play, then his food is doing its job.

(Source: PET MD)

2. Fat

Fats and oils are a necessary part of a balanced diet for dogs. A diet that provides about 10-15 percent fat (for normal, healthy adult animals) is best to maintain health. The time when fat in the diet becomes a problem is when animals are allowed to eat too much fat and calories (such as from extra treats and table scraps), without getting enough exercise to balance things out.

Dogs never have to worry about cholesterol levels like humans do, as they won’t end up with the same types of health issues humans suffer from eating a high-fat diet. If fat levels are too low, however, dogs can develop dry, itchy skin and a dull coat. Other problems that can develop include a diminished immune system and other potential health problems such as heart disease and diabetes.

What are fats?

Fats are a concentrated form of energy that give your dog more than twice the amount of energy that carbohydrates and proteins. Fats used in dog foods are highly digestible and are the first nutrients to be used by the body as energy, ahead of protein and carbohydrates.

Fats are made up of building blocks called fatty acids. Fatty acids are named according to their chemical structure and how they are bonded together. There are certain fatty acids that dogs require in their diet because the body cannot make them. These are known as essential fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are divided into two groups called the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fatty acids in both these groups must be provided in a specifically balanced ratio in the daily diet.

What do fats do for dogs?

Fats have many important functions in the canine body. Not only do they provide energy, but they are also necessary for the normal development and function of body cells, nerves, muscles and body tissues. They are important components in the body’s production of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins work to reduce inflammation, as well as perform many other important functions in the body.

Fats are part of the reason that dog foods taste good and smell good too (at least to your dog). Fats and oils also give structure to foods. They help the body to absorb certain vitamins called the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Fats and oils in the diet keep your dog’s coat shiny and healthy and are also important in reproduction.

Not every fat or oil is good for our pets, however. The source, quality, and quantity of fat needs to be carefully considered when choosing a quality dog food.

Common Sources of Fats and Oils for Dogs

When considering a food for your dog, examine the list of ingredients to see where the fats and oils come from. Fats in dog foods are typically supplied by both animal fat and oils from plants. Quality dog foods will list sources of fat that provide the proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Common sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish oils (herring, salmon, etc.) and flaxseed and canola oils. Commonly used omega-6 fatty acid sources include pork fat, chicken fat (or any poultry fat), safflower and sunflower oils, as well as corn and soybean oils (vegetable oils). Avoid lower-quality ingredients such as tallow or lard.

(Source: PET MD)

3. Fibre

Dietary fibre can be used to treat a variety of health conditions in dogs including obesity, anal gland impactions, diarrhea, and constipation. However, fibres are not the same, and adding the wrong type to the diet can actually make some problems worse rather than better.

Fibre can be divided into two major subcategories:

1. Insoluble Fibre

Cellulose, hemicelluloses, and lignins are examples of insoluble fibre. They are not digested and pass through the gut essentially unchanged. Insoluble fibre can help dogs lose or maintain body weight by increasing the volume of food they can eat without adding much in the way of calories. Insoluble fibre also adds bulk to the faeces, which can stimulate movement within the gastrointestinal tract, making it helpful in some cases of canine constipation. Additionally, this increased bulk puts more pressure on the anal glands during defecation, which encourages them to release their contents in a normal manner, reducing the risk of impaction.

2. Soluble Fibre

Chicory, inulin, fructooligosacharides, pectins, psyllium, plant gums, oats, barley, beet pulp, and some types of fruits and legumes all contain soluble dietary fibre. The canine digestive tract doesn’t have much of a direct effect on soluble dietary fibre, but the bacteria that live in the large intestine break it down into short chain fatty acids that are a very important energy source for the cells that line the large intestine. Some types of soluble fibre are also considered prebiotics — substances that increase the prevalence of “good” bacteria within the digestive tract. These characteristics make the presence of appropriate amounts of soluble dietary fibre in the diet very important to the overall health of the large intestine and to the part of the immune system that resides there.

It is therfore not too surprising that soluble fibre can be used to treat some types of large bowel diarrhea. In addition to promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and healthy colonic cells, soluble fibre also absorbs water, which can help make stools more formed and easier for a dog to control. The symptoms of large bowel diarrhea include:

· having to “go” frequently but producing only a small amount of stool at any one time

· straining

· the presence of mucus or fresh blood in the stool

On the other hand, dogs with small bowel diarrhea tend to produce very large amounts of loose stool but do so only a few times a day. These cases tend to respond best to a low-fibre, highly-digestible diet.

Healthy dogs should eat high quality foods that contain both soluble and insoluble fibre to gain the benefits of both. If you think your dog’s stools and elimination behavior could use some improvement, try a different food that includes at least one soluble and one insoluble fibre source as indicated in its ingredient list. Supplements that contain a combination of insoluble and soluble fibre are also available and can be used to good effect, particularly when making a wholesale dietary change isn’t advisable.

Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about the role that fibre plays in your dog’s diet.

(Source: PET MD)

4. Ash

Do they really add ash to dog and cat food? The answer is NO. Ash is what is left over after any food has been completely incinerated. It is the final product of food combustion. In other words, if you were to completely incinerate a can of dog food, all three major nutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) would burn away, leaving just the food’s minerals behind.

Mineral nutrients (like calcium, phosphorous, zinc, iron, etc.) make up ash, the ultimate residue of food combustion.

Why is ash important? The ash reported on a label represents the cumulative total of all the minerals found in that food.

Although a smaller amount can come from plant-based ingredients, most ash comes from the bone content and minerals additives in a product.

And much of those minerals include calcium and phosphorus.

In any case, the ash number by itself is not very revealing. Knowing the actual amount of each mineral included in the total ash figure is much more useful. Ash tends to denote the quality of a protein ingredient; the less bone included in the meat meal the lower the ash (minerals from the bone). Many look at ash as the key to understanding if a higher quality protein is being used in the making of a dog or cat food.

Too much ash can be an impediment in the gastrointestinal tract. An overabundance of one type of mineral can inhibit uptake of another, either directly or by binding with the other mineral.