Choose healthy options for your dog's diet too

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What food ingredients are not healthy? And what are some of the dog foods that contain these?

The marketplace abounds with foods that are loaded with additives, cheap fillers and poor quality meat products.

Many people will buy these because they are inexpensive, not realizing that the poor quality causes dogs to need to eat more for nutritional value. They can even add to medical issues.

Even when the first ingredient is meat or chicken, it might not be what you think it is.

By-products can be anything from ground bone to organs.

What you really want is something like chicken meal, not by-product meal. Meat meal is the flesh with the water taken out, so it is concentrated, good protein. When quality is good, the meat itself contains a lot of water.

Problem ingredients include: Meat by-products, chicken by-products, soy flour and protein, ground yellow corn, anonymous meat and bone meal, animal digest, corn gluten meal, ground wheat, artificial flavors, artificial colors and preservatives.

Many of these are nutritionally low value and are heavy with carbohydrates instead of good, quality proteins and fats. Even if the first ingredient is meat, often it is poor quality and followed by several high-carb fillers.

Some poor quality brands are: Alpo, Beneful, Purina Dog Chow, Kibbles 'n' Bits, Ol' Roy, Cesar, Gravy Train, Kal Kan, Great Choice, Pedigree, Science Diet, Royal Canin, some of the Diamond brand and others.

Science Diet and Royal Canin might surprise you on this list, but look at the ingredients: mostly carbs and fillers. They do produce a good quality stool, which some owners like.

Natural foods are more highly digested, so instead of getting pooped out, they are absorbed by the body, producing softer stools.

Quality ingredients to watch for include: High quality meat as the first ingredient, meat meals (not by-product meals), no anonymous or controversial ingredients, whole grains or non-grains, modest amounts of carbohydrates, pre- and probiotics, chelated minerals and fruits and vegetables to provide anti-oxidants.

Some top quality food brands are: Taste of the Wild, Acana, Nature's Variety, Earthborn Holistic, Wellness Core, Solid Gold, Canidae, Merrick, Natural Balance, Blue Buffalo, Orijen, Fromm and others.

There are several quality, regionally based, small, natural food companies that are not listed here because the foods are not readily available in all areas.

While the above are mostly dry foods, generally the same can be said to be true of the same brands in canned foods.

The best advice I can give is to read the labels before you make a decision that might impact your dog's overall health.

While all of the above ingredients are allowable to the FDA and USDA, do you really want to put that low-quality or artificial stuff into your four-legged family member's body?

The exception to these guidelines is a veterinary formula, which is designed specifically to deal with an ongoing medical issue and other nutritional issues.

Giving your dog high quality foods benefits both of you.

Abby Bird is owner of Alpha Dog Obedience Training. ajbird@hargray.com

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