Well, I've been researching dog foods because we are selling food in our shop. Because of this, I want to be as informed about the food I'm selling (and even the foods I'm not selling) in order to provide the most advice possible. It's funny, but being in the dogwash business, I'm also expected to be vet, therapist, nutritionist, friend, and dog trainer. If someone is going to seek my opinion, I honestly want to give them the most factual information I can. So, here's what I've learned about dog food.
1.) You must read the labels, carefully
2.) You can't trust anything you read on the labels
So, where does that leave me? Making an educated guess! But, a few nuggets of information I have found and totally agree with, or at least understand, are these:
A.) All ingredients listed are in volume order- The top 5 ingredients are key- sometimes!
B.) All ingredient measurements on dog food are made BEFORE they are processed. What does this mean? Well, it means that if you are feeding a food that has "whole chicken" listed as the first ingredient, but "corn" as the second ingredient. Your dog is probably getting more corn than chicken. Once that chicken is put in the grinder and processed, refined, and cooked down, there's not much left. Look at your own food. If you buy a whole chicken for $.99/lb, and boneless/skinless chicken breast for $.99/lb- which is the better deal- works the same with dog food.
C.) Chicken meal, Beef meal, etc. does not shrink down like the above mentioned chickens. Therefor, you are sustaining more of the quantity post processing.
D.) Cellulose- it's a required element in dog food, but can mean anything from chicken fat to sawdust- no joke! Some dog foods contain sawdust. (I believe some cereals do as well!)
E.) Some ingredients can be listed twice, which might give them a higher volume, making it actually the #1 ingredient. If you have corn and corn meal listed separately, they may actually combine to make corn the #1 ingredient.
F.) The protein content on your dog food is important, but not listed correctly!
Footnote: In order to calculate the protein content of your dog food, take the moisture % off of the crude analysis and subtract it from 100. Divide that number by the protein amount listed on the food, and that is the "correct" protein count. (Crude analysis shows 22% crude protein and 10% moisture. You divide the 90% into 24% giving you an actual protein count of 24%)
G.) BHA is bad- I haven't found a source that recommends BHA at all.
H.) Beet pulp is good- no wait, it's bad- Not sure! It depends on the source.
I.) Glucosamine- a great supplement for dogs and humans alike. Check the dosage. While there are no studies I know of that show problems with high dosages, make sure there is enough in the dog food to be of benefit.
So, in all my research, I'm more confused than ever before. I am, once again, switching dog foods. Some people swear by one brand or another, but not me. Of the 4 dogs, we have 3 different brands of food. How's that for consistency?
I guess my bottom line is this, read the labels, if you don't understand what's there, ask! If you still don't know, move on. If your dog has itchy skin, watery eyes, is overweight, is underweight, seems sluggish, or is leaving large mounds of waste in the yard for you to pick up, you might investigate what is in your dog food and look to change!