Ingredients To Avoid, and Ingredients to Look For

The food your pet eats effects many, many parts of his life. Lots of problems come from improper diet and can be solved by very simple changes. Does Mittens ich constantly and have lots of dander? Probably food-related. Has Sparky suddenly sprayed the dining room with lots of liquid love? Could be food-related. Does Fido has the most rank, paint-peelin bowel movements? Yeah, that's food-related. And when you think about it, it makes sense. All living things get what they need to survive from what they eat, and if what they're eating contains little or none of the essential ingredients for a proper diet, health problems are bound to arise. This simple guide will help you keep your pet happy and healthy, and hopefully prevent you from having to take unneeded, additional trips to the vet office.

First the basics -
It doesn't get much more basic than ingredients. This is the make-up of foods, and more often than not, the root of many allergies and health problems in lower-quality diets. When it comes to shopping for pet foods, the first thing you should do is flip the bag over and find the nutritional information. If you see 'Corn' or 'By-Product' as one of the first ingredients, then you're off to a bad start.

Here's a list of ingredients to AVOID -

Corn - It's undigestable! This is used as a cheap filler for almost all dog and cat foods! This has almost no nutritional value, and passes straight through your pet, coming out as additional waste. Ontop of that, it's a very common allergen in dogs and cats!

By-Product- Some by-products are worse than others, but all by-products are an unreliable source of meat protein. You never really know what's in by-product meal, but it can range from diseased livestock, horse remains, roadkill, euthanised animals from local shelters and 4-d meats (all seen in meat by-product meal) to unfiltered intestinal tracts, feathers, brains, feet and waste (poultry by-product meal). Some say that by-products aren't all bad. Why? Well because an animal would eat all that in the wild, right?! Nope, not necessarily. By-products can contain high traces of chemicals used in euthanasia (such as phenobarbital), as well as meat rendered but still tainted with poisons and deadly bacteria. In the wild, most animals would never encounter these things, and would probably die if they did. The 'filler' that the animals would gain in the wild from eating other animals can be replaced with much cleaner, healthier, and safer ingredients.

Peanut Hulls, Mill Run - This is essentially what they sweep off the floor from the processing plants. It's literally the hulls of peanuts, scraps from trees (including bark), and whatever else employees happend to drop on the floor that day. Science Diet will tell you it's fibre! Unfortunetly, we really don't have the slightest idea what's in the 'mill run' that day.

Wheat, Wheat Gluten - Another allergen, wheat and wheat gluten is starting to pop up in all the wrong places. It has the same basic problems as corn, and is used frequently as a filler, binder and sweetener.

(this list will be edited as other ingredients are suggested, I started with the basics)

And here's a list of ingredients look for -

Whole meats (i.e Chicken, Turkey, Bison, Venison) - You're getting exactly what it says you're getting. Whole meats, usually quality cuts of whatever is listed. This is meat alone, contains no internal organs, no mystery chemicals. Generally the best quality meat you can get in pet food. They're easier to digest than the 'meals' (ie, chicken meal), but usually come hand-in-hand with at least one 'meal' for a more complete diet.

Fruits and Vegetables - Such as fresh blueberries (a natural antitoxidant!), fresh apples (tasty and healthy!), sweet potatoes (reliable source of fibre, though doesn't agree with all dog's tummies). Again, you're getting what it says, these are fruits and vegetables ground up in the food. This is the source of fibre and plant material that a dog or cat would normally be getting from eating the stomach of prey in the wild. It's carefully balanced in premium foods, and is generally not a main ingredient.

Meals - Preferably seen alongside their 'whole meat' counterpart, chicken meal, fish meal, turkey meal is the dehydrated 'whole' product. It contains organs and bone and is good for adding calcium to the food. It's a bit harder to digest than whole meats, but is far cleaner and safer than 'by-product'.

Oatmeal and Fish/Flaxseed Oils - Oats and oatmeal are highly digestible and good for soothing upset bellies. These ingredients are frequently found in higher volume in sensitive-stomach formulas and are included in several ultra premium foods. Certain oils, such as flaxseed oil, are great for the skin and coat. Fish oils, especially salmon, also aid in skin/coat care as well as digestion. Not all oils are good though - corn and soy oils can cause allergic reactions just like their whole counterparts and should be avoided.

Source: Pet Nutrition Megathread, courtesy of Labinnah

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