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Nutritional Highlights vs. Actual Ingredients: How to Choose the Best Food for Your Pet

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How many times have you picked up a bag of pet food with phrases like “Complete and Balanced” or “Full of Natural Ingredients” and thought, that sounds pretty good, right?

Let’s take a closer look: Many times, these focal points are simply claims to make people think the food is high quality — when in actuality, the ingredients tell a different story.

Nutritional Claims: “Natural” Ingredients

When it comes to misleading customers, claims on the package are the biggest offenders, because they are easily seen and can distract from the facts.

“All-Natural Ingredients” can be used as a purposely vague, intentionally misleading claim. You’ve surely seen Healthy Dogma and many brands we carry use the phrase “all-natural ingredients” in descriptions. Are we being tricky? No: Our ingredients of chicken, apples, whole egg, sweet potatoes and more truly are natural.

What is the issue, then? See what else falls into the natural category:

  • Wheat: Whole wheat is pushed for humans as a healthy alternative to processed and enriched flours. For canines, however, wheat is a common allergen and a contributing factor to canine obesity.
  • Corn: Whole kernels of fresh corn would be a healthy option. In pet food, corn gluten meal is leftovers: parts of the corn stalk after much of the nutrition is removed. If you Google “corn gluten meal,” natural weed killer is the number one result.

These are natural ingredients, and they are in many commercial dog foods. However, are they really something that you want to feed your pet? You know the answer.

Ingredient-Based Food

On the other hand, there are many pet foods that focus on the ingredients rather than nutritional claims. These ingredient-based foods are nutritionally complete, offering whole food with minimal processing.

You’re looking at a ingredient-focused food brand when the ingredient list includes items like: deboned chicken, lamb meal, green peas, turkey meal, boneless salmon, field beans, red lentils, whole potato, deboned turkey, whole egg, whole apples, whole pears, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach greens, cranberries, blueberries.

Brands that are nuttitionally complete and ingredient-based include:

  • Orijen/ Acana
  • Now!
  • Country Naturals
  • Stella & Chewys
  • Healthy Dogma PetMix
  • Earthborn
  • Natures Logic
  • Fromm
  • Zignature

Which would you rather eat? Food sold on fuzzy claims, or foods that are made with fresh ingredients you don’t need a dictionary to understand?

If you want to do the right thing for your pet, look at the ingredients panel, not the nutritional highlights called out on the packaging. The truth leads to better health and fitness of your pet. 

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