A warning about that new FDA warning
Updated: Nov 18, 2019
I feel I should take this time to use my PFNS (Pet Food Nutrition Specialist) certification to help you all with your dog food choices, but also ease your worries about the new FDA warning that has been simplified and blown out of proportion. A great, albeit technical, article explains more about what you really should know in regards to this warning.
Here is some information when choosing a dog food:
You're going to want to find a food that offers meat/organs as the first 4-5 ingredients and doesn't have "meal" if you can avoid it. "Meal" is a processed form of the meat, meaning that it has already gone through heating which results in nutrient loss. It's not going to be easy to find a food without meals, or that has meat/organs as the first 4-5 ingredients but the closer the better. Also be on the look out for vague wording such as "Poultry", "Meat", and "Animal". These words indicate that there was no way of knowing which animal is being put into the food or where the animal came from. For example, "Meat meal" can be beef, chicken, alligator, kangaroo, and any other number of proteins. The bad thing about this is you aren't going to know where the animals came from either. The sources of the meat in "Meat meal" can be from dead zoo animals, road kill, dead farm animals, or other sources. This is way too vague and should be avoided as you should know what the protein is and where it came from.
You also want to make sure that there are little added vitamins to the food as the ingredients should be supplying this for the dog, they shouldn't have to be added in. If the food lists bone in the ingredients then this is where the vitamins are coming from. If there is not bone or an equivalent natural source in the food then they will need to supplement them in. Vitamins that are added in are almost always going to be synthetic and this can cause health problems and other issues. Minerals do have to be added in such as Zinc, Iron, Copper, etc.
Finding a food that contains vegetables and fruits (organic if possible) is a great addition as well. Dogs are not true carnivores but more in the middle of omnivore and carnivore. They do need veggies and fruits. Organic is best because they won't have pesticides and fungicides on them which cannot be removed during processing, so your dog still ends up ingesting them. Also some foods are so low quality, they contain fungicides in them to keep mold away. I would stay away from Coconut oil as I've heard of more issues with this than benefits. You can train a dogs body to tolerate it but it's not necessary to have so I personally don't see the point.
You want to make sure the carbohydrate rating is under 30%, but the food isn't going to list this in the guaranteed analysis unless it is a really high quality food. You'll have to do the math yourself.
protein%+fat%+moisture%+ash(7%) (unless the food lists the ash percentage assume it's 7%)+fiber%(if over 5%). Add all of that up and minus it from 100 and you'll have the carb %.
You don't want to see anything like "by-product" or added amino acids. Those are indicators of bad food as the protein sources are coming from low quality places or the protein is over processed and experiences loss of amino acids.
There are so many laws based on what words can be used and what ingredient requirements there are. However AAFCO is still really lax on everything and generally allows foods to regulate themselves. You can imagine the issues this causes.
ALWAYS ask your vet if they are a "pet food nutrition specialist" and if they say no, do not take their word on nutrition. They do not go to school to learn about nutrition and if they do they either learn it really early on and forget the information or things change and they aren't educating themselves. I have even spoken with a vet who has confirmed this to be true.
NEVER let your vet sell you prescription food. These foods are not required to be proven to help with the health issues they say they do. All they have to do is pass an AAFCO test which is:
5-7 dogs (too small of a sample source for any kind of study) have to be fed the same food being tested for 6 months. As long as none of the dogs lose 15% of their starting body weight at the end of the 6 months then the food passes the test and can be labeled as such. The dogs can gain as much weight as possible and the food still passes. They also don't test the dogs joint health or blood work for issues there. This test basically means next to nothing.
Prescription food also has to put "for intermittent feeding only" on the bag.
Those are the only two requirements by law to make a food a prescription food. There are six brands that make prescription food; Blue Buffalo, Darwin, Hills, Purina, IAMS, Royal Canin. Darwin being the only brand I'd recommend for your prescription needs if you decide to go that route.
If you ever have nutrition questions or concerns, please ask a pet food nutrition specialist before asking your vet, unless your vet is certified. However, I am in no way saying veterinarians are uneducated and you shouldn't trust them. Though there are bad eggs in every batch, most vets are very passionate and want to learn more. What you want to look out for are the vets that have not taken the extra step to learn more about nutrition after they have finished school, yet offer lots of nutritional advice as if they have. You can learn a lot from your vet, but just like the saying goes "it takes a village to raise a child" it also takes a village to raise a dog. You want to make sure you speak to many professionals about your dog's needs, and not focus on one person for them all.