There is one thing we do every day with our pets that strengthen the bond we have with them; we feed them. There are few things that are as satisfying as setting a bowl of food down for a happy and thankful pet. However, many dog food companies are making claims that make us question what we are actually feeding our pets. What in the world is an animal by-product? Is corn safe for my dog? Could my dog be allergic to gluten?

Corn has been claimed by some dog food companies to be an ingredient of poor nutritional value as well as the cause of allergies.

In reality, corn makes a great source of protein, carbohydrates and the essential fatty acid, linoleic acid, which is required in the diets of both dogs and cats. It also adds a source of antioxidants such as Vitamin E and beta carotene. As far as allergies are concerned, 90% of dogs are allergic to things in their environment such as tree, weed and grass pollen, fleas and storage mites. The 10% of dogs that are allergic to food are most commonly allergic to animal proteins such as beef, chicken and lamb. This is not to say that there are not dogs with corn allergies, there are, they are just much less common.

On the topic of allergies, some dog foods claim that grain free or gluten free diets are what pets need to be happy and healthy. In truth, only 1% of dogs are allergic to grains and gluten-induced enteropathy, known in the veterinary field as Celiac disease, which is extremely rare in dogs, but most commonly seen in the Irish Setter breed, (but has also been seen in Wheaton Terriers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels)  making the need for a gluten-free diet very small.

Having tackled grains, I would now like to address the issue of “by-products”. Some ads for pet foods would have you believe that any animal by-product is bad for your pet, that they are “inferior products” or “waste parts” of another animal. The true definition of a by-product is any ingredient that is produced or left over when some other product or ingredient is made. That means that the gravy we make after the Thanksgiving turkey comes out of the oven is a by-product of that turkey. In dog food, this pertains to CLEAN sources of protein, such as the liver and kidneys, which are by-products after the muscle meat has been used for other things. The by-product in pet food is NOT feathers, hide, snout, hooves or intestinal contents.

The most important thing to remember when shopping for dog food is to find the label that says the food meets the guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This guarantees quality ingredients were used in the manufacturing process of the food. For more information, you can visit their website, http://petfood.aafco.org/.

In the end, your pet doesn’t know if it is eating a $30.00 bag or $70.00 bag of food; they only know that you are feeding them and you love them.