It has been an exciting day at Wayside Waifs! We had special guest, Attorney General Chris Koster and Department of Agriculture Director Jon Hagler here for a press conference about prosecuting illegal breeders and breeders operating under deplorable conditions. Several news outlets showed up to cover the event and of course there were lots of Waifs in attendance. Wayside Waifs took in over 400 animals last year from breeders that were shut down by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Its great news that these operations will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.
Animal researchers agree that pets benefit from trick training. Animals in the wild are forced to use problem-solving skills to hunt for food and shelter and to evade predators. While our pets live in relative luxury, they can also get bored; trick training tests their agile minds and strengthens their bond with their owner. Professional trainers agree that only positive rewards work to motivate learning, and training should always be fun, never stressful, for an animal.
Sixteen-year-old Kate Nicholas calls border collie Gin her “best friend” and says they spend almost all their time together. In 2008, the pair appeared on Britain’s Got Talent and demonstrated exactly what they do with all that togetherness. Even Simon Cowell seems impressed!
In Part One of this series, we looked at why the name of your dog’s food is important, as well as what the AAFCO Statement means. Today we’ll examine the ingredients list and the Guaranteed Analysis so you can be sure you’re feeding your dog the best possible diet available.
1. The Ingredients List
Dog food labels list ingredients by weight. Look for “real” sounding ingredients near the top of the list: beef, rice, chicken, meal. A note about types: beef is meat, defined by the American Association of Feed Control Officials as muscle tissue. Beef meal is processed and rendered, with much of the fat and water removed. It may contain muscle tissue as well as organ meats. Remember that meat is about 75% water; an equal amount of meal will be denser in protein because it’s been dried. “Meal” isn’t a bad word in pet food.
If chemical preservatives worry you, look for tocopherol, a natural preservative. Because natural preservatives can shorten a food’s shelf life, be careful to check the sell-by date, and make sure food is stored according to the label’s recommendations.
2. Guaranteed Analysis
Manufacturers must include a breakdown of the dog food’s nutrients, including protein, fat, fiber, and vitamins. Consult your vet to see if your dog requires a special percentage of protein or fat. If so, read the Guaranteed Analysis carefully. Canned dog food has a lot of moisture, so it needs to be “converted” mathematically in order to fairly compare it to dry food. Multiply a canned food’s percentages by 4 to approximate the standard for the dry food. For example, if a canned food lists crude protein at 9%, that’s a dry food equivalent of 36%. Compared to a dry food with 21% protein, the canned food wins hands down.
Remember that your veterinarian is the best resource on what and how much to feed your particular dog, especially if the dog has health issues. And be sure to get your vet’s recommendations for supplemental treats as well as food. The more information you have, the better your dog will dine.
For me, it’s the hardest part of the trip: dropping off Eloise. She arrives at the boarder’s with her usual beagle-mix exuberance, tugging on the leash, sniffing everything and everyone in sight. Then I turn her over to the attendant and she gazes after me as I walk out, her floppy ears sagging. What? You’re not staying?
If it’s tough to leave your hound behind, take heart: Plenty of places welcome your pet with open arms. Here are some tips to get you started on your pet-friendly vacation.
Reserve before you go! This is no time to be spontaneous. Pet-friendly hotels are becoming more common, but they aren’t the rule. Be sure to ask about any restrictions when you call.
Check your dog’s collar, leash, and tags. They should be secure and in good repair. Consider adding an ID tag with your cell-phone number on it–the more identification, the better.
Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date and won’t expire while on your trip. Bring any medications, including heartworm pills and flea prevention, with you. You should also have available any documentation regarding vaccinations and special health conditions.
Summer safety rules apply, particularly when in your car. Review them at the Humane Society’s site here.
Be sure you’ve considered all the angles, including how to find pet-friendly restaurants. If you’re bringing your pooch only to leave him alone in a hotel room all day, reconsider your plans. He would probably prefer to stay in a comfy doggy hotel where he can play with canine pals.
For fun ideas on where to vacation with your dog, check out the June issue of Midwest Living magazine. Online, you can access a searchable database of pet-friendly hotels throughout North America at petswelcome.com.
Are you mystified by the lists and charts on that bag of dog food? Let’s break down Fido’s food label and figure out what’s what. The most important parts of the label include the following:
the name of the food
the AAFCO statement
Today, in the first of two parts, we’ll discuss the food’s name and the AAFCO statement. Next time we’ll tackle the remainder of these mystery items.
1. What’s in a Name?
Pet food manufacturers create names to attract the consumer (that’s you, not your dog). But according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they have to follow certain rules.
AAFCO requires that the food must include at least 25% of the name’s first ingredient. But while “Beef and Chicken Dinner Supreme” has plenty of beef, it may contain as little as 3% chicken. Most foods include a qualifier like “dinner,” “platter,” or “chow,” but if not, requirements are stricter. A simple food labeled “Lamb for Dogs” (not “Lamb Dinner for Dogs”) must contain at least 95% lamb.
A note about “beef flavored”: To earn the “flavored” label, the dog food must have enough of the ingredient to lend it flavor–and that may be only a little broth. No amount of actual meat is guaranteed.
2. The AAFCO Statement
The AAFCO has developed standards to determine how nutritious dog food is. Somewhere near the ingredients list, look for a clearly marked AAFCO Statement. Unless designated as a treat or supplemental food, the food should constitute “complete and balanced nutrition” for dogs. AAFCO tests food two ways: in a laboratory or by feeding the food to dogs over a six-month period to judge its nutritional quality. The statement will tell you which method was used. Both are reliable.
In Part II of this series, we’ll look at what goes into your dog’s food and why those ingredients matter.