Do you know how to find the best dog food for your Morkie? What to look for and what to avoid? Here are 7 handy tips to guide you in picking healthy dog food for your Morkie –whether it’s dry food (kibble) or canned.
Why can’t we just trust manufacturers?
Commercial dog food is a multi-billion dollar industry; it is much bigger than baby food. In 2015, we spent $60.28 billion on our pets in the U.S. Pet food alone represents $23 BILLION in sales per year, compared to baby food, at $1.25 billion.
The pet food industry is one of the most profitable in the world. And it’s growing by leaps and bounds every year.
With a profitable market this size, it’s all about marketing pet food, not necessarily making excellent dog food.
Like cigarette makers in the 1950s and 60s, pet food manufacturers:
- lie to us about what’s in their products
- use terrible ingredients
- spend tons of money on advertising
- ignore existing regulations without any penalty
- “regulate” themselves
- know full well that what they make is killing our pets
So, unfortunately, you must do your own research to find a reliable and good-quality dog food manufacturer.
Weigh the pros and cons of kibble versus canned dog food
Canned dog foods typically have much less grain and carbs than kibble, which needs these ingredients to bind the product together.
Canned food can have fewer preservatives since the canning process takes care of that; however, canned food typically uses a lot of thickening agents such as carrageenan, which has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), acid reflux, and intestinal ulceration.
Most dog food cans today are lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA), declared a toxin in many parts of the world.
Kibble costs less per serving and is more convenient to use; however it less protein-dense, so your Morkie must eat more to get the same benefits.
You wouldn’t want to eat the same food, day after day, year after year. Neither does your dog. Plus, no single brand is perfect. The answer is diet rotation.
It’s simple. Every few months, slowly change your Morkie’s food (dry, moist or canned) to another brand or another type within the same brand.
Do the changeover slowly, so you don’t trigger GI upsets and diarrhea. Add about 1/4 new to the old food for a week, increase it weekly until it’s all-new food.
Tip #1 Read the label
Whether you’re buying dried food (kibble) semi-moist or canned dog food, start with the label.
It looks imposing – dozens and dozens of ingredients listed in tiny type. But start with the first 5 or 6 ingredients. They form the bulk of the product by far.
You can also take a look at the ingredients above the fat ingredient. Again, it’s the bulk of the food and the most important.
If you can decode the label, you’re well on your way to providing better food for your Morkie.
All of the ingredients must be listed in order. Focus on the first five; this is where the bulk of the nutrition comes from.
Tip # 2: Look at the first 5 ingredients... or the ingredients above the fat
For example, look at the ingredients in Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Healthy Weight kibble, a top-quality product:
By either measure, we can see that this is quality food.
First 5 Ingredients
- Deboned Turkey
- Turkey Meal
- Chicken Meal
- Dried Ground Potatoes
Ingredients above the fat line:
- Deboned Turkey
- Turkey Meal
- Chicken Meal
- Dried Ground Potatoes
- Pea Fiber
- Ground Flaxseed
- Tomato Pomace
- Chicken Fat
PICK FOOD WITH:
- a NAMED meat, like chicken, beef, salmon, etc.
- a NAMED source of fat, such as chicken fat, beef fat, etc.
- Foods that are made with fewer ingredients – instead of a lot of additives and preservatives, the food will often have more carbohydrates, although not necessarily grains. As you might expect, these foods can be costlier than ‘regular’ foods on the market.
Potato or sweet potato as a filler in the top 5 ingredients are acceptable; one or the other.
Foods that contains grain are ok just as long as there is only one of these grains in the Top Five.
ALWAYS AVOID FOOD WITH:
- generic descriptions like meat, poultry, and fish
- “meat byproducts”
Avoid all dog foods with animal digest, including a named meat digest.
Avoid food with “meat and bone meal” even if the meat is named.
CORN in the top 5 ingredients
- Avoid dog foods with more than one carbohydrate in the first 5 ingredients.
- Avoid dog foods with a generic fat source, rendered fat or beef tallow.
- Avoid food with BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, and PG (Propylene Glycol).
- Avoid food with added sugars and watch for its other names.
Do dogs need carbohydrates?
Meat is a quality, complete protein. It contains all ten essential amino acids — nutrients dogs cannot live without. Plus, dogs can easily digest it, especially compared to plant proteins like corn or grain. But high quality, meat-based proteins are also the single most expensive ingredients in dog foods. So manufacturers use grains and other carbohydrates as fillers that also deliver some protein.
The problem is, dogs don’t need corn, or wheat, barley rice, soybean meal, dried beet pulp, and potatoes. Carbohydrates aren’t necessarily bad for your dog, but they’re just not needed for good nutrition. For a small dog like a Morkie, food with too much corn or grain can fill him up before he gets enough quality meat protein.
Kibble has to have some form of carbohydrate in the recipe to bind it together, but grains shouldn’t be at the top of the ingredients lists.
The best compromise especially for kibble
Avoid dog foods with more than one carbohydrate in the first 5 ingredients.
Here are the first 5 ingredients in a popular — but very poor quality — kibble, Alpo Prime Cuts Savory Beef Flavor. As you can see there’s virtually no ‘meat’ in this food.
Ugh – check these First Five ingredients
- Ground yellow corn
- Corn germ meal
- Beef and bone meal
- Soybean meal
- Beef tallow
Tip #3: Avoid these Top Three Offenders
Watch for these ingredients on the label – none belongs in your pet’s food and some can even shorten his life.
1. The word “meat” or “meat by-products” near the top of the ingredient list
If it’s called just ‘meat’ (not beef, lamb, etc.) then the animal parts used can be obtained from any source, so there is no control over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included in meat and meat by-products: including the infamous “4-D animals” (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, misc. roadkill and animals euthanized at shelters.
These “4-D” animals were only recently banned for human consumption and are still legitimate ingredients for pet food.
2. BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin
Watch out for:
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA),
- Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT ) and
- Ethoxyquin (an EPA-regulated pesticide)
These are all highly carcinogenic or cancer-causing additives that are used to preserve the dog food for long shelf life. Besides cancers, these chemicals have been linked to thyroid, kidney, reproductive and immune-related illnesses.
There is no nutritious value in any dog food that lists corn as the first ingredient. It is a useless filler that is a known cause of allergies and is difficult for dogs to digest.
And in the wild – ever see a wolf break into a cornfield to steal a cob or two?
Should you pick organic dog food?
When you see ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ on your Morkie’s dog food label…
It does NOT mean:
- Humanely raised
- Chemical or drug-free
- Raised without pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics antibiotics
Claims made such as original, natural, prime cuts, tasty, organic and more, mean nothing; there’s no legal standard for the wording that describes pet foods.
Some of the most appealing and popular dog foods are the worst nutritionally. And they are the most secretive, from an ingredients standpoint.
Instead, vague terms cover up a host of grisly ingredients.
What does “organic” mean on a dog food label?
There's meat and then there's "meat." And they are worlds apart
Look very carefully at how the main protein source is described
You would expect food that’s called “chicken” and lists “real chicken” as the main ingredient, would include chicken. Not so fast.
The food can be made up of chicken by-products, which is essentially slaughterhouse waste. Beaks, heads, and feet. But the picture on the left is the one that will appear on the package.
Tip #4: Avoid food with meat by-products - whether the meat is named or not
HOWEVER, meat by-products can also include NON-MEAT ingredients such as horns, feathers, feet, hides, beaks, hooves and teeth. Ugh. They won’t even put this stuff in hot dogs and bologna.
Whether the meat is named or not, this ingredient should be avoided.
Pictured above: a sample of chicken by-products; this carcass is covered in skin cancer tumors. It is allowed in dog food as a “chicken by-product.”
Tip #5: Avoid food with meat MEAL
Meal refers to an ingredient that’s been through the rendering plant or other high level processing. There is some controversy about whether or not we should be feeding our dogs meal, since it’s a lower quality protein, usually found in cheap dog foods. (The quality of protein is measured by scientists as “biological value” – the ability of the food to deliver protein’s ten amino acids.)
There are two kinds of meal:
- Named meat meal: beef meal, chicken meal, lamb meal, etc.
- Generic meal: meat meal, poultry meal, fish meal
Meal is a highly concentrated protein powder; if it’s from a named source, its acceptable, or just “OK,” say many experts. Others are against named meat meal, because of the chance it can contain noxious ingredients.
Bear on mind, even though the meat is named, it could come from a carcass that failed USDA inspection. If it is called simply “meat meal,” it can contain shocking ingredients, including intestines with feces, road kill, and more.
Tip #6: Avoid food with meat AND BONE MEAL
Avoid food with meat AND BONE MEAL even if the meat source is named
AAFCO — the Association of American Feed Control Officials — defines this ingredient as “rendered product from mammal tissues, including bone, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hooves, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents.”
Whether it’s from a named meat, or is generic ‘meat,’ the main drawbacks of MEAT AND BONE MEAL are:
- it’s harder to digest.
- it’s a lower quality protein.
- there is some scientific evidence linking bone meal to cancer.
Plus, in Meat and Bone Meal, there’s no way to determine the amount of bone versus ‘meat.’
Tip #7: Avoid food with ANIMAL DIGEST
Animal digest is a highly processed product that is used to flavor dog food that doesn’t have much taste otherwise. Even when it is identified, for example, Chicken Digest, the dog food may taste like chicken thanks to the digest, but it does not have to contain chicken.
Then why’s it there? Manufacturers like Purina brag that their product is “highly palatable” or in other words, it tricks dogs into thinking their food has a great flavor. Animal digest, a highly processed mess of mysterious animal parts, is what delivers flavor.