Browse any grocery store or pet food store to buy Dog Food and you will agree that trying to decide on what is best for your dog is an exhausting task. Scanning the shelves of products available, you are bombarded by foods extolling different health benefits as well as a huge range of prices. The pet food industry is a multi-billion dollar industry and pet food manufacturers are eagerly marketing for every dollar. Not only are they marketing us to death, but also developing new products to put in front of us. Those products include “dry”, “canned”, “semi-moist” and health targeted products such as “senior”, “premium” and “gourmet.
So which food is best for your dog? Finding that out takes time and research. The truth is, the best dog food is the one that meets your dog’s nutritional requirements, which vary based upon the dog’s age, breed, body weight, genetics, and amount of activity… and one that fits within your budget Bottled and jarred packaged goods. It is definitely worth consulting a veterinarian to get the best advice and nutrition plan for your dog. But for those of you that want to take matters in your own hands, you will find detailed below the most important things you will need to know.
Susan Powter comes to mind when thinking about food labels. Remember this iconic infomercial star with the coined phrase “Stop the Insanity”? Her gospel about nutrition and the importance of studying the ingredients on the side of the packaging to distinguish the various elements and how each plays its role in overall nutrition, was novel at that time. It seems that this was the beginning of the mass movement to better nutrition, label reading and choosing products more carefully.
With all the recent pet food recalls, millions of dog owners have extended this scrutiny to selecting a dog food. But we can’t pull from the Susan Powter gospel for this, because dog foods are manufactured under a series of different standards and regulations, put forth by the AAFCO ( The Association of American Feed Control Officials ). There are special labeling requirements that require all dog foods to have certain information on the label. So, in order that we can all make a proper choice for our dogs, we must know how to read and understand the dog food label.
You can be intolerant to a food to which you are not “allergic”. Food intolerance or sensitivity is much more common that food allergy. It estimated that somewhere between 6-10% of people are allergic to a food or foods but between 30-60% of people are intolerant to one or more foods or the additives or chemicals in food.
Food allergy testing will be negative if you are not allergic even though you are intolerant or sensitive to a food, additive or chemical. Food allergy is an abnormal immune response or reaction to a food protein. It is due to the same response to inhaled pollens or allergens. It results when the body makes a specific type antibody or immunoglobulin, known as IgE, to a food. When the food is eaten the IgE antibody recognizes the food protein as foreign and triggers the release of chemicals, especially histamine, from allergy cells in the body. This results in characteristic symptoms of swelling, itching, rash or hives, wheezing, shortness of breath, cough, low blood pressure and rarely death when the food is eaten.
Testing for food allergy consists of blood tests for the IgE antibodies (RAST) or the presence of a hive like reactions produced from histamine released at the site of skin prick, injection or patch contact with the food. The many food reactions that are not due to an allergic immune response involving IgE or histamine will have normal RAST IgE antibody levels and negative skin testing. Some of these food sensitivity or intolerance reactions are due to other antibodies such as IgA, IgM, or IgG. These antibodies may be detected in the blood, stool or saliva though such tests are not as well validated, accepted or available, especially in the U.S.
Diet treatments involving elimination of foods based on elevated IgG, IgM or IgA antibodies in the blood, evacuated stool samples, saliva or intestinal fluid retrieved from the body have shown mixed or to moderate success in people with rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. The most well understood but still under recognized autoimmune food sensitivity with a genetic basis is gluten sensitivity, also known as Celiac disease. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is much more common than Celiac disease but even less well recognized. Lactose intolerance is the most common food intolerance and often confused with the second most common food sensitivity, cow’s milk protein or casein sensitivity. Gluten free casein free diet is now commonly employed as a treatment for autism. The medical community has generally been slow to accept gluten free casein free diet for autism, considering it unproven, though there is substantial scientific and experiential data to support this safe and often dramatically effective treatment.