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Tue, Aug. 20

Powers: You get what you pay for — read the label

What would your pets think if they could read the labels on their food and treats? (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

What would your pets think if they could read the labels on their food and treats? (Christy Powers/Courtesy)

Whether it is for the people or pets in your household, when choosing any food, it is very important to read the label on the bag, box or container.

There was a time when people would brag that they did not give their pets people food, but reading the label, you will notice that pet food is made from the same ingredients as people eat. The higher the quality of the pet food, the better the quality and selection of real food that the bag contains.

It used to be that our pets would get the scrapings off of our plates and bowls and the drippings left in the pan. That is what is not good for our pets. What is good, besides a well-balanced and high-quality pet food, are the kinds of things that are good for us to eat.

The first three or more ingredients in any pet food should be meat, poultry or fish. You want to avoid any non-specific ingredient such as meat meal or meat byproduct meal or something as broad as animal protein or animal fat. It needs to be specific — such as chicken or chicken meal or beef meal. The term meal means that it has been dehydrated — the moisture has been removed. By-product meal can include beaks, heads and feet — which need to be avoided!

More and more high-quality people food is being incorporated into our pet food. On a top quality label, you will find, along with the most important meat sources, items such as peas, pumpkin, squash, kale, spinach, blueberries and other things that are good for us to eat.

In my house, we all get eggs once a week and share some old-fashioned oatmeal with a bit of yogurt. These things are added to their kibble. Dogs generally love raw carrots, but give them in moderation. We all enjoy an occasional rotisserie chicken — and when it is down to mostly the bones, everyone loves chicken soup — with carrots, celery, split peas and brown rice. Salt and canned broth are avoided, but herbs are a nice addition. One must be very careful to remove all the bones. (I go through the soup with my fingers before adding it to their kibble.)

In the ever-changing field of quality pet foods, we now have a wonderful variety of toppers that can add amazing nutrition to the diet. They can be freeze-dried or dehydrated. Add a bit of warm water and set the timer. The guys will be waiting.

On a long road trip with my guys, I felt the need to give them some fresh meat. I stopped at a fast-food place and ordered a stripped-down hamburger patty. What I received was almost unrecognizable. Reluctantly, I gave them each half. But seeing that product being sold as people food made me realize how careful we need to be as to what goes into our pets’ food. We certainly need to watch what we eat also.

Cheap dog food can be made out of all sorts of unspeakable products, such as roadkill and animals at processing plants that are not suitable for people.

Diligently read the labels. Do a little research on your own and hopefully find a knowledgeable source at your local pet store.

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at

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