Sometimes we can trust the people who make the food that our dogs eat and other times, we cannot. In this post, I am going to describe to you one of those times when you can’t trust the dog food manufacturer.
First, let me say that it’s not that they are out to kill our dogs. I believe that it is simply that they spend more time calculating their bottom line to really care about what it does to the end consumer (your dog). This absolutely will corrupt their thinking on the subject and result in, well, let me cut to the chase.
For the past seven years, I have been feeding my dogs with what was, at the time I began using it, a high quality dog food, designed for working and sporting dogs. The name: Member’s Mark Exceed Chicken and Rice PERFORMANCE Dog Food, available only at Sam’s Club. The first ingredient has always been chicken and it boasts a 30% protein and 20% fat formula. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, little did I know that Mars, Inc, the current manufacturer of Exceed (not the original company subcontracted by Sam’s) as well as the popular brand, Nutro, saw fit to ‘tweak’ the food. Their PR line is that they ‘are duplicating the formula for Eukanuba Performance’ dog food. Okay, sounds good on paper.
Then, why, may I ask, were some of my dogs literally starving? I own two very nice German Shepherds who were feeding four cups of Exceed a day and not gaining one ounce of weight. They were underweight and nothing I did helped.
It was then that I decided to take a look at the bag and found that they had slyly lowered the fat to 16% while I wasn’t looking. Okay, lower fat might not be that bad, but I had an idea that wasn’t all to the story. So I started some research on line. I found this web page from Drs Foster and Smith’s site.
You should read it all the way through. It defines what the term ‘Metabolizable Energy’ means in the dog food world and even shows you how to calculate it for the food you are currently using, to see how many calories per kg your dog is receiving. Metabolizable Energy is what a dog needs to grow and maintain weight and energy. Low calorie foods are like eating popcorn, for a dog. To make things worse, some dog food companies disclose the calorie count and some don’t because the FDA doesn’t require them to do so.
Well, I then did a test of my own. I purchased a decent high energy dog food made by Southern States, which disclosed it’s calorie count as 3970 kcal/kg (around 400 kcal/cup). I weighed a measured cup of this food on a food scale and did the same with a cup of Exceed (which had a not surprising low calorie count of around 3500 kcal/kg per my calculations). The less expensive food actually weighed 1.5 ounces more per measured cup than the Exceed.
With this knowledge, I decided to call Mars and inquire about the actual calorie count per cup. Lo and Behold, the Mars rep sheepishly told me that the Exceed food had 327 kcal/cup. In other words, I have been feeding my dogs, who are all active and require high calorie food to maintain body weight and muscle mass, with a dog food that is, at best, suitable for ten year old lap dogs.
Do you know what has more calories per cup than Exceed? Purina Dog Chow. Call Purina’s help line if you don’t believe me.
Needless to say, I have stopped using Exceed and have moved on to a mix of high calorie foods from Diamond and Southern States. If you are one of the people that I recommended Exceed to in the past, I humbly apologize. I promise I won’t make that mistake again.
To those of you who are not satisfied with your current dog food, I recommend you get ALL of the nutritional facts from the manufacturer and decide what to do from there. It’s not just about ingredients or protein/fat percentages any more. The dog food companies know that this is the only thing consumers look at on a bag, so they are able to work around it for their benefit, not yours.
I will be keeping up my account of how the dogs are doing with their new diet as well as continuing to explain more about dog foods in future posts. Until then, LET THE BUYER BEWARE!