Dear Fellow Dog Lover,
I first alerted dog owners about this deadly sweetener back in 2011.
Yet no matter how many times I keep reading the tragic stories posted by other pet owners…
Dogs keep dying.
It's a popular sugar substitute made from a natural plant that's been on the market for years.
And even though it's 100% safe… for humans.
It can cause a sudden and life-threatening drop in blood sugar…
And quickly lead to death.
If it's accidentally swallowed by your dog.
A rare event?
These stories are becoming SO common…
The Food and Drug Administration has now created this important new video to help warn dog parents…
In hope of saving the lives of other innocent pets.
I've added this helpful video to my original article.
Please be sure to share this important message with other dog owners.
Mike Sagman, Editor
The Dog Food Advisor
Saving Good Dogs From Bad Dog Food
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For years now…
A loophole in U.S. labeling law has allowed pet food manufacturers to
intentionally manipulate the order of the ingredients on a label.
It's a little-known labeling trick known as ingredient splitting that can be used to mislead shoppers.
And it's all completely legal.
I don't want you (or your dog) to become a victim of this kind of marketing misinformation.
Which is why I decided to update the original article:
Ingredient Splitting - Deceptive Dog Food Labeling Trick
In my latest version of this report, I share the answer to the most frequent questions I get about this important subject.…
In the article, you'll learn:
1. What is ingredient splitting?
2. How to spot this deceptive trick so you can protect yourself and your dog from the harm caused by misleading marketing claims.
3. What to look for on a label that's much more revealing about a dog food than the first ingredient alone?
4. What are some of the most common signs of ingredient splitting?
Mike Sagman, Editor The Dog Food Advisor Saving Good Dogs From
Aflatoxin… Avoiding the Deadliest Natural Toxin in Dog Food
Aflatoxin is one of the most dangerous natural poisons known to food scientists. And many times, it can be found in some of the most popular dog foods on the market.
Aflatoxin has led to the tragic death of hundreds of dogs… and has caused an increasing number of life-threatening dog food recalls.
What Is Aflatoxin?
Aflatoxin is a potent ‘natural’ poison that’s produced by a common type of food mold known as Aspergillus flavus.
But it’s NOT the mold you need to worry about.
It’s aflatoxin… the deadly poison produced by that mold… that can cause liver failure, cancer and death… in dogs.
Which Ingredients Contain Aflatoxin?
Aspergillus mold is a gray-green, fuzzy-looking substance that can be found growing on the surface of cereal grains.
Grains like wheat, millet, sorghum, and rice.
However, since 2009…
Corn has been the most common source of aflatoxin in every poison-related dog food recall.
Here’s what corn contaminated with Aspergillus mold looks like:
Much of the corn rejected for use in human food… like so many other inferior ingredients… frequently finds its way into commercial pet food.
What Makes Aflatoxin So Dangerous?
Compared to almost any other dog food contaminant, aflatoxin has the potential to be FAR more dangerous.
Aflatoxin is invisible. So, you can’t see it… not even with a high-power microscope.
Yet it can still be present… even when there’s no visible sign of mold on the surface of the food.
Unlike Salmonella and other disease-causing bacteria…
Aflatoxin is a poisonous chemical.
Which means… it’s NOT alive.
So You Can’t Kill It
And you can’t cook it out of a dog food, either.
Aflatoxin is so resistant to heat…
It even survives the germ-killing process of pasteurization… a process required by law when making canned dog foods.
Or the high heat methods used for making dry dog food.
Which is why, after cooking, the deadly poison can still be found inside an unopened can of wet dog food…
Or a sealed bag of dry kibble.
How Toxic Is Aflatoxin?
Compared to other natural poisons…
There’s no known anti-toxin to neutralize it. So, once aflatoxin enters a dog’s body… there’s no way to remove it.
Two Ways Aflatoxin Can Kill Your Dog
Dogs are highly susceptible to aflatoxin poisoning.
That’s because unlike humans, who eat a varied diet…
Dogs tend to eat the same food… meal after meal… day after day… for a lifetime.
Which is why there are 2 ways aflatoxin can kill a dog.
- Acute poisoning
- Chronic poisoning
Dogs exposed to higher doses of aflatoxin can experience sudden and severe reactions to the poison.
Acute reactions like these can progress so quickly that a dog can die before ever receiving treatment.
These are the cases you hear about the most… and they represent the leading cause of aflatoxin-related recall events.
Dogs exposed to lower, non-lethal doses of aflatoxin over a longer period of time may survive.
But chronic, long term exposure to smaller doses can be just as deadly.
Tiny, invisible amounts of poison can accumulate in the body… over time… and can ultimately cause liver cancer later in your dog’s life.3
Which is what makes chronic poisoning so much more dangerous.
The Bottom Line
Chronic, long-term exposure to tiny, undetectable amounts of aflatoxin in your pet’s food has the potential to cause serious damage to the future health of your dog.
How to Protect Your Dog from Aflatoxin
On this page…
You’ve learned about aflatoxin and why it’s so dangerous. Here are 3 things you can do right now to protect your dog from this deadly poison.
- Become aware of recalls early. So you can take action… before smaller doses of aflatoxin can accumulate in your dog’s body. Click here to get free lifesaving dog food recall alerts by email as soon as they happen.
- Don’t rely on grain-based dog foods alone. Keep in mind, aflatoxin is only rarely found in grain-free recipes. Instead, consider to diversify your pet’s menu.
- Mold toxins can be hidden in any dog food. To lower the risk, avoid brands with troubled recall histories… especially those known for being repeat offenders when it comes to aflatoxin or other matters of product safety. Repeat offenders are removed from each of The Dog Food Advisor’s “best” lists as soon as they’re discovered. So, visit one of the many categories Editor's Choice Categories from our Best Dog Food page for some exceptional selections.
Flores-Flores, M. E., Lizarraga, E., de Cerain, A. L. & Gonzalez-Penas, E. Presence of mycotoxins in animal milk: A review. Food Control 53, 163–176 (2015) ↩
A Wouters et al, An outbreak of aflatoxin poisoning in dogs associated with aflatoxin B1-contaminated maize products ↩
Aflatoxin Poisoning in Pets, U.S. Food and Drug Administration ↩
Can owning a dog affect YOUR health?
I wanted to know for sure — so I did a deep-dive into the research and put together this short video that will give you the truth about how your dog affects your health.
(Plus, I even discovered some surprising facts about how your dog can impact your relationships with other people.)
Once you’ve seen this video, I bet you’ll appreciate your dog even MORE. :)
So click below to watch it now!
To happy and healthy dog years ahead,
Dr. Gary Richter
How to Choose
the Best Kibble
Trying to determine the healthiness of a dry kibble pet food by reading the ingredients and nutritional information on the bag is definitely challenging. Even if you're a die-hard label reader when buying food for your family, it won't help you much when analyzing dry pet food. So, here are a few key points that will help you grade the quality of a food based on looking at the ingredient list and the guaranteed analysis of a food:
1. LOOK AT THE PROTEIN LEVEL
This is usually called "Crude Protein (min)" in the Guaranteed Analysis. This will give you the quickest snapshot of whether you should even consider the food. Generally, the higher the better: for a dog food you want it to be over 30%, ideally in the mid 30s or higher, and for a cat food you want it to be over 40%, ideally in the mid 40s. If it's below 30% for dogs or 40% for cats, you should pass on it. It is probably not a truly high-quality food.
Dogs and cats thrive on animal protein and don't need carbohydrates, and a low protein food will generally have high carbs, usually from a bunch of unhealthy ingredients like refined grains or grain by-products. If these carbs are not used for energy, they are converted into fat. In the case of cats, they preferentially use protein and fat for energy, so virtually all the carbs in dry food are excess and converted to fat. Dogs' digestion is similar to humans. They can use carbs for energy, but again, any excess is stored as fat.
2. LOOK AT THE FIRST 5 INGREDIENTS
This will tell you about where the protein is coming from. Ideally it will be coming from animal-based ingredients like meat, poultry, and fish (or more sustainable options) and the meals made out of them. A meat/poultry/fish meal is a concentrated form of that protein made by rendering (a cooking process that separates the protein from fat and moisture). The way dry kibble is made in an extrusion process, there must be rendered meat, poultry, or fish meals in a high protein recipe, because too much whole deboned meat will have too much moisture for the process to work.
Look for named animal proteins and meals like lamb and lamb meal, chicken and chicken meal, whitefish and whitefish meal, etc. Avoid ingredients like generic meat meal, poultry meal, meat and bone meal, etc. and meals with the word "by-product" in them. These generic meat meals and by-product meals can be made of dead and diseased animals, as well as things like heads, tails, guts, feet. In general, not things you would want your pet to eat (think pink slime). It's okay to have some non-meat proteins in the first 5 ingredients (like peas or chickpeas), but ideally not in the top 2 or 3, because you want most of the protein to come from animal ingredients. Plus, animal ingredients are naturally high in the amino acid taurine, if you're concerned about DCM and your pet's health.
3. LOOK FOR HEALTHY FATS
Fats are an important part of a healthy diet, but they are not all created equal. Chicken fat is fine, but a generic "animal fat" is not. This generic "animal fat" is very commonly used, but it's an aggregated fat from any number of species that get thrown into a vat, so it's bad for allergies and it's one of the ingredients most likely to contain the euthanasia drug pentobarbital – yuck!
Some fish oil in the food is good to look for, because that will provide Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for pet health. A great food will include the Omega-3, Omega-6, EPA, and DHA levels in the Guaranteed Analysis, even though it is not required. In addition to generic animal fat, avoid cheap fats like soybean oil and vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, or generic "vegetable oil", as they are usually entirely Omega-6 fatty acids with no Omega-3's.
Beyond finding healthy essential fatty acids in your pet's food, it's also a great idea to add them as a supplement. This will help support overall health, skin & coat health, joint health, and more.
4. WATCH OUT FOR EMPTY FILLERS
These include ingredients like like corn, wheat, soybean, sorghum, and rice ingredients. In addition to being converted into fat, as mentioned earlier, they are often by-products of human food production rather than whole food ingredients. This means that they probably have little nutritional value. In addition, corn and soybeans are genetically modified (unless they're organic), and since grains overall are too high in carbs they tend to interfere with insulin and glucose metabolism, and lead to obesity.
It's important to remember that not all grains are bad. Since cats are obligate carnivore, you should feed a high animal protein, grain-free diet, but dogs, especially active and working dogs, can thrive on a grain-friendly diet made of whole grains. When looking for a grain-friendly diet, avoid refined grains and opt instead for ancient grains, including quinoa, millet, and amaranth.
5. LOOK FOR ADDED BENEFICIAL INGREDIENTS
The rest of the ingredients may include some beneficial nutrients, but they must be there in sufficient quantity to really make a difference. Some fruits and veggies are good because they provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and – most importantly – antioxidants, but any that are below or among the long list of vitamins and minerals in the ingredient list are not there in sufficient quantity to be meaningful.
Some supplemental ingredients can be a good sign, like flax seed (for fiber and fatty acids), glucosamine and chondroitin (for joint health), chicory root/inulin (prebiotics), probiotics, enzymes, and similar ingredients. Any artificial preservatives or colors are not a good sign, so avoid things like BHA/BHT, ethoxyquin, propyl gallate, propylene glycol, benzoates, nitrates, sulfites, and caramel color.
Kibble can be a healthy and convenient food for your pet, but not all kibbles are created equal. Keep these rules in mind when evaluating your pet's dry kibble, and it's pretty certain you'll get a good healthy food that will help them thrive.
When it comes to your dog, there’s one “trick” that’s more important than any other.
In fact, teaching your dog this command could very well save their life.
Whether your dog is showing too much interest in a dropped piece of chocolate, a rattlesnake, broken glass, or some wet paint…
Knowing when to “LEAVE IT” is key to your dog staying safe.
Now, you might be wondering…
Why not just say “no”?
Well, “no” is a much more common word — and the more you say something around your dog, the less important it seems.
But “Leave it” doesn’t come up in natural conversation very often, so it’s a stronger choice for training.
And this is one command your dog should ALWAYS listen to.
Now, let’s get to HOW you’ll teach your dog this potentially life-saving trick.
The good news is, it’s very easy.
And even though keeping your dog safe is a serious matter, this training can still feel like a fun game.
To start, you’ll want to have 2 different kinds of rewards on hand — a special treat your dog goes crazy for (like a fresh piece of chicken), and something a little less exciting.
“Leave It” Training
Step 1. Make both hands into a fist, with a different treat in each one, and place them behind your back.
Step 2. Hold out the hand with the more common treat and let your dog sniff.
Step 3. Say “Leave it” and wait for your dog to stop sniffing.
Step 4. As soon as they stop sniffing, give them their favorite snack.
Step 5. Keep repeating this until your dog stops sniffing immediately after you say “leave it.”
It may take a few sessions, but this is a very simple way to help your dog learn this important command quickly.
Once your dog gets the hang of things, try placing the less enticing treat instead of in your hand.
(At first, stand close enough to place your foot over the treat if your dog goes for it.)
This will be a bigger test of your dog’s willpower, but they should get the hang of it soon enough!
Before long, you’ll have a dog who’s ready to “Leave it” at your command.
Which can help keep them safer every day — whether it’s in the kitchen or on a walk.
And because you won’t have to go chasing after your dog in dangerous situations…
Or find yourself reaching into their mouth to fish out a dropped chicken bone…
It could even keep YOU safer too.
To happy and healthy dog years ahead,
- Dr. Gary Richter, MS, DVM