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All About Dog Food

Questions from people regarding what foods are good for their Pugs are common and widely discussed…sometimes to the point of heated debate. For some reason, discussion about dog food often degrades into the spreading of rumors and other misinformation that has clouded the issue and the facts surrounding the subject itself. It is for this reason that we at PugVillage have decided to stick to the basics in the presentation of this article.

The basics, at least to the people at the PugVillage is to zero in on what we do and do not know about various dog foods and brands...All the while keeping the best interest of you and your Pugs in mind.

There are several types of foods…You have Generic foods made by local companies who sell low priced food to local stores. Then you have Store Label foods, such as you’d find in a supermarket selling their own brand for a lower price than Standard Brand Name food. Standard Brand Name foods are those you’ll find in any pet store or market such as Purina, Alpo and so on. Moving up in price, you can also buy Premium brand foods such as Iams or Eukanuba, or Super Premium brand foods such as Hills Science Diet or Natures Natural…They all make some sort of claim to earn your dollar.

These claims are where the PugVillage has decided to focus because we know that Pug People want the very best for their Pugs, and won’t spare any expense for their Pug’s health…So what claims are being made? What do we know? What don’t we know?

Generic Foods: What we know about Generic foods is that they’re cheaper than the other foods. We also know many of these brands are made locally in processing plants and claim to be the equal of Standard Brand foods but simply at a lower price. What we don’t know about Generic Foods quite often is whether they can be trusted to have manufactured their product using the same materials and substances as Standard Brand foods. Read the label carefully and make sure these and all foods make the claim to have met the Association of America Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) of both feeding trials and nutritional balance. In a nutshell, the AAFCO feeding trial states the food has been tested, and the nutritional balance states the food has been formulated to provide the nutrient levels meeting the AAFCO standards. If the Generic brand you’re looking at doesn’t state somewhere on the package that it meets these two claims (you can usually find this in or near the ingredients area), don’t buy it.

Store Label Foods: What we usually know about Store Label foods are that they cost more than Generic foods, but less than Standard Brand foods. What we don’t know is who makes them. Somewhere on the package of this bag of food sold under your supermarkets own label, you should find the manufacturers’ name. It usually says, "manufactured by" followed by the manufacturer name. Some Store Label foods are made by Generic Food makers, others are made by established and well-known Standard Brand companies. If you can’t determine who actually makes this food, and yes this happens sometimes, don’t buy it. As with the above, make sure the product states it has met the two AAFCO standards.

Standard Brand Foods: You know these companies because you’ve seen them advertise on television and in print. You know they’ve been around forever. You also know people who have used these brands for years or longer. They are tried and true, cost more than both Generic and Store Label foods and make the necessary AAFCO standards claims. Standard Brand Foods usually make no other claims besides this other than being "good" or "healthy" for your dog.

Premium Brands: Not long ago, brands like Iams and Eukanuba (both made by the same company by the way) were considered Super Premium foods. Today, as these became popular, other companies followed suit, both raising the claims made on the package, and often the prices. Premium Brands make claims, and quite a few of them at that. They claim to be made with superior quality products and processing. Further, Premium Brands often claim to make your dog live longer and healthier lives. These brands have taken age specific food groupings to new heights, creating specific types of chow that are good for puppies, older puppies, adolescent dogs, adult dogs, middle aged dogs, older dogs, dogs over 10, senior citizen dogs and so on and on. Each claiming to deliver the nutrients a dog of a particular age needs, without the ones they don’t need, or need less of.

But is it true? Do we know these foods will make your dog live longer? Healthier? Is it necessary or beneficial in any way to feed your dog something different when he’s 11 than what you fed him a year earlier? The answer is really quite simple…No, we don’t know. While these companies produce data, study results and statistics to sell their products, the company itself produces most of this data.

What you should know about Premium Brands is whether they meet the AAFCO standards described above. If they do, and they all claim to, then you can rest comfortably knowing they’ve met the standards like most other brands have. Beyond that, know that the remainder of these claims are both unproven, and unregulated. There are no organizations like the FDA or AAFCO out there making sure those Premium Brand claims such as "your dog will live longer if you buy ____" is true.

Super-Premium Brands: These are the Iams and Eukanuba of 2009. They exist because of the success of companies like Eukanuba and like the Premium brands, make claims that are unproven and unregulated. The difference between the Super-Premium and Premium brands is that the Super-Premium brands make more lofty claims, and tag their products with prices that are equally lofty. Advertised as all natural, no preservative or artificial additives, these brands offer your dog the world…To live 20% longer, to stem the aging process, to offer an overall greater health for your dog. I even saw one that promised a "more alert and lively" dog. Like the Premium brands, none of this is proven, or regulated.

So What is the Bottom Line?

The answer to this depends on your outlook, and in many cases your wallet. The fact of the matter is that none of these so-called Premium or Super-Premium foods have been proven to help your dog live longer, or even to have a positive health effect of any kind. There are those who swear by these food brands, noting in their own dog a healthier looking coat, a drier and cleaner stool, less mucous build up around the eyes and other "benefits"…I even noticed a change in my Pug’s coat after switching her over to Eukanuba. It looks thicker, some say it even looks healthier…But is it really healthier? I have no idea.

On the other hand, Standard Brand names like Purina or Alpo have been around for decades, filling the stomachs of dogs for years and years. I know people with dogs who lived 15 or more years on these brands, with healthy coats and healthy bodies. So what’s it all about?

Money seems to come to mind…And lots of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these Premium and Super-Premium brands. Nearly all meet the same AAFCO standards as the Standard Brands do, but I’m not so sure I buy into any of the claims these brands make. My 5 year old Pug on Eukanuba is no healthier than my last 5 year old Pug was at the same stage in life on Purina…He’s 13 now, alive and well. Do I need to pay literally at least twice the price for a 10lb bag of a Premium food? Am I getting anything out of buying it?

A veterinarian acquaintance of mine told me once that there is no benefit to having increased vitamins, minerals and nutrients in a dog’s diet. He said they get what they need from their food, and the dog rejects the excess just as people reject their excess nutrients. It had me thinking…If my dog is going to poop all these great nutrients out of his body, what on earth am I paying for? Seems like pretty expensive poop to me…

I’ll say this: Make sure whatever food you feed your Pug has met the AAFCO standards. Make sure you feel comfortable with the brand you’re feeding your dog, and trust the company that makes the food. Beyond that, it’s really up to you, your philosophy and frankly, the size of your pocketbook or wallet.

Visit www.dogfoodchat.com to read dog food reviews and to find the best dog food brand for your pug.

Photo of Mr. Miyagi Lee submitted by pug forum member KismetPuggies.

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