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The Unclouded Nutrition Guide - Behind the scenes of pet food

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We uncover: What does healthy dog ​​food mean, what is behind the declarations & top secrets of the feed industry

Dogs are not only loyal companions, but also an important family member that needs to be protected and cared for. A healthy diet plays a crucial role in this. In this article we will address the topic of “healthy dog ​​food” and highlight the basics of a balanced dog diet. We'll also take a look behind dog food declarations and reveal the secrets of the food industry.

What does healthy dog ​​food mean?

The basics of healthy dog ​​nutrition: What your dog really needs

Healthy dog ​​food should have a balanced formula that meets your needs. A formula that meets its needs means that the food contains all the necessary nutrients in the right quantities to provide your dog with a daily supply - this is referred to as a “complete food” . To ensure that a dog food meets the requirements, the majority of pet food manufacturers in Europe base their composition on the European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF).

👉 FEDIAF represents the associations of national pet food industries in the EU, representing approximately 650 pet food production sites in Europe, and provides recommendations to ensure the production of balanced and healthy pet food.

Minimum recommendations and maximum levels of proteins, fats, trace elements, minerals and vitamins are mentioned. This document is reviewed annually and updated whenever there are new relevant technological, scientific or legal developments in pet nutrition. It is therefore advisable to pay attention to the label “complete feed” or even “complete feed according to FEDIAF guidelines” .

Supplementary feed can be a useful addition to the main source of food, but should not form the basis of the diet. Supplementary feed is compound feed that consists of at least two ingredients and usually has a higher content of certain substances; especially minerals or trace elements. Due to its composition, a supplementary feed is by definition not sufficient to ensure an adequate supply of all nutrients over a longer period of time.

FEDIAF Guideline for a balanced diet

The Truth About Commercial Dog Food and Its Impact on Health

Commercial dog food is a common choice for many dog ​​owners. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Not all commercial foods are created equal, and some contain inferior ingredients that can have long-term negative effects on your dog's health without you knowing. It is important to check the ingredient list and find out about the quality of the ingredients it contains. You can find out exactly what we mean by this in the section: “What’s behind the declarations?”

From raw food to dry food: Which diet is best for your dog?

To be clear: There is no one feeding method that is best for all dogs. The question of the best feeding method is less a question of right or wrong and more a question of personal possibilities and requirements. Which food does my dog ​​tolerate best? How much time do I have to prepare dog food? Does my dog ​​have any illnesses that require a special diet?

To make your personal decision a little easier, we will briefly explain the general and nutritional advantages and disadvantages of the different types of presentation: biologically species-appropriate raw feeding (BARF for short), home-cooked food, dry food (extruded and cold-pressed) and wet food:

BARF (organically species-appropriate raw food)

Advantages Disadvantages
“Control over the ingredients”: You can choose and control the ingredients. There are no hidden ingredients, thickeners or other additives in the product. "Time-intensive and complex": Preparing BARF meals requires time and planning as the ingredients must be properly balanced and prepared.
“Fresh and natural food”: Raw meat, bones and vegetables provide natural and fresh nutrition. You can adjust meals according to your dog's needs. "Imbalanced Nutrition": Without careful planning and knowledge of your dog's nutritional needs, nutritional deficiencies can occur.
"Potential health risks": There is a risk of contamination with bacteria such as salmonella, both for dogs and humans, as a constant cold chain often cannot be guaranteed. (see here: Dog food: Barfen is a health risk for humans ( )

Home-cooked food

Advantages Disadvantages
“Control over the ingredients”: You can choose and control the ingredients. There are no hidden ingredients, thickeners or other additives in the product. “Time-intensive”: Preparing home-cooked food requires time and effort to properly cook and balance the ingredients.
"Adaptability": Home-cooked food offers the opportunity to use fresh and natural ingredients. You can tailor meals to your dog's specific needs, e.g. B. for allergies or sensitive stomachs. “Nutrition knowledge required”: Without careful planning and balance, nutritional deficiencies or imbalances can occur.

Dry food (extruded & cold pressed)

Advantages Disadvantages
“Convenience”: Dry food is easy to store, measure and feed. It does not require any elaborate preparation. "Low moisture content": Dry food contains little moisture, which can lead to low fluid intake. Some dogs may not drink enough water to compensate for the deficiency.
“Shelf Life & Price”: Dry food has a longer shelf life compared to fresh or home-cooked versions. It is also often a cheaper alternative to wet food. "Health problems": For some diseases such as leishmaniasis, kidney and liver diseases or gout, it can be advantageous to use wet food, as dry food has higher concentrations of certain minerals or ingredients that are not broken down by the body as quickly due to the lower moisture content can be.
“Dental health”: Some dry foods are designed to support dental hygiene by cleaning teeth when chewed. "Food mite allergy": Food mites are a significant source of allergens for many pets. Food mites are only found in dry food because wet food is sterilized, which kills the food mites.
“Dry food extruded”: Raw materials and starches are broken down better through high temperatures and pressure. This means the food can be absorbed better by the dog and is therefore easier to digest, especially for sensitive dogs. "Dry food extruded": The processing process in the production of extruded dry food uses high temperatures, which can render some of the vitamins ineffective. Therefore, extruded food is enriched with vitamins and minerals to ensure optimal nutrition for our four-legged friends.
“Cold-pressed dry food”: Cold pressing does not involve high temperatures and pressure. Therefore, a large part of the nutrients and vitamins are retained. “Cold-pressed dry food”: With cold-pressed food, the starch in the mass is not broken down as much as with extruded food. In simple terms, this means that your dog's stomach and intestines have to work a little harder to digest the food. This can be particularly stressful for dogs with sensitive digestive tracts and can lead to stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting and increased defecation.

Wet food

Advantages Disadvantages
"Moisture": Wet food contains high levels of moisture, which can help with hydration, especially in dogs that drink little water. For diseases such as leishmaniasis, kidney and liver diseases or gout, feeding wet food is recommended as the nutrients are added to the body in diluted amounts. "Short shelf life": Opened wet food must be used quickly or stored in the refrigerator as it perishes more quickly than dry food.
"Use of unprocessed ingredients": Wet food can use raw materials that have not previously been thermally treated (fresh or frozen). They still contain all nutrients and vitamins. “Limited storage options”: Wet food is often bulkier and more difficult to store due to its packaging. There is also a lot of packaging waste.
“Food mite allergy”: Food mites are a significant source of allergens for many pets. Since wet food is subjected to a sterilization process, food mites are not found in wet food. "Higher price level": Wet food is often a more cost-intensive type of feeding, as the manufacturing process is associated with higher process costs and the recipe composition is subject to strict quality requirements in order to ensure the consistent consistency, taste and smell.

The importance of a balanced diet for your dog's long-term health

A balanced diet is crucial to your dog's long-term health. It can help reduce the risk of nutritional deficiencies, obesity and other health problems. They often express themselves through:

  • Skin and coat problems
  • Ear infections
  • Stomach and intestinal difficulties
  • Anxious behavior
  • Stressful situations

Transparency is essential for a healthy dog ​​diet. A balanced diet should contain high-quality proteins, healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Needs may vary depending on your dog's age, breed and activity level.

Dog scratches itself because of allergies

Myth versus facts: The most common misconceptions about healthy dog ​​nutrition revealed

There are many myths and misconceptions about healthy dog ​​nutrition. Some of them are:

Myth: Dogs shouldn't be given carbohydrates.

Fact: Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for dogs as long as they are high quality and meet your dog's health needs. The gluten-free, grain-free, low-purine and stomach-friendly carbohydrate sources include: potatoes, sweet potatoes, tapioca, pumpkin and quinoa.

Myth: All animal by-products are inferior.

Fact: Animal by-products can naturally provide many necessary nutrients, including valuable proteins, healthy fatty acids and natural minerals, as long as they are of high quality and well processed. You can find out what is behind by-products under the header: “What is behind the declarations?”

Myth: Dogs should only eat raw meat.

Fact: A balanced diet can come from a variety of sources, including raw & cooked meat. However, it should always be combined with fruit, vegetables, seeds and seeds to avoid an oversupply of protein. It is important to ensure hygienic preparation to reduce the risk of pathogens.

You can find further myths that are fueled by marketing in the section: “What’s behind the declarations?”

What is behind the declarations?

The Untold Story Behind Dog Food Ingredient Lists

If you want to know what you are feeding your pet, you can't avoid looking at the label. The label contains all the secrets about the product, but they need to be understood! And that's the crux of the matter - there are some things hidden there that the average consumer can't understand.

Composition and declaration

In the form of a declaration, the composition gives the pet owner an indication of what ingredients the dog food is made up of. Only the so-called “closed declaration” is required under the Feed Act.

In the closed declaration, the feed materials used in a compound feed are grouped together and listed in descending order by weight. These groups include, for example: B. Meat and animal by-products, oils and fats, minerals, grains and sugar. Each manufacturer can choose whether to list all of their ingredients individually (open declaration) or whether to group them together in the legally defined categories (closed declaration). Here is an example of a closed and an open declaration:

Closed declaration:
Classics with juicy beef and liver:
Meat and animal by-products (55%, of which 95% are natural*, including 4% beef, 4% chicken liver), grains, minerals, vegetable by-products, vegetable protein extracts.
*natural ingredients.
Open declaration:
Composition: insect meal (33% Hermetia illucens - corresponds to approx. 80% fresh insects), potato flakes (31%), potato starch (16%), rapeseed oil (6.0%), brewer's yeast (3.5%), minerals (3% ), dried cranberry (1.4%), beetroot powder (1.4%), cheese powder (1.2%), safflower oil (1%), tomato powder (0.4%), celery powder (0.4%) ), psyllium husk (0.2%).

👉 The open declaration is voluntary - so if a manufacturer declares openly and provides insight into all ingredients and their percentage distribution, that is, in a sense, already a quality feature!

For example, if a feed contains beef meat and liver, this can be declared either as “muscle meat and beef liver” or as “meat and animal by-products”. The only difference is in the way it is named. There are no percentages of the quantitative composition. Conclusions can be drawn based solely on the order of the components. Only the advertised ingredients - also called claims - have to be stated with a percentage by weight.

The claims - claims

The claims and claims make it possible to see on the front label how much of the advertised raw material is contained in the food. Most of the time “with” is advertised, e.g. B. with chicken, with carrot, with spinach. This means that at least 4% of this raw material is contained in the feed. For example, it is advertised on the front: Rich in insects. Then the exact weight percentage must be stated on the back label.

Further awards are:

"with X flavor" Less than 4% X
"With X" At least 4%
"Rich in X" At least 14%
"XDinner" At least 26%

What is hidden behind the terms “animal & plant by-products” in dog food?

Animal by-products can make an important contribution to nutrition if they are of high quality. They include parts of the animal not intended for human consumption, such as offal or bones.

Plant by-products can also be useful as long as they offer added health benefits, do not contain any potential for obesity, intolerances or allergies and are easy to digest. And that's where the difficulty lies: How am I supposed to know what's hidden behind the by-products?

👉 Answer: Unfortunately, it is not possible to tell from the label what lies behind the terms “animal & plant by-products”.

What are animal feed additives and how do I discover them?

Animal feed additives can be used, among other things, to improve shelf life, taste and color, but also for nutritional or technological aspects. There is a large list of approved feed additives , which is constantly updated based on the latest knowledge: see here

You can see whether synthetic additives are included on the declaration under the wordings such as “additives per kg of product” and “additive content”. Here you will find a list of synthetic, added vitamins and other additives such as antioxidants and preservatives. However, not for all of them: only additives that have a maximum content have to be declared.

How dog food manufacturers trick people with hidden ingredients

Unfortunately, there are also manufacturers in the feed industry who use hidden ingredients because this is easy to do. We give 4 examples of where ingredients can be hidden:

  1. "Closed declaration" : With a closed declaration, all ingredients that are not advertised can be hidden. Vegetable by-products can hide wheat bran, among other things, to which some dogs are allergic. When it comes to meat and animal by-products, the majority can consist of pork and only a small proportion of the advertised beef.
  2. "Additives without maximum levels" : According to current EU declaration law, all feed additives added to the individual raw materials and/or the entire feed mixture are subject to declaration or labeling, provided they have been approved with maximum levels for individual animal species. Conversely, this means: if no maximum salary has been determined, no declaration is necessary. These include some thickeners such as xanthan gum, carrageenan or locust bean gum.
  3. "Processing aids or technical aids" : According to the EU regulation, processing aids are defined as substances that are intentionally used during the processing or processing process in order to fulfill a technological purpose, which can lead to unintentional but technically unavoidable substances in the end product Residues are present. In contrast to feed additives, processing aids do not require approval and are not subject to declaration. This legal gray area makes it possible to classify an additive as a processing aid through special reasoning. An example: “Enzymes”: Enzymes generally require labeling. However, if they are involved in the manufacturing process for a technological reason but are no longer active in the finished product, they can be used as a processing aid and no longer appear on the label.
  4. “Carriers & additives from premixes” : Be careful, now it gets a little tricky, so let’s explain the terms first:
Premixes - or often called premixes - are a mixture of individual feedstuffs, usually with several feed additives, that are not intended to be fed directly to animals. This primarily includes nutritional and technological additives such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes or other functional additives for use in complete feed.

Carriers are often used to support additives or active ingredients in feed. They help to bind, stabilize or transport them. The carrier substance enables uniform dosage in a feed mixture, usually in a so-called premix. It can be in various forms, such as powder, granules or liquid.

An example of a carrier is corn starch. Corn starch can be used as a powder in feed production to bind fat-soluble vitamins and ensure even distribution in the feed mixture. The carrier ensures that the vitamins in the feed remain stable and remain effective. So far so good. However, the same applies here: the feed materials used as carriers in a premix do not have to be listed in the list of feed ingredients - so as the end user I cannot find them on the label either. The same applies to some preservatives or antioxidants that are used for the feed ingredients in the premix.

Marketing Revealed: How Dog Food Manufacturers Use Marketing Tactics to Build Trust

The food industry is heavily influenced by marketing, and dog food manufacturers use various tactics to build trust. We'll give you 4 examples that we come across again and again:

  1. “Fresh ingredients” : Raw materials are often described as “fresh” even though they have also been “treated” - namely by freezing! According to feed law, freezing is a preservation process and is therefore not considered “fresh”.
  2. “Food quality” : In Germany there are various state authorities, each of which is concerned with consumer protection and food safety. Therefore, the regulations for declarations differ from country to country. The only country where food quality can be advertised in pet food is Bavaria. Otherwise, every food item counts as pet food as soon as it enters the feed processing plant! It cannot therefore be advertised as food even though it was intended for human consumption. But apart from that, we ask ourselves the question: Is it really sustainable and necessary for our animals to receive food quality?
  3. “Slaughter waste is inferior and makes you sick” : Many manufacturers declare the term “animal by-products” among the ingredients because they are afraid of criticism of the so-called “slaughter waste”. Because behind it are mainly innards such as liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, tongue, udder and tripe, but also blood, claws, bones and skin. For a slaughtered pig, by-products can even make up up to 42 percent of the total weight. These raw materials bring high nutritional values ​​with nutritional value, taste and good digestibility! Calcium serves as the best native source of calcium - so why should these by-products be discarded and thrown away?
  4. “Grain causes allergies” : In animal nutrition, grain is often blamed for various diseases and illnesses. Among other things, it is claimed that grains can cause allergies. However, this claim is incorrect in two respects: Firstly, there is no allergy to grains in general, but only to certain proteins in individual types of grains. Gluten, the wheat protein, is often mentioned in this context. There is now a lot of scientific evidence that dogs can break down gluten due to domestication . Second, the probability of developing an allergy to a grain protein is no higher than the probability of having an allergic reaction to another plant or animal protein at some point. Allergies are not congenital, but develop gradually through repeated contact with the allergy-causing substances. Many animals become sensitized as early as puppyhood. So if a dog consumes a lot of a protein source over a long period of time, his immune system can develop against that specific protein over the years.

👉 The most common triggers of allergies in dogs are milk, beef and chicken proteins.

Top secrets of the feed industry

Behind the scenes of dog food production: who is behind it and what really happens

Dog food production can be opaque as many gray areas exist to create pitfalls for dog owners. Theoretically, anyone can bring dog food to market without having to go through extensive quality control beforehand. This makes it all the more important to choose trustworthy manufacturers who are characterized by transparent practices and quality controls.

On the other hand, there are thousands of brands and distributors, but only a few manufacturers. Most work with contract producers and use an existing portfolio. That in itself is not a reproach, but the necessary know-how behind the product and the clarity about the recipes , the origin of the raw materials and the details of production are often missing .

Secret practices in meat processing and feed production for pet food

Some secret practices in meat processing and pet food production may remain hidden from consumers. We will go into detail again and give the 2 case studies:

  1. “Claim of meat broth” : “Meat broth” is often declared as an ingredient so that the recipe can be broken down 100%. However, it is mostly just water that is supplied. Since water cannot be declared, some manufacturers use the term “broth” . Legally, however, this must be boiled meat juice, which contains valuable nutrients from the boiling. Broth claim
  2. “Rehydration of products” : In some cases the rehydrated content of a raw material is often used, i.e. I indicate the actual fresh content, although the product is dried (dehydrated) or added concentrated so that I can declare a higher content . Let's take carrots as an example : I have vegetables with 0.5% carrot, dried in them, which would correspond to 4.3% fresh carrot. It is permitted to provide an explanation in the composition: e.g.: (0.5% dried carrot, equivalent to 4.3% carrots) . However, it is not permitted to only state the rehydrated portion. Unless water or another liquid is added to the dry food in a separate process step to restore the original moisture.


A healthy diet is crucial to your dog's long-term health and well-being. By understanding the basics of healthy dog ​​nutrition, understanding dog food declarations , and discovering the secrets of the food industry , you can make informed decisions and provide your dog with optimal nutrition. Look for high-quality ingredients, balanced recipes and trustworthy manufacturers to ensure your dog is getting the best possible nutrition. Remember that if you have any questions or uncertainties, it is advisable to contact veterinarians or nutritionists or even the manufacturer directly to take your dog's individual needs into account.

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