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Dog food 101: What are fillers? Print E-mail
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Dog food 101: What are fillers?

June 15, 3:10 PM · Courtney Taylor - Denver Dogs Examiner

Photo: ehow.com

Simply put, a filler is something that has been added to your dog's food to help him feel "full" but contains little to no nutritional value.

Some fillers can actually irritate your dog's digestive system. So, if you have an older dog or an animal with health problems, feeding a food without fillers may improve his or her overall health and wellbeing.

While a food with fillers will temporarily satisfy your dog's hunger, you will likely need to feed more of it. Because of the lack of nutrition, your dog's body will tell him that he needs more food. It's like eating a candy bar. While it might satisfy you for a while, you will likely be hungry again soon as your body craves the vitamins and minerals it needs. Generally, when you switch your dog from a filler-laden food to one free of fillers, you will notice a decrease in the amount needed to keep him healthy and satisfied.

Foods high in fillers are often sprayed with animal fat to make them more palatable to your dog.

Fillers also carry with them the risk of being contaminated with pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Both 2006 and 2007 pet food recalls were the result of contaminated fillers.

Pet food manufacturers will add fillers in order to reduce the overall cost of the food. However, you will likely need to buy the food more often as your dog consumes higher quantities of it. Buying a higher quality food might cost more on the front end, but once your dog reduces his intake, the cost per meal can be lower than that of the low quality, inexpensive food. Generally, foods sold at grocery and several sold at large pet food retailers, such as PetSmart and Petco will contain some level of filler. And, as the price decreases, the amount of fillers will go up. Please note: This is not to say that EVERY food at these stores contains fillers. However, many do, but the amount will vary. Read the label carefully to evaluate the quality of the food.

Some common fillers include:

  • Gluten and grain products, such as corn and wheat: These server as a source of sugar and, as dogs are carnivores, they are of little nutritional value. Often, a grain product will leave the body just as it entered as it will not be broken down or absorbed.
  • Soy: This filler is responsible for a huge portion of pet allergies that can result in sneezing, itching, swelling, anaphylactic shock, and death.
  • Seed hulls: Cottonseed and peanut hulls
  • Weeds and straw
  • Citrus pulp
  • Beet pulp: While this can provide a good source of fiber, beet pulp has been known to plug the intestinal villus.
  • Animal by-products: These are the "left-overs" once an animal has been prepared for human consumption. This may include intestines, chicken heads, lungs, livers, kidneys, duckbills, chicken and turkey feet, feathers and bone. Ingredients listed as chicken, beef, poultry, and animal by-products are not required to include actual meat. Animal digest, animal fat, meat by-products, and chicken by-products are all animal by-products and are described in better detail below.
  • Animal digest: Produced by chemical or enzymatic hydrolysis of an undecomposed animal. This has also been described as "manure" and "a cooked-down broth, which can be made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from almost any source and no control is in place over quality or contamination. Any kind of animal can be included: "4-D animals" (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying prior to slaughter), goats, pigs, horses, rats, euthanized at animal shelters, restaurant and supermarket refuse and so on."
  • Animal fat: Obtained from the tissues of animals during rendering or extracting and generally comes from an unknown origin. BHA, an artificial preservative suspected of causing cancer, may be used to preserve the animal fat.
  • Meat by-products: These are the non-rendered parts, other than the meat, and are derived from slaughter animals. This includes, but is not limited to, the spleen, kidneys, livers, brain, lungs, blood, bone, stomachs, and intestines.
  • Chicken by-product meal: Ground and rendered chicken products, including necks, feet, intestines, and undeveloped eggs.

To avoid fillers, look at the ingredients on your pet food. While some companies may list real meat as their number one ingredient, they may actually have more fillers, which reduces the ratio of quality ingredients to useless ones. The staff of natural pet stores such Mouthfuls or Wag n' Wash are happy to help you better understand fillers and select a high quality food for your dog.


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Courtney Taylor is an Examiner from Denver. You can see Courtney's articles at: "http://www.Examiner.com/x-8279-Denver-Dogs-Examiner"
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