The Beef On What's In Your Dog's Food

Vets and breeders say natural preservatives like Vitamin E and rosemary are very healthy ingredients in your dog's diet. But there are lots of things in dog food that aren't good, and can cause health problems which could require a trip to the vet.

Tom Hamilton of Saucier trains dogs. He also breeds and shows British Labs. But whether your dog is a champion like Quill, or just an all-American breed, Hamilton says it needs to eat right.

"It's real important to read the ingredients in the food, not just whatever's the cheapest. A lot of foods use a lot of corn and soy in them and they may be good carbohydrates, but they're not a lot of value to the dog. You can create a lot of gas in your dog and stuff like that. They're fillers," Hamilton says.

A lot of fillers means the dog has to eat more of the food to get the nutrition they need, which means you use more to feed him. Dogs are meateaters and Hamilton says they should get enough in their food. Keep an eye on the amount of protein and fat too. Hamilton finds 20 percent protein mixed with 15-percent fat makes a good match.

Hamilton has worked with dogs 17 years. He's done a lot of homework on what's best and what's not for man's best friend. Right now he's sold on a relatively new brand called "Exclusive" made by Purina.

"I called around and found out it was one of the best foods in the country. The number one ingredient is fresh chicken meat. It's not like beaks and rear ends off chickens - it's the best. It has whole grain brown rice and oatmeal in it which are better carbohydrates and fiber for your dog than corn or soy or wheat," he says.

A nutritionally balanced diet gives a dog a healthy, shiny coat and prevents dry skin. But more importantly, giving your dog the right food protects the animal's vital organs. Vets say the cheaper, less nutritional food can cause serious damage to a dog's liver, kidneys and pancreas.

"I get about two pancreatic dogs or cats a week," says Gulfport Veterinarian Dr. Richard Williams.

One of those cases came in while we were at Dr. Williams's clinic. As the vet examined a Yorkie named Be Be, her owner explained that the small pooch gets no table food but has become hooked on her little treats, milk bones and bone marrow treats. The doctor says those can contain too much fat.

All those fatty treats were too much for little Be-Be's pancreas, and as Dr. Williams suspected, Be-Be had pancreatitis.

"That's just from commercial food and then we have to switch 'em and put 'em on specialty foods that controls these diseases."

Health problems often require a change in a dog's diet. That's what happened with two year old Waymon. When he started losing weight and became lethargic his owner knew something was wrong, even though Waymon was eating a good premium food.

"Science Diet regular maintenance adult, but come to find out he had a liver problem so we put him on a special prescription diet from Hill's for liver," Waymon's owner Vanessa Lopez says.

That's all it took for Waymon's liver to sustain the nutrients he wasn't getting in his old food.

"He gained three fourths of a pound, his activity level increased, his behavior returned to normal and it all boils down to treating his problem through his diet through proper nutrition for his special needs. It can really be amazing what difference in nutrition can make on overall health," Waymon's vet Dr. Greg McGrath says.

We focus only on dogs in our report, but the same tips apply to cats. You can buy premium food for your favorite feline and if your cat requires special diet that's available too. Just check with your vet.