Dogs are what they eat . . . Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Sunday, 30 April 2017 17:13
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

In these times where finances are squeezed tightly, the amount of money spent on dog food can become an area to cut costs. This is an unfortunate reality for many of us – we have to save where we can and it is probably still going to get worse.

However, it is wise to keep your pets on the best diet you can possibly afford as it will reduce health problems in the long term. There are reputable super-premium brands available at your vet or in vet shops. These companies often have a super-premium and then a slightly cheaper premium brand available.

In the cheaper brand the amount of protein and exact source may vary, but the quality is still assured as being proper digestible protein. If this is still too costly for your budget then try the better known supermarket brands, but check out the numbers.

Don’t just work out the cost per kilogram of food and use that as a selection criterion. The premium diets are more digestible, so your pet will eat less per day (and also produce less stool). Your kilogram of food will stretch further.

A better way to evaluate value for money is to feed the required amount and see how long each equivalent bag lasts, and then divide the cost of the bag by the number of days used. In many cases you will see that the premium food, although seemingly more expensive, works out to almost the same or only slightly more Rands per day. This extra cost is then easily balanced by the good quality diet and the physical benefits for your dog or cat.

It always amazes me how anybody thinks they can produce a dog food. Lost your job? Well, start making dog food. I was contacted a few weeks ago by a manufacturer who wanted to find a nutrition laboratory to test his product. This was after he had been selling it for months. I asked how he had in fact made up his food and did any quality control if he did not regularly use a laboratory? There was no answer to this.

No-name brands available at garages, co-ops and vegetable stores are very cheap. Remember that you get what you pay for. Protein content is one of the most important components of dog food, as they are mostly carnivores although they can digest cooked carbohydrates and vegetable matter.

Skin, hooves, tendons and ligaments are made up of protein, but that protein cannot be easily digested by the dog or cat, although it can make up the crude protein percentage listed on the bag. Thus it goes into your pet and comes out the other side without really providing that much nutrition.

This is why the premium diets allow the animals to produce small stools. Their protein sources are the meat or whole carcass of the source animal, thus being much more digestible and healthier.

Too much bone meal is also not advised. The balance of the minerals calcium and phosphorus is very important in the body and a poor protein diet with lots of bone meal will cause a calcium excess and bone growth abnormalities in young growing dogs. Using stripped skeletons as a source of protein with added grain as carbohydrates is a very unbalanced source.

Oils and fats are also expensive to put into food as the manufacturer needs to add anti-oxidants to prevent them from becoming rancid. Therefore cheaper foods are deficient in essential oils and fatty acids which are important for immune function and skin health. 

The Pet Food Industry Association of Southern Africa (PFI) is a non-profit body formed by pet food manufacturers, dedicated to upholding quality standards that ensure the nutritional wellbeing of household pets.

Representative of 62% of the pet food market in South Africa, each member commits to manufacture and market food that meets internationally accepted standards as set out in Act 36 of 1947. The Department of Agriculture's regulatory authority manages Act 36.

Pet food is randomly and regularly purchased by the PFI, and submitted for independent analysis. If the food does not meet the registered requirements, the manufacturer is reported to the Registrar of Act 36 for legal action.

Membership of the PFI is not compulsory for all pet food suppliers in South Africa. Those that have elected to become members, publicly commit to upholding international standards of quality and safety, aligning themselves with ethical and safe food processes. This means that what it says on the bag is exactly what’s in the bag.

For more information about the PFI, contact them at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or 033-343-2874.

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