TurduckenWhat’s turducken, you ask? Well, from the outside, turducken looks just like a turkey. But inside is a delicious surprise waiting for you: the turkey is stuffed with a duck and that duck is stuffed with a chicken. It’s a delicious orgy of meat!

Why am I writing about turducken instead of dog food? Read on, and I’ll show you why turducken is a lot like dog food!

Not Eggsactly What’s On The Label

For simplicity, pretend for a moment that single protein, allergy pet foods are the solution to all your dog’s itchiness and your pet is allergic to only chicken. Logically, you wouldn’t want to buy any type of pet food with chicken in it.

So, you head down to the nearest pet shop and buy a brand of dog food with zero chicken on the ingredient label. You scurry back home, tear open the bag, and pour a bowl. Voila! The answer has been served. So long allergies!

But after about a week, you start wondering if your dog’s itching has slowed down? Hmmm maybe, but you’re not really certain. Maybe you should give it another week, just to make sure. The additional week then becomes a month and still no signs of decreased itching and scratching.

You don’t get it. You got rid of the chicken, what’s the problem and why isn’t that food working?

Maybe you should try another protein in your next bag of allergy dog food. So you try lamb dog food but with no luck; the dog’s still itchy. OK, next you try kangaroo; that oughta do it! Nope, no change. Now you’re starting to get frustrated, and so is your poor dog! After countless trials of different pet foods, none of which say they contain chicken, you’re just about ready to give up. But wait. Don’t give up just yet….

The Reason Those Foods Aren’t Working

Somewhere along the line, some scientist somewhere might have had an itchy dog and went through the same frustrating and seemingly useless routine of switching foods. Whatever the reason, someone decided to do a study on why these pet foods may not be the best way to go when trying to eliminate or limit certain antigens in the diet.

Ah, the scientists. With their beakers, test tubes, and brand new Bunsen burners. They’re always looking to prove someone wrong, aren’t they?

Well, it turns out that in this case, they did! The findings of their testing and analysis were released in a journal titled Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition. The purpose of the study was to assess twelve bags of dog food to see if the bags did in fact contain just the single source of protein they claimed was inside the bag or if, just like the turducken, there were other surprise proteins inside that bag.

And The Answer Is…

The scientists tested a single protein source pet food labeled as containing nothing but duck. The results of their testing were surprising; the food did in fact contain duck, but the bag also contained fish and another mammal protein!

In fact, of the twelve bags of pet food they tested, only two of the bags revealed results that matched the ingredients listed on the label. That means that over 80% of the pet foods they tested actually had other protein sources in them that weren’t listed on the labels.

According to a similar study posted in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition (Identification of undeclared sources of animal origin in canine dry foods used in dietary elimination trials), scientists didn’t actually know for certain why cross contamination is happening, but said it could be any number of factors including inadequate cleaning of the production line and the improper storage and/or transportation of the raw materials. They did go on to recommend manufacturers conduct a thorough analysis on each batch of food to guarantee no other undeclared animal sources are present.

Pet owners seem to grow more and more interested in these allergy diets sold through retail pet stores because of price and convenience. But now you know that if you seem to be relentlessly spinning your wheels and getting nowhere, it could very well be because your dog’s chicken-free food actually has just a wee bit of chicken in it.

So Now What? Do You Give Up?

It’s not all doom and gloom, folks. Even though those scientists found that ten of the twelve bags tested didn’t reliably contain what the label said they did, they did say that pet owners could consider feeding home prepared diets or finding a reputable manufacturer that uses the highest quality controls, monitoring, and assurances possible.

Home prepared diets? Awesome! Unless you plan on feeding your dog turducken, when you pick up a piece of chicken, beef or even emu for your dog, you pretty much know what it is and where it’s been; no surprises! You could trust the pet food companies to do that for you, but if you really want to know what your dog is eating, you might want to steer clear of those allergy foods!