When entering a pet store, the vast array of dog food varieties and brands can be dizzying. It seems that there is a different kind of food for every possible bread and age of dog. The choices can become mind numbing and it is easy to become frustrated. And since our dogs are so important to us, and a special part of our families, we do not want to walk out of the store with any old bag of food.
As always, it is a good idea to speak with your veterinarian about what will be the best for your dog before you make any major dietary changes. But here are some things to consider when picking out your pup’s next meal!
Choosing a good dog food for your dog depends on two essential skills: learning which ingredients go into a good dog food and learning to read a dog food label. As you get more experienced with dog foods you will soon learn which companies generally manufacture the better foods and it will shorten the time you have to spend examining foods
Do you have a Toy or small breed dog? You may want to consider canned food. Canned food typically costs more per ounce than dry food but it usually contains more protein and fat and much less grain than dry food. It also usually has fewer chemical additives such as artificial colors and flavorings. Canned food also doesn’t need preservatives because of the canning process. Finally, canned food has plenty of moisture which makes it easier for dogs to digest than kibble. Most dogs love canned food. On the other hand, if you have large dogs or multiple dogs the cost of canned food can be prohibitive.
Whether you are buying kibble or canned food you will need to look at the label to find the information that you’re seeking. Look for the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officers) statement that says the food meets the minimum nutritional adequacy standards required for pet foods. This is no guarantee that your dog will thrive on the food but without this statement the food may not even meet minimum standards.
Next look for the ingredient list on the label. Foods are required to list ingredients in order of their weight. The first several ingredients should be the most important ingredients in the dog food. Ideally you will see several sources of named protein among the first five ingredients. These protein sources can be ingredients such as chicken meal, lamb meal, whole chicken, deboned chicken, and so on.
You should avoid foods that provide protein sources such as “animal digest” and “meat meal.” According to AAFCO, these animal digests can be described as “animal tissues used shall be exclusive of hair, horns, teeth, hooves and feathers, except in such trace amounts as might occur unavoidably in good factory practice and shall be suitable for animal feed.” Meat meal is described as “an animal feedstuff produced by recycling animal byproducts. These byproducts include meat trimmings, inedible parts and organs, fetuses, and certain condemned carcasses. They are cooked (rendered) to produce a nutritional and economical feed ingredient.” These are not the kinds of protein you want to feed your dog. Choose named proteins so you know what your dog is eating.
You also want to choose named sources of fats in your dog’s food for the same reasons. Choose chicken fat instead of animal fat.
Avoid foods that use corn gluten meal or that has multiple sources of corn. Corn has been used on such a widespread basis in dog food that many dogs have developed allergies to it. Not only that, but dogs can only digest about 54 percent of the protein in corn. That means that nearly half of the corn your dog eats in a food passes through him. Corn-based foods typically produce large piles of poop for owners to pick up and you have to feed large amounts for your dog to get enough nutrition. It’s best to simply look for foods that have no corn or minimal corn in them.
Foods that have fewer grains are generally better for your dog. It’s up to you if you want to feed your dog a grain-free food. They are generally very expensive.
You can also decide if you want to try feeding your dog a high protein diet. Some dogs do well on them while others don’t. If your dog becomes hyperactive and isn’t getting enough exercise to burn off some of the energy on this diet you may need to go back to a normal protein diet.
Avoid products that use BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin as preservatives. Look instead for natural preservatives.
Avoid foods with artificial colors, sugars and sweeteners. Your dog doesn’t need them.
Many dog foods claim to contain “human grade” ingredients but that can be misleading. All poultry in the U.S. is hormone-free and dog food cannot, by law, be labeled human grade. They may use anti-biotic-free meats and cuts of meat that humans would eat. You will have to make your own decision.
If you examine dog food labels for these specifications you will begin to narrow down your choices. After that, you may ask for some sample packs so you can see which foods your dog likes the best. Remember that there is no single best food. In fact, it’s best if you have 2-3 foods so you can rotate every few months. This kind of variety is said to be beneficial for dogs. If they are not having all of their nutritional needs met with one food they may make up the deficit with another food.
The most expensive foods are not always the best value for the money. But the cheapest foods do usually cut corners and contain cheap ingredients. There are a vast number of dog foods in the middle. It takes some effort to choose good foods with good ingredients without necessarily spending a fortune but it’s certainly possible to do so. Your dog will thank you.
For more information check out: “I LOVE DOGS!”