Trying to choose the best dry dog food to feed your dog can be a challenging and overwhelming process with so many brands to choose from and some with lists of ingredients so long that they could fill a novel. So what is it that you should be looking for when picking out a dry dog food for your furry friend? Here are five things to consider the next time you are at the pet store staring at the endless shelves of dog food. Note – If your dog has special health considerations such as heart, kidney, thyroid problems then consult your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your dog.
1. Dogs are unique
While it seems pretty silly that we sometimes need to be reminded about this, we need to remember that dogs are not humans, there dietary requirements are different than ours. While we may be drawn to dog foods with labels that proclaim they are natural, organic, holistic, low fat, whole grain, weight loss, etc. these labels are designed to catch our eye, because those are things we look for in our own food. However, there are things that need to be considered in a dogs diet such as they need a certain amount of fat in their diet, they do not need grain products (especially as a main ingredient), and no dry dog food can be truly natural or organic as they are made with preservatives to make sure they don’t go bad sitting on that shelf for months after being manufactured. So it is important the next time you are thinking about what food to feed your dog that their dietary requirements should come first.
2. Protein should be the first ingredient
Dogs are carnivores and as such they require a diet that is high in quality sources of protein. That novel of ingredients on dog food is listed in order of how much of that ingredient is included in the food. Avoid foods whose first ingredient is a filler such as corn or a grain, these products are used because they are cheaper than meat. A good dog food should have a whole source of protein as their first ingredient, such as salmon, beef, chicken, lamb, etc. Avoid foods that list a vague protein such as “poultry”, “meat” or “animal” as their first ingredient. The second ingredient you should look for is another animal protein followed by the world “meal” (ex. chicken meal). These are a significant source of protein that help provide your dog what they need. Finding those two ingredients shows that the dog food has a good protein based foundation that is a good start to meeting your dogs dietary ingredients.
3. What should come next
A good dog food should follow up their protein base with usually two quality sources of carbohydrates such as vegetables, a whole grain such as brown rice, or in some cases whole fruits. Legumes such as peas are becoming popular as they are a quality source of carbohydrates, are rich in natural fiber, and are a source of protein as well. There are differing opinions on the benefit of including grains in dog food, but generally as long as they are not a main ingredient and are a quality source of carbohydrates like the options stated above then your dog should be getting their dietary requirements. Look for the food to use Vitamin E and/or C as preservatives and include Omega fatty acids.
4. Red flags
Avoid corn and soy in any form in a dog food, corn is a cheap filler that does not have any nutritional benefit to your dog and is a common allergenic, soy is high in estrogen that can cause problems to your dogs system. Animal by-products are a controversial additive to many dog foods, there are components of these products which are not bad for your dog (remember they are not humans, and their dietary requirements would more closely resemble that of a wolf), but it can be difficult to trust what is all being included in those by-products so avoid them as much as possible as there are much better sources of protein available out there. Try to watch out for and avoid foods that include artificial colours, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. None of these are good for your dog and some have been shown to cause long term health issues. Artificial colouring in particular is a ridiculous ingredient as dog food companies add this in to make the food look more appealing to you the buyer, your dog doesn’t care what colour the food is!
5. Do your research
While this all can seem to be very overwhelming it is good to know that there are many resources available out there to help you in making a your decision. Your veterinarian is always a good place to start, especially if your dog has any type of special dietary restriction. However, keep in mind that your vet may not always have the best understanding of what is available on the market and keep in mind that only in recent years had nutrition become an in depth area of study in vet colleges, also some vets will stock and sell a particular brand so they may promote that one over others. The other wonderful resource that is available is the internet. There are many sources that review and independently analysis the available dog foods on the market to provide the best recommendations. A good place to start or continue your search is dogfoodadvisor.com which analyzes the contents of all dog foods and highlights red flag ingredients.
To sum it up when you are looking at those racks of dog foods take a peak at the list of ingredients to see what the first four ingredients are, then look at the Guaranteed Analysis section where you should find a protein content of at least 30%, fat content of at least 18%, preservatives via Vitamin E and/or C and look for Omega Fatty Acid to be present. If those conditions are met then at the very least you can feel confident you are providing your dog with a food that should meet their dietary requirements.