Dogs are more than just pets; they’re family. So it’s helpful to know which dog foods are beneficial to your dog’s health, and which you should stay away from. With thousands of pet food products on the market today, choosing the best can be difficult, but it’s not impossible if you know what you’re looking for. Being picky about label information is a great first step and makes pet owners more aware of what Fido is wolfing down. The simple tips listed below can help you ensure that your pup is getting the best nutrition possible.
- Basic Pup Food Knowledge: The breakdown of an average dog’s diet should consist of 50% vegetable, 40% meat, and 10% grain substances. 18% of protein is needed for grown dogs and at least 22% of protein is needed for puppies. Like humans, all dogs require some fat, which is dependent on their quantity of activity. The last requirement is 4% of fiber, rounding out all the necessities pet owners should be looking for in dog chow.
- Translating Dog Food Labels: Don’t be tricked by manufacturers’ breaking down of an ingredient into smaller ingredients. While chicken may be listed first, it doesn’t mean it’s the main ingredient. There could be 5 corn ingredients broken down and listed after the chicken, which would outweigh the total quantity of chicken.
- Go Natural: Natural and/or organic dog food ingredients are about as healthy as dog food comes. But beware that not all food that’s stamped with “Natural” on it is the genuine product. Because there are no regulations in place to define whether or not a product is natural, probing through the listed ingredients is crucial. Organic, on the other hand, is a term that carries a strict legal definition that’s determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. True natural/organic products usually only contain a few ingredients, which is beneficial for dogs with digestive problems and food allergies.
- What to Avoid: Corn, cornmeal, wheat, and soy. Dogs have a difficult time digesting these products and may even obtain allergies from them. Animal-by-products could possibly include heads, feet, and other animal components, which you should also stay away from. Also, terms like “premium,” “super ultra premium,” and “gourmet” may sound good, but aren’t regulated. Last but not least, avoid preservatives and additives, which are known to cause health problems in pups.
- What to Look For: Barley, millet, quinoa, brown rice, and rolled oats. Also look for Vitamin C and E, as they are healthy, natural preservatives. Omega-3 is also excellent for dogs’ coats.
- Real Meat: Dogs get protein out of real meat, so it’s only obvious that feeding them the real deal is what’s best. According to the AAFCO, cows, pigs, sheep, or goats should be the only meat sources for dog food. When reading the dog food label, make sure that one of the top two ingredients is a whole meat source.
- Wet or Dry Food? Both have benefits and drawbacks; it’s up to the pet owner to decipher which one works best for their pup. Also consult with a veterinarian before deciding; most will agree that a balanced mix of both types will keep Fido healthy and happy.
Canned Food Benefits:
- Contains more protein and moisture
- Some dogs find it more appetizing
- Has a long shelf life if unopened
Canned Food Drawbacks:
- Some dogs may gain weight more easily
- Needs to be refrigerated after opening
Dry Food Benefits:
- Simple to store and measure amounts
- Good for dogs’ teeth and gums
- Ensures firm stools
- Cost per serving is lower
Dry Food Drawbacks:
- Some dry foods are coated with unnecessary and unhealthy animal fats, according to the Animal Protection Institute
- Gluten is a more prominent ingredient, which has been shown to intensify pain, arthritis, and auto-immune disorders in dogs
Sandra Mills is a freelance writer who has a passion for animals. Sandra enjoys writing columns on dog care and better health tips for pet owners.