Are You Feeding Your Dog the Right Dog Food?
With all the different dog foods on the market, it can be hard to choose one that’s right for your dog. Vague wording and internet myths can also make finding good food a headache. Here are some things to know to help you choose the best dog food for your dog.
You Get What You Pay For
Generally speaking, the higher the price, the better the quality (though some expensive dog foods are overpriced). If you want to fill your dog’s body with nutrition and energy, don’t be afraid to splurge a little on a good quality brand instead of getting the cheapest brand you can find. That small investment will also most likely save you money in the long run. Filling your dog’s stomach with nutritious ingredients will make the food go a long way and will probably end in fewer visits to the vet.
Ingredients to Look For
Look at the ingredients on the back and make sure that the first ingredient is a specific protein. According to author and veterinarian Dr. Gary Richter, the best source of protein is meat, but the kind of meat doesn’t make much of a difference. Choosing chicken or beef or lamb depends on your dog’s taste.
When it comes to grains, don’t write them off as being “bad” or just filler ingredients. You only really need to avoid them if your dog has an allergy. They provide energy with carbohydrates so that your dog can stay energized throughout the day. Like humans, dogs benefit from whole grains, so look for (preferably brown) rice, whole wheat, oat/oatmeal, and barley for a substantial source of nutrients to keep your dog healthy.
“Meal” & “By-Product”
You may have seen ingredients labeled as “chicken meal” or a protein with the word “meal.” The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines this as “the rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices.” You may have also seen “by-product” which is defined by AAFCO as “ the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals,” which may include organs.
Don’t be immediately alarmed by these descriptions. Meal and by-product are safe for your dog’s consumption, and can even be more nutritious than muscle meat, as the American Kennel Club states; but if you are unsure about it, make sure the food is from a mainstream or trusted brand to be sure that it is a quality meal or by-product.
Deciphering Product Name Wording
Be careful with the wording of dog food names. The way the product name is worded can tell you if the majority of the food is protein or not:
If the packaging states “chicken” in the product name like “chicken dog food,” then chicken must make up at least 70% of the product. If it contains the word “dinner,” “entree,” or “platter” in the product name like “chicken dinner,” then chicken is required to only make up at least 10% of the product. If it says “with chicken,” chicken is only required to make up at least 3% of the product.
Listen to the Labels
Last but not least, choose food according to what’s best suited for your dog. Even though you want to be wary of some labels, pay attention to what types of dogs the food is being marketed for. It’s pretty straightforward (and you may never have questioned it anyway), but know that there is a reason certain foods are labeled as “puppy” or “large breed,” etc. Dogs of different sizes and life stages need different proportions of protein and kibble sizes based on their bodies.
Also, take into account your dog’s activity level. There are foods labeled with “performance” or similar wording for dogs that are more active, and there are foods labeled as “light” or something similar for dogs that are watching their weight and require less calorie-dense food.
In conclusion, choose food with protein as the first ingredient and find the right food according to your dog’s size and age. The rest is up to your dog’s taste and what you are willing to spend. But remember, spending more on better quality food will not only benefit your dog but could end up saving you money. And as always, reach out to your veterinarian if you have any questions or are ultimately unsure about what food is right for your dog.
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