The old adage, “you are what you eat” is so true, not only for you but also your dog. Sure, you could survive on potato chips, but would you thrive? I doubt it. The same holds true for your dog. Sure, he could survive on the lowest quality food that there is, but he would not thrive. He will not have a nice, shiny coat. He might have dandruff or stinky ears. He won’t have that sparkle to his eyes. He might have stinky gas and stools. The list can go on and on. Choosing the best dog food will help your dog to live a long, healthy, and happy life!
If you decide to feed a commercial dog food, choosing the best dog food will take some detective work. You may think that a higher priced food is a good way to go about choosing the best dog food, but that isn’t always the case. Price is not a good indicator of quality. So, what do you look for when choosing the best dog food for your dog?
Choosing the best dog food will require you to read the labels on the food. Labels, pictures, and descriptions on the bag can sometimes be misleading. Some foods with nice pictures of fresh fruits and vegetables and nice looking chunks of meat are deceptive. Some foods labeled as “holistic,” “natural,” and “wholesome” are anything but. There is no standard definition or requirements for dog food manufacturers to place these claims on their food.
Although I am a firm believer of home-cooking (mostly because I control what goes into the food and can guarantee the quality and freshness of the ingredients), there are some high quality commercial dog foods available. Keep in mind that even if you feed a high quality dog food, it is wise to still supplement the food with a good multivitamin, digestive enzymes and Omega 3 fish oil.
You may think that all you need to do to get a high quality food for your pet is to go to a dog boutique. I wouldn’t count on it. Most vets generally know very little about nutrition and what goes into making a good or bad dog food. But the truth is most vets have only a few minutes of training in vet school about nutrition. And often, they are misled by sales reps into thinking that a particular dog food is high quality when it’s not. They can get duped just like you and me by fancy, colorful labels.
So in choosing the best dog food for your dog, you will alone on your venture.
Let’s first take a look at some of the bad stuff in commercial dog food.
- Additives and preservatives. Anything processed must have preservatives in it to keep it from spoiling. The most common artificial preservatives used are ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydrosyanisole (BHA). There are natural preservatives to can be used, vitamin e and vitamin c. Some common additives are: artificial colors and flavors, propyl gallate and propylene glycol. These additives and preservatives are linked to a variety of serious illnesses. They can cause seizures, liver and kidney problems, cancer and more. When choosing the best food for your dog, don’t assume that just because a particular additive or preservative is not listed on the label that it is not added to the food. This is because it is only required for a manufacturer to list the ingredients that they add to the food, many manufacturers get ingredients that have these additives and preservatives added by their suppliers and they are not required to add this to the ingredient list.
- Grains. Depending on what school of thought you belong to, some people believe that dogs are not meant to eat grains and some say they are. I personally believe that grains are ok, as long as they are good quality grains. Corn is definitely a bad grain, whereas brown rice is a higher quality grain.
- By-products and un-named meat meals. Not all by-products and meals are bad, but if possible avoid them if they are listed as meat or poultry by-products or meals. Generally speaking by-products and meals are what is leftover after all of the desirable things are removed. By-products and meals usually what is considered unfit for human consumption. If the by-product or meal is from a named source, for example; beef by-product or lamb meal, etc., it is considered to be of higher quality.
- An un-named fat source. Just like by-products or meals, you always want to see exactly what the ingredient is. “Animal fat” can be anything, it can be restaurant grease or fat from roadkill or a 4-d farm animal.
- Added sweeteners. You wouldn’t think that sugar would be an ingredient in your dog’s food. But, unfortunately, some dog foods are unappealing to dogs and they wouldn’t eat it without something enticing it. On a side note, have you ever noticed the greasy look and feel to some dog food bags? That’s because after being made, some manufacturers spray fat on the food to make it more appealing so your dog will eat it. I would probably eat anything soaked in fat to. The sad tricks that some manufacturers do to make us think that our dogs love their food.
Now that you know what bad things to look for in your venture of choosing the best dog food, here are a few things that you want to check for in your dog’s food.
- A named meat source in the top ingredients. Ingredients must be listed by weight, so you want to see meat sources like beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, etc. at the top. You don’t want to see your meat sources listed as meat or poultry, these can be from varying sources and you want to know what actual meat source is being used.
- Whole fruits and vegetables. All of the good stuff in fruits and vegetables are found in the whole fruit or whole vegetable, not just certain parts. Although it is ok if the parts are listed farther down, but generally look for things like blueberries, peas, tomatoes, green beans, etc.
- Check the “best by date.” You don’t want to be feeding food that has been sitting on the shelf for months. For dry foods the ideal “best by date” is 10-11 months away. Some “best by dates” can be years away, that’s no good, it could mean that artificial preservatives like BHA, BHT, or ethoxyquin are being used.
Here is a dog food comparison tool from Natura Pet Food. You can compare different foods to their food.
Well now that you have an idea of some of the good and bad things to be looking for on your quest to choosing the best dog food, good luck and Godspeed.