We all want what’s best for our furry friends. A large part of their well-being is the food we give them to eat. After all, our pets are what they eat just as much as we are.
Sadly, choosing the best food for our pooch can be somewhat confusing. Dog food bags can be confusing to read and it’s hard to know what ingredients are really the best for our canines. Luckily, we’re here to help you choose the best option for your dog.
Here’s everything you need to know to select the perfect dog food.
Just like people, dogs need fats, protein, and carbohydrates to survive. However, their specific needs are much different from ours, and often much different from what common commercial dog food has in it as well.
A study by Oxford discovered that when allowed to control their own intakes, dogs often chose to consume a diet consisting of about 30% protein, 63% fat, and 7% carbohydrates. Often, when you allow animals to pick their own diet, they choose foods that meet their dietary needs. Because of this, these studies often produce very accurate results.
When choosing a dog food, you should select one that is as close to this optimal macronutrient content as possible. Sadly, it is very difficult to find a food that matches this exactly. However, you should at least aim to select a dog food that is as high in protein as possible and low in fat.
With that said, reading the back of a dog food container doesn’t make the exact macronutrient contents very clear. Often, they don’t show you the carbohydrate at all. To see the exact contents, you have to convert the guaranteed analysis listed on the back of the container to a dry matter basis, which is basically the content percentages minus the water. This is done easiest through an online calculator.
If you are not sure how to calculate the correct macronutrients, or if you want the best dog food information compiled for you, there are many trustworthy online dog food resources that you can use to help make your buying decisions easier.
On top of choosing a dog food that contains the correct macronutrients, you also want one that includes only quality ingredients. Preferably, you want a eat product to be listed as the first few ingredients. Of course, not all meat is made equal. The best quality meat you can select is whole meat, which is often simply listed as “chicken” or “beef”.
By-products are pretty common as well. While these ingredients are often demonized, they are actually a good choice as long as the type of by-product is named. “Chicken by-product” is a solid option. However, “meat by-product” is not because it could literally be anything, including roadkill. By-product only means that it is the parts of the animal that people usually don’t eat, like snouts and ears for example. However, dogs would naturally eat these things in the wild and they are quite nutrient-dense in most circumstances.
Finally, don’t assume a vegetable is healthy just because it is a veggie. What is healthy for us is not the same as what is healthy for our dogs. Some veggies are not suitable for canines and are really just filler. Things like peas and potatoes are good examples of this.
In fact, the FDA has released a warning about peas and potatoes in particular. They have been linked to certain heart conditions in dogs and are thought to get in the way of taurine absorption, which is a nutrient required for the heart to rebuild and repair itself.
Grain-free dog foods are not necessarily good options for all dogs. The only dogs that really don’t need grain are those that are allergic to grains. However, this is actually a pretty rare condition, as dogs are much more likely to be allergic to a type of protein than they are grains.
Many grains are actually quite nutritious, especially whole grains in particular.
Furthermore, many grain-free foods do not actually contain more protein or meat products than grain-inclusive foods. Instead, they are often packed with cheap veggies as fillers, like peas and potatoes. Many of these vegetables are worse for our dog’s health than grains.
Because of this, it is often better to select a grain-inclusive food if your canine is not currently allergic to grains. Food allergies often present as skin irritation in canines. So if you’re dog is having a reaction to their food, they’ll often chew their paws and scratch – often to the point of causing sores.
If you think your dog might have a skin allergy, you should take them to the vet for confirmation. Your vet will likely recommend switching their food to one with a different protein source.
Dogs often develop an allergy to foods they eat over time. So, if your dog has been eating the same lamb kibble their whole life, the odds of them developing an allergy are pretty high. Switching their food often can prevent allergies from forming.
The AAFCO sets standards for dog food. However, they do not have any legal status that allows them to punish companies that don’t meet their guidelines. It is completely legal for companies to market dog food that doesn’t fit their strict nutritional guidelines.
Because of this, it is essential to check that whatever dog food you select is meeting these guidelines. Typically, the AAFCO statement is on the back of the dog food where you can find the nutritional information.
When selecting dog food, your first step should be to find one high in protein and low in carbohydrates, as this is similar to what dogs would naturally eat in the wild. Unless your dog has a grain allergy, you don’t necessarily what to purchase grain-free dog food. You should also keep an eye out for low-quality ingredients and AAFCO statement of approval.
Of course, you should take your pooch’s specific needs into account as well. Puppies need a dog food designed for puppies, while other dogs might need one for high-energy.