When it comes to finding the best dog food for your furry companion, the options available can be overwhelming. With numerous brands and formulas to choose from, where do you even begin?
Moreover, each dog has unique preferences and nutritional requirements, making the decision even more challenging. Fear not, as we are here to assist you in selecting the right dog food with confidence. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the essential factors to consider and provide valuable tips to understand your dog’s specific needs.
Follow these steps to embark on your journey of choosing the perfect dog food.
1) Understand Your Dog’s Needs
Understanding your own dog and their specific needs is key to finding the perfect dog food formula. While some trial and error may be involved, as your dog cannot communicate their preferences directly, considering the following aspects can guide you in making an informed decision.
While your dog doesn’t necessarily need an age-specific formula, this is a good starting point for thinking about dog food.
When it comes to puppies, proper nutrition is very important, so it’s a good idea to get dog food geared specifically towards puppies. Puppies need a diet that provides lots of energy in order to thrive. On the other hand, seniors might benefit from a formula that’s less energy-dense and easier to digest.
There are also formulas that are marked as suitable for all life stages. This simply means that the formula meets the minimum nutritional requirements for any life stage, including puppies.
Your dog’s activity level is a key consideration. Active or working dogs necessitate diets that support their energy demands, including higher protein and fat content. Conversely, less active dogs, such as apartment pets, might require a lower-fat option to maintain a healthy weight.
Different dog breeds have varying dietary requirements. Small breeds, for instance, often require more calories per pound than larger dogs due to their metabolism. In contrast, giant breed puppies need a precisely balanced calcium to phosphorus ratio in their diet. Doing some research on your dog’s breed and their specific requirements can help you in the process of choosing the right diet.
2) Decide Which Type of Dog Food You Want to Use
Canned food or kibble? Is there a difference? Well, most dogs will handle either just fine, although some do have preferences. The ingredients in the food are far more important than the form it comes in, but it’s still a good idea to choose what type of food you want to get to help you narrow down the search. These are your main options
• Dry Dog Food (Kibble): Dry dog food is widely available and convenient to store. For many pet parents, it’s the default option. It’s typically more affordable and takes up much less storage space. However, it is a highly processed form of dog food and some fussy eaters might have problems with it.
• Wet Dog Food: Wet dog food, also known as canned food, comes in various flavours and textures. It can be appealing to dogs due to its higher moisture content and richer taste.
• Freeze-Dried Dog Food: Freeze-dried dog food is made by removing the moisture from raw or cooked ingredients while preserving their nutritional value. This type of dog food is lightweight, convenient, and provides a shelf-stable alternative to raw food. It can be rehydrated with water before serving. Freeze-dried dog food can be a great option, but it is usually more expensive than the alternatives.
• Raw Dog Food: Raw dog food, also known as a raw or BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) diet, consists of uncooked meat, bones, fruits, and vegetables. Proponents of raw diets believe it mimics a dog’s ancestral diet and offers numerous health benefits, while others worry about the safety of handling raw meat. Raw diets are becoming more popular these days, so it might be fairly easy to get frozen raw food formulas for your dog from the pet store.
3) Assess the Ingredient List
You have a rough idea about what your dog list and you have narrowed down the options to a few candidates? It’s time to look at the ingredient list. This is the most crucial step when evaluating a new dog food formula. By understanding what to look for, you can quickly gauge the quality of the food. Here’s what you should check:
• Primary Protein Source: Protein is the most important part of a dog’s diet, so the first ingredient listed should be a high-quality source of protein. According to the AAFCO guidelines (and most other labelling guidelines), ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight. That’s why that first ingredient on the list is so important. Meat is always preferable over grains like wheat or rice. Beware of terms like “meat byproducts,” which should be avoided, while “meat meal” can be acceptable.
• Clearly Named Ingredients: Ensure that the ingredients, especially the meat sources, are explicitly identified. Labels like “chicken,” “beef,” or “kangaroo” are acceptable, while generic terms like “meat” raise concerns. If you cannot determine what goes into the food from the ingredient list, it is best to be cautious.
• Filler Ingredients: Most dog food formulas contain fillers, although high-quality recipes minimise their use. Pay attention to the type of fillers present. Vegetable fillers rich in vitamins are preferable over ingredients like white flour.
• Preservatives and Additives: Preservatives and additives are added to dog food in many shapes and forms. If you see an ingredient with a complicated name you can’t recognize, it’s best to google it to check if it’s safe – as remembering all of the names would be quite difficult. But one thing that will let you easily screen dog food formulas is checking if there are artificial colourings and flavourings. No, your dog definitely does not care what colour their food is and these ingredients should not be there.
While analysing the ingredient list, it is a good idea to be at least a bit sceptical. Manufacturers may include ingredients for marketing appeal rather than nutritional value. For example, does your dog really need broccoli, coconut oil, and turmeric in their food? All of these ingredients are good for dogs, but definitely not necessary and they are sometimes added in tiny amounts just to make the formula sound more appealing to humans.
4) Review The Guaranteed Analysis
When you hold a package of dog food, you will likely come across a Guaranteed Analysis table. This table provides percentages of protein, fat, and fibre present in the food. It’s a great and easy way to understand the nutritional profile of the formula.
While the guaranteed analysis offers insight into how a particular formula compares to others, keep in mind that it is not entirely precise. The guaranteed analysis presents minimum levels for protein and fat, and maximum levels for fibre and moisture. The actual levels in any bag of dog food can vary considerably. Moreover, different types of dog food, such as kibble or canned, contain varying percentages of water. Consequently, making precise comparisons based solely on the guaranteed analysis can be challenging (although not impossible).
5) Play Detective
Finally, although the ingredient list and guaranteed analysis provide valuable information, they can only tell you so much. The origin and the quality of the ingredients make a big difference. For example, free-range grass-fed meat is always better than all the suspicious stuff that goes into “pet meat” both in terms of nutrition and in terms of safety.
To gain further insights, you might want to do a bit of research on the brand behind the product. Transparency regarding ingredient sourcing and quality is a positive sign. If you do some digging, you’ll probably be able to find reviews and experiences from other pet parents to help you with your decision.
In conclusion, finding the right dog food may seem daunting, but armed with the right knowledge, the task becomes much easier. Delve into the details of recipes and ingredients, keeping your dog’s well-being as the top priority. Consider your lifestyle, budget, and your dog’s preferences when selecting the type of dog food.
Consulting with your veterinarian can also provide valuable guidance based on your dog’s specific needs.In the end, remember to also trust yourself and your own observations. If your dog is thriving on a particular food, there is no need to change it.