There is an overwhelming selection of dog food options on the market. In addition to the vast number of options, all the fellow dog owners in your life will undoubtedly share their opinions with you, making it even harder to narrow it down. How are you ever supposed to decide which food is right for your pup? Here are a few tips to help you find a healthy yet affordable option that your dog goes crazy for.
Like humans, dogs are omnivores. This means they derive nutrients from meat and plant sources. Therefore, a well-balanced dog food will contain primarily meat with grains and plant sources, such as fruits and vegetables. However, just like in human foods I prefer to look for a shorter ingredient list to avoid unnecessary fillers that do not provide nutritional value. The more unnecessary additives that go in the more that will come out which means more poop for you to pick up!
But there are so many brands, flavors, life and health stages - how am I supposed to narrow it down? There are many things to consider including: your dog’s age, their exercise level, their breed, their ideal weight and of course, what they enjoy eating.
You should always make sure you are feeding an age appropriate food for your dog throughout their life. A puppy-formulated food is designed for rapid paced growth and weight gain. An all-life-stages is designed to maintain a healthy adult weight and a senior food contains specific nutrients and supplements that are more important in aging dogs as well as accounting for less exercise and a slowing metabolism.
Again, just like humans a dog that exercises a lot needs more food to regulate a healthy weight and fuel their activity. In addition, they would likely benefit from a higher protein food to prevent musculoskeletal injuries and maintain energy levels.
BREED AND IDEAL WEIGHT
There are some breed-specific trends for obesity, metabolism speed and joint health. In addition, small breeds and large breeds have different nutritional needs. However, regardless of your dog’s breed or mix the most important thing to understand is what their ideal or healthy weight is. Canine obesity is a rising concern and can have serious implications on life span and joint health. Your vet can be a great resource in helping you determine this to ensure you are keeping your dog in the best body condition possible.
The best way to decipher between good vs. bad in dog foods is to read the ingredient label. But, this is easier said than done when you see a long list of words that you don’t know. One of the first things to look for is the statement: this product is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials. This statement means the brand followed the requirements to ensure the food is balanced, or contains the minimum amount of various nutrients.
HOW MUCH TO FEED
While every dog food bag contains feeding recommendations based on your dog’s weight, these are simply guidelines. Many owners follow these exactly and unfortunately end up overfeeding their pet which can cause serious health problems. These recommendations are a great place to start until you see how your dog processes the food. You may also need to adjust based on current exercise levels, time of year and current health.
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There are a lot of opinions, myths and misinformation out there about dog food. It is important to do your research, be educated and feel comfortable with your choice of food. Ultimately, you have to find a food that works for your dog! While there are many great brands out there, with years of research to back their food, every dog has slightly different nutritional needs and desires and you know your dog better than anyone else. If their coat looks healthy, their weight is consistent and appropriate, their stool is solid and they enjoy eating meals that is a great sign that the food you chose is working well for you. Don’t be afraid to keep experimenting and trying new brands or flavors until you find one that makes you and your dog happy!
My favorite resource for analyzing dog foods is dogfoodadvisor.com. This website covers the ingredient list, a detailed nutritional breakdown and gives an overall rating. While this resource should not be your own source of research it is a great place to start in the hunt for your dog’s favorite food.