Expert Advice to Help You Choose
the Best Food for Your Dog
Dog food brand reviews and breed/diet-specific suggestions to keep your pet happy and healthy.
The Essential Nutrients That
All Dogs Need
What to Look for When Choosing Dog Food
Everyone loves their dog. After all, they are man’s best friend. So it is no wonder that pet owners worry they are getting their lovely pup the best dog food they possibly can. If you have found yourself on Dog Food Care, then you have likely spent a considerable amount of hours researching the best dog food for your lovely pet that fulfills your dog’s nutritional needs as well as does not burn a large hole in your wallet.
You wanna make sure you get the kind of food that takes care of and does not upset your dog’s digestive system, gives them a recommended amount of energy, keeps their coats shiny and smooth, and their minds active and bright. Thankfully, we are here to help. This all-encompassing guide will tell you what the most important aspects of your dog’s food are, and how to watch out for them. So let’s get right into it!
Step 1: Consider Your Dog’s Age, Activity, Breed, and Reproductive Status
While this might sound like common sense, factors such as your dog’s age, their activity level, their breed, and their reproductive status really affect how much food your dog needs as well as how much of each nutrient they need. If you own a puppy or a lactating mother then they will need a little bit more food (as well as more calories) per day than a senior dog. At the same time, highly active dogs that get a lot of walks and runs and playtime will need much more food (and much more protein and carbohydrate content) than dogs that sleep through a lot of the day.
You should talk to your vet about your dog's nutritional needs so you can make sure that you are not overfeeding them and accidentally putting them on a path towards obesity.
Most dog food brands do not separate their food based on breed, and actually, only distinguish between breed size (small breed and large breed foods). This mostly pertains to kibble size, as smaller breeds will need foods with a smaller dry kibble size so they can eat and chew their food comfortably and safely.
You might already know your dog’s age, breed, and reproductive status. You might not, however, know their activity level. So we have devised this list to help you identify where your dogs are meant to stand when it comes to their energy levels. Some dogs can really run!
Depending on the dog breed that you have, you might have to find them some foods with more protein as well as more carbs. It is especially important to research your dog and their breed so you can make sure you not only are feeding them as you should but also taking care of them as you should - are you giving your dog enough daily walks? Are you giving them enough playtime? Are you giving them enough rest?
Step 2: Know the “Buzz Words” on Food Packaging
The wording on your dry dog food label is actually extremely important. The way your label is written can determine the amount of protein in your dog food, and with today’s high propensity of false advertising in the corporate world, every dog owner should be aware of the tricks and ways through which dog food companies might be being disingenuous about the amount of protein their food contains. This is why we have devised this section of the article, so you can understand what they actually mean by the wording on the label of your dog food.
If your dog food product contains simple labels such as “Chicken Dog Food” or “Beef for Dogs”, then this means that the listed protein in your dog food likely makes up 95 percent of it, without including the water content. According to FDA analysis of pet food labels, even if you include the water content, the amount of protein in the total product still amounts to 70 percent of it. These are the most high-quality foods.
If your dog food product contains the word dinner (as well as the words platter, entree, nuggets, and formula) then they likely only contain around 25 percent of the protein. Food labels such as “Chicken Stew Dinner” and “Salmon Dinner for Dogs” will only contain about a quarter of either chicken or salmon. If there are several meat sources mentioned, then all of them combined will still only amount to 25 percent.
If your dog food product contains the phrase “with salmon” or “with cheese”, then by law, your dog food is only required to contain 3 percent of the ingredient. As an example, if a dog food label says “Chicken Stew Dinner for Dogs With Cheese”, then it will contain 25 percent chicken protein and 3 percent cheese. If your dog food product reads “Dog Food With Salmon”, then you will only have 3 percent of protein from the salmon.
Lastly, if your dog food product contains the word flavor, such as “chicken flavor” or “beef flavor”, then there is only a need for trace amounts of these products in your dog food. This means there is only enough for your dog to feel the taste of the meat, and no actual amount of the meat.
Step 3: Learn to Read the Ingredients
Usually, when you read your dog food product’s ingredient list, then they are listed by most present to least present. This means that the first ingredient will be the one that is present the most in the dog food. Due to dogs being omnivores that need meat (and only if they have very severe allergies should they be considered for a vegetarian diet) then you want to look for products where the first ingredients are either meats or meat meals.
Meat as a concept in dog food can include skeletal muscle, fat, gristle as well as tissue from the heart, diaphragm, esophagus, among other things. Meat meal describes any sort of rendered product from animal tissues. Meat by-product, however, is all the non-rendered parts of an animal without the meat, meaning it can include lungs, kidneys, brain, blood, bone, and others. Meat by-product is not a recommended source of protein for your dog.
If your dog food lists its first ingredient as a grain, a tuber, or a vegetable (such as ground corn), then you should look for another product. Corn can be digestible when it is ground, however, when it is not, it can be difficult for dogs to digest. It also has a very low nutritional value since there is very little protein, vitamin, and mineral content. It is typically only added to dog food because it is not expensive and can work as a carb filler for lower-quality foods.
Step 4: Decide if Grain-Free is Right for Your Dog
It is not uncommon for dogs to have a food allergy, and some of those allergies often pertain to grains. Although these are not necessarily bad for dogs, if you suspect your pup might have an allergy, you might want to go for a grain-free type to avoid any health problems. Even if your dog does not have an allergy, they might still have food intolerances or sensitive stomachs, like humans do, so you want to watch out for that. If you suspect either of these issues, you should give your vet a visit. Here are the symptoms that your dog might be allergic to the food you are giving them:
- Itchy skin (aka pruritus)
- Itchy paws
- Hot spots (skin infections resulting from excessive scratching)
- Skin rashes
- Scaly and/or oily skin
- Pigmented skin
- Leathery skin texture
- Eye discharge
- Red eyes
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Secondary yeast or bacterial infections (aka pyoderma) of the skin or ears
There are other common allergens that dogs can have or develop. Dogs can be allergic to beef and other protein sources, such as chicken or lamb. You should feed your dog different protein sources, since feeding them only one food over several years can increase their potential for developing an intolerance or allergy to it. Beef is one of the most common ingredients in dog food, and it is also one of the most common food allergens, so it is important to watch out and feed your pet varied foods, including some fish protein sources. You should also include wet food in their nutritional arsenal, or alternate with a raw diet.
Some dogs are also lactose intolerant, so you should watch out when feeding them dairy products. Lactose intolerance leads to gas, diarrhea, or vomiting, so it can present as an allergy even though it is a food intolerance. At the same time, a dairy allergy will present as skin itchiness and other kinds of symptoms within the same vein.
Some dogs are allergic to wheat as well. Although your dog is much more likely to be allergic to meat rather than grains or gluten, these are still quite common allergies that should be watched out for. There are several grain-free dog food options on the market, so you will be able to avoid it fairly easily if the vet confirms they do indeed have an allergy to it. You can always supplement their diet with some vegetables.
Your dog might also be allergic to eggs. Although these are not often present in dog foods, you might still find yourself feeding your dog a homemade meal or leftovers that contain eggs, so you should still watch out for this allergy just in case.
Finally, soy is another ingredient that causes not only allergic reactions, but can also cause other problems such as reproductive and growth problems, thyroid, and liver disease. Soy is an ingredient you should definitely avoid regardless of what kind of dog breed you own, since its harms significantly outweigh any sort of health benefits it might have. Although soy is not up there with chocolate, it is still on the list of foods to avoid feeding your loving pup.
We have also included a list of dog breeds that are most prone to food allergies, so in case you own any of these breeds, you can take them to a vet to make sure you are not accidentally feeding them something they might not be able to eat or digest.
Dog Breeds Most Prone To Food Allergies:
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Cocker Spaniels
- Shih Tzus
- Westies (aka West Highland White Terriers)
- Yorkies (aka Yorkshire Terriers)
Step 5: Check the Nutritional Adequacy Statement
The nutritional adequacy statement is usually located with the rest of the nutritional information on the bag or can, and it refers to statements such as “provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs”, “all life stages”, or “puppies”. They let you know what kind of dog the food is for, and you can also look for the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) statement usually located on the back that lets you know their standards have been met. Membership is voluntary, but it is always a good thing to know and demonstrates a level of transparency by the brand that is encouraging.
It is also important to know which nutrients you are looking for when you are choosing a dog food. The following list shows you which nutrients you need to be watching out for when reading your product’s ingredient list.
Nutrients Needed For A Healthy, Balanced Diet:
Step 6: Do Your Homework on Your Brand of Choice
Once you have finally decided on a dog food that you believe your dog will enjoy and be fully satisfied with, then it is time to look at the brand you have chosen. These days, a quick google search will let you know about pet food companies and their reputation and whether they follow quality control protocols, health and safety codes, where they source their ingredients from, whether they use quality ingredients, and whether they have a history of product recalls. If you do all of this research and you still have questions, you can also contact a representative. Any good dog food brand will have representatives ready to answer your questions so you can have the peace of mind you need about your best friend’s food.