7 Tips for Choosing the Best Food for Your Dog
Whether you’ve just brought your new puppy home or you’re looking for the right food to help your best buddy as he enters his golden years, dog food options are plentiful. As helpful as this can be, it can also be overwhelming. Fear not! Below are 7 tips to help you choose the best food for your furry baby.
Consider your dog’s life-stage and activity level
Two of the biggest factors in choosing your dog’s food are her age and level of activity. Puppies and active breeds need more calories than senior dogs or those who prefer to take it easy most of the day. Puppy formulas, nutrient blends for active dogs, low-calorie options, and more recipes are available to match your dog’s unique nutrient needs.
Check the packaging label for adequacy statements like “complete and balanced for all ages” or “complete and balanced for growth and reproduction.” This statement is more than a product description, it’s based on the high standards set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), ensuring that the food meets the diet needs addressed.
Your tiny Chihuahua may have an appetite to rival your rottweiler, but that doesn’t mean they should get the same food. Choose a brand with kibble small enough for your dog to eat safely and comfortably.
What’s in a name?
“Beef entree” or “beef dinner” may sound more enticing than “beef dog food,” but they are lower in the actual protein. Food blends described as dinner, entree, or nuggets only need 25% of the protein, whereas the simpler “beef dog food” must contain 95% of the protein named.
Additionally, foods “with beef,” “with cheese,” or “with salmon,” are only required to have 3% of the named protein. Those labeled as “beef flavor,” “chicken flavor,” etc. only contain minimal traces of the protein—just enough for your dog to taste.
Look at the ingredients
Dogs are omnivores and get their nutrients from multiple food sources, including meat, vegetables, grains, and fruit. However, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that meat or meat-meal is the first ingredient listed. Avoid those with grains, tubers, or vegetables listed first. While these non-meat sources are good for dogs, meat should be the most prevalent ingredient.
Is grain-free right for your dog?
Grains are a great source of carbohydrates, and most dogs can easily digest them. Although rare, some dogs do have gluten allergies. If you notice that your dog is excessively licking his paws, scratching excessively, or experiencing diarrhea/vomiting, check with your veterinarian to figure out if the problem is a grain allergy or another issue before changing their diet.
Read the label
Much of the information covered in these tips can be found in the food label. Like food for human consumption, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dog (and cat) food. Under the Agency’s guidelines, dog food must contain labels with the following information:
- Product name
- Net weight of the product
- Name and address of the manufacturer
- Guaranteed analysis
- List of ingredients
- Intended animal species (i.e. dog or cat)
- Statement of nutritional adequacy
- Feeding guidelines
Although labels can be difficult to understand, reading them will help ensure that you’re choosing food that meets your pup’s needs and your expectations.
Talk to your veterinarian
If you’ve read the label researched manufacturers, and still can’t decide on the best food for your best boy. They’ll be able to make recommendations to meet your nutritional requirements and satisfy your dog’s belly.