Dogs are known for scarfing down anything and everything. Most of the time, and across most breeds, this is the case. Dogs are notorious for eating things they shouldn’t; plastic, rubber, leather, cardboard, even underwear.
This is usually the result of boredom, and it doesn’t mean you can feed him just anything. Although, it may make it easier to sneak in the healthy stuff on him. As with all generalizations, this is always completely accurate.
There are exceptions. Some breeds such as Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and other small breeds prove to be a bit finicky during meal times. In any case, from the highest pedigree to the most mixed of mutts, all dogs need good nutrition for optimum health.
Choosing a nutritious dry dog food can be difficult because your dog may be one of the pups that eat absolutely anything. For your dog’s sake, avoid those less-costly grocery store brands and opt for a higher-end brand that incorporates more of the essential nutrients your dog needs. Remember a health diet can also prevent many skin disorders.
Let’s make this a bit simpler by laying out what nutrients your dog requires to maintain optimum health. Additionally, it’s helpful to know what to avoid when choosing a dog food. Finally, there are three brands we recommend the most.
Our Top Three Recommended Brands
Based on all the criteria below, we have 3 brands that we recommend most.
There are a wide range of foods within the Blue Buffalo line, including “Wilderness”, which is a protein-rich and grain-free formula. They also offer “Basics” for dogs with sensitive digestive systems, and “Freedom” that is gluten-free.
All-natural ingredients comprise Wellness foods. Real meat, veggies, and fruits are at the core of every formula offered. They also offer a grain-free variety.
For a more economical choice that still strives for excellent quality, check out PetSmart’s proprietary brand of foods called “Authority”. They offer complete nutrition and a variety of formulas for your dog’s specific needs and life stages.
So, What Should It Include?
Your dog has evolved from the mighty wolf. Yes, even the miniature poodle warming your lap is, by nature, a ferocious predator. This means your dog is a carnivore and there’s nothing more nutritious for his body than meat, meat, and more meat! Yet, keep in mind that dogs are still far enough removed from the wolf that they have adapted to digesting some carbohydrates and other nutrients.
In general, your dog needs a healthy balance of fats and protein. There could be a limited amount of carbohydrates (this mimics the stomach contents of prey), but plenty of protein and healthy fats are essential. Your dog’s system is built to efficiently convert protein and fats to energy.
A limited amount of carbohydrates has been found to assist energy production. This is because they have been domesticated for so long that their bodies are adapting to their environment, and the foods available to them.
However, some breeds that are closer in appearance to their wild ancestors, like the German Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, and Husky, may actually present allergies to grains, corn and/or other forms of carbohydrates. No matter what breed of dog you have, he will definitely thrive on a diet rich in animal proteins and fats. Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking for a quality dry dog food.
Determine Your Dog’s Life Stage.
Puppies and lactating mothers have different nutritional needs than healthy adult dogs. In America, dog food labels are generally marked with one of the two classifications from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO): “All Life Stages” or “Adult Maintenance”. “All Life Stages” means the food is formulated to meet the needs of a growing puppy or a lactating mother.
These foods are higher in calories, calcium, and phosphorous. “Adult Maintenance” foods are lower in fats and lower in the above nutrients in order to maintain the health of an adult dog. An adult dog eating food formulated for puppies will gain weight due to the higher calorie count, and his health will begin to decline. As a rule, look for indicators such as “Puppy”, “Adult”, or “Senior” on the packaging. There are many variables that indicate transitions from one life stage to another, especially breed.
Always check with your veterinarian to be sure what stage of life your dog is in. In general, puppyhood could end anywhere between 8 and 18 months. Adulthood could start anywhere between 12 months and 3 years. The senior years could begin anywhere between 6 and 10 years of age.
Check the first three ingredients.
Manufacturers list ingredients by order of weight, beginning with the heaviest. Meaning, the first three ingredients are what mostly comprises the food. Therefore, it’s important to identify proteins as the first three ingredients.
As mentioned earlier, dogs are carnivores. Protein from animal sources are ideal. Look for whole ingredients like chicken, turkey, fish, beef, or lamb as the first ingredient. They should comprise the bulk of the food. The second or third ingredient may include the word “meal”, as in “chicken meal”. This is simply a dehydrated form of animal protein. It’s a concentrated and condensed protein and should not be avoided as long as it isn’t the first ingredient.
Fruits and Vegetables.
The remaining ingredients should be small amounts of whole vegetables and fruits. This is where the majority of carbohydrates come from in a quality dog food, not corn or heavily-processed grains.
If you’ve opted to feed your dog a diet that incorporates more carbohydrates, they should come from whole grains such as brown rice, not corn or corn meal.
This is the list on most packages of dog food that is difficult to interpret. It may look something like this:
- Protein……………36.0% min
- Fat………………………16.0% min
- Fiber…………………5.0% max
- Moisture…………………………10.0% max
These are measurements of the food in its current state. Protein should always comprise the majority of the food, followed by fat, fiber, and water.
What to Look Out For
Now that you know what should be in your dog’s food, let’s look at what to avoid when choosing a quality food.
Avoid corn in any form. It has absolutely no nutritional value for your dog. In fact, it is a common allergen in dogs. It tends to be added to low-end dog food because it’s a cheap filler.
Avoid any food that contains soy in any form. Soy is estrogenic and therefore can seriously disturb your dog’s endocrine system.
Meat by-products include parts of an animal that are not nutritionally sound, and have been ground up into the mix of meat. These parts include: feet, hooves, hair, feathers, beaks, and even tumors that were present in the animal source. Organ meats do provide good nutrition. However, in dry dog food, they are always mixed in with these other less favorable parts. Your pup would much rather have fresh liver or giblets prepared for him as a special treat.
Artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives.
Check the label for statements like, “NO artificial preservatives.” Opt for foods that are preserved with vitamin E and C instead. These natural preservatives often appear on labels as “tocopherols”.
No matter which quality food you choose for your dog, the most vital nutrient for your dog, and all life, is water. Always make sure your dog has clean, fresh water available to him.