Finding the right dog food for your dog is a very individualized choice. Not all dogs like the same type of foods, just like people like different kinds of food. Different breeds have different needs, and your dog may even have certain food allergies.
There are some general rules when it comes to dog food. Inexpensive food will probably not have the best ingredients for your dog, and just like humans, dogs are healthier when they eat better food that is nutritionally balanced, organically sourced and doesn’t contain fillers that really have no value.
Aside from that, there are a number of really good choices. Here are some tips for choosing the best food for your dog.
Wet Food vs. Dry Kibble
Most people feed their dog dry food or kibble, or wet food that is canned or comes in a special bag. Some owners will combine the two. In general, dry food is a little better for your dog’s teeth, but if you provide them with dental bones or other chew items that are good for their teeth, this isn’t a bad thing.
Also, often older dogs with dental issues struggle to eat dry food, and won’t get the nutrition they need unless you feed them wet food as well. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best type of food for your dog.
Grain-Free vs. Grain Content
Many owners will choose grain-free food over foods that contain grains. The rule of thumb is that cheap grains, just like cheap grains for people, are bad and can cause health problems for your dog. However, good, organically sourced grains can actually be a good source of nutrition and help your dog.
The only time grain-free food is necessary is if your dog has food allergies diagnosed by your vet. In that case, grain freed food is both essential and appropriate. However, don’t confuse fillers with grains. Fillers are things that have no nutritional value but will make your dog feel more full. However, it will also increase the size (and often the smell) of their bowel movements. Corn is a common filler, and foods high in corn content should generally be avoided.
Read the Ingredient List
One of the most vital things you can do is read the ingredient list on your dog’s food. Just because the ingredients appear to be good does not mean they are organically sourced, and pet food companies use a number of strategies to “hide” the fact that their food is high in corn or other items by splitting those items up in the ingredient list.
The key is to educate yourself. Find out what is in your dog’s food, and learn about the company that produces it. Talk to your vet and other pet owners who are knowledgeable. Be cautious about internet research, as there is all kinds of misinformation out there when it comes to feeding your pets.
Look for Certifications
TheAssociation of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a great certification to look for. They have strict guidelines that will tell you whether or not food is nutritionally balanced for cats or dogs. This is not just marketing material, and not every pet food manufacturer can make this claim.
There are other certifications, and your vet or pet trainer can make god recommendations too. Don’t always believe the pet store employee unless you are at a local shop with an independent and knowledgeable staff. All foods are not created equally, and you need to learn what those labels really mean to keep your pet in optimal health.
The Age of Your Dog
Dogs of different ages have different nutritional needs. This also varies in large part by the breed and size of your dog. Here are some examples.
Puppies: Puppies need more protein and certain types of nutrition than an adult dog. This is because they are growing and developing. However, too much protein can be harmful to large breeds especially, as they will grow too fast, and this can cause strain on their tendons and joints that can’t be repaired later on. Look not only at your puppy and their age but at specific recommendations for their breed as well.
Adult dogs:Once your dog is no longer a puppy, they will transition to a food with more balanced nutrition for that stage of their lives. Smaller dogs won’t need as many calories as a large dog, and there are different formulas of food to meet their needs. The same is true for larger dogs, who have more energy needs and may need more protein, especially in more muscular breeds.
Senior dogs: As your dog ages, their needs will change again, and they may need a different mix of vitamins and minerals, especially calcium for bone health. Rather than giving them supplements, it is best if they can get the nutrition they need from their food instead. Choose a senior formula that also fits the breed and size of your dog.
How Much to Feed Your Dog
Each food will come with a recommendation based on the caloric needs of your dog. If your dog needs four cups of one food, they may need five of another to get the same energy level and health. You can figure out what your dog needs by their weight, age, and calorie requirements. But you can also determine that by how they act and feel.
If your dog is food aggressive, often hungry, and seeking out food in the trash or elsewhere, they may not be getting enough to eat. If you increase their food a little bit and this behavior stops, you’ve found the solution.
If your dog is pooping excessively or has large bowel movements, they may be getting too much food.
Speaking of Poop…
One of the best ways to know about the health of your dog is to look at their poop. Piles should be small and should not have a lot of extra material in them, like corn. Your dog, like you, will probably have a bowel movement a couple of times a day on average, often soon after they eat.
This is also a good way to make sure your dog does not have worms, and that they are not eating toys and other objects that can be hard for them to pass or that even cause blockages. This is why you should pick up your dog’s poop on a regular basis (besides having a cleaner yard) and if you have someone do it for you, including your children, educate them on what to look for.
Just like you, your dog’s food and nutrition help determine how they feel, how they act, and what they can do throughout the day., Good food will keep them cancer-free and healthy until a ripe, old age. Learn about food and ingredients, tailor your food choices to your dog’s size, breed, and age. Keep an eye on their behavior and health to clue in on their nutritional needs.
Your dog will be happier and you will too if you work at finding the best dog food for your dog.