If you are like me when I first got a 4-legged best friend many ages ago, you have a hard time choosing the right food. As dog owners, we often go with whatever is the cheapest or whatever we can find at the local grocery store. A lot of us have the mentality of “all dog food is the same.” This can’t be farther from the truth. Would you eat McDonalds every day for every meal? It can be VERY overwhelming as there are so many different brands, flavors, ingredients, advice (from professionals and “professionals”), etc.
Recently we have been asked by a lot of clients what we recommend when it comes to dog food.
- The first thing we need to know is that every ingredient in your dog food is listed on the bag in order of content. This means that the first ingredient holds the most weight (or substance), the second ingredient holds the second highest amount of weight, and so on.
- Avoid corn / corn syrup, or any sweetener or similar filler. Corn syrup is a sugar that is used to help make the dog food taste better. Corn is a very inexpensive filler that has the potential to develop into mold and many dogs have a hard time digesting it properly. Also, too much sugar can lead to obesity, disease, hyperactivity, and changes in behavior.
- Meat vs. Meat Meal: ‘Meat’ refers to protein such as Beef, Fish, Chicken, Pork, Lamb, Etc. Avoid anything referred to simply as ‘meat’ on the bag. Meats listed on your dog’s food are weighed prior to the cooking process and contain 60-70% water, therefore they actually weigh less after cooking. Meat meals, although more processed, are cooked before being added to the kibble and thus offer more of a true weight. The very first ingredient should be a meat or meat meal. The more meat and meat meal you have at the top of the list the better.
- Avoid by-products at all costs! These are the internal remains of animals and often include diseased tissue and organs… and some say horse / dog meat.
- Is grain bad for my dog? Well, the answer is as individual as your dog. The first thing to realize is that any dog food containing oats, barley, rice, wheat, or any other cereal grain is a grain product. Large quantities should be avoided, but if your dog does not have an averse reaction to grains, than it is not necessary to cut them out completely. However, as a general rule we feed our dogs a grain free diet as it is the closest possible to what they would eat in the wild (see more on that below).
- Common reactions to grain in dogs with sensitivities include dry irritated skin, itchiness, ear infections, hot spots, yeast infections, hives, intestinal upset, and more. Similar to what happens to humans that are gluten intolerant or allergic. If your dog suffers from one or more of these things, consider switching to a new, higher quality dog food.
- Likewise, dogs can have the same averse reactions to meat as well; the most common being chicken or poultry, especially among bully breeds. Many dogs are specifically allergic to chicken. This can be confirmed by having your dog tested at the Vet.
- When deciding how much food to give your dog, you should always check the feeding guidelines on the back of the bag and feed based on the weight your dog should be, not the weight your dog is. Unfortunately, many dogs are overweight and should be fed less and exercised more. So once your dog is the ideal weight again you can adjust. Again, the directions on the back of the bag are estimated guidelines in relation to the weight and/or activity of your dog. If your dog is more active than normal he may need more food daily.
- If you are thinking of switching your dog’s food to one with high levels of quality meat protein, and your dog’s current dog food ingredients starts with wheat, corn, or soy, you should consider switching gradually to avoid upsetting their stomach and intestinal tract. Once on a quality kibble, it is easier to switch between quality brands without having to worry.
- It’s a really good idea to visit and/or research the many foods available out there today. A very good website that gives you detailed reviews is www.dogfoodadvisor.com. Some brands that my dogs enjoy include Orijen, Fromm, and Acana. My dogs are on Orijen’s 6-fish food. I try to stay as close as possible to what they would eat in the wild. If you really want to stick with that research the “raw diet.” Many people have great results if you have the time and money for it.
- “But my Veterinarian says I should feed my dog (insert brand)!” – Just because your vet recommends a food does not mean it is the most healthy option for your dog! In fact, if you look at the ingredients in many “scientific” prescribed dog foods, they are no better than the cheapest dog foods available.
- So why make the change NOW?
Most importantly, your dog will definitely live a happier, healthier life! Also, your wallet will thank you in the long run because your dog will require fewer vet visits over his lifetime. His coat will vastly improve. Other things that may improve are his breath, skin, flatulence, firmer stool, less bowel irritability, and less cancer risk due to the lack of chemicals.
- The other thing that is REALLY important to understand is that you may be paying a little more for high quality dog food, but you usually will be feeding them less than the low-end food! (because the higher the quality food the less fillers & the less you have to feed them) So in the end you usually come close to the same price you were paying for very low end food.
Now go grab your dog’s food bag and read the ingredient list and have fun!