The food you feed your pet will either help them stay healthy or cause them to develop disease. Most dogs will eat the same food meal after meal, day after day, for most of their life. This makes the dog food you choose to feed the number one decision you will ever make for your pets wellness. Sure, veterinary care, vaccinations, exercise, socialization, and environment all matter too. But, These other factors each play smaller roles at less frequent intervals than the dog food your dog eats.
Here are some basic standards that I recommend:
- Never buy dog food or treats made in China or that source any ingredients from China. They do not have the same regulations. In 2007 many US brands unknowingly purchased tainted protein sources that were added to their products and put on US shelves. This resulted in kidney failure and death for many beloved pets. The recalls continue to pop up sporadically.
- Make sure the first five ingredients are food. Byproducts and meals are a mixed bag. “Meat meal” for example can be anything from fur to beaks. Unfortunately, there have been several recalls related to finding euthanasia drugs in the dog foods. This is likely due to mixed “animal grade” protein sources. Corn meal is fine, but largely undigestible for most dogs. This makes it a poor source of nutrients and will lead to more mess to clean up on the other end.
- Each bag or can must be properly labeled the AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement. If it doesn’t then it isn't safe to feed as a stand alone diet day after day. This label can be located anywhere on the bag and is often very small.
Canned or Dry?
Canned food is more biologically appropriate, and dry dog food is more convenient. I personally use a combination of both. Remember that quality ingredients are the top priority.
What about cooking for your dog?
If you have the time to do so then I am all for it. Please find recipes formulated by a veterinary nutritionist. This will ensure balanced nutrition for your dog. Dogs require more calcium than we do. Bone meal powders can be purchased as an additive to ensure adequate calcium intake.
Dogs are omnivores and do best with a mix of meat, veggies, fruits, and starches. However, some dogs do not tolerate very much variety. Small breed dogs often develop pancreatitis from too much fat in their diets for example. You will have to see how your dog does on a well balanced home cooked diet and decide for yourself.
There are so many dog food brands, how do I decide in the face of so many choices?
Dog food is one area where decision fatigue can really take hold and cause you to just buy whatever is on sale or whatever you recognize from TV. Do not fall victim to this. Remember, this is the most important decision you can make for your best friend’s wellness. For more trusted guidance visit Dogfoodadvisor.com. It is a great, unbiased website that rates dog foods. I recommend picking a 3.5/5 or above.