If you’ve spent any time if the presence of passionate dog owners, you have probably, at one time or another, witnessed a heated debate over what the best food to feed a dog is. For someone who chooses their dog food solely by the cost, convenience, or by the hottest new commercial on television, choosing the best dog food to feed a dog is clear cut. For owners who are concerned about the ingredients in their dog’s food, comparing labels, reading reviews, contacting dog food manufacturers, and talking to veterinarians takes on more importance. However, despite all this, the answers can still be murky and the plethora of dog food choices available can be overwhelming.
How do you choose the best dog food for your dog?
The best rule of thumb is to purchase the most nutritious food you can afford. What makes up the healthiest food ingredients will still be up for debate, but by identifying what the most important ingredients are, you can separate some of the murkiness from the mire. Dog food manufacturers are required to list the dog food ingredients on the label in descending order according to precooking weights. This simply means that the first ingredients on the label make up the largest percentage of the food. Examine the ingredients up to the first added fat ingredient and consider those the main ingredients in the food. While it is doubtful you will ever be able to fully identify what each percentage of the ingredients make up the dog food, you will know what primarily makes up each bag or can.
What are the most important ingredients in dog food?
The first ingredient on the list should be a healthy meat protein source. There are usually two forms of meat protein in dog food.
Meat: "Meat is the clean flesh derived from slaughtered mammals and is limited to that part of the striate muscle which is skeletal or that which is found in the tongue, in the diaphragm, in the heart, or in the esophagus; with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve, and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh. It shall be suitable for use in animal food. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto."
Meat Meal: “The rendered product from mammal tissues, exclusive of any added blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach and rumen contents except in such amounts as may occur unavoidably in good processing practices. It shall not contain added extraneous materials not provided for by this definition. The Calcium (Ca) level shall not exceed the actual level of Phosphorus (P) by more than 2.2 times. It shall not contain more than 12% Pepsin indigestible residue and not more than 9% of the crude protein in the product shall be pepsin indigestible. The label shall include guarantees for minimum crude protein, minimum crude fat, maximum crude fiber, minimum Phosphorus (P) and minimum and maximum Calcium (Ca). If the product bears a name descriptive of its kind, composition or origin, it must correspond thereto."
It is fairly obvious that meat is a better first ingredient than meat meal. The highest quality dog foods typically contain meat and meat meal, or a combination of meat and meat meal will often follow as a second and third ingredient. If you are only feeding your dog dry kibble, look for a kibble that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates, as dogs are designed to eat primarily meats and fat. It is even better if you can supplement your dog’s kibble with fresh meat or a high-quality canned kibble as the moisture content is much higher.
What is important to look for when choosing a dog food?
When choosing your food, always look to see where the ingredients are sourced. While a label may say “Made in the USA,” that does not mean the ingredients are sourced in the USA. If the pet food website does not list where their ingredients are sourced, it may be indicative that they are imported. A simple phone call to the manufacturer can clear this up. In our experience, a quick call was made to one extremely popular “limited ingredient” dog food and the company refused to provide the information. Contrast that with a higher quality dog food manufacturer we called that freely answered all our questions and clearly identified where each protein ingredient was sourced. While not all ingredients were sourced in the United States, the countries they imported their food from were considered to have high quality standards. Choose a food "from USDA inspected facilities" that have "passed USDA inspection for human consumption.” Use caution when purchasing food that has been “inspected for human consumption” as that does not indicate whether or not the food actually passed inspection. The best choice would be dog food made from “human grade food.”
Choose dog food wisely
When choosing a manufactured dog food, the bottom line is to look for the healthiest, high quality and high protein food. You should be able to identify how much protein makes up the total ingredients. For instance, two labels may read that chicken meat is the first ingredient (followed by rice). However, that is not enough. You need to know what percentage of protein makes up the food. If you can’t identify the information on the bag, go to the website or contact the manufacturer because the health and well-being of your dog is depending on you. One final note: if a pet food manufacturer’s website seems to be hiding something from you, they probably are, and a quick phone call will reveal what you already suspect. For more information or if you would like to read comprehensive dog food reviews, an excellent source for information is www.petfoodadvisor.com