Like humans, eating good quality food can have fantastic effects and advantages on dogs and their overall health or well being. For starters, the right food will have the correct vitamins and minerals your dog needs to stay fighting fit with a sleek coat and shiny eyes. It will help their digestion which can support stable energy levels as well as having the right amount of calories in it so that they do not put on, or lose, weight. Obviously, care has to be taken when getting the portion size right for this to be the case, but your dog being a healthy weight is a key factor to him or her leading a long and happy life.
However, buying dog food can be incredibly overwhelming owing to the wealth of options that there are across the market. For instance, which is better – wet dog food or dry dog food? And when do you stop giving dog food for puppies? Or even start your dog on senior dog food? Here is our guide on how to select high-quality dog food, therefore. Remember, just because it is expensive, it does not immediately follow that it offers your canine a well-rounded diet. Nor does it mean that if it is cheap, it will be terrible for your dog either. There is a good value dog food out there for every pooch, and it does not have to cost the earth either.
How To Select High-Quality Dog Food – A Step by Step Guide
Step 1: Analyse the Dietary Needs of Your Dog
This is fundamental before purchasing any food. Each dog will vary in need owing to its age, its breed, its sex, whether it has been neutered or spayed and simply how active it is. Dogs that are out all day running around with their owners obviously will need more or a higher calorie food than a dog with a sedentary life who sleeps a lot of the day.
What is less obvious is that dogs who have been neutered or spayed need less calories than dogs who have not. Additionally, if you have a female who has fallen pregnant, or has just given birth, she will need more calories from her food than she will have before.
Dogs who are older require less calories – more often than not simply because they are less mobile and agile so burn less calories throughout the day. Senior dog food is available for older dogs which can help keep them fuller for longer even though they are ingesting less calories.
Youngsters or puppies tend to need a great deal more in terms of energy levels from their food so bear this in mind if you are not buying dog food for puppies specifically.
Step 2: Ask What are the Nutritional Needs of Your Dog
Aside from the amount of energy that dogs take from food, high-quality dog food also needs to answer other nutritional needs of your dog. The result of this is that we should investigate where those calories are coming from. For food to be high quality for a dog, it needs to come from more than just one food type. Lower quality dog foods will rely simply on carbohydrate to get the calories up in their food, but a dog really needs to have about a fifth to a quarter of its calories coming from protein.
Ensure that the food you are considering giving your dog does not have too high levels of fat in it either as if a dog has too much fat in its diet, and stores it as such as it does not burn off this energy, they can go on to develop pancreatitis. If you are concerned, look towards a good quality, low-fat dry dog food. They tend to have only 6 to 8 percent fat content. Some dogs will need more calories however and so can take a food where the fat content even goes to almost 20%.
Step 3: Read the Label for What Ingredients have been Used
This is perhaps one of the most important steps to take when determining how to select high-quality dog food for your pooch. It means that you can ascertain whether it really is suitable for your furry friend. Before reading the list of ingredients, however, it is important to have taken on board what your dog needs from food – and from there you can see whether the ingredients are helping your dog, or are simply there as a cheap kibble filler.
For starters, dogs need to eat a diet that contains meat, grains, and vegetables. The best dog foods will have an ingredients list that will start with the meat it claims it contains. Ingredients to be wary of are terms such as meat meal or meat byproduct. What owners really want to see is the real deal so that beef or chicken or lamb is the first ingredient they see. Be aware though, that even though your dog food manufacturer has included some actual meat, this can be the cheaper cuts of muscle from the animal like the heart.
Try to stay clear of dogs foods that list the first, and therefore main, the ingredient of the dog food as a grain or vegetable. This means it will not be high enough in protein for your dog’s nutritional needs.
Step 4: Compare a Few Dog Food Labels
All dog food brands are different, regardless of whether they specifically make wet or dry food. So when deciding which dog food is best for your pooch, compare the ingredients labels between dog food types and brands. Some will have a higher level of protein than others, though some may include a better quality of protein even though the overall amount of meat is lower.
Wet and dry foods are difficult to compare in this way, given that wet food contains so much more moisture and liquid in it as an ingredient.
However, If in any doubt when comparing dog foods, there should be a label offering a quick way to analyze the makeup and levels of the different food types within your potential dog food. For example, these labels should break down the ingredients into categories such as protein, fat, and fiber. Some dog food brands do not include the calorie content of their food, but you can always ring to ask or check their website.
Step 5: Speak with Your Vet About any Concerns
Without a doubt, your vet will be a fantastic resource for you to ask about what dog food is suitable for your dog and how to select high-quality dog food that does not rip you off. Importantly, they will know your dog’s history and whether the breed you have has any particular health concerns that have been known to affect your dog’s type in the past. For instance, some dogs are prone to arthritis, like Labradors, while some are sadly prone to diabetes.
If you are struggling to find a dog food that suits your dog, regardless of the quality of ingredients, they will be able to help you determine what it is in your dog food that may be giving your dog an allergic reaction.
While disconcerting, some dog foods simply don’t agree with some dogs and your vet can point you in the right direction as to what ingredient could be causing skin irritations as an allergy or even diarrhea. Some dogs will respond better to grain free dog food, while others will find that dry dog food helps improve their digestive system. Your vet is best placed to make these calls and assumptions to help your dog as quickly as possible.
Step 6: Don’t Get Misled by Marketing
In our day and age where we are bombarded with information all the time regarding any products out there, it is easy to get fooled into thinking something like dog food is better than it is, just because the advertising, marketing, and branding leads us to believe it is great.
In particular, beware of words on dog food packaging that claims the food is all natural or even gourmet. These are adjectives that have a very little bearing on the actual content of the food inside the bag or the packet. Additionally, words like premium also have minimal impact on the real quality of the dog food that you are purchasing.
Terms that are definitely worth keeping an eye out for are when the labeling asserts that the dog food manufacturer is part of AAFCO and that as a producer it buys into the AAFCO statement. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Their statement offers dog owners some form of confidence and assurance that the food in a packet meets a basic level of quality regarding nutritional requirements.
Step 7: Find Which Food Suits Your Dog Better, Wet or Dry
Wet and canned food tends to be more expensive than dry food, but this is a classic case of when expensive does not necessarily mean that it is better. While it can suit some dogs very well, wet food can also upset a dog’s stomach and cause them to have loose stools as the food may be too rich for them.
Conversely, dry food may not suit your dog very well either, even though it is good quality with the right nutrients included. Some dogs simply do not like it, so do not eat enough of it to maintain a healthy weight. While others may find that it is too drying and therefore upsets their digestive tract.
That being said, both can be totally fine for most dogs, so it is just a matter of finding one that suits both you, your dog and your budget the best.
Step 8: Determine Which is the Freshest and Newest Pack of Your Chosen Food
Once you have decided which is the best quality dog food for your pooch, try to buy the pack that is the freshest. Dog food, especially dry dog food, can keep for a very long time, but the best food is still the one that is freshest – much like it is with food we ingest as humans. There should be a sell by date on the packaging and for the food to still be edible inside, the packaging should be sealed.
Bearing that in mind, to keep your dog’s food at the best quality, put it in an airtight container once you have opened it at home. This will keep it fresher for longer so your dog reaps the optimum benefits from it.
Once you have found a dog food that suits your dog, and you have checked that the ingredients list meets their nutritional needs as well as tasting good to them, it’s a good idea to buy the biggest bag possible to gain the best value for money. The only exception to this rule would be if you were buying specialized dog food for puppies, who may outgrow the bag of food before they finish it.
There is a high-quality dog food out there for every pooch – it just takes a little research from the outset before finding the right one that works for your dog to help them lead the longest, healthiest, happiest life possible.