The choices in dog food can be overwhelming. There’s food for small dogs and large dogs, thin dogs and fat dogs, couch potatoes and active dogs, and even food specific to a breed (such as Best Breed Dog Food). But, if you want to insure the best nutrition for your dog, choosing dog food from the array of healthy foods available is the best course.
But what does “healthy” dog food mean? It’s a food that contains a dog’s basic nutrition needs, a good source of protein, and adequate fat, fiber and moisture – and then some (see “Up the Ante” below).
To start with, any dog food must meet the safety regulations of the FDA. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (or AAFCO) defines what goes on dog food labels but some feel this is inadequate considering that the AAFCO is not governed and includes people in the pet food industry who benefit from certain guidelines. So, we as dog owners are left largely to ourselves to find a safe and healthy food for our dog.
An average dog should have a diet that is 50% vegetable, 40% meat and 10% grain. Grown dogs need a minimum of 18% protein on a dry matter basis, whereas puppies require at least 22%. All dogs also require some fat, amount dependent on their level of activity. Dogs also need approximately 4% of their diets to be fiber. These are all, again, on average. In doing a dog food comparison, it is best to start with the labels.
Dog Food Ingredients: A good way to determine the quality of a food is the ingredient list. With a little practice, you can find a food that does not have unwanted products and is highly digestible. The ingredients are listed in order by weight.
One trick some manufacturers use is to break an ingredient into several different smaller ingredients and list them separately. For example, the ingredients might include chicken (first), ground corn, corn gluten, and corn bran (further down). You might think chicken is the main ingredient but, grouping the corn ingredients together, they would likely greatly outweigh the amount of chicken.
The following must be included on dog food labels:
Note: “Crude” does not take into account digestibility or the source. The source could be human-grade beef or chicken feathers.
Luckily, healthy dog foods are easy to find today. Or, you can try making your own food with healthy dog food recipes. If you choose to do this, consult with your vet and do some research. There is a lot of information online and in books such as “The Whole Pet Diet.” Some things to consider for buying or making are:
Healthy nutrition is the foundation but don’t forget the other elements of a healthy canine lifestyle: exercise, medical check-ups, alternative medicine such as Acupuncture, dental hygiene, and grooming. Manage all of these and you will have one happy, healthy dog.