Would you ever compromise on the food you eat or give to your family? Eat anything that comes your way, without looking at the ingredients or the nutritional value? Not if you want to be healthy, right? Should it be any different for your dog? If you consider your dog to be a part of your family, then you want it to be just as healthy and well-fed as you are. But, while you may know the nutritional needs of a human being, understanding those of a dog are important as well when you’re trying to choose the right dog food. Every dog has its own nutritional requirements and a dog food that works for one dog may not work for another.

So, where do you begin when you’re on your search for the right dog food? While you can’t always be a hundred percent sure of what you’re feeding your dog, there are some things you can consider.

Can You Always Trust the Dog Food Label?

Dog food labels are an important starting point when you’re trying to determine what your dog is eating, but are they always reliable or trustworthy?

According to a study, at least 20 out of the 52 dog foods tested for their ingredients showed a discrepancy between what the labels said and what was actually in the food. These 20 foods either had none of the proteins that were listed or had ones that were not listed at all, the most common one being pork.Why is this important? It’s all food after all. Well, it becomes a problem if your dog has specific dietary needs and you’re trying to avoid an allergen that can be harmful for it.

While you may think that giving your dog food that is free of wheat or other grains can keep it safe from allergies, there are other ingredients that need to be monitored during the diet trial period. During this 8 to 10 week period, everything from wheat, corn,chicken, beef, egg, dairy, and soy has to be controlled and monitored.

Familiarize Yourself with the Buzz Words

You should also look out for some of the common “buzz words” on food labels. If the label says “Chicken for Dogs” or “Beef Dog Food”, this indicates that the food includes 95% of that particular protein, however, it is without counting the water content. The amount comes down to 70% when you include the water content as well.

Another word you should be familiar with is “dinner”. When a dog food label uses the word “dinner” such as “Salmon Dinner” or “Chicken Stew Dinner for Dogs”, it means the product only has 25% of the listed protein. This holds true for words like “formula”, “nuggets”, “entree” and “platter” as well. Furthermore, if the product has more than one protein listed, then their combined percentage will be 25%.

When you see the word “with” preceding any of the ingredients, it indicates that the product only has 3% of that particular ingredient. For instance, a dog food label saying “with salmon” or “with cheese” will include 3% salmon or cheese, respectively. You should know how to read a label when more than one of these words are given together; for instance, “Chicken Dinner with cheese” will include 25% chicken and 3% cheese.

The last word you should be familiar with is “flavour”. Whenever a dog food label says that a food is “chicken flavour” or “beef flavour” or any other flavour, the company is required to add only trace amounts of the ingredient; enough that it is detectable by your dog.

Learn How to Read the Ingredients

Dog food labels list the ingredients according to weight and the first spot is often given to the meat included in the food. Why? Because of their high water content. When choosing a dog food, you should give preference to foods that list meats or meat meals first since dogs are omnivores that require meats first and foremost. Only in extreme conditions, such as during allergies, should a dog be given a diet primarily consisting of vegetables.

Another thing you should be careful with when you choose the right dog food for your dog is that you don’t select any food that has a vegetable, tuber, or grain, listed as its first ingredient. For instance, a food that mention corn as its first ingredient, does not mean it’s bad for your dog, but it does not mean it’s good either.

Read the Nutritional Adequacy Statement

You can find the nutritional adequacy statement on the label which usually says something like “Provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs” or for “puppies” or “all life stages”.

What Does “Grain Free” Mean?

Does your dog need grains in its diet? Most likely not, and dog parents often go out of their way to find dog foods that are grain free. But what does “grain free” mean? Is there a set criterion for it? Organizations like the AAFCO that set the definitions of things and ingredients in animal foods have not defined what “grain free” means. This allows each dog food manufacturer to define it for themselves and include or exclude what they want. They can market it as “grain free” on their own terms.

However, if you think you need to give your dog a grain-free diet due to an allergy or food intolerance, you should consult your vet. You can often tell that your dog has either of those if you see it excessively licking its paws, scratching, diarrhea and vomiting.

Should You Choose Raw Over Processed Food?

The common argument often heard in the raw versus processed food debate is the fact that canines and wolves survive on a purely raw diet and it provides them with all the nutrition they need. However, if you think about it, wild animals tend to live shorter lives as compared to domestic ones. So their diet may not be as complete as people think. Furthermore, there are contamination risks for freeze-dried raw diets. This method is not successful in destroying all the pathogens and can be harmful to your dog if you’re not careful.

Choosing the Right Dog Food for Your Dog

When you’re trying to select the perfect dog food to keep your canine friend happy and healthy, there are a lot of things to consider. You can look at some of the things below to get you started:

Does the food contain artificial ingredients or preservatives?
Is the nutritional value high and good for your dog?
Is the dog food labeled as Human Grade?
Does it come in different flavors that you can alternate without upsetting your dog’s stomach?
Does your dog like the taste?
If you want the best quality, you may need to purchase the dog food that also costs more. So, measure the pros and cons of money versus quality and try to find a balance with both.

The Ingredients to Look For

While choosing the right dog food, you should be mindful of all the ingredients it contains and the ingredients that are good for your dog. There are generally six types of ingredients that your dog needs and these should be both of good quality and high in nutritional content.

Proteins

Proteins are generally found in ingredients like chicken, barley, eggs, corn, soybean, and salmon. Your dog requires proteins for the reinforcement of its bones, muscles, and skin, which combined help support its whole body.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can be found in rice, corn, barley, and sorghum, and are a good source of energy for your dog.

Found in vegetable oils and fish, fats are another good source of energy and help keep your dog’s skin healthy.

Fiber

Fiber is found in soybean mill run, beet pulp and cellulose and is essential for keeping your dog’s digestive system working well.

Vitamins

Vitamins are usually found in a lot of the ingredients that are already mentioned above. For instance, Vitamin A and E can generally be found in eggs. Vitamins as a whole help your dog’s heart, immune system, and liver, allowing him to have a healthier life.

Minerals

Again, minerals can be found in the ingredients above and are essential for a balanced and healthy diet. For instance calcium makes your dog’s teeth and bones stronger.

Important Things to Consider

When choosing a dog food, you need to consider a few more things, which include:

Your dog’s age – your dog’s dietary requirements change with its age; to stay healthy and happy, your dog requires different vitamins and minerals at different stages of its life. However, the basic distinction between the dog food for an adult dog or a puppy is the kibble size. Go for smaller kibble size for younger dogs, as well as short breed dogs, so they can chew their food without difficulty. You should also consider the protein level according to the age as the young dogs will need high protein diet as compared to adult ones for proper development of the muscles and bones.

Your dog’s body condition – the physical condition of your dog is important when choosing dog food. According to its condition, you may want to go for a food that can help control your dog’s weight, help with the dog’s overall activity level and performance, etc.

Your dog’s health history – in addition to your dog’s body condition, you need to consider its health as well. Does your dog suffer from diabetes? Does it have any specific allergies or digestive problems? Are there any other serious health issues your dog suffers from, such as cancer? If your dog has any such health condition, you’ll need to choose a food that is appropriate for it by consulting the vet.

Your dog’s preference – Dogs can be picky when it comes to their food and not every food may be suitable for every dog. You may find that some dog foods work great for some dogs while actually make other dogs sick. You will need to experiment with a few to find the best food for your dog that it prefers as well.

Your own budget – The last thing you have to consider is your own budget. According to the general rule, the more expensive a dog food you buy, the better its quality will be and the healthier it will be. But, you have to buy the best dog food that you can easily and consistently afford.

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