Posted in Dog
What makes a good dog food? This article will walk you through the basics, recommend some good brands, and give you some resources for additional research.
Why is Choosing a Good Dog Food Important?
Feeding your dog a good diet is more important than you think. Feeding your dog a cheap, low-quality diet can actually be much more expensive in the long run for two reasons:
1. You need to feed more low-quality dog food because so much of the food is filler. If you buy a more expensive dog food, you will feed your dog less food overall because it has higher nutritional content.
2. Vet bills are expensive! With a poor diet, your dog is more likely to have health problems that need to be treated. Some common problems that result from low-quality dog foods are hot spots, diarrhea, and flaky skin.
In addition to the obvious benefit of having a healthier dog, there are lots of other benefits of feeding a high quality dog food that most people aren’t even aware of:
- Shiny Coat: Good dog food does wonders for your dog’s skin and coat. Dogs that are fed high quality foods will have shiny coats and soft fur. They will have far fewer skin and coat problems that will cause vet trips.
- Less Poo: Dogs on a good diet will have healthy, firm stools. Dogs on a healthy diet produce much less waste because high quality ingredients are easier to digest and most of it will be absorbed by your dog. This makes it much easier to pick up after your dog!
- Weight Maintenance: It’s much easier for a dog to maintain a healthy weight on a good diet. Low-quality foods with filler ingredients can easily contribute to obesity in dogs.
- Less Smelly: Diet can cause your dog can be smelly for a few different reasons. Sometimes diet can upset your dog’s stomach, which can cause bad gas. A poor quality diet can also cause skin problems that can cause your dog’s coat to smell bad. Diet can even cause bad breath in dogs!
Types of Dog Food and Diets
There are three general types of diets that you can choose to feed your dog:
- Dry Dog Food is the most popular type of diet for dogs because it is the most convenient and is typically cheaper than the other options. There are high quality dog food options out there that dogs do great on. Another name for dry dog food is kibble.
- Wet Dog Food is typically more appetizing to dogs than dry dog food, and can often be more nutritious because there are fewer chemical additives needed to keep the food fresh. However, it is less convenient because it can’t be left out if your dog doesn’t eat it right away, and opened cans need to be refrigerated. It’s typically more expensive than dry dog food.
- Raw Dog Food is based on the idea that the ancestors of our modern day dogs ate raw meat (and sometimes vegetables) for most of their meals. This type of diet is usually the least convenient but there are many health benefits. Dogs who eat bones typically have very clean teeth which saves on dental costs. There is also increased mental stimulation due to the variety of textures and shapes in a raw food diet. Some people choose to create their own mixes of raw food, and others choose to buy commercial raw dog food. A raw diet contains only meat, and a BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet also contains fruits/vegetables.
Some people feed their dogs exclusively one type, but some people feed their dog a mix of dry food, wet food, and raw food.
Dog Food Ingredients: The Good and The Bad
To help you determine a good food for your dog, here’s a quick run down on ingredients to look for and avoid:
Good: Meat and Meat Meal
The majority of any dog’s diet should be made up of meat ingredients, because dogs are built to digest meat and it is the most nutritious for them. The first ingredient in any dog food should always be a meat ingredient or a meat meal ingredient. Meat meal is just a more concentrated protein. However, it should always be specified what type of meat it contains (i.e. chicken, bison, salmon, etc).
Bad: Unspecified Meat
One thing to be wary of is anonymous types of meat. Sometimes you will see dog ingredients labeled things like “Meat and Bone Meal” or “Fish” or “Liver” or “Poultry Meal.” This is a bad ingredient because at the very least it is impossible to get specific nutrition information because each species has a different level of protein/fat/etc. At the worst, unspecified meat can contain things like roadkill, spoiled meat, or diseased livestock.
Bad: Meat Byproduct
Meat byproduct is what is leftover after all of the parts of the animal meant for human consumption have been taken away. What’s left? Things like chicken beaks and chicken feet, intestines, brains, blood, etc. While meat byproduct can be digested by dogs, it’s just not as high quality as actual meat and meat meal, so don’t mistake the two. High quality dog foods will typically not have byproduct.
Bad: Wheat, Soy, and Corn
These three ingredients are irritants to a dog’s digestive system and provide very little nutritional content. The highest quality dog foods will be grain free and will not contain soy or corn. If wheat, soy, or corn is the main ingredient of a dog food, it’s a very, very low quality.
Recommended Dry Dog Food Brands
These brands are highly recommended because they are grain free and have main meat ingredients that are specified. They are healthy, well-balanced meals for dogs. This is by no means a complete list, just some suggestions to get you started!
Recommended Wet Dog Food Brands
If you are looking for wet dog foods, here are some recommendations that are highly nutritious for your dog:
Recommended Raw Food Brands
Raw food diets can either be fed through a commercial pre-packaged diet, or through selecting raw meats and bones to combine into a well-balanced meal. The highest recommended raw food that is pre-packaged is called Stella and Chewy’s Freeze Dried Dinner
Recommended Resources for Raw Feeding (Not Pre-Packaged)
For more information on feeding a raw diet that is not pre-packaged, visit these links:
Recommended Additional Resources
This article provides a basic run down about dog food, but there are other resources out there that will go into much further detail if that’s what you’re looking for.
Dog Food Advisor is an amazing resource for evaluating dog food brands. They give a breakdown of all of the ingredients and give the reasons behind why it’s good or bad for your dog. If you are thinking of buying a brand that was not listed on this page, check out the Dog Food Advisor to see its rating.
The Dog Food Project has very detailed information about dog nutrition and ingredients in dog food.
Choosing a dog food is not an easy task, but now you should at least be armed with a good amount of knowledge for making a good choice for you and your dog!