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I’m of the opinion that we all come to decide on the best dog food for us (and our dog) in our own way… over time.
There is no ONE single best way, just like there is no ONE single best dog food brand.
- When you get your very first dog, you may start out choosing the cheapest and/or the most convenient dog food at that time. (I know I did.)
- Later, you might upgrade to one that seems better and/or healthier on first glance — even though you’re not exactly sure, because it’s hard to make sense of the labels and ingredients. (Seriously!)
- Over time — and maybe a few dogs later — you begin to trust your own firsthand experiences more than ever before. You also rely on advice from friends & relatives. You see bits & pieces from ads and commercials for dog food. You ask your vet for their personal opinion. And you research online to see what others are saying.
- Eventually, you will come to feel rather strongly about a certain type of dog food or brand of dog food.
The point: we are all at different places in our search to find the best dog food brand for our beloved pets.
Wherever you are in your journey, I hope that the following information will be helpful. Because even well-respected veterinarians change their minds over time, as they experiment and learn new information.
Choosing The Best Ingredients In Dog Food
For the record, I don’t believe that there is only one best dog food brand that you should be feeding your dog.
That said – to each his own. If you happen to believe that strongly about one particular brand or type of dog food, then I applaud you for being at peace with something that works… for you. Whatever you choose to do — as long as it’s not harmful to your dog and you’re not belittling to those who don’t do what you do — then more power to you!
However, if you are at that point in the journey where you are still searching for the right dog food… just keep in mind that much of what you read online contains a multitude of opinions — and even rants — from dog owners who feel very passionately about their dog food choices.
What it really comes down to is the list of ingredients in the dog food and the order of those ingredients on the dog food label.
Good to know: Any ingredient that appears after Salt on the label is only included in a minuscule amount. So keep that in mind!
I strongly encourage you to do a little research yourself and become familiar with the dog food ingredients list on your favorite brands of dog food. Then, make an informed decision that you feel comfortable with, based on what you believe is the best dog food brand for your dog.
Hopefully, these resources will assist you…
Pet Food Labeling
First, some things you should be aware of with regard to pet food labeling:
Vet Tip of the Day: Spend oodles on “human grade” food for your pets? Know that it only means human-style sanitary, not human-style healthy.
—Patty Khuly, Veterinarian
Dog Food Ingredients
Here’s what you need to know about ingredients in dog foods:
Imagine that a German Shepherd puppy begins eating a wheat, barley, corn, or soy-based diet from the moment it is weaned. If inadequate levels of calcium and vitamin C are absorbed, what are the chances that its hips, elbows, spine, and other cartilaginous structures are going to form properly? I would say “Not good”. Most people familiar with dogs know that this breed has a reputation for horrible hip dysplasia. But, they also have serious allergies and other immune-related disorders. This, of course, is no coincidence. Once it is understood that the allergies form in the area of the gut that is being damaged or coated by the ‘glue’, it is easy to see why the trouble breeds like the German Shepherd, Cocker Spaniel, Shih Tzu, and others have their ‘genetic’ tendencies such as allergic skin and ear problems, orthopedic abnormalities, intervertebral disc ruptures, and cancers.
—John B. Symes, Veterinarian
Dog Food Comparisons & Reviews
Here are some helpful dog food comparison charts and reviews:
When shopping for dog treats, look for a short list of ingredients. Also, stay away from corn, wheat, and soy – potential dog allergens.
—Patty Khuly, Veterinarian
- Dogs need dog food, and puppies need puppy food until they are about 1 year of age.
- Make sure that you’re meeting your dog’s basic needs by including these nutrients every dog needs: proteins, carbohydrates, fats (like Linoleic acid, Omega-6, and omega-3 fatty acids), vitamins, and minerals.
- Your dog also needs to drink a lot of water each day — about 2.5 times more water than food each day or 1/2 oz per pound of your dog’s weight.
- Check the expiration date or bar code date for when the food was made. You want to buy the freshest, especially since natural preservatives are only effective for about 30 to 60 days. (That’s a good reason to buy smaller quantities.)
- Avoid the preservatives BHA, BHT, and Ethoxyquin. They have been shown to cause health problems.
- Protein (meat) is the most important ingredient in dog food. However, it’s good to be aware of ingredient splitting — especially when the first ingredient is meat. Two things to remember: (1) You want a quality meat product — like chicken, beef, lamb, salmon. (2) You want a dog food that contains more meat than grains.
- Avoid dog food that has the words “meat” or “meat meal” ONLY IF they don’t specify the type of meat (chicken, beef, lamb, salmon, etc.) For example, “meat and bone meal” should be avoided but “lamb meat” and “lamb meal” would be okay.
- Avoid dog food which contains any “by-product” because there’s little to no nutritional value in byproducts.
- Look for whole grains like barley, oats and rice (no “hulls).
- Corn, soy, and wheat are typically used as fillers. Avoid them if possible, because they’re common allergens.
- Dog food labeled as “premium” “super premium” “ultra premium” or “gourmet” are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients, nor are they held up to any higher nutritional standards than are any other complete and balanced products. So accept those labels with a grain of salt.
- The term “natural” does not have an official definition. For the most part, “natural” refers to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives.
- The term “organic” refers to the conditions under which the plants were grown or the animals were raised. There are no official rules governing the labeling of organic foods for pets.
- When rumors start flying and “kibble chaos” becomes the latest chatter at the water cooler, here’s what to do when the fear mongers claim that a certain brand of dog food is deadly or recalled. It’s important to keep things in perspective.
Finally, here are some great tips for choosing the best dog food brand that you can afford.
Here’s what I suggest to my clients: Look at the dog food labels. In the GUARANTEED ANALYSIS look for the Protein content to be at least 30%, the Fat to be at least 18%, preservatives to be via Vitamin E and/or C, and look for Omega Fatty Acid to be present.
—TJ Dunn Jr, Veterinarian
I like to help Dog Parents find unique ways to do things that will save time & money — so I write about "outside the box" Dog Tips and Dog Hacks that most wouldn't think of. I’m a lifelong dog owner — currently have 2 mixed breed Golden Aussies that we found abandoned on the side of the road as puppies. I've always trained my own dogs and help friends train theirs, as well. Professionally, I worked at a vet and have several friends who are veterinarians — whom I consult with regularly. (And just because I love animals so much, I also worked at a Zoo for awhile!) I've been sharing my best ideas with others by blogging full-time since 1998 (the same year that Google started… and before the days of Facebook and YouTube). My daily motivation is to help first-time dog owners be better prepared from the first day your new puppy enters your home. I like to help dog owners understand what's 'normal' and what you can expect in terms of living with and training your dog — how to get through the ups & downs of potty training, chewing, teaching commands, getting your dog to listen, and everything else that takes place during that hectic first year! When I'm not training, walking, grooming, or making homemade treats for my dogs, you will find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites). To date, I've written over 500 articles for dog owners on this site!