Your dog needs to eat. The pet industry is a multi billion dollar one, and among the heavy hitters in this sector are the dog food manufacturers. One of the most frequently asked questions is how to choose the right dog food. It really depends on your definition of right.
Like people, dogs have different nutritional needs. What works for some dogs may not work for others. There are a few solid schools of thought that both time and science have proven them to be so:
You Can’t Always Trust a Dog Food Label
A recent article reported on by DVM360.com cites that 20 of the 52 dog foods that were tested for ingredients showed a discrepancy between labeled ingredients and what was in the actual diet.
That is scary stuff, folks.
The study showed that the most common ingredient was chicken and that 20 of the mislabeled dog foods either had more proteins in them or NONE of the advertised proteins. Pork was the most common undeclared protein, and two foods claiming to contain beef had none at all. This can be a problem when dog parents are trying to avoid a potential food allergen for their allergic pooch.
Many dog parents believe that eliminating “wheat” or grains from a dog’s diet is what is needed to rule out a food allergy, but they must avoid corn, wheat, egg, beef, chicken, soy, dairy and any other previously fed protein during the eight- to 10-week diet trial.
Grain Free: What Does it Really Mean?
People are all abuzz and feel good feeding their dog a “grain free” diet. After all, we don’t want our dogs ingesting grains they don’t need, right? That sounds fantastic in theory but consider this:
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has no set definition of what “grain free” means, basically allowing pet food manufacturers to define it — and market it — for themselves.
Dogs need complex carbohydrates for stool formation but they may not be getting those carbs needed from the grain free diet. Puzzling, isn’t it?
Wait, there’s more.
Raw and To Each Their Own
I am not a raw feeder but if you are and are careful and diligent about it, then more power to you. There is a strong argument from the raw feeding camp that a raw diet provides canines, you know ancestors of wolves, with the sound nutrition needed for longevity. Wild animals have a much shorter lifespan than our domestic pets, so the proper nutrition might actually be lacking in a raw diet. I am not an expert in raw feeding, but merely pointing out the schools of thought. Safety risks for freezing and freeze-dried raw diets are also a concern, as freezing does not destroy all pathogens. If you do or plan to feed raw, know the facts from the fictions. Talk to a reputable veterinary nutritionist.
Dog Food Historical Facts
Processed dog food has been popular pretty much since the end of World War II, and it has only become more popular with time. I always tell my readers that the best dog food to feed your dog is the one that works for you. Not everyone can afford a high priced dog food nor can everyone prepare a home-cooked meal for their dog.
A gentleman by the name of James Spratt is credited with the first dog food of sort: He made a biscuit of wheat meal, vegetables, and animal blood in England in 1860.
The manufacture of dry dog food has its own fi-dose of reality. I am not against feeding a dog dry food, but I do believe in understanding what a dog eats so that there is a transparency and power in knowledge for pet parents. Dry dog food is heated to a very high temperature and then processed into the form your dog sees in his or her food bowl. A spray is often placed over the kibble to make it more sensory receptive to dogs.
The only terminology that can be used on a pet food label in terms of a veterinarian is “veterinarian recommended” or “veterinarian developed” and only if the food company meets specific criteria. The term “veterinarian approved” is not allowed on pet food labels.
Only you can decide what works for your dog’s age, breed, size, and considering his or her health.
With the rise of allergies affecting dogs, there are a bevy of dog food choices available to pet parents. Keep in mind that most dogs that are itching and scratching due to their diet probably have a food sensitivity/intolerance and not a food allergy.
Breaking Dog Food Down
Human grade refers to a finished product that is deemed legally suitable, safe, and FDA-approved for consumption by a human.
Feed grade refers to the quality of a finished product which is not suitable for consumption by humans according to FDA standards. It is only legally allowed to be served to animals because of the ingredients it contains or how it has been processed. Further, it may include by-products, chemicals, fillers, and parts from “4D” meats: animals which are dying, diseased, disabled, or deceased. (re-read that last sentence very carefully. Did you shudder as we did?)
Made with human-grade ingredients does NOT mean a finished product is actually legally, human grade. An ingredient might start off being fit for people to eat it, but once it is shipped to a pet food plant and processed according to regulations for feed grade products, the term “human grade” can no longer apply. By true definition, that ingredient is not human grade.
What I Feed My Dog
I am very transparent in what my dog is fed. Dexter eats a combination of The Honest Kitchen Embark dog food, mixed with Dr. Harvey’s Veg-to-Bowl, and I add some fresh cooked meat to it a few times a week.
You can click to read all about my dog’s diet here and learn more about dog food, as well.
How to Choose the Right Dog Food
Some of the qualities important to me that you may want to consider are:
- No artificial ingredients or preservatives: I want it as fresh as possible without having to cook it myself;
- Nutritious and good for my dog;
- Human grade;
- He likes the taste of it and I can rotate flavors if desired without causing digestive upset
- Made with recognizable ingredients, words I can pronounce, made with human grade ingredients that are not from rendering plants.
- I am not as concerned with price of food if I know I am feeding quality because I either pay now or pay later in costly medical bills due to an inferior grade of food;
- No ingredients from China (or as little as possible since most vitamins and minerals in dog food come from China).
To provide you the most accurate information and to give you a full perspective of health-related issues, we enlist the assistance of Rachel Sheppard of My Kid Has Paws blog for her side of things. As a former vet tech, Rachel shares her take on dog food in the latest Medicine Versus Mom series with Fidose of Reality. Click here to read Rachel’s take on choosing a dog food.
Your budget and what works in your dog’s lifestyle are important and to each their own. Here’s to a healthy, long life for you and your dog(s)!
QUESTION: What type of food(s) do you feed your dog?
Note: I am not being compensated to share any of this and what works for your dog may vary. Always check with your dog’s veterinarian and/or nutritionist for specific health-related questions.