Choosing A Dog Food That Is Right For Your Dog
When choosing a type or brand of dog food, you should understand there is no such thing as one kibble fits all. Unfortunately, there is a lot of advertising hype that dog owners, especially new ones, must navigate through when choosing the right dog food.
Luckily though, there are some valuable FDA regulatory guidelines in place that can educate the new pet owner when choosing the right food for your pet.
These guidelines are primarily aimed at proper labeling to ensure product wholesomeness and valuable pet owner information. The FDA also plays many other important roles, including sorting out the pet food industry’s bad players.
Regardless of whether the dog food is raw, grain-free, or standard processed (commercial kibbles or canned), your choice is really based on who you tend to believe. Don’t just rely on your gut instincts, paid testimonials, or ads. Always get the advice of someone you trust, like a professional pet breeder, pet nutritionist, or veterinarian.
What should be important to you and your dog…
- that your dog likes the food, and that the food is well balanced.
- that your dog has no allergies to the food’s ingredients.
- that your dog experiences good health, growth, vitality, and safety from the food.
These factors are crucial to the dog’s wellbeing and are expanded on below.
Must Like―Must Be Balanced
Obviously, your dog must enjoy the food he or she is given. But, this involves more than the dog simply being hungry and scarfing down what’s placed in front of him. A dog’s keen sense of smell plays a key role in eating, enjoying, and benefiting from its food. The food must be satisfying as well as nutritionally balanced.
Also, be aware that what seems good and wholesome to you may be harmful to your dog. Rich foods like gravies, cooked or splintery bones, some spices, nuts and certain fruits, salt, sugar, sweeteners, chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, are bad for dogs (see Pets WebMD for a complete list).
Understand that a dog can smell everything in its food, so it might sort out what it likes and leave the rest.
For example, if the food is easy to separate, the dog may overload on carbs or protein and pass up on beneficial fiber and other nutrition. This “sorting” can be unhealthy in terms of the dog’s vigor, body weight, growth, mental development, and/or potential organ damage.
Must Be Non-Allergenic
Just like us, dogs can have food allergies. This can be troublesome for many dog owners and dangerous for many dogs. Some food allergy symptoms in dogs are:
- Skin sores/hair loss
- Dry skin/itching/chronic licking and biting
- Excessive flatulence/bloat
- Chronic ear infections not caused by mites
- Chronic eye infections
- Swelling of face, lips, throat, or tongue
While some sources may claim that certain breeds are more likely to suffer food allergies, the truth is that all dog breeds can be afflicted.
A Black Lab is just as likely as a Chinese Shar-Pei to have food allergies. Thus, caution is key when a food change is made, and it’s important always to gradually introduce the new food. Ask your vet if you have any doubt about a certain food or think your dog has food allergies.
Must Support Growth, Vitality, and Safety
To do this, the dog food has to be nutritionally balanced, safe from all contamination and spoilage, routinely fed in the correct amount, and taste good to the dog. Whether the food is raw, grain-free, or standard fare, it has to meet these criteria.
Some would argue that raw meat and bone is the best way to go. Others claim that grain-free is healthier for dogs. And some adhere to the standard kibble and canned brand-name foods as best for Fido.
The raw and grain-free crowds base their choices on the simple assumption that all modern dogs descended from wild carnivorous canines.
While that specific heritage is not a concrete fact, it is probably a safe assumption based on the skeletal and fossil evidence. But, the problem is that modern dogs are not strict carnivores, regardless of their ancestry. Dogs are omnivores. Period. They eat and get nutrition from both plant and animal food sources.
Even modern wild canines, like foxes and wolves, are known to eat plant materials. These are indisputable facts that support feeding our pet dogs a meat-based diet but supplemented with nuts, fruits, and vegetables. These plant ingredients offer a higher, more diversified plane of nutrition than just meat and bone. They also provide the dog with more flavor, aroma, and texture than an all-meat diet.
That said, not all raw and grain-free dog foods are without some plant-based ingredients. Certain nuts, legumes, vegetables, and fruits may be included in some commercial recipes―read the ingredient label!
From a health and taste standpoint, it is more about the ingredients’ sourcing and inclusion levels. Some of these dog foods include non-meat ingredients simply for label dressing. Sometimes companies will buy poor quality or poorly sourced ingredients as a cost-saving step. Beware, this latter tactic often lends itself to bacterial or chemical contamination resulting in FDA mandated product recalls.
This does not mean the standard commercially processed dog foods are not subject to the same problems. It would be naive to think so. On the contrary, these companies are subject to the same quality and nutritional requirements as all others. While not perfect, the name brands are at least self-monitored to provide well balanced and healthy nutrition.
Whether you choose to feed your dog a raw, grain-free, or standard food ration is a matter of your own choice. Each has its own risks and shortcomings. But, we highly recommend that you research your choices carefully and seek professional guidance from your pet nutritionist or veterinarian before deciding which type of product to feed your best friend.