How to choose dog food can be a question for any owner! Feeding your dog is what is going to keep him or her going, but it goes much deeper than that. Well balanced and high quality food is going to strengthen the immune system, maintain a clean and shiny coat as well as give your friend energy to make it through the day. The problem is, the options can be endless when it comes to the different kinds of foods! I am going to help you sort through all these different kinds of foods and which will be best for your dog.
Labels are a great first step in determining what food brand and kind you are going to buy. Here are some items to look for:
1. Manufacturer and Brand Name – The reputation of the manufacturer is huge in deciding if the food meets high quality standards. Quality pet foods are based on science and backed by research.
2. Nutritional Adequacy Statement – This tells you whether the food is for a specific stage in your pets life or for all life stages. It also indicates whether or not the product contains a complete and balanced nutrition.
3. Guaranteed Analysis – Certain nutrient guarantees are required on the label of all pet foods. This section of the label provides minimum guarantees for protein and fat, and maximum guarantees for moisture and fiber.
4. Ingredient Listing – Ingredients are listed in high to low order according to how much of that ingredient the product contains. The ingredients section provides nutrients such as fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.
5. Feeding Directions – This section includes the amount of food that is recommended according to the size of the animal, which should be used as a starting point to decide the type of pet food you want.
Which Dog Food is for You?
Know that there is no such thing as the “perfect” dog food for every pet. Every kind of dog food you find is going to be good for some pets, but not as good for others. You’ll notice that some brands are labeled as “Premium” and some are not. Here’s a good comparison:
- Premium Nutrition Food
- Basic Nutrition Food
- Higher digestibility
- No need for additional supplements
- Smaller portions needed
- Scientifically researched
- Consistent ingredients
- More palatable
- Lower stool volume
- Same or lower cost per serving
- Lower quality ingredients make food less digestible
- Not 100% nutritionally complete
- Need to feed more because of less nutrients
- Lower quality protein and fats
- More sugars and artificial colors
- Use of ingredients that are readily available and not consistent
- Dry vs Canned Dog Food
You may also find in your research that there is dry as well as canned dog food. Dry pet food provides the best value for its nutrition, and canned pet food costs two times as much. Canned pet food is usually more tasty to animals, but it is also about 72% water as well as the previously mentioned cost disadvantage. Because canned food is mostly water, pets will need to consume a greater amount in order to get the same nutrition as dry food.
A huge factor is the age of your dog. Younger dogs are usually more active, and as a result will probably be needing more calories than older, heavier dogs. Older dogs may need a dog food type that is lower in calories and fat because as I said before, they are usually less active. Also be aware that older dogs could potentially have a harder time digesting anything but a more bland dog food.
Puppy food is also known as “growth formula.” Once your little guy reaches around 12 months, you should switch to adult food. In general, larger puppies mature slower than small- to medium-size puppies. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations about when to switch to adult food. You don’t want your puppy to develop skeletal problem, so puppies who will become greater than 55lbs at adulthood want to grow at an average rate instead of a maximum rate.
Size of Dog at Adulthood SizeDirectionsSuggestionsSmall to MediumFeed puppy food until 12 months of age.(Examples: Chihuahuas, Lhasas, Cockers, Beagles)LargeFeed puppy food until 12 months of age or older as needed.(Examples: Shepherds, Labradors)GiantFeed puppy food or special food for large breeds until 12 months of age or more as needed.(Examples: Mastiffs, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes)Adult Food
Here we are shooting for the adult stage in your companion’s life. Compared to puppy food, this kind will have a reduction in levels of fat, protein, salt and phosphorous because the dog no longer needs the ingredients for growth.
Many companies who produce pet food make special foods for dogs who have reached senior age. These foods usually have a reduction in protein and calories. Your dog is not as active anymore (you can finally catch your breath) so cut down on the quantity you feed. A dog who is overweight will suffer from more stress on the joints; hello arthritis. The dogs heart will also have to work harder the more your dog weighs at an older age. If your senior dog is still hungry, give him a helping of carrots or other vegetables. Your veterinarian can be helpful in suggesting diets or medication for conditions such as arthritis.
**IMPORTANT IF SWITCHING DOG FOODS**
Bacteria normal to the intestine of your dog helps it digest food. A rapid change in food could possibly result in changes in the types and number of these bacteria, making it harder for food to be digested. This could result in an upset feeling in the intestines. To avoid complications, introduce a new food slowly, over the course of no less than 7-10 days. Start with a mixture of 25% new and 75% old food, and feed that to your dog for at least 3 days. If your dog has no problems with this, increase to a 50% mixture of each type of food for 3 days, and finally a mixture of 75% new food and 25% old food for 3 days. At this point in time, your pet should be ready to eat strictly the new food. If any problems occur, it is best to seek your veterinarian for advice.
After you have made sure the food is nutritionally adequate, inspect your dog after he has been on the new food for at least a month. Bright eyes, a shiny coat, good body condition (not too thin or overweight), and good energy will let you know you are doing a good job with your pet’s nutrition.