How to Choose the Right Dog Food

Dogs truly are man’s best friend. As such, they deserve as much good stuff as we can give them in life. Most dog owners love to spoil their friends with long walks, play time, toys and attention as much as possible. However, one huge aspect of dog ownership can fall by the wayside and that is your dog’s diet.

With more options for dog food on the market than ever before, choosing the right formula and brand for your dogs can be extremely difficult. There are tricks you must learn about reading the label on the bag in order to find the right options. As always, your veterinarian is usually the best source of information about your dog’s specific needs but learning how to pick the right dog food can be of great benefit to you and your pet.

The starting point for most people when it comes to dog food is unfortunately either the price tag or just buying whatever your parents did. This can lead to a mismatch of your dog’s needs versus the food they are getting. On top of this, there is a lot of misinformation on the market designed to get you to buy into a higher price tag for the sake of hype or trendiness.

Step 1: Understanding Your Dog’s Needs

All dogs are not created equally as any experienced dog owner knows. Differences in breed, size and gender all contribute to your dog’s behavior and personality. Some owners would be surprised to know that it contributes to their dietary needs as well. Hence why most dog foods designate their formula by size.

Large dogs have different dietary needs than smaller dogs. For example, they are prone to having musculoskeletal issues later in life and need the right balance of nutrients to combat stress on their joints. Smaller dogs may have different caloric needs depending on their levels of activity. The food that a greyhound should eat is completely different from an English Bulldog because of the huge difference in energy level and metabolism in those breeds.

Outside of those factors, your dog’s life stages are important as well. Pregnant dogs and puppies need higher calorie food while seniors need lower calorie food as their metabolism has slowed down.

Step 2: Understanding the Contents of Dog Food

To put it simply, there is a lot of trickery that goes into dog food contents that you need to learn about. The purpose of this trickery is to reduce the cost of manufacturing the food for the brands and increase their profits. According to the FDA, the wording on dog food labels is code for how much of an ingredient is in the food.

If the label says “Beef for Dogs” or another protein, the food contains 95% of that ingredient. However, if it says “Beef meal” or “Beef platter” the food only contains 25% of the protein. The reason for this is that meat is more expensive than grains or corn or other fillers. Dogs, unlike cats, are mostly carnivores and these ingredients should be avoided.

The worst kinds of food in this category are ones that say “Beef flavor” where the food only must taste slightly like beef and doesn’t have to have any percentage of beef. This is why it is crucial to avoid the cheapest dog food brands which may not have any real protein or meat in it.

When you read the ingredient list of dog food, or any other food, the items at the top of the list are the highest content of the food. Look for foods that list the meat or “meat meal” as the top ingredient to make sure you’re getting high quality foods.

Step 3: Understanding Fads and Trends to Avoid

This constant struggle between profits and high-quality food has evolved over time with owners becoming more and more knowledgeable about their pets’ health and the contents of dog foods. However, dog owners can also be prone to falling for trends and fads that may not affect their dogs and only cause them to buy more expensive food for no reason.

Grain free food is a perfect example of this. Avoiding grain as fillers is great for the reasons we discussed before but avoiding grains because of potential allergies is not something most owners have to worry about. You don’t need to pay more for grain free food unless your vet has determined that your dog has an allergy.

A Little Research Can Go a Long Way

Whether you’re a new dog owner or have decades of experience, it never hurts to consult a veterinarian or nutritional expert for help with your dog’s diet. Avoiding obesity, reducing pickiness and increasing their health and lifespan are just some of the reasons why you should prioritize your dog’s dietary needs. If you want to talk to our vets and staff about dog food recommendations or get help understanding your dog’s specific needs, contact us today at Riverside Animal Care Center.