Ultimate Guide: Dog Food – Everything you need to know

Close up of dog eating kibble


As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to meet your dog’s basic needs. In addition to walking him and taking him to the veterinarian, you also need to provide him with healthy food. Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t understand even the basics of canine nutrition, so they end up shopping for dog food based on what’s cheap. This is a big mistake and it could end up costing your dog for the rest of his life.
 

Part One – The Basics

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If you want to give your dog the best chance at a long and healthy life, it all starts with quality nutrition – and this is no different with humans. Paws ‘N’ Pups has put together this ultimate guide to help you learn more about why nutrition is so important for your dog and understand what your dog’s nutritional needs are. You’ll also learn about the different types of dog food available, how to read a dog food label, and how to pick a high-quality product for your pooch. In addition, you’ll also receive recommendations for the seven best dog food brands available today. So, keep reading and be sure to share this with other dog owners if you truly care about dogs!


Why is Nutrition So Important?

After a few days following an unhealthy diet, how did you feel?

Think back to a time when you were particularly indulgent regarding your diet. Perhaps you had a weekend vacation where you ate too many rich foods and sweets. Or, maybe there was a time when you were too busy to cook and ate a lot of fast food. After a few days following an unhealthy diet, how did you feel? Did you find it difficult to muster up the energy to get through your day? Did you have a hard time concentrating on things? The foods you eat and the beverages you drink have a direct impact on how you feel and, in the long-term, on your health and wellbeing. The same goes for your dog!

Dietary Requirements

If you want your dog to enjoy a long and healthy life, you need to provide his body with the nutrients required to remain strong. Your dog’s dietary requirements are very different from your own, however – a factor that many dog owners overlook. If you feed your dog nothing but cheap dog food and table scraps, you shouldn’t be surprised if he becomes overweight or if his health starts to deteriorate. The longer your dog remains on a low-quality diet, the more compromised his health will be. You might save money by purchasing cheap dog food now, but you could end up paying the price for expensive veterinary bills and treatments in the future. Not to mention, your dog may not be as active or as happy as he could be if his meals were adequately nutritious.

You probably think of your dog as more than just a pet – he is a member of the family! So, doesn’t he deserve the same respect that you give to your spouse and your children? You care about their wellbeing, so you do what it takes to make sure they stay healthy. Why aren’t you doing the same thing for your dog? Feeding your dog a healthy diet doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either. There are plenty of quality dog food brands that are affordable and easy to find – you just have to know where to look and what to look for. Upcoming in this guide, you’ll receive a wealth of information about canine nutrition as well as tips to help you choose the best dog food for your dog.



 



 

Foods That Are Harmful to Dogs

Before we get into the details of what you should be feeding your dog, first we will take some time to go over some of the foods you should NOT be feeding your dog. Dogs love to eat, and they will scarf down anything that hits the floor. Unfortunately, there are many “people foods” out there that can be harmful or even toxic to your dog. Your dog doesn’t automatically know what’s not good for him, however, so it’s your job to protect him from these potentially harmful foods. Below is a list of foods that may be dangerous for your dog to consume.

Dangerous Foods for Dogs:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Avocado
  • Caffeinated beverages
  • Chives
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits
  • Coconut
  • Coconut oil
  • Coffee
  • Cooked bones
  • Dairy products
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Milk
  • Nuts
  • Onions
  • Peaches
  • Persimmons
  • Plums
  • Raisins
  • Raw eggs
  • Raw fish
  • Raw meat
  • Salt
  • Salty foods
  • Sugary foods
  • Tea
  • Xylitol
  • Yeast dough

The ASPCA shares more details about some of these harmful foods here. The best way to prevent your dog from eating something that could be harmful is to keep all of your food properly stored in tight-lidded containers. Don’t leave anything out on the counter, even if you think there’s no way your dog could get to it. If your dog consumes something that could be harmful, you should call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435, or your regional animal services center, immediately. Have the food package on hand so you can tell the control center operator what your dog ate and how much. They will be able to tell you what steps to take next. Depending what and how much your dog ate, you may have to take him to the nearest emergency veterinarian. To be proactive, it is beneficial to research this information beforehand, when you first bring your dog home. This way, in the event of any emergency at all, food related or not, you know where you can take your pup for attention.

 

Understanding the Basics of Canine Nutrition

Dog food is dog food – isn’t it? What’s the difference?

While a bowl full of kibble might not look like the kind of food you serve your family, it contains the same basic nutrients. Knowing what these nutrients are and how much your dog needs of each one is the key to understanding canine nutrition. When it comes to your dog’s nutrition, there are seven primary elements to focus on: protein, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water. Your dog needs each of these nutrients in specific ratios to ensure complete and lasting health. Let’s review each of these nutrients in greater detail.
 

Important Nutrients

  • Protein – Protein is the most prevalent substance in your dog’s body besides water, and it forms the building blocks for tissues, muscles, cartilage, tendons, skin, hair, and nails. Protein is also essential for various bodily functions such as digestion and hormone production. There are two different categories or proteins – complete and incomplete. It all has to do with amino acids – the building blocks of protein. There are twenty-two different amino acids that your dog needs and his body is able to synthesize twelve of them. The remaining ten must come from your dog’s diet which is why they are called “essential” amino acids. Complete proteins are proteins that contain all ten essential amino acids and they come from animal products like poultry, meat, fish, and eggs. Plant proteins are incomplete proteins because they may contain a few essential amino acids, but not all ten.
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  • Fat – Though you may think of fat as the enemy for your own diet, it is a crucial nutrient for your dog. Your dog needs plenty of fat to sustain healthy growth and to support his skin, coat, and kidney function. As is true for your own diet, there are fats that are both good and bad for dogs. Healthy fats are those that come from quality animal-based sources – things like salmon oil or chicken fat. Plant-based fats and oils are not necessarily dangerous for your dog, but they are less biologically valuable – that means that your dog’s body will have a harder time deriving nutrition from these sources.
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  • Carbohydrate – The typical human diet is very carbohydrate-heavy because carbs contain the most easily digestible form of energy – glucose. A dog’s body is different than a human’s, however, in that it is designed to derive nutrition more efficiently from animal products. Even so, your dog can absorb some energy (in the form of glucose) from plant foods as long as they are easily digestible. Your dog doesn’t have specific requirements for how much carbohydrate he needs, though as little as 5% of the dog’s total diet is usually sufficient. We’ll go into greater detail later regarding what kind of carbohydrates are good for your dog and which ones aren’t.
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  • Fiber – Dietary fiber goes hand-in-hand with carbohydrates because it comes from plant-based sources. Fiber is the part of the plant that cannot be digested – it helps to give stools their bulk so they can be passed through the digestive system and it absorbs water to keep the body hydrated. Too much fiber in your dog’s diet can have a detrimental effect, causing various digestive issues and interfering with the absorption of certain nutrients.
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  • Vitamins – Like all living things, your dog needs an assortment of vitamins in his diet. Vitamins are organic substances that can be found naturally in plants and animals – they work together with enzymes in your dog’s body to support a variety of essential functions. Your dog needs a mix of fat-soluble vitamins and water-soluble vitamins in his diet. Fat-soluble vitamins include Vitamins A, D, E, and K while water-soluble vitamins include Vitamins B and C.
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  • Minerals – Minerals are inorganic substances that occur naturally in certain foods – they can also be found in your dog’s bones, teeth, blood, muscles, and nerves. As is true for vitamins, minerals work with enzymes in your dog’s body to support healthy function. Some of the minerals your dog needs include the following: calcium, chloride, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, sulfur, and zinc.
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  • Water – You may not think of water as a nutrient, but it is, in fact, the most essential nutrient for all life. Your dog’s body is comprised of about two-thirds water, so water is very important! Water plays a role in all of your dog’s essential bodily functions including respiration, digestion, metabolism, and more. Water is what keeps every part of your dog’s body in proper balance. Make sure your dog has unlimited access to fresh water every day. Pay particular attention to ensure that he has fresh water to drink during hot weather and periods of exercise.

 
Now that you understand the seven nutrients every dog needs and what role they play in maintaining his health and wellness, you might be curious to know how these nutrients make their way into your dog’s food. Before we get into the details of what makes a good dog food good, let’s talk a bit about the specific amounts of each nutrient your dog needs and how those needs might change as he ages. PetMD has a lot of advice to share about dog nutrition as well.
 



 

How Do Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs Change with Age?

Difference between Obligate Carnivore and Scavenging Carnivore

You might think of your dog as a carnivore, but that isn’t strictly true. Cats are obligate carnivores which means that they have a biological necessity for meat – that’s what “obligate” means. The term obligate carnivore is sometimes used interchangeably with the word “true” carnivore. While dogs are more carnivorous than herbivorous, they do have a limited ability to digest and absorb nutrition from plant products – this makes them scavenging carnivores. Dogs need to have most of their nutrition come from animal-based foods, but they may eat other foods like fruits, grains, and vegetables in limited amounts. Just look to wild wolves as an example – when meat is scarce, they will eat other foods to survive. Learn more about the difference here.
 

Protein Requirement

Now that you know that your dog is a scavenging carnivore, you can see how both protein and carbohydrate play a role in his nutrition. Again, most of your dog’s diet needs to come from animal-based sources, but carbohydrates do play a role in ensuring nutritional balance. As you learned in the previous section, protein provides your dog with the building blocks for healthy muscle and tissue, so it is the most important nutrient for canine nutrition. If you want to get into the specifics, dogs require a minimum of 22% protein in a balanced diet for puppies and at least 18% protein in an adult diet. The word “minimum” is important to remember here – the more protein in your dog’s diet, the better.
 

Fat Requirement

The next critical nutrient is fat. It provides essential fatty acids which help your dog to absorb and utilize certain vitamins, and it also plays a role in supporting healthy bodily function. Another important fact about fats is that they are the most highly concentrated source of energy available to dogs. Protein and carbohydrate contain four calories (a unit of energy) per gram while fats contain nine calories per gram. Ideally, most of the fat in your dog’s diet should come from animal sources, and he needs a minimum of 8% fat as a puppy and 5% as an adult in a balanced diet. Again, less is more when it comes to this nutrient, but only to a certain point. Puppies and small-breed dogs have higher needs for fat than adult dogs and large breed because the fat provides extra calories to sustain their growth and metabolism. Too much fat, on the other hand, can lead to being overweight and obesity.

Other Nutrients

 
As carnivorous animals, dogs do not have any specific requirements for carbohydrate in their diet. Plant-based foods do provide your dog with carbohydrate energy as well as essential vitamins and minerals. But you must remember that your dog is biologically adapted to digesting animal products more than plant products, so his carbohydrate intake should be limited. Carbohydrates also provide your dog with dietary fiber to support his digestion, but too much fiber could actually cause digestive problems. As a general rule, you shouldn’t feed your dog any dog food product that contains more than 5% crude fiber, or you run the risk for digestive issues. And any carbohydrates in your dog’s diet need to come from highly digestible sources like cooked whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
 

Life Stage Formulas

If you take a stroll down the dog food aisle at your local pet store, you’ll find that some formulas are marketed for puppies and others for adult dogs – there may even be senior dog formulas. Dog food recipes that are targeted toward a specific age group are called life-stage formulas. Though dogs of all ages have the same basic nutritional requirements, the ratios may change a little bit with age. For example, puppies may need more joint and bone supporting nutrients and protein to support their rapid growth and development. Adult dogs need a balance of protein and fat to sustain lean muscle mass and energy without tipping the scales toward excess calorie consumption. Older dogs still require plenty of protein but may need lower levels of fat as their metabolisms slow down – they may also benefit from vitamins and minerals that promote healthy bones and joints, regular digestion, and eye health.
 



 

Part Two – How to Choose a Food and Understand Ingredient Labels

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What are the Different Types of Dog Food?

Complete and Complementary Foods

When it comes to commercial dog food, there are many different types. Most types of dog food, however, can be grouped into two categories: complete and complementary. Complete dog foods are those that are considered nutritionally complete, providing all of the nutrients dogs need in the required amounts. Complementary foods are those that are not considered nutritionally complete. They may be used as treats, meal toppers, or supplementary foods but should not be your dog’s staple diet. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is the governing body that decides which dog foods are complete and complementary. They have created detailed nutrient profiles for dogs in various life stages, and every commercial dog food must be tested and approved prior to sale. Complete dog foods come in many different forms, but the most common types are reviewed below.
 

Most Common Types of Dog Food

  • Dry Food – This is the most common type of commercial dog food, and it is generally the kind preferred by dog owners. Dry food is made by compiling and mixing raw ingredients, then cooking them while forcing the blended mixture through a device known as an extruder, which cuts the mixture into small bite-sized pieces known as kibbles. The quality of dry dog food varies greatly according to the ingredients used and the manufacturing process. Dry foods have the advantage of being very shelf-stable and convenient to feed.
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  • Wet Food – The second most common type of dog food, wet food usually comes in cans, trays, and pouches. Wet food is cooked at high temperatures, but it has higher moisture levels than dry food. It comes in many different forms including patés, gravy, chunks, shreds, and more. Again, quality varies widely according to the ingredients used and the manufacturing process.
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  • Semi-Moist Food – This type of dog food used to be more common, but it has largely been replaced by dry food and wet food. There are still some semi-moist foods, however, though they are mainly used as treats, meal toppers, and supplements. Semi-moist dog food usually consists of soft pellets that have a chewy texture, and they tend to be packaged in sachets rather than cans.
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  • Fresh/Raw Food – In recent years there has been a surge in the popularity of fresh and raw food diet for dogs. Many of these products are designed to mimic the natural diet of wild wolves through the inclusion of fresh meats as well as cartilage, muscle meat, organs, and raw bone. Many dog owners have also begun to make their own fresh or raw dog food at home. The benefit of this type of food is the quality of the ingredients and the exclusion of artificial ingredients like chemical preservatives. The difficulty is that they don’t last as long and need to be refrigerated. If raw foods are not handled carefully, they can easily spoil and cause your dog to become very ill.
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  • Frozen Raw Food – Frozen raw food is similar to fresh raw food, but it comes in frozen patties or loafs. The benefit of this type of food is that you can store it longer in the freezer than in the refrigerator and you can thaw only as much as you need. Freezing the food negates the need for artificial preservatives as well.
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  • Freeze-Dried/Dehydrated Food – Another popular alternative to fresh raw food is freeze-dried dog food. In most cases, this type of food is prepared fresh and then either freeze-dried or dehydrated to remove moisture. This preserves the natural nutrition content of the raw ingredients but renders the product shelf-stable for greater convenience. Freeze-dried foods can usually be fed as-is, but dehydrated foods may require reconstitution with water or broth.

 
While these are the main types of dog food you’ll find at your local pet store, there are other options that fall in between these main categories. Keep reading to learn more about how to read a dog food label to help you decide which type of dog food is the best option for your canine companion. Also, you may want to check out some tips from The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association.

 

How to Read a Dog Food Label

Now that you know a little more about the different types of dog food and you have a deeper understanding of your dog’s nutritional needs, you have a background of knowledge on which to base your understanding of dog food labels. As previously mentioned, The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is responsible for overseeing the manufacture and sale of pet foods. There are certain requirements which a pet food label must meet, though regulations are much laxer for pet foods than they are for people food. Knowing how to extract relevant information from a pet food label is the key to making a smart and healthy choice for your dog. If you just want to get a general idea for the quality of a product, there are three main things to look for when reading the label:

  • AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy
  • Guaranteed analysis
  • Ingredients list

AAFCO

As you already know, AAFCO has established specific nutrient profiles for pets in different life stages. Before a dog food product can be put on pet store shelves, it must pass testing by AAFCO to ensure that it meets the requirements of their nutrient profiles. If the product is nutritionally complete, the package will carry a statement along the lines of the following, “[Product Name] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all life stages.” If you see this statement on a bag of dog food, you can rest easy knowing that it will provide for your dog’s nutritional needs. You need to keep in mind, however, that the presence of such a statement does not necessarily indicate that the product is of high quality.
 

Guaranteed Analysis

The next place to look on a dog food label is the guaranteed analysis. This is simply a breakdown by percentage of the food’s crude protein, fat, and fiber content as well as moisture content. You should take these percentages and compare them to what you’ve learned about your dog’s nutritional needs to ensure that the product will not just meet, but exceed his minimum requirements. Remember, puppies need a minimum crude protein content of 22%, and adult dogs need at least 18%. Puppies need at least 8% fat, adults need at least 5%, and there should be no more than 5% crude fiber.
 

Dry Matter Basis

You should be aware that you might need to make some adjustments to these values in order to make a direct comparison between two products – in particular between dry food and wet food. Dry dog food usually contains about 10% moisture while wet foods contain up to 82% moisture. The amount of moisture in the product affects the way the other nutrients are measured. To make a direct comparison, you have to convert the values you find in the guaranteed analysis to the same moisture content. This is referred to as converting the food to dry matter basis. Here is a formula to help you make these conversions: [ % Ingredient ÷ (100% – % Moisture) ] x 100 = Dry Matter Basis. Make sure when you input the percentage numbers, that you are using decimals correctly. For example, 10% should be 0.10, 100% should be 1, 5% should be 0.05, and so on. You can try out this dry matter basis calculator if you prefer.

Basically, you figure out how much dry matter there is and divide the percentage of each nutrient into that value to find the different dry matter contents. Once you have these values for both products, you can just make a direct comparison to see which one is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. You should also compare the fat contents, keeping in mind that puppies need extra fat to support their growth and small-breed dogs may need more fat to fuel their fast metabolisms. Again, however, remember that the values you see in the guaranteed analysis are not necessarily an indication of quality. A value of 35% protein is great, but if it comes primarily from plant-based sources, it might not be as good for your dog as a formula with less protein but all from meat-based sources.
 

Ingredient List

The best way to judge the quality of a dog food product after checking the AAFCO statement and the guaranteed analysis is to review the ingredients list. The list of ingredients is arranged in descending order by volume – this means that the foods at the top of the list are used in the highest volume. Typically, you’ll see various meats and meat meals in the first few slots, followed by carbohydrates and fats. After these main ingredients, you start getting into supplementary ingredients like sources of dietary fiber, fresh fruits and vegetables, oils, supplements, and additives. You want to read the entire list, if you can, so you can get a complete feel for the product. Don’t just look at the first five ingredients – you might miss something that appears lower on the list that could harm your dog.



 

How to Identify a Low-Quality Dog Food Brand

There are some ingredients that you never want to see in your dog’s food. Read the label!

Having a basic understanding of how to read a dog food label will help you to make the distinction between a low-quality and a high-quality brand of dog food. Before getting into the details about what you want to see in a quality product, we will take some time to talk about what you DON’T want to see in your pet’s food. In a way, it is easier to narrow down your options by eliminating as many choices as you can upfront based on their nutrient content and ingredients. Having a mental list of red flags to look for will really help you to narrow down your search quickly. Here are some of the red flags you should be looking for when shopping for dog food:
 

Red Flags

  • A high-quality source of animal protein is not the first ingredient on the list.
  • Corn, wheat, or soy ingredients are listed within the first five ingredients.
  • The ingredients list includes several plant proteins (like pea protein or potato protein).
  • The product seems to be a store brand or a bargain brand.
  • Sources of meat or fat are not explicitly named (“chicken meal” is better than “poultry meal”).
  • There are too many plant-based fats and oils, not enough animal-based fats.
  • The carbohydrates used are not highly digestible for dogs (this includes processed grains).
  • There are a number of ingredients with names that sound like chemicals and are hard to identify (excluding vitamin and mineral supplements).
  • The product contains artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • The ingredients list includes one or more by-products or by-product meals.
  • There are too many synthetic supplements, or the supplements are not a digestible form.
  • The ingredients list is very long and not packed with high-quality ingredients.
  • The package doesn’t state that the product is made in the United States.

One thing you need to remember about low-quality dog foods is that the manufacturer is probably doing everything he can to keep his own costs down. That means using more plant-based ingredients, especially grains like wheat and corn. But pet food manufacturers can be tricky sometimes, especially when it comes to the practice of ingredient splitting. As you already learned, ingredients lists for pet food are arranged in descending order by volume. Sometimes, to make a low-quality ingredient appear lower in the list (therefore giving the higher quality ingredients the top slots), manufacturers will “split” certain ingredients into separate ingredients.
 

Splitting Ingredients

For example, instead of simply listing corn as an ingredient, the manufacturer might break it down into separate ingredients like whole grain corn, corn flour, and corn gluten meal. By breaking the ingredients up, the volumes are reduced enough that higher quality ingredients can rise to the top of the list. Using this example, the first five ingredients on the list might read, “chicken meal, whole grain corn, corn flour, corn gluten meal, chicken fat”. If you didn’t split the corn ingredients, however, it might read, “corn, chicken meal, chicken fat” and so on. Do you see how it works now? Be on the lookout for evidence of ingredient splitting while evaluating pet food products.

 

Tips for Choosing a High-Quality Dog Food

Ingredient Sources

Now that you know what NOT to look for in a high-quality dog food, you will be able to better understand what goes into a good pet food product. First of all, you need to make sure that the product has been AAFCO tested and approved, then check the guaranteed analysis to see how much protein, fat, and fiber is in the product. As long as all of those things check out, you can then move on to the ingredients list. Though you should definitely read the entire list, you can get a pretty good feel for the quality of a dog food product by evaluating the first ten ingredients (sometimes even the top five). These are the ingredients used in the highest volume, so they will have the greatest effect on your dog.
 

Difference between Meat and Meat Meal

When perusing the top ten ingredients on the list, you want to see a high-quality of animal-based protein as the first ingredient. Protein is the most important nutrient for your dog so that only makes sense. High-quality sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and seafood, and it might be fresh meat or meat meal. The word “meal” here sometimes worries dog owners because they aren’t sure what it means. A meat meal is simply fresh meat that has been cooked to remove moisture, and that means that it is actually a more highly concentrated source of protein than fresh meat, since fresh meats contain up to 80% moisture by volume. When fresh meats are cooked, then, they lose a lot of that volume, and it might turn out then that other ingredients take a higher slot on the list (if the list was ordered by the volume of ingredients after cooking).
 

Animal and Plant Protein Sources

In the same way that you want to see a crude protein content above the bare minimum, it also doesn’t hurt to see several sources of protein at the beginning of the ingredients list. What you should look out for, however, is plant proteins. Things like pea protein and potato protein come from plants, as you can tell by the name, which means that they are less biologically valuable for your dog – he won’t derive the same quality of nutrition from those ingredients as he would from an animal protein source. Low-quality pet food manufacturers sometimes use plant proteins to increase the protein content of their product without actually adding more meat – fresh meat is much more expensive than plant proteins.
 

Carbohydrate Sources

After making sure that the product lists an animal source of protein for the first ingredient (or maybe the first couple), carbohydrates are probably going to come next. Remember, you want a maximum crude fiber content of 5%, and any carbohydrates should come from highly digestible sources. Some of the best carbohydrates for dogs include whole grains (like oatmeal or brown rice), starchy vegetables (like sweet potatoes or potato), or beans and legumes. You should be aware that beans and legumes contain plant proteins as well, so double-check to make sure that there is plenty of animal protein on the list, just to be sure. If your dog is sensitive to grains, you may want to choose a grain-free option which will most likely be made with starchy vegetables, beans, or legumes.
 

Fat Sources

The next nutrient to look for on the ingredients list is fat. As was mentioned before, you might think of fat as unhealthy, but it actually provides your dog with a concentrated source of energy. Just like protein, you want to see animal-based sources of fat instead of plant-based sources to ensure maximum nutrient absorption. For example, salmon oil is preferable to canola oil. You also want to make sure that the ingredients come from named sources – chicken fat, not poultry fat. Many dog food recipes only include one primary source of fat, but some contain several. What really matters is the quality of the fat. You might also check to see if the ingredients listed provide a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
 

Read the Whole Ingredient List

For many dog food recipes, protein, carbohydrate, and fat will make up most, if not all, of the top ten ingredients. You should still take a quick look at the rest of the list, however, to make sure there aren’t any surprises. You’ve already learned about the red flags to look for, but there are certain beneficial ingredients you should keep an eye out for as well. Vitamin and mineral supplements are used in most commercial pet foods to help ensure nutritional balance. You should know, however, that synthetic supplements offer more limited bioavailability for dogs than natural sources for the same nutrients. For example, your dog’s body would better absorb vitamins from fresh fruit than from synthetic supplements. It is always good, however, to see chelated minerals on an ingredients list. These are minerals which have been bound to amino acids to increase absorption. It’s also good to see probiotics on the list, usually in the form of dried fermentation products.

 

What are the Best Dog Food Brands?

All of this information might feel overwhelming, but with the help of this guide, you will be able to get through the variety of choices with ease.

If you head to your local pet store and wander down the dog food aisle, you will come to find that there are dozens of different brands to choose from – and that’s just at one store. If you do an online search for dog food, you’ll find hundreds of results. All of this information might feel overwhelming. But you should know by now that not all dog foods are created equal – some brands simply aren’t worth feeding your dog because they are made from low-quality ingredients that are likely to do more harm than good. Which the knowledge you’ve been gaining from this guide, you will be able to work your way through the variety of choices with ease.

Now that you understand your dog’s nutritional needs and know how to read a pet food label, you are properly equipped to make a smart choice when it comes to your dog’s diet. If you still need some help deciding where to start your search for a quality dog food, however, here is an overview of the top seven dog food brands on the market today.
 

Blue Buffalo

One of the most recognizable brand names in the pet food industry, Blue Buffalo is known for producing high-quality, natural pet foods for dogs and cats. This brand started simply with just a recipe or two, but it has grown to encompass four individual product lines, plus a line of veterinary diets. Blue Buffalo uses only natural ingredients like high-quality protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats to ensure nutritional quality and balance in every recipe. Their recipes are also formulated with LifeSource Bits – a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help maximize your dog’s total-body health and wellness. In terms of their products, Blue Buffalo offers four main product lines. The Life Protection Formula features all-natural recipes for dogs in different life stages and breed sizes. The Freedom line features grain-free recipes and the Basics line features limited ingredient diets. The Wilderness line is meat-rich and loaded with quality proteins.

Canidae

This company follows the tagline, “Pet food made by pet people” which speaks to their passion and love for pets. The Canidae company is based in California, and they make it their goal to create the highest-quality, most nutritious products for pets. This company has been producing dog food since 1996, and they have won a variety of awards over the years. Not only are they family-owned, but they support other family-owned businesses and source their ingredients from local suppliers. Regarding their products, Canidae offers several different product lines. The Grain-Free PURE line features grain-free formulas made with meat-rich proteins. There is a Limited Ingredient Diet line which features simple recipes for dogs with sensitive stomachs, including several small-breed specific recipes. There is also the Under the Sun line of products which features grain-free recipes at an affordable price point. The Life Stages line includes recipes for dogs in different life stages and of various breed sizes.
 

Nature’s Variety

The name Nature’s Variety really suits this brand because they offer a wide variety of different products, all made with natural ingredients. Nature’s Variety is based out of St. Louis, Missouri, and they own their own manufacturing facilities. This brand is passionate about providing pets with the nutrition they need to live long, healthy lives – they are also dedicated to helping pet owners make the smartest choices for their pets. Nature’s Variety has two different brands – the Prairie brand of affordable natural dog foods and the Instinct brand of premium natural recipes. Nature’s Variety Instinct dog foods come in many shapes and forms including traditional dry food, wet food, freeze-dried food, and raw frozen food. Nature’s Variety also offers Instinct Raw Boost which consists of grain-free kibble infused with freeze-dried raw bites. There is also a line of high-protein formulas and a line of limited ingredient diets.

Orijen

The Oriijen brand is based in Canada, but their products are sold throughout the United States. This brand offers an assortment of dry dog food, freeze-dried dog food, and freeze-dried treats – they don’t currently offer any wet food products. Orijen is known for producing “biologically appropriate” diets for dogs and cats – formulas designed to nourish their bodies in accordance with their evolutionary adaptation to a diet that is rich in meat and protein. All of Orijen’s recipes feature premium proteins like free-run poultry, wild-caught fish, nest-laid eggs, and ranch-raised meats. For dry dog food, Orijen offers the eight recipes for puppies, adult dogs, and senior dogs – there is even a healthy weight formula. There are three freeze-dried dog food recipes to choose from, each of which offers the nutrition and flavor of raw food with the convenience of dry food.
 

Taste of the Wild

This brand understands that dogs are descended from wild wolves and that their bodies are still adapted to that kind of wild diet. All of Taste of the Wild’s products are grain-free and made with premium-quality ingredients in meat-rich, nutritionally balanced recipes. This brand is dedicated to ensuring nutritional integrity for all of their ingredients and they use healthy supplements like chelated minerals and probiotics to ensure nutritional balance and easy digestibility. Taste of the Wild dog foods come in both dry food and wet food form, using premium-quality meats like roasted bison, roasted venison, and smoked salmon. They offer an assortment of adult dog foods as well as a few options for puppy food. All Taste of the Wild products are guaranteed to not just meet but exceed your dog’s nutritional requirements.

Wellness

The Wellness brand of dog food is owned by WellPet, the same company that produces Holistic Select and Eagle Pack pet foods. Wellness follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition, using only the freshest natural ingredients in formulas designed to nourish your dog’s whole body from the inside out. This brand offers their customers the “Wellness Difference” which promises wholesome, natural ingredients with a boost of super nutrients and probiotics. They don’t use any artificial additives and their recipes are full of natural flavor. When it comes to their products, Wellness offers several different product lines. The Complete Health line of products features life stages and breed-size recipes formulated with healthy, natural ingredients. Products belonging to the CORE line are naturally grain-free, and the Simple line features limited ingredient diets. Wellness also offers a line of baked dog foods and plenty of different options for treats and meal toppers.
 

The Honest Kitchen

The Honest Kitchen is a California-based dog-food company that produces and manufactures all of their own products. This brand is unique because they offer minimally processed foods for dogs and cats. Their products are dehydrated, not cooked at high temperatures, so more of the natural nutrient content of the raw ingredients is preserved. In fact, many of The Honest Kitchen’s recipes contain fewer than a dozen main ingredients. In addition to providing high-quality dog foods, The Honest Kitchen also offers their customers the “Honest Difference” which promises 100% human-grade ingredients, whole foods, and a variety of health benefits. If you are looking for a high-quality diet for your dog, but you don’t want to give him ordinary kibble, consider The Honest Kitchen.

 



 

Part Three – Tips and Advice

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Feeding Tips for Puppies and Adult Dogs

One thing many dog owners do not realize is that small-breed dogs actually need more calories than large-breed dogs, but there is an important distinction to make here. Large dogs may need a higher number of total calories, but small dogs need more calories per pound of bodyweight. Take for example a 110-pound Mastiff and an 11-pound Boston Terrier. Dogs need an average of 30 calories per pound of bodyweight, so the Mastiff might need more than 3,000 calories per day while the Boston Terrier only needs about 330. If you do the math, you’ll find that the Mastiff needs just 27 calories per pound of bodyweight while the Boston Terrier needs closer to 30 – or more. Small-breed dogs need up to 40 calories per pound of bodyweight on average while large-breed dogs may only need 20. It depends on their size, age, breed, and activity level.

If you notice that your dog is starting to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, you might need to cut back on his food.

So how do you know how much to feed your dog? First of all, you should consider feeding your dog a recipe formulated for dogs of his size – that means a small-breed formula for small dogs and a large-breed formula for large dogs. Then, simply follow the feeding recommendations on the pet food label according to your dog’s age and weight. Keep in mind that your dog’s calorie needs may vary so you should keep track of your dog’s weight and body condition for a few weeks while following those recommendations. If you notice that your dog is starting to gain an unhealthy amount of weight, you might need to cut back on his food a little bit. On the other hand, if he loses weight or starts to become lethargic, he may need a little bit more to eat.
 

Age and Weight

Not only do you need to think about how much you are feeding your dog, but you should also think about how many meals to give him and when. Puppies need to eat more frequently than adult dogs in order to sustain their growth. Many dog owners choose to feed their puppies freely – keeping a bowl of food available at all times. This ensures that your puppy gets the food he needs, but if he starts to grow too quickly, you might need to switch to rationing his meals. This applies in particular for large-breed puppies. You might be able to go back to free-feeding your dog when he reaches his adult size as long as he is able to regulate himself. If he starts to overeat again, however, you might need to switch back.
 

Make a Feeding Schedule

Dogs thrive on routine, so you should try to establish and stick to a daily schedule for your dog’s meals. If you have a small-breed dog, you should probably give him three meals a day to sustain his metabolism and energy levels throughout the day. For larger dogs, however, two meals are usually sufficient. You can adjust your dog’s meal schedule to fit with your own schedule, but most dog owners prefer to give their dogs a morning and an evening meal. You may also find it helpful to schedule your dog’s dinner at the same time as your own. This can help to cut down on begging behavior at the table if your dog is busy eating his own meal. It will also help you to remember to feed your dog, though most dogs never let their owners forget a meal!
 

Switching to Adult Food

In addition to knowing how much and when to feed your puppy, you also need to know when it is time to make the switch to an adult dog food. Puppy foods are formulated with higher levels of protein and fat than adult foods because puppies need extra protein and energy to grow. You want to make sure, however, that your puppy doesn’t grow too fast – this is where small-breed and large-breed puppy foods come into play. Small-breed puppy foods are actually higher in calories and fat than large-breed puppy foods because it is dangerous for large-breed puppies to grow too quickly. Large-breed puppies have a longer way to go toward their adult size, and if they grow too quickly, there may be an additional strain on their bones and joints that will predispose them toward musculoskeletal issues as an adult.

So how do you know when to switch your puppy to an adult dog food? The right time to make the switch will be different for each dog. What it comes down to, however, is your dog’s expected adult size. You should be tracking your puppy’s growth to make sure that he is growing at a healthy but not excessive rate – you should also have an estimate of where you expect your puppy’s growth to top out. This will be based on his breed and the adult size of his parents. As you track your puppy’s growth, calculate the point at which he will reach 80% of his expected adult size – that is when you should make the switch to an adult food. And remember, if you are feeding your puppy a small-breed puppy food, feed him a small-breed adult food as well.



 

Tips for Helping a Dog Lose Weight

Is My Dog Obese?

When you see a dog with a round belly, your first thought might be that he looks cute. What you may not realize, however, is that obesity is extremely dangerous for dogs. Think about it this way – you probably eat somewhere around 2,000 calories per day, but your dog might only need a fraction of that, depending on his size. When you eat a snack for an extra fifty calories, it might not make much difference for you, but an additional fifty calories could be very significant for your dog. A gain of even a few pounds can be considerable, and once your dog gains the weight, it can be tough for him to put it off. Extra weight means that it’ll be harder for him to exercise and, let’s be honest, dogs love their food – he won’t like going on a diet.
 

Obesity in Dogs

If you think that your dog needs to lose a few pounds, it would be a good idea to check with your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to help you determine whether his weight gain is due to overfeeding or if it might be due to some kind of health problem. If it’s a health issue, your dog might need a special diet or medication to resolve the issue. If it’s simply a matter of overfeeding, that’s relatively easy to correct, but you will have to be consistent about not giving your dog too many treats and about making sure that he gets enough exercise every day. It’s a fine line to walk because you don’t want to give your dog too little food either. Otherwise, that could lead to unhealthy weight loss.
 

Weight Loss for Dogs

To help your dog lose weight, you need to start by determining his ideal weight. Talking to your vet and researching the average weight for dogs of your dog’s breed are good places to start. Once you know your dog’s ideal weight, you can calculate his daily calorie needs. There are calculators online that you can plug in your dog’s age, weight, and activity level to determine his calorie needs. Many calculators include an option for weight loss, so find one that does to determine your dog’s ideal daily calorie range. Then, all you have to do is find a healthy weight formula dog food and use it to meet your dog’s daily calories needs by referring to the feeding instructions on the package.
 

Healthy Weight Dog Formulas

If you are trying to help your dog lose weight, you need to be careful about the type of dog food you choose. Don’t just go to the pet store and pick out any healthy weight formula – you still need to read the label to determine whether it is a high-quality product for your dog. Many low-quality healthy weight formulas are overloaded with fiber and too low in protein. The best way to support your dog’s healthy weight loss is to find a recipe that contains plenty of protein to maintain your dog’s lean muscle mass with limited fat content to control calories. Your dog still needs plenty of protein and healthy nutrients in his diet, no matter whether he is growing, maintaining, or losing weight.

 

How to Transition Your Dog onto a New Food

How to Change Foods

Dogs are notorious for having sensitive stomachs, and there is nothing worse than a sick dog. If you are considering switching your dog to a different dog food, do yourself and your dog a favor by making the transition slowly instead of all at once. Your dog’s digestive system is delicate, and a sudden change in diet could throw things out of whack. Not only will that make your dog miserable, but you’ll find yourself cleaning up everything from vomit to diarrhea. It simply isn’t worth it to skip the important step of transitioning your dog onto the new dry dog food. Before making any changes, you should consult your vet for their advice.
 

Switching Dry Food Recipes

Generally, if you do it right, transitioning your dog from one recipe to another should only take 5 to 7 days. Some dogs are a little more sensitive than others, however, so pay attention to how your dog is progressing and make adjustments to the timetable if needed. You’ll want to start by mixing about 25% of your dog’s new food in with his old food. Maintain that ratio for two days while keeping an eye on your dog’s reaction. If you don’t notice any digestive problems or other adverse reactions, mix 50% of each recipe for another day or two. If your dog is still adjusting well, move on to 75% of the new food and 25% of the old food for days 5 and 6, then make the 100% switch on day 7. If at any point in the process your dog develops digestive problems, go back to the previous level for a few days until symptoms disappear. If symptoms continue, consult your vet.
 

Dry Food to Wet Food

Switching your dog from one dry food recipe to another is one thing, but making the switch from dry food to wet food can sometimes be tricky. Dry dog food has the added benefit of helping to scrape your dog’s teeth clean of plaque and tartar, but some dogs need more moisture in their diet or a softer food. In many cases, dogs make the switch from dry to wet food very easily, but you still need to take time with the transition, because wet food may be too rich for your dog’s stomach to adjust to quickly. This transition process may take longer than the switch from one dry food recipe to another.

Start by mixing a little of the wet food in with your dog’s dry food for a week until he adjusts. Then, gradually increase the amount of wet food every few days until you’ve made the switch. Keep in mind that wet food is more calorie-dense than dry food, so your dog might not need as much of it to meet his daily calorie needs. To determine how much wet food to feed your dog, follow the feeding recommendations on the can according to your dog’s age and weight. Keep an eye on his weight and activity level over the next few weeks to see if any adjustments are needed. You might need to scale back if your dog gains too much weight. On the other hand, if he loses weight or energy, you might need to feed him a little more. Just remember that a little wet food goes a long way.

 

Advice About Using Dog Treats

Should I Use Treats?

Another aspect of your dog’s diet that needs to be controlled is his consumption of treats. Treats are an important tool for training and for those times when you want to give your dog a bit of indulgence. But many dog owners make the mistake of over-using treats, much to their dog’s detriment. It is important to realize that dogs have a much lower need for daily calories than humans and even a small excess of calories can lead to unhealthy weight gain fairly quickly. Once your dog gains the weight, it may be difficult for him to lose it, so it is best to avoid this problem in the first place by being proactive.
 

Treats During Training

The time when you are likely to use dog treats most heavily is during training. When you are training a new puppy, you’ll probably be putting him through multiple daily training sessions – that’s a lot of treats! This is why it’s crucial that you choose your training treats wisely. Training treats should be nothing more than a very small bite for your dog – just a few calories. And you should only use the treats for as long as your dog needs to get the hang of a new training sequence. Once he understands the command and starts to respond consistently, you should scale back the treats but keep up with the praise to keep your dog motivated to perform.
 

Avoid Overusing Treats

Another trick you can try to avoid overusing treats during training is to schedule your training sessions to coincide with meal times. If you train your puppy at lunch time, you can use pieces of kibble as his food rewards – that way you aren’t feeding him any excess calories, but he still gets the food reward he wants. And don’t forget to be lavish with praise. Your dog wants to please you and praising him excitedly when he responds correctly tells him that he is doing just that. The more you praise your dog for doing well, the more eager he will be to repeat the behavior in the future. That’s the true key to positive reinforcement training for puppies.



 

What Should I Know About Veterinary Diets?

Are Veterinary Diets Healthy?

If your dog develops a health problem, you’ll probably take him to the vet for a checkup. In addition to providing whatever medical treatment your dog needs, your vet might also suggest that you switch him over to a veterinary diet formulated to support dogs with that particular problem. Pet food brands like Hill’s Science Diet and Purina offer prescription diets for dogs, and it is very common for veterinarians to sell them in their offices. What many dog owners do not realize, however, is that most of these products are very low in quality and they may not even address your dog’s dietary concerns. Veterinarian doctor Jodie Gruenstern shares her thoughts on prescription diets and why she no longer uses them in her practice.
 

Read the Label

Before you feed your dog a prescription diet, make sure you read the label and go through the process you’ve already learned to determine whether it is a good product or not. You may be surprised to find that many veterinary diets are loaded up with low-quality fillers like corn, wheat, and soy – they may not even contain any actual meat. Plant proteins are very common in prescription diets, and these recipes are often loaded up with fiber – more fiber than your dog really needs. Don’t fall for marketing schemes or assume that just because these products are expensive, that they are good for your dog.
 

High Quality Veterinary Diets

Though many prescription diets are not ideal for your dog, there are some high-quality dog food brands out there which also offer veterinary diets. For example, Blue Buffalo has a line of natural veterinary diets which can be used to support the health of dogs with a wide variety of medical problems or specific dietary needs. You’ll still need a prescription for these products but, if you’re going to feed your dog prescription dog food, it’s better to go with a quality brand. In the long run, feeding your dog a high-quality dog food is probably better for his health than any prescription diet.



 

Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Food and Nutrition

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By now you should have a much more thorough understanding of dog food, but you may still have some questions. Below you will find some of the most frequently asked questions about dog food as well as their answers.

Q: Which type of protein is best for my dog?

A: In general, animal-based proteins are better for dogs than plant-based proteins. This is true for a number of reasons. For one thing, your dog’s body is biologically adapted to deriving nutrition more efficiently from animal products than plant products. Also, meat and other animal proteins are complete proteins which means that they contain all ten essential amino acids that your dog needs. When it comes to specific proteins like chicken or turkey, however, there is no right or wrong. Some dogs develop allergies to common meats like chicken and beef, but not all dogs do. In general, lean proteins like game meat are better for some dogs, but it’s mostly about what your dog likes and what he can tolerate the best.

 

Q: Is it possible to feed my dog too much protein?

A: When you are shopping for dog food, you want to find a recipe that goes above and beyond your dog’s minimum needs for protein. But is there such a thing as too much protein in your dog’s diet? If your dog eats more protein than his body can use, some of the excess will be excreted in his urine, and the remainder will be burned for fuel (calories) or stored as fat. Extra protein is not usually a problem for a dog unless he suffers from kidney problems.

 

Q: What’s the difference between meat and meat meal?

A: When you see an ingredient like “chicken” on a dog food label, you can assume that it means fresh muscle meat. Fresh meats like chicken can contain as much as 80% water by volume, so, when the final product is cooked, a lot of that moisture cooks out – this could mean that the final volume of protein that chicken has to offer ends up being a lot lower. Meat meals, on the other hand, are simply meats with the water and fat removed. The dried meat is generally ground into a powder and used as a concentrated source of protein in dog foods.

 

Q: How do I know how much to feed my dog?

A: There is no simple answer to this question because each dog’s individual needs for energy and nutrients might be a little bit different. Your best bet is to choose a formula that is designed for your dog’s size, a small-breed or large-breed formula, as well as his life stage, puppy, adult, or senior. Then, follow the feeding recommendations on the package as a starting point. In most cases, these recommendations are based on age and weight, so you’ll need to know these things about your dog. Follow the recommendations closely for a few weeks without giving your dog too many extras like treats and table scraps. Watch his weight and body condition, then decide if you need to make changes. If your dog loses weight or has a reduction in energy, you might have to feed him a bit more. If he gains too much weight, however, you might need to cut back.

 

Q: Is it okay to mix dry food and wet food?

A: There are pros and cons for both wet food and dry food. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide what you want to feed your dog and up to him to decide whether to accept it. Dry food is usually the easiest and most convenient option, though wet food is sometimes more appealing to dogs. If you want to give your dog the benefits of both, you could feed him a staple diet of dry food and supplement it with a small amount of wet food mixed in. That way your dog will get the benefits of wet food without compromising the benefits he gets from his dry food.

 

Q: Can I give my dog table scraps from time to time?

A: Some people foods are safe for dogs, but many that aren’t. If you’re going to give your dog table scraps, make sure it isn’t any food from the harmful foods list provided above and make sure that it is low in sugar, fat, and salt. It is much better just to feed your dog treats that are made from high-quality, dog-safe ingredients.

 

Q: What is the proper way to store my dog’s food?

A: As a general rule, you should never buy more dog food than your dog can finish in about four to six weeks. Over time, the nutrients in your dog’s food start to break down, so it won’t be as high-quality a diet for him if you let that happen. When it comes to storing dog food, it is best to keep it in the original bag and place the whole thing inside an airtight container. Opened cans of food should be covered with a lid and kept in the refrigerator for no more than 2 to 3 days. You’ll need to consult the package for other kinds of pet food such as freeze-dried, raw, or frozen food.

 

Q: How is puppy food different from adult dog food?

A: Puppies and adult dogs have the same basic needs for nutrients, though the ratios are different. Puppies have a higher need for protein and fat than adult dogs, and they need certain vitamins and minerals in different amounts. To make sure that your puppy gets the nutrients and energy he needs to grow and develop properly, you should feed him a size-specific puppy food. Switch to a size-specific adult dog food when he reaches about 80% of his expected adult size.

 

Q: How do I know my dog is getting enough to eat?

A: It is always a good idea to monitor your dog’s weight between vet visits because you may not notice immediate changes in his energy levels or eating habits. If your dog starts inexplicably losing weight, it could be an indication of health problem that you should get checked out. One way to monitor your dog’s diet and to know if you’re feeding him enough is to check his body condition score – this is simply a visual scale used to evaluate a dog’s body weight and composition. A dog with a healthy body condition score will have a noticeable waist and abdominal tuck. There should be a thin layer of fat over the ribs, but not so thick that you can’t feel them. If your dog’s ribs are visibly protruding and he has little visible muscle mass, he has an unhealthily low body condition score. On the opposite end, if he has large fat deposits with no waist or abdominal tuck, he has a high body condition score, and that too is unhealthy.

 

Q: What is the difference between a dog food allergy and a food intolerance?

A: A food allergy is an immune system response to food that the body mistakenly identifies as a harmful substance. A food intolerance triggers a gastrointestinal response to a particular ingredient – symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, or digestive upset. A food intolerance, on the other hand, is more likely to cause skin problems or recurrent ear infection – things you might not immediately associate with a food allergy.

 



 

Q: What is a limited ingredient diet?

A: Also known as a LID, a limited ingredient diet is a type of dog food that is made with a smaller number of ingredients to help reduce the risk of triggering food allergies and sensitivities in dogs. Many LIDs are made with novel sources of protein and carbohydrate – ingredients that your dog hasn’t had before – because new foods have the lowest risk of triggering a reaction. If you suspect that your dog has a food allergy, you might switch him over to a LID for a few months until his body recovers from the allergy. At that point, you can introduce potential allergens one at a time until you find the one responsible, or you can keep feeding him the LID.

 

Q: Should I consider making my own dog food?

A: You certainly have the option of making your own homemade dog food, but it may be more complicated that you imagine. Your dog needs a precise blend of nutrients in his diet to maintain his health, and it might be tricky to achieve that balance with homemade dog food. If you do choose to make your own dog food, be sure to use a recipe that is approved by a vet or an animal nutritionist to ensure that it is properly balanced. It is usually easier, and probably safer, to just go with a reputable commercial dog food.

 

Q: Which type of dog food is the best?

A: There is no right or wrong answer to this question – it really just depends on your dog’s preferences as well as his individual needs. Most dog owners prefer dry dog food, though some dogs do better on wet food diets due to the increased moisture content and the flavor or palatability. If you are judging by quality, consider that all dog food manufacturers are different and you can’t always assume that the dog food that has the prettiest pictures or the biggest type is the best option. You need to take what you’ve learned here and apply it to search for and find the best dog food for your dog.

 

Q: What are the benefits of raw dog food?

A: The main benefit of raw dog food is that the ingredients are still in their natural form – they haven’t been exposed to high temperatures or damaging manufacturing processes which might destroy some of the nutrients. The problem with raw foods is that there’s a high risk of spreading food-borne illness or bacteria and that it doesn’t stay fresh as long as dry food. You can purchase freeze-dried raw food to enjoy the benefits of raw food with the convenience of dry food, or you can try frozen food and just thaw as much as your dog will eat in a day or two.

 

Q: If my dog needs to lose weight, can I just feed him less?

A: Theoretically, the answer to this questions is “Yes” but you need to be careful. Cutting your dog’s food intake too much could compromise his nutrition, and that’s not something you want to do. If your dog only needs to lose a pound or two, it might be better just to give him more exercise and cut back on treats. If your dog needs to lose a significant amount of weight, however, you might think about switching to a healthy weight formula in addition to increasing his daily exercise and limiting treats. Talk to your veterinarian before making any such changes to your dog’s diet or exercise habits.

 

Q: How can I tell if my dog is overweight?

A: Dogs of a certain breed don’t all weigh the same – there is a weight range that, to some extent, is impacted by breeding. If your dog is overweight, however, you will be able to tell. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs through his skin or if you see that he no longer has a discernible waist, he may be overweight. You might also notice pads of fat over the hips and at the base of the tail, and he might waddle when he walks. Overweight dogs may also have trouble moving or exercising, and they might be short of breath. Some dogs also become bad-tempered when they gain too much weight.

 

Q: What should I do if my dog develops digestive problems when I switch foods?

A: You should always take the time to transition your dog onto a new dog food, even if the same company makes it. Start by mixing a small portion of the new food into your dog’s regular food and slowly increase the proportion of new to old food over the course of a week. If your dog develops digestive problems, go back to the previous step and stay there for another day or two until your dog’s symptoms clear up. At that point, you can try again to move forward. Scroll above for a more detailed explanation and instructions on how to switch your dog’s food.

 

Q: What should I look for when shopping for dog treats?

A: It is just as important to buy your dog high-quality dog treats as it is to feed him high-quality dog food. The same rules and regulations apply to dog treats as to dog foods, so the process of comparing products is similar as well. You want to find dog treats that are made with meat as the first ingredient. In fact, you can find meat-only treats – this is a great option for dogs. There is no real reason to buy treats that contain fiber unless you are using them to supplement your dog’s fiber intake. Otherwise, he’ll be perfectly happy with a meat-based treat.

 

Q: Is it okay to make my own dog treats?

A: Yes, you can definitely make your own dog treats at home. It is generally safer to make your own dog treats than to make your own dog food because your dog will still have his nutritional needs met by a properly formulated dog food product. If you do choose to make your own dog treats, first make sure that all of the ingredients are safe for your dog.

Hopefully, by now, you have a thorough understanding of why quality nutrition is so important for your dog and how to choose a good dog food. If you want your puppy to enjoy a long and healthy life, it all starts with a healthy diet! Do not underestimate the importance of a high-quality dog food and make a commitment to yourself and your dog to buy the highest quality dog food you can consistently afford. Your dog will thank you for it! If you are looking for more reading material, considering visiting the American Veterinary Medical Association and browsing their resources.

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