With so many options out there, finding the best quality dog foods can be difficult and confusing.
We want food that is yummy and healthy for our best friends at the same time. You can spend all the money in the world but if your dog doesn’t like it, what good is it right?
When looking for best quality dog foods learn to read the food labels.
A quick lesson on how to read labels-
- If the food begins with “beef” as an ingredient in the name, then the product must contain at least 95 percent beef. (Same with chicken, fish, lamb, etc)
- If the product has the words chicken and “dinner,” “entree,” “platter,” or “formula,” the food needs to be at least 25 percent chicken. (Same with beef, fish, lamb, etc)
- If there is a combination, such as a “Beef and Fish Entree,” the product must have at least 25 percent of combined beef and fish (more beef than fish, since beef is named first).
- The word “with” on the package means only 3% meat required.
This isn’t confusing right?
What To Look For
Guareanteed Analysis– Check for the “guaranteed analysis” label from the Association of American Feed Control Officers. (AAFCO) This is the mandatory guarantee that this food actually contains all the labeled protein, fat, fiber and moisture that it says it does. Wet and dry food do not use the same standards so it can be a bit tricky. There are online tools to help you determine this.
Right Size Food for your Breed- Make sure you are feeding the right food for the size of your dog. You wouldn’t want to feed a chihuahua the same food your Great Dane is eating, right? Not only would the kibble size not be right but single serving sizes are specifically created with the thought of calories and protein in mind. Make sure your food is in-line with your dog.
Protein- All Ingredients are listed by weight. Beef, chicken, lamb and fish contain a lot of moisture so they should be listed at the top. When they are at the top, make sure another source of animal protein is listed in the top 3 ingredients. (Since meats contain a lot of water, on their own they don’t carry enough protein to be the only animal protein source.)
- The word Meal- the word “meal” means dehydrated, which means much more protein. If you see beef meal, fish meal, lamb meal or chicken meal, this is good. Meal has a lot more protein than just beef, chicken or fish on their own.
- The words Meat, Animal or Poultry- If you see “meat”, “animal” or “poultry” listed instead of their actual names ( beef, chicken or fish) AVOID it.
“Meat” is a low quality protein term and we dont know where it came from. Avoid.
You want to make sure the first ingredient listed is beef, chicken, lamb or fish, not grains or vegetables.
Caloric needs- Make sure you know how active your pet is and the number of calories that work with HIS activity level, not what others say he should have. Calories should not come from just one nutrient. For example, if he gets 20-25% of his calories from protein, that is a good level.
What To Avoid
Flavor Ingredients- If your dog’s food has the proper amount of good protein, you should not need additional flavorings. When checking ingredients, if you don’t see beef, chicken, fish or lamb but see meat flavoring or beef flavoring, that usually means they are covering up a lot of grain and do not have enough actual protein.
Ethoxyquin– Found in most dog food, used as a preservative.
Also used as a Herbicide
Tests have shown ethoxyquin can cause kidney and liver damage, cancer (liver, spleen, stomach, skin), immune deficiency syndrome, blindness, and leukemia.
Propylene Glycol- used in dog food to reduce moisture and prevent bacteria growth.
Also found in Anti-freeze
Since this ingredient decreases bacteria growth, it also reduces the “good” growth that is needed. Since propylene glycol also reduces moisture that is needed to aid in digestion, some dogs may develop intestinal cancerous lesions or develop intestinal blockage.
BHT/BHA Butylated-hydroxyanisole (BHA) or butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)- found in some dog foods, and our food, to prevent spoilage.
Has been directly linked to cancer in dogs and humans
By-Products– found in many dog foods
Can be beef, chicken, fish or lamb, by-products are the internal remains of an animal. This can include diseased organs or tissues.
Fillers– Filler is not a term that has actually been defined however it comes down to this- fillers in commercial pet food are there for the benefit of manufacturers. They are not for giving your pet a better quality food.
Many dog foods use corn, wheat and potato as filler. Those ingredients don’t sound horrible however there are two sides to every story. It is up to you to decide.
If you would like a more complete list of food that dogs should not eat, check out my article.
- Don’t throw away the original container or bag the food came in. They are designed to keep in freshness and keep out the stuff you don’t want floating around your dog’s food. They also contain expiration dates and bar codes if there is a food recall.
- Seal the container after every use. If you allow food to be exposed to air and humidity, it will spoil faster. This can increase your dog’s chances of getting salmonella.
- Keep food out of sun. The sun can elevate humidity, cause food to spoil faster, and again increase risk of salmonella.
- If the food is past the expiration date, throw it out. There is no reason to feed your dog expired food. Those dates are there for a reason.
- Don’t mix old food with new. You don’t know what is left in that old bag, it is best to throw out and go with the new bag.
Buying the best quality dog foods you can doesn’t need to be scary or confusing. Once you understand the labels, it’s just a matter of finding the kinds you know your buddy will love.
If you have a dog that wants to eat or chew everything, take a look at my article about your dog’s chewing habits.