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How To Choose A Dog Food

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A Guide To Determine Which Dog Food Is The Best To Feed Your Dog.

When you walk into the pet store, or even browse the internet, it is easy to become overwhelmed by every dog food choice on the market. How do I know which one is right for my dog? What is even considered healthy? Does my dog have any special requirements? You can be asking yourself a million questions and then end up settling for something that may not be the best fit because the packaging looks good. What I’m going to share with you are the various different methods you can use so that the decision making process becomes a little bit easier.

Age & Activity Level

Right off the bat you need to determine if your dog fits into any of the following categories: puppy, adult or senior. You don’t need to get too hung up on specifics here though because these categories of food are already formulated to meet the specific needs of each different life stage. The other question tied into this is the activity level of your pet. Say, for example you have a super active, high energy adult dog. You’re not going to want to feed the same amount as an adult dog with a considerably “normal” or moderate activity level. You may even consider supplementing your adult dog at that point with some puppy food just to get the extra calories in. If your dog happens to fit into the senior category but is still very active, I would keep the dog on the adult food until he/she would show signs of slowing down a bit. Age and activity level go hand in hand and it is important to establish which categories your dog falls into right from the beginning.

The First 3

Selecting the right quality of dog food can be as simple as looking at the first three ingredients in the food. The first three ingredients make up about 80% of what is in the bag so avoid things like corn, animal by-product, corn gluten meal, wheat middling, soybean meal, animal by-products, animal fat and by-product meal. You want to look for real meat or meat meal in these three ingredients. The difference between chicken and chicken meal for example is mostly the water content. Chicken listed as an ingredient factors the water into the equation in which that content is about 80% (it is then cooked out). Chicken meal on the other hand is calculated with the moisture removed and therefore contains more protein. Be aware that “meal” does contain other ground parts of the chicken including bone and carcass as well but these aren’t necessarily a bad thing especially when selecting a brand at a higher price point (this usually denotes higher quality with more meat and less bone/carcass). 

Allergies

Before buying dog food, consider whether your dog has any known food allergies. A real common misconception is the infamous “grain allergy.” Many times you will see dog food broken into the broad categories of “Grain” and “Grain Free.” While it is possible for your dog to be allergic to a specific grain or starch, it is way more common for them to be allergic to a specific protein instead. In fact, two of the leading culprits of protein allergies in dogs are beef and chicken with beef being the leading cause. If you see your dog showing signs of allergies such as itchiness and chronic skin and ear infections, the best thing to do first would be to switch up the protein source. I will dive further into the allergy topic in a future post because you truly need an entire blog post to discuss the nature of the issue but don’t be fooled into thinking your dog can’t have grain before you rule out the protein issue first.

Body Type

Is your dog an ideal weight? Or can they afford to gain or lose a little? Whatever the case may be, it is important to take their body type into consideration before making a selection. If your dog is too thin, bulk them up on a puppy food which contains a higher fat and protein content. Or, you can choose a food that is specifically formulated for active dogs, generally labeled as “active adult.” You can also buy “high calorie booster” gel to add calories to your dog’s meal. Usually in this case, your dog is emaciated or simply won’t eat due to a medical condition. If your dog is too heavy, reduce the amount of food given, choose a food with less filler and fat or there are brands with a “healthy weight” option. Senior foods are also lower in calories, fat and protein as well. 

Kibble, Wet, Or Raw?

Dry kibble is by far the standard when it comes to dog food, not to mention the most affordable option as well. Many dogs can live long, healthy and prospering lives on kibble alone and I say, as long as they are consuming a food that suits their needs, go for it! If you decide to feed moist or semi-moist dog food as the only food source, keep two things in mind. Make sure the product is labeled as “complete nutrition,” otherwise it should be used as a kibble topper only. The second consideration is your dog’s teeth. Your dog will need additional hard chew toys or treats to keep plaque from building up on their teeth. Finally, there is the raw diet which is the highest quality food and most expensive food on the market. Feeding your dog an exclusively raw diet has so many health benefits that, again, would be too much to list here and quite frankly deserves its own post. Just know that a very popular, yet affordable option is using freeze dried raw food as a topper on your dog’s kibble. This will give them many of the nutritional benefits of a raw diet without completely breaking the bank. 

Picky Eater

If you’re choosing to feed kibble but your dog isn’t a fan, try adding moist or raw food into the kibble for extra flavor. There are also different meal toppers you can buy such as liver sprinkles, bone broth and gravies all of which are very enticing. Freeze dried raw is often the best option when it comes to quality and convenience and adding flavor your dog can’t resist. There are even kibbles out there that fall into the category of “raw coated” meaning the kibble itself has a nice light coating of freeze dried raw “dust” to make the food more palatable. And yes, there is what is called a “dinner dust” out there on the market that is the powder-like substance that results from the production of raw freeze dried food. The dinner dust also makes a great kibble topper as well! If you’re interested in healthy snacks for your dog, check out our other article entitled Pumpkin & Pets. 

Ready To Choose

Take all of these suggestions into consideration and then boil it down to price point versus quality. It is possible to find some decent quality dog foods at a fair price if you know what to look for. As always, I recommend walking into your favorite local pet store to help with recommendations. My favorite? P&D Pet Supply in Mountain Top of course! When you shop local for this kind of advice, you are getting staff with years of experience and knowledge to help guide your decision making process. When it comes to selecting what type of food to feed your dog, you don’t have to be overwhelmed. As long as you keep these suggestions in mind and seek out additional help, you’ll be able to select the best food that suits your particular dog in no time!

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