How to Pick Dog Food: The Good, The Bad, The Gross
Picking your dog food can be a daunting task. You go to the store and there is an aisle filled with giant bags and cans, and now there is even a freezer! Where do you start? How do you pick? When it comes to dog food there is a lot of food out there that is the equivalent of cheap fast food. Your dog may like it, but it is not good for them. The food that your feed your dog matters. Their food is what gives them energy. It helps them live longer and healthier lives. Depending on your dog, it can decrease health issues such as diabetes. It gives them soft shiny coats and clear bright eyes. Just because your dog will eat almost anything doesn’t mean they should.
What to Avoid in Dog Food
Sometimes the best way to narrow down your choices is through the process of elimination. You will eliminate most dog food just by avoiding some of these ingredients. A good rule of thumb is the big main brands that have a ton of marketing, are basically junk. If the food is really cheap it is because it is full of fillers. Sadly, most dog food that is sold in supermarkets is junk. To buy good food you will likely need to go to a pet supply store. The bonus to going to a pet supply store is that the people who work there are often educated about your dog’s diet, though we recommend you do your own research as well. Here is a list of things that are good to avoid:
- animal by-product. These are the bits and pieces of animals that are ground up. These are literally the scraps that provide very little nutritional value and can be difficult to digest.
- Meat meal, bone meal, or “meat”. The dog food should be telling you what kind of meat is going into the food. When you see a generic term like this it means the meat can be anything or a combination of anything.
- BHA, BHT, Propyl Gallate- These are preservatives that can cause things like irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and skin and coat issues.
- Animal fat or poultry fat. Just like with listing generic meat, a generic fat is also bad. Fat is what carries disease. You don’t want diseased fat going into your dog food.
- Corn Syrup is a sugar and can lead to things like diabetes.
- MSG is a flavor booster. It makes bad food more appealing.
- Wheat, Corn, Soy, White Rice: these are all fillers. Having some grains is ok but it should not be the first ingredient or even in the first 5 ingredients.
- Cereal. This is the grain version of “meat” or “fat”. It is a generic term to indicate grains.
- Nitrates are flavor boosters and preservatives.
What to look for?
Now that you know what to avoid, what do you look for? Here is a list of things to keep an eye out for. Often the higher quality dog food will feature these ingredients on their packaging.
- “fresh” chicken, beef, etc.
- Whole rice is a healthy grain. It is good for your dog to get some grain.
- Vegetables. Dogs are omnivores. This means they need meat and vegetables. They get a lot of their vitamins from vegetables.
- Specific fats such as Omega-3, salmon oil, canola oil, and olive oil. This keeps their coat healthy and is good for their heart.
- Vitamins. B vitamins, vitamin A and vitamin E are all excellent.
- Minerals and nutrients. Zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, manganese, L carnitine, DL-Methionine, essential amino acids.
- Water- You want to look at the moisture percentage of the food. Dogs get a lot of their hydration from their food, so you want to have a high moisture percentage.
Some tips for buying dog food
Here are some great tips for buying dog food and how to read a dog food label.
- The ingredients are listed by how much is in the food. If it is listed first, that is what there is the most of. So you want to make sure that good quality meat is first, then vegetables, and after that grains, fats, and vitamins.
- Stores will sell dog food that has gone bad. Make sure to check the sell-by date.
- There is an analysis on the bag that will tell you how much protein, fat, fiber, and water the food contains. Remember that more water is good.
- Feeding recommendations are not rules. Make sure to check with your local Albuquerque veterinarian about the amount your dog should eat.