With so many options available, choosing the best dry dog food becomes a tricky job. More people are looking for natural and organic foods for themselves, and are looking for the same for their pets. What's good for us is good for them, right? Not necessarily -- we are two different species, and what is good for humans isn’t necessarily good for our four-legged friends.
“Natural and veggie-based pet foods are based more on market demand from owners, not because they are necessarily better for the pet,” says Dr. Susan Nelson, a veterinarian and an assistant professor of clinical services at Kansas State University. In other words: companies will sell it to you because you will pay for it, not just because it’s great for your big dog. The question then becomes, how do you know what’s good for your dog?
The best dry dog food will provide 4 things:
There’s a relatively easy way to tell if a food is balanced. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has set out guidelines for how pet food is manufactured, labeled and distributed – and what the minimum nutritional requirements are. This includes standards for foods designed for different life stages, such as puppy food or senior food. Dog food that meets these standards will have an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the label. That means that they have either met the requirements or that they have gone through feeding trials conducted by the AAFCO to determine that it works for a specific life stage.
Natural, Not "Holistic" Or "Organic"
“Natural” has only natural ingredients, not counting any added vitamins and minerals. The official AAFCO definition includes products without “chemically synthesized ingredients except vitamins or minerals.” Dr. Nelson, the Kansas State veterinarian, warns dog owners to be wary of foods stating that they are “organic” or “holistic.” AAFCO has not defined these words so when they appear on a dog food label, it may not mean what you think it does. It’s not defined and therefore not regulated, so it could be anything.
Quality Food Ingredients
When it comes to ingredients, “most reputable companies have a veterinary nutritionist on hand” to make sure that ingredients are appropriate for dogs, says Dr. Nelson. This includes ingredients that are not just safe but also effective in providing nutrients. Look for quality proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Dry foods will usually include preservatives, either artificial or natural. Vitamins E and C are natural preservatives commonly used, though artificial preservatives have been shown to be safe in the quantities used in food. Avoid foods that list protein by-products, which are low quality and low in nutritional value.
Keep an eye on your dog. If he seems healthy – energetic, regular bowel movements, healthy skin and coat – then the food is working for him. But if you switch foods and something seems off, it may be a good idea to take a look at the ingredients and try something else.
As an example of a good food, check out this food from Blue Buffalo.
It doesn't have any protein by-products. It's nutritionally balanced to provide your dog the nutrition he needs. It includes whole, nutritious ingredients like carrots, cranberries, and blueberries. Free of soy, dairy, and grains, it is good for dogs with food sensitivities and allergies. Click the image above to read more and save 15-25% on your order when you choose to have it conveniently auto-shipped right to your door.
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Photo credit: EraPhernalia