The food that you feed your dog plays a vital role in their overall health and well-being. But choosing the right type of dog food can be challenging with so many options available in the market. In this article, we will discuss the dos and don'ts to keep in mind when buying dog foods.
Do: Remember that pet food is a product that is heavily marketed Keep in mind that there's a heavy element of marketing involved when brands advertise their pet food. Despite brands self-proclaiming that they have the freshest produce, look past the marketing fluff and pay attention to the actual ingredient list and nutritional breakdown on the back of the package. Depending on the laws of the country that you are in, some pet foods may only need to contain a small amount of an ingredient to have it on the product name. For example, some of the less expensive dog foods stating fish in their product name may actually contain more cheaper chicken protein than fish protein. Products that say “fish flavour” generally will not contain much of that ingredient. Similarly, many products boasting “superfoods” will likely just contain a small to negligible amount of those ingredients, and are usually the last ingredients on the ingredient list.
Do: Learn to read the ingredient list Ingredients are always listed from most to least by quantity, which means the first ingredient on the list is what the dog food is mostly made of. Manufacturers can cheat by splitting up ingredients into smaller parts to push them further down the ingredients list. For example, whole peas can be listed as pea protein, pea fibre, and pea hulls. Combining all 3 components would push peas further up the ingredient list, but by splitting it up, it makes it seem like the food contains less peas.
Do: Try to get a life stage and size specific food for your dog Life stage and size specific dog foods will do more to help support your dog’s health. Senior dog foods contain fewer calories and more ingredients like omega-fatty acids to help support an ageing dog. Large breed dog foods usually contain a different mineral breakdown and joint support ingredients.
Do: Be critical of claims on the label Many less expensive foods will contain elements that the majority of pet food doesn’t contain. Preservatives may be one of these elements - dry dog foods are preserved based on the low moisture content, whilst canned wet dog foods are sealed airtight and sterilised under heat, so no preservatives are needed. Another may be artificial colouring - this was more common in the 90s, but isn’t as prevalent anymore. Finally, watch out for the "real meat" label. Unless the food is specifically formulated to not contain meat products, such as vegetarian foods or foods for severe allergies, all dog food contains some level of meat product. What's more important is the first ingredient of the dog food brand.
Don’t: Fall for the “high protein percentage” claims A high percentage of poor quality protein is not as good as a lower percentage of a high quality protein. As outline in this article on a high protein dog food diet, having a super high level of protein is not necessarily always good. In fact, excess protein is broken down and urinated out, not to mention it puts additional strain on kidney functions, so prioritising protein amount over protein quality is counter-intuitive. Healthy, average adult dogs are fine with about 20-22% protein, with a minimum of 18%. Dogs that need to lose weight or active dogs may benefit from up to 30% protein, to allow them to feel sated and maintain muscle mass, whilst reducing their calorie content intake.
Don't: Forget that carbohydrates and grains are not bad! Carbs are a useful source of nutrition, and many grain-free foods still contain lots of carbohydrates, just from non-grain sources which may be less nutritionally valuable than grains. Dogs have been human companions for thousands of years where they started off eating the leftovers humans had around, so their nutritional needs are very similar to ours.
If you're looking to compare the best dog foods tailored specifically to your dog's situation, check out our Pawsitive Plan to ensure your dog has the most optimal diet.