Your dog is your best friend, so why would you feed him anything but high-quality dog food? Unfortunately, even foods from some of the biggest names in the business may not be as nutritious as you think. Dog foods from several leading manufacturers contain byproducts and fillers that do little to support your four-legged best friend’s health.
Giving your dog high-quality dog food and feeding him like family takes an informed approach. This means taking the time to check product labels and compare various brands and formulas to find the right fit.
While each dog is different, and many breeds have specific dietary needs, there are certain key components that any high-quality dog food must have. If you are searching for the best food to feed your canine companion, here at a few things to look for.
Ingredients to Look for in High-Quality Dog Food
A Named Animal Protein at the Top of the Ingredient List
When you are looking at a package of dog food, the ingredients listed near the top are the most important. Ingredients are listed in order by weight, so it’s important that the top ingredients be things that your dog needs.
A high-quality dog food should list named animal proteins like beef, chicken, lamb, etc. at the top. Avoid foods that simply say “meat” or “meat meal”. Foods listing animal byproducts as the top ingredient should also stay off your dog’s menu.
Animal Protein Meal in a Supporting Role
The first few ingredients under the top spot are also important. Fresh and frozen meats contain a lot of water, so they are often at the top of the ingredient list. This is good, but they do not contain enough protein to be the sole source in dry dog food.
Check the next three ingredients or so for an animal protein meal, such as meat, skin or bone meal. These meals have been rendered and dried and generally contain much more protein than fresh or frozen meat.
Whole Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables
Look for high-quality dog food containing fruits, vegetables and – unless you’re shopping for a grain-free formula – whole grains. Fresh, unprocessed fruits, veggies and grains are best, you don’t need to worry if you see a few byproducts or ingredient parts on the list.
What to Avoid When Shopping for High-Quality Dog Food
Meat or Poultry Byproducts
Meat and poultry byproducts provide little nutritional value. These low-cost ingredients often tend to be processed and stored with less care than higher-value ingredients, resulting in a greater chance of contamination.
Generic Fat Sources
Dog foods containing generic fat sources, such as “animal fat” are questionable at best. This type of fat could come from any origin, including used restaurant grease and even processed roadkill. Do you really want to feed your dog that? Instead, look for more specific ingredient listings like chicken fat or duck fat.
Your dog may enjoy the taste of added sweeteners. You need to know that manufacturers often use these to disguise food that provides little nutritional value. The use of added sweeteners is especially common in dog foods that are composed mostly of grain.
Artificial Colors, Flavors, and Preservatives
Dogs don’t care about the color of their food. As long as the food contains the right amount of healthy meat and fat, it doesn’t need artificial flavors to entice your dog. Skip foods containing these as well as preservatives like BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin. Foods that contain natural preservatives like vitamin C, tocopherols or rosemary extract are fine.
Choosing the Right High-Quality Dog Food
A dog’s nutritional needs change with age. A senior dog, for example, has drastically different needs than a puppy.
Your dog’s breed should also play a significant role in determining what type of food is best. Large breeds often require foods with added supplements to help protect their joints.
When deciding on something as important as your best friend’s diet, it’s always best to talk to your veterinarian. Making yourself aware of the various ingredients in various dog food brands and learning how to compare labels is an excellent way to choose a high-quality dog food. However, talking to your vet ensures that the product you choose is ideal for your individual pet.
Choosing the right dog food takes time and research, but doing so helps ensure a long, healthy life for your canine companion.