What should I feed my dog?
Authored by Emily Shirey
Part 1: Best Dry Dog Food; Best Grain Free Dry Dog Food
As dog owners, one of our biggest responsibilities is what to feed our beloved pet. What we feed them is the most important decision we can make to aid in a long, happy, healthy life for our pup. But there are so many brands, so many options, and so many conflicting opinions, how do you know what to choose? Here are some tips for choosing a kibble.
Choosing a Dog Food – Keep It Simple
As with a quality diet for humans, the best diets for dogs consist of fresh, whole foods that are species appropriate. When checking the label, look for limited ingredients that you recognize, such as pork, beef or lamb. Based on a dog’s dentition and GI system, they are carnivores. Although they do have the ability to digest fruits, vegetables and grains, their diet should consist of primarily meats. Just because we can eat cake doesn’t mean our diet should consist of mainly cake. This is the difference between surviving on fruits, vegetables and grains, or thriving on meats.
Kibble Quality Is Key
Understanding the balance between the ingredients and the guaranteed analysis (the percentage of nutrients, such as protein, fat, and fiber) is vital for choosing a quality dog food. Protein is an essential part of a dog’s diet and should be a key factor in your choice. Looking for food that is high in protein is a great place to start, but it is crucial to realize that not all proteins are created equal. For instance, grains are not as digestible compared to meats as a source of protein. So even if a food is 30% protein according to the guaranteed analysis, if the first three ingredients are corn, brewer’s rice and corn meal, that food would have very little digestible protein and would be very high in carbohydrates.
Unlike protein and fat, dogs have no nutritional requirement for dietary carbohydrates. Yet some dog food contain up to 70% carbs! Carbs can be used as a source of energy, but it is important to keep in mind that dogs can acquire all the energy they need from protein and fat alone. Carbs are linked to a variety of health problems, including obesity, elevated blood sugar, inflammation, allergies, maldigestion (excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea), imbalanced gut bacteria, immune system imbalances and cancer. So why is dog food so high in carbs if they aren’t essential and are linked to so many health problems? One reason is because carbs bind food together and allow it to be processed into kibble. The other reason is because it is cheap for the food manufacturer.
Marketing in Dog Food – Don’t Be Fooled
From appealing packaging to buzz words, marketing plays a huge roll in the food we choose for our pets. Don’t be fooled, these companies may be feeding you, and your dog, a load of garbage. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Grain-free does not mean low sugar! Grain-free foods can actually contain more sugar than some foods with grain. Since carbs are broken down into sugar, carbs from ingredients such as potatoes, chickpeas and lentils will all be broken down into sugars. Just because a food is labeled as grain-free does not mean it is “healthy,” it could still be loaded with sugar!
- Look beyond the first ingredient. Just because the first ingredient is meat does not mean it is a quality food. Due to the loss of moisture during the processing, even if the first ingredient is chicken, if the second and third ingredients are corn meal and brewers rice, the food will be a majority of grain.
- Steer clear of high carb diets! As mentioned, corn is cheap and great for binding food together, but corn is not great for your dog. Corn and other carbohydrates are cheap fillers that are used for profits, not for the health of your dog. Of course pet manufacturing companies are going to push these carbs as a healthy ingredients because it works out to their benefit to use it.
- Veterinarian-recommend prescription diets are not always the best diets. Vets often recommend food like Hills Science Diet even though it is a poor quality food. When you check the ingredients of Science Diet Advanced Fitness, you will see: Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Cracked Pearled Barley, Whole Grain Sorghum, Whole Grain Corn, Corn Gluten Meal (https://www.hillspet.com/dog-food/sd-adult-advanced-fitness-original-dog-food-dry.#buy-online). The first ingredient is chicken, but ingredient numbers two, three, four, five and six are CARBS. This kibble is full of grains that can cause all of mentioned health problems and contains very, very little actual meat. So why do they recommend it? Unfortunately, there are only a few companies that make prescription diets, such as Hills Science Diet and Royal Canin. These foods are not necessarily better than others, but due to them being labeled “prescription,” it’s what vets recommend for specific health concerns.
- As a final note, you have to keep politics in mind. For instant, Mars Inc., just purchased hundreds of veterinary clinics in the United States and Canada. Mars is the same company that owns the prescription diet Royal Canin. You can bet these clinics are going to recommend Royal Canin, which is chock-full of carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled! (https://www.royalcanin.com/products/royal-canin-size-health-nutrition-medium-sensitive-digestion-dry-dog-food/3016)
For more information on the pet food industry, check out the documentary Pet Fooled on Netflix. (https://www.petfooled.com) or check out the video below:
Did you pick a bad food? – Don’t Ignore The Signs
Don’t ignore the signs of a poor quality food. Allergies, skin infections, poor coat quality, soft stool, bad breath, weight gain, lack of energy, “dog smell,” and various health problems can be a sign of a poor quality diet. Many of these symptoms are attributed to the dog itself, when actually they could be fixed with a better diet.
Willing to find the best food for you dog? – Do Your Homework
There are more options than just kibble out there. Freeze-died, dehydrated, premade raw and DIY raw are other options if you want to move away from highly processed, carb-loaded kibble. Everyone has an opinion about what the “best,” food might be, but keep in mind that no one loves your pup as much as you do. YOU have to make the effort to do your research on what would be the best situation for you and your pup. Don’t be fooled by marketing or rumors; don’t settle for mediocre, and never stop educating yourself.