What Is the Best Dog Food?
Finding the Best Dog Food for Your Dog
Today's pet food industry is larger and more varied than ever before. While this offers a large number of choices in various types of dog food, it can also be very confusing to try to figure out what is the best food to feed your dog.
Something that needs to be kept in mind is that dog food is not a one fits all scenario.
The age, breed and activity factor of each individual dog all needs to be taken into consideration, as does the dogs sensitivity to foods.
Many dogs will eat anything you give them, good or bad, but some of your pedigree dogs have allergies and food sensitivities. Some pedigrees are inclined genetically to certain diseases and need special diets.
If you own a pedigree it would be in your dogs best interest to find out what these inclinations might be in order to know what the best dog food choices you have to feed your dogs.
Understanding Dog Food Ingredients
Any one that is the proud owner of a dog really needs to become familiar with the ingredients that go into process dog food in order to make knowledgeable decisions as to what they are feeding their dogs.
Take a look at the ingredients on your packaged food and write them down. Then do the research so that you know exactly what the terms mean and what the side effects are on the animal that you love so much.
Dogs should be fed a combination of fresh and dried foods. The fresh food that is fed in the home is usually much healthier than the processed food that comes off of the shelf.
Fresh foods that are fed at home can include any type of meat such as poultry and beef, or even eggs. Foods such as cranberries and blueberries (or the juices); sweet potatoes or yams are also beneficial to a dog's diet.
Preservatives in the dog's food is usually not beneficial to the animals health; however, they are a necessity for prolonged shelf life of manufactured process dog food. Manufacturers are required to make a profit so the shelf longevity is a must, for them.
Asorbic acid is a food additive that is used as a preservative that will not harm the dog, as it is only another form of vitamin-C. Many manufacturers will not use it as a preservative and will instead choose to use a less expensive chemical method that can often have diverse effects on dogs.
The Best and Worst Foods for Your Pet
What About Familiar Name Brands?
What about familiar name brands like Alpo, Purina or another premium brand like Wellness?
Are the premium brands that advertise specially formulated ingredients like IAMS, Science Diet, or Eukanuba really being truthful in their advertising claims? Will they qualify for one of the best dog foods? Are they really worth the extra money? Are generic or store brands suitable for a dog? These are all important questions to be asking.
We are now more aware than ever, with the first recall of 2007, that not all dog foods are created equal and even the higher priced brands should not be taken at face value.
Become an educated consumer and learn what a healthy dog food diet consist of . . . . learn to read those labels!
Dog Owners Need to Take Responsibility
They need to write down the ingredients that are on the packaging of the food they are using for feed. They need to do the research to find out what, exactly, they are feeding their animals and what the side effects are of the products their animals are ingesting.
Many dog allergies these days are are a result of the product the dogs are consuming. Skin allergies are very high on the list, as are kidney failure and cancer. These are all resulting from the chemicals that the dogs are being fed in the processed dog food.
Some premium types of processed dog foods will include essential fatty acids, carbohydrates with adequate fiber contents, vitamins like A, D, E and B complex vitamins; however, many will not.
Minerals such as zinc, are an essential ingredient to keep the skin healthy and kidneys functioning. Calcium is another essential ingredient for both bone growth and tonicity of the muscles. These minerals should be enriched in the processed foods; however, the cost of doing that is much more expensive and cuts into the bottom line profit of the dog food companies.
Although it may be better for your dog's health, many companies will not add the nutritional essentials to the garbage they process as it is not cost effective!
As I keep stating, write down the ingredients of the dog food you are using, do the research, and determine what your dog needs for optimum health and what will make your dog ill. The animal is no longer in the wild, responsible for his own survival. The dog is a domesticated creature that relies on his human master to care for him responsibly and with lots of love.
Beware of Dog Food Fillers
The dog food recall of those contaminated pet foods, just a few short years ago, has done nothing to stop the use of fillers in lower grade, and some premium, commercial dog foods. Many pet food manufacturers keep their costs low and their bottom line high by loading the the dog food with bulk which has absolutely no nutritional value. Your pet's food could be filled with one or more of a number of fillers, including:
- Cereal by-products
- Cottonseed hulls
- Citrus pulp
- Peanut hulls
- Rice husks
- Corn and corncobs
These dog food fillers are unfortunately used in the place of quality fiber, (remember brown rice hulls are a filler, they are not brown rice) and can irritate the walls of your pet's intestines. Some of the fillers are not digestible by dogs.Yet as food prices continue to rise, the use of fillers will continue to be used so that dog food manufacturers can continue to keep their costs low and their bottom line profit high.
Avoid obscure listings like potato product, rice or peanut hulls, and grape pomace. Look for something more recognizable than words that give you only a vague notion of what you are feeding your dog.
Diligence is required in avoiding these foods as many of them are masked with euphemisms and phrases such as "Moist, chewy" or "contains vegetables," among many more.
Pet food manufacturers pay marketers very well to come up with creative wording that will convince you to purchase their brand of dog food. This is why it is so very important for you to learn to read the labels and have an understanding of what the labels are telling you, Then and only then will you be able to make an educated choice on what you are willing to put into your pets dog food bowl. Don't allow your dog fill up on fillers
Read the Labels of Your Pet Food!
Dog Food Label "Rules" by the FDA
FDA Rulings Are on the Side of the Advertisers!
1. The 95% Rule:
If the product says "Beef Dog Food," 95% of the product must be the named ingredients. A product with a combination label, such as "Beef and Liver for Dogs," must contain 95% beef and liver, and there must be more beef than liver since beef is named first.
2. The 25% or "Dinner" or "Entrees" Rule:
Ingredients named on the label must comprise at least 25% of the product but less than 95%, when there is a qualifying "descriptor" term like "dinner", "entrees", "formula", "platter", "nuggets", etc. In "Beef Dinner for Dogs," beef may or may not be the primary ingredient. If two ingredients are named ("Beef and Turkey Dinner for Dogs"), the two ingredients must total 25%, there must be more of the first ingredient (beef) than the second (turkey), and there must be at least 3% of the lesser ingredient.
3. The 3% or "With" Rule:
A product may be labeled "Dog Food with Lamb" if it contains at least 3% of the named ingredient. The "Flavor" Rule: A food may be labeled "Duck Flavor Dog Food" even if the food does not contain such ingredients, as long as there is a "sufficiently detectable" amount of flavor.
This may be derived from meals, by-products, or "digests" of various parts from the animal species indicated on the label.
Criteria for a Healthy Dog Food
A few of the things that must match our criteria for the best healthy dog food is that the dog food must be chemical and preservative free, they may not contain any animal by-products.
Meat must be the first two ingredients listed, not corn. Corn is difficult for dogs to digest. Brown rice is better, however, be aware that brown rice hulls are only a filler and not brown rice. See the difference?
They also must NOT contain any of these five ingredients:
- Animal fat
- Meat by-products and bone meal
- Fish by-products
- Liver meal
- Poultry fat or poultry by-products
I know these ingredients sound harmless and they are meant to. They've been carefully named so as not to raise any alarms or suspicions when you see them on the ingredient list on the side of the can or on the back of a bag...but when you know what they really are....alarm bells should be ringing loud and clear. Anytime there is a generic listing, steer away from the food.
By generic I mean i.e. poultry by-product. It needs to specify what type of poultry. If it says chicken or duck, for example, you are fine. Poultry is a generic term to cover anything from turkey feathers to chicken feces.
With the exception of vitamins and minerals as nutritional additives, the further down the list you find an ingredient the less it contributes to the overall quality of the food.
For example, if carrots are listed as the 10th ingredient, the amount in the dog food is so minuscule it barely matters. When listed that far down the list consider it to just be cosmetic “window dressing”.
To keep it simple, a rule of thumb can consistently identify the best dog food…
The first two or three items on any dog food ingredients list should be a whole meat protein; ie. beef, chicken, lamb or turkey, not a meat by-product.
Dog Food Ingredients Test
Use this test to figure out the score of your current dog food.
Start with a grade of 100 on the ingredients list:
For every listing of "by-product", subtract 10 points
For every non-specific animal source ("meat" or "poultry", meat, meal or fat) reference, subtract 10 points
If the food contains BHA, BHT, Glyceryl Monostearate, Propylene Glycol, Propyl Gallate or ethoxyquin, subtract 10 points. If all of them are in the food, subtract 50 points.
If it contains ground corn or whole grain corn, subtract 5 points
If corn is listed in the top 5 ingredients, subtract 4 more points
For every grain "mill run" or non-specific grain source, subtract 5 points
If the same grain ingredient is used 2 or more times in the first five ingredients (i.e. "brown rice hulls", ground brown rice", "brewer's rice", "rice flour" are all the same grain), subtract 5 points.
Keep in mind though that brown rice hulls and brewers rice are a filler and not the same as brown rice. Brown rice alone is a good thing; see below. Rice flour is white rice.
- If the protein sources are not meat meal and there are less than 2 meats in the top 3 ingredients, subtract 3 points
- If it contains any artificial colorants, subtract 3 points
- If the food contains any animal fat other than fish oil, subtract 2 points
- If lamb is the only animal protein source (unless your dog is allergic to other protein sources), subtract 2 points
- If it contains soy or soybeans, subtract 2 points
- If it contains wheat (unless you know that your dog is not allergic to wheat), subtract 2 points
- If it contains salt, subtract 1 point
- If any of the meat sources are organic, add 5 points
- If the food is baked not extruded, add 5 points
- If the food contains probiotics, add 3 points
- If the food contains fruit, add 3 points
- If the food contains vegetables (NOT corn or other grains), add 3 points
- If the animal sources are hormone-free and antibiotic-free, add 2 points
- If the food contains barley, add 2 points
- If the food contains brown rice without the other "rice fillers", add 2 points
- If the food contains flax seed oil (not just the seeds), add 2 points
- If the food contains oats or oatmeal, add 1 point
- If the food contains sunflower seed oil, add 1 point
- For every different specific animal protein source (other than the first one; do not include any meat "meal" as one protein source, i.e. "chicken" and "chicken meal" would be as 1 source), add 1 point
- If it contains glucosamine and chondroitin, add 1 point
- If the vegetables have been tested for pesticides and are pesticide-free, add 1 point
- 94-100+ = A
- 86-93 = B
- 78-85 = C
- 70-77 = D
- 69 = F
What About IAMS, Science Diet, Pedigree and Eukanuba?
Most humans think "if it cost more it is better". This isn't always true. In all of the research I have conducted over the years, I have found some of the premium brands are almost as bad as your low-grade brands.
I just cannot stress enough how important it is to READ THE LABELS and learn what the ingredients are that are listed on the label.
Many people have been fooled into thinking that IAMS, Science Diet, Pedigree and Eukanuba are the best commercial dog food money can buy. NOT in my humble opinion. The last time I looked they did not qualify as the best dog food.
These four brands were actually poor quality food that sadly, are charging premium prices for the food, for their advertising and for the commissions they pay to your vets.
Pet owners beware. I have discovered that IAMS pays hefty commissions to veterinarians that are willing to recommend and sell their dog food to trusting dog owners.
Personally, I don't want a vet taking care of my animals who will care more for the "almighty dollar" than the health of my dog. If your vet is recommending this dog food, I recommend that you find a new vet.
I have a friend who is an AKC certified dog breeder who was also contacted by IAMS and offered a substantial amount to advertise their poor quality dog food on her website. I am pleased that she politely turned them down.
When I first created this page 7 years ago, I couldn't find a manufactured brand of dog food that qualified for the best dog food. Since then many dog food companies have changed their formula ingredients due to public pressure.
Read those labels and know what you are paying for.
Dog Food Testing: Premium Is Not Always Best!
Bones the size of the ones in this video probably won't have any effect on a large dog, but they could be a problem for small dogs.
Remember . . . premium is not always best!
Homemade Dog Food
Anyone that has read any of my dog food HubPages knows that I am a real advocate for making healthy dog food at home.
I do realize that it is a time constraint for a lot of people but look at it this way. If it was a special needs child, wouldn't to make the time?
I often suggest to, at the very least, try to add some raw food to your dogs diet and to make at least one homemade meal a week.
Keep in mind you can make a batch and freeze it. If you make one meal, why not make a batch of 7 meals. You might as well make enough for one meal a day for a week to add to the commercial dog food that you have already purchased.
Making larger batches will save money and time. I like to freeze each meal in an individual serving. I thaw when needed and reheat with a little water.
I take a package out of the freezer before I go to bed and feed in the morning. I take out another in the morning before I go to work and feed when I get home from work.
Making Chicken and Rice for Your Dog: Homemade Dog Food
Preparing Dog Food at Home
There are many pet owners that still just don't get it. Your dog needs to have raw meat at least once a week, but several times a week is better.
Some people think that it is too time-consuming, you know, "too much hassle", to feed their dogs a well-balanced diet. These are the same people that are living on fast food, are overweight and don't give a hoot about their own diet, let alone a dog's diet.
Making food at home doesn't have to be a huge chore. It only takes a couple of hours to make up a big batch. This can then be frozen in separate containers and fed once a week at least.
Depending on the size of the dog, it is so easy to throw together a couple of pounds of raw chicken with some leftover brown rice (2 2/3 c.), some fresh veggies, with a tablespoon of safflower or olive oil, and a little (1/4 t.) iodized salt. Mix it together with about 3 grams of calcium carbonate (regular Tums size) and freeze it in separate containers. Pull one out say Thursday night and by Friday morning it's thawed and you can feed it to your best friend Fred the dog.
What's so hard about that?. You are already mixing dry with wet food anyway. This isn't any more difficult. Our dogs need that raw protein.
Do you add a couple of raw eggs into the mix every now and then? No? Why not? Dogs don't get salmonella poisoning like humans do. How hard is it to chop up some raw beef at the same time you are making yourself some stew or throwing a steak on the Bar-B?
Are you adding supplements to their food at meal time? No? If you aren't feeding them correctly, you should be.
Take a few minutes extra to make a difference in your dogs health and the payoffs will be great. Your bud will live longer and you will save a ton of money at the Vet's because you won't have to go to the Vet as often.
How to Make Homemade Dog Food for a Week by Linda's Pantry
What Dog Food Do You Feed Your Dog?
Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Dogs
On a last note, I want to talk about this dog food book by Rick Woodford. I think it is a book every dog owner should read at least once. Once it has been read I know it will be referred back to often.
I like the way Rick Woodford wrote this book. It is written in simple laymen's term which are easy for anyone to understand.
He explains the dietary and nutritional needs of our canine family members and includes recipes for meals and snacks.
Lovingly called the "Dog Food Dude", Rick has helped many dogs regain their health and vitality by taking them off processed dog food and feeding a healthy diet.
Voted the Best Books of 2014 on Amazon this book is full of homemade, nutritionally sound, dog food and dog treat recipes. It is available in paperback and on Kindle.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.