As a former employee of Petsmart, I used to help people make choices about the right food for their dogs.
Four Tips for Choosing the Right Dog Food
Dogs: They're your best friend. They're the ones who drive you insane, but you still love the crap out of them anyway. And they love you. Unconditionally. Forever.
So, isn't the kind of food you're feeding them important? Surprisingly, a lot of people don't believe it is. In fact, as a former employee of Petsmart, I used to hear people come in every day and complain about how many different dog foods we carried. They'd make a comment about how all of them were the same—and then they'd walk out the door with the cheapest bag.
The truth, however, is that it's not all the same. Some of it can actually be very bad for your dog.
In this article, I won't tell you which food or brand to buy, but I will give you a few tips to help you select the right food for your furry best friend.
1. Meat Should Always Be the First Ingredient
While dogs can eat plant material, evidence shows that they are carnivores and as such, it's much easier for them to digest meat. But beware, just because the first ingredient is meat doesn't mean it has a lot of meat in it. Usually, ingredients are weighed before they are processed, so the weight of the meat is actually much less after processing.
Also, always look for specifically named meats, such as lamb or chicken. If you see a generic term like "animal fat," that's a red flag because that meat could have come from anywhere (including roadkill or a bunch of different animals from leftover products at slaughterhouses).
Bottom line: If meat is not the first ingredient then it is likely a food with lots of filler plant materials that has little to no nutritional value for your pet.
2. Check Which Preservatives Are Used
Generally, dog foods will list what preservatives were used along with the ingredients. Some preservatives are very harmful to your dog, such as BHA and BHT, which are known carcinogens. Your dog food should be preserved with natural preservatives, like tocopherol.
3. Know Your Dog's Specific Needs
Dogs have different needs based on their breed, lifestyle, and age. For example, large-breed dogs should have glucosamine in their diet because it helps prevent the hip and joint problems that are common in large dogs. Puppies also need specially formulated foods to help stabilize growth patterns and to help with development. You should research your dog's specific needs in order to find the right food.
4. The Bottom Line Is: Do Your Research
Always make sure to research a food before giving it to your dog: know the ingredients, know the preservatives, know any recalls on the food, and read about other people's experiences with the food.
Don't believe everything that's written on the bag. Just like human food companies, dog food companies might spin the truth, too. For example, some dog food companies claim that their food is made in the U.S., but most of the ingredients are sourced from a different country.
If you switch your dog's food, make sure to do it gradually (over a period of 10 days is what is usually recommended). If you don't do this, your furry friend could have an upset stomach for a few days. Diarrhea after switching foods is pretty common, but if it lasts for more than a week you should stop giving your dog that food and consider seeing a vet. Your dog might have an allergy. Another sign of an allergy is a rash, usually forming on the dog's underbelly.
Good luck to you and your pet on your journey to find the best food!
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.
© 2016 Danielle Hussey
Allisyn Nichols from Texas on November 16, 2016:
Great info! Thanks so much. I'm always wondering if my little Watson is getting enough nutrients and often supplement what I feed him with small amounts of healthy people food.