How to Find a Good Dog Food (Or Make Your Own)

Updated on October 30, 2019
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James Livingood has been a dog sitter for several years. He has written numerous articles and a book about the topic because he loves dogs.

How to Find a Good Dog Food
How to Find a Good Dog Food | Source

How to Select the Right Dog Food

Finding a good dog food can be difficult. When you enter into a pet store, there are so many choices! In this article, we will show you how to break all of those choices up into categories in order to compare the equivalent products. In addition, if you don't find the specific food that you need, we'll talk about how to make your own dog food.

When selecting the best dog food, there are a variety of factors to consider, and there is no such thing as "one size fits all" in nutrition. Here's what you should be paying attention to:

  • Feeding frequency
  • Grain vs. grain-free
  • The dog's age or life stage
  • The average size of the dog
  • Allergens

A dog eating food.
A dog eating food. | Source

Feeding Frequency and Variety

Dogs tend to do best with a bit of variety in their meals. Beyond nutritional requirements, dogs can get bored with food as well. Furthermore, they have needs beyond simple nutrition. For example, dry kibble can work well as a "daily staple" because it can help break down plaque on the teeth. Greenies are special treats designed to help with teeth cleaning as well. Occasionally, it might be nice to serve wet food, especially for dogs that may require more moisture in their diet (e.g. dogs with kidney issues). Variety within moderation is always good and keeps a dog interested in its food.

Grain vs. Grain-Free

Not all dog foods that contain grains are bad and not all grain-free dog foods are good. The truth is that while grain-free dog foods may contain more protein, they can lower the nutritional balance in some cases. For example, while corn/rice may replace potatoes and legumes, these may be rich in protein but may be lower in certain essential amino acids. The trick is if selecting a grain-free variety, focus on whether the protein in the food comes from meat.

The Dog's Age or Life Stage

A puppy has different caloric requirements than a senior dog. Furthermore, juvenile large breeds have different requirements than smaller dogs. For example, feeding extra calcium to a puppy may result in hip problems in larger breeds. With senior dogs, the focus may be around joint support and weight management. Consider discussing these aspects with your vet.

The Average Size of a Dog

A larger breed is going to have different nutritional requirements than a smaller breed. You may be wondering what a nutritional profile contains. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) builds profiles for puppies and adult dogs in the form of maintenance needs. These were designed to help make an informed decision about feeding regimens, but a conversation with your vet may yield more specific advice.

Food Allergies

Some dogs have nutritional needs that center around allergens. Food allergies can manifest as skin problems, gastrointestinal probs, etc., so avoiding certain allergy-triggering foods can help improve your dog's quality of life.

How to Compare Dog Food Brands

Now that you've figured out the broad category of food that your dog needs, it is time to get into the specifics. There are a few major factors to consider (availability, expiration date, etc.) that are centered around your local market. I won't look into those but instead focus on subjective measures of specific dog foods.

Subjective Measure 1: First 5 Ingredients

What makes up the majority of food is often listed in the first five ingredients on a label. Ingredients beyond that may be added to preserve the food or to add vitamins.

Subjective Measure 2: Major Type

Does the food contain grain or is it grain-free? Is the food designed for puppies or senior dogs? Is the food designed for dogs with skin allergies, those in need of weight management, etc.?

Subjective Measure 3: Price per Pound

This can be really important when considering selecting a staple food. You could be getting hundreds if not thousands of pounds of this dog food throughout the entirety of your dog's life, so cost is an important factor. On the flip side, going too cheap can result in poor nutrition, which can lead to health issues and hefty vet bills later on. Selecting the best benefit for the lowest price is the key.

Subjective Measure 4: Recalls and Other Recipes

Your dog may not like the brand you find. Furthermore, the brand may not be known for putting out consistent quality. Finding several options for your dog to eat can lead to a choice they enjoy and a quality meal for them each time. Ultimately, the goal of finding dog food is in making your companion happy! Sometimes that may require speaking with a vet to get their opinion or it may require making your own dog food.

What was the most important factor for you when finding a dog food?

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A dog with a treat.
A dog with a treat. | Source

How to Make Your Own Dog Food

Are you tired of ready-made foods for your dog? This could be due to multiple reasons like high costs or poor-quality nutrition. We'll take a look at what steps to take to make your own dog food.

1. How to Prepare Dog Food at Home

Preparing your dog's food requires a lot more dedication than you may think. You have to keep various factors in mind like meeting nutritional needs and also keeping the costs low while also deciding between raw and processed foods.

2. What Portions Need to Be Present in the Diet?

The number of calories that should be present in the food you prepare solely depends upon breed, age, activity, and so on and so forth. Figuring out caloric needs and portions to include in the diet is the foremost part of preparation.

Dogs need a good intake of proteins and fats, however, this doesn't mean that you should add carbs to their meals. Instead, you can provide them with vegetables that are high in carbohydrates as a healthy option.

3. How Much Does Preparing Food Cost?

Preparing your own homemade food allows you to make cost-efficient food and you can save a considerable amount of money. On average, if your dog is average-sized and eats a normal diet, it would cost you an estimated $5 per day to feed them. However, if you choose to prepare food at home rather than buying it straight-away from the stores, the cost drops to almost half the price.

The amazing thing is that even with the price getting reduced by half, you can prepare high-end food and your dog will have the privilege of getting good nutrition.

4. Cooking Foods vs. Serving Raw

When it comes to feeding your pets, everyone has their own say, and controversies arise when people start arguments about what is more healthy for your pet. Here we will state three principles that everyone agrees on:

  • use nutrient-dense ingredients,
  • formulate the meals in a way that the diet is balanced, and
  • serve the meal immediately after preparation.

Cooking food usually reduces the nutrient content and these lost vitamins and minerals have to be added back in chemically, which is why some advocate for serving food in raw form. One drawback associated with serving raw food is that it increases some risks as raw foods may contain bacteria like salmonella or E.coli. Ultimately, the decision is up to you. Please share your thoughts and comments below.

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.

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    © 2019 James Livingood

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