Helping your dog live a long and healthy life starts with giving it a complete and balanced diet. This means that learning how to choose dog food is one of the most important things you can do as a dog owner.But with so many options to choose from, how do you know which one is the most appropriate one for your dog? The truth is that there isn’t one single option that is the best as different dogs have different nutritional needs.
Because there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to dog food, it can be frustrating to go through all the options to find a healthy dog food your dog actually enjoys eating without breaking your bank account.
What you need to consider when learning how to choose dog food
As mentioned before, different dogs have different nutritional needs. And, as if that wasn’t enough, these nutritional needs are also different at different points in their lives. So whether your dog is a puppy, an adult, or a senior, it’s important that the dog food you pick is formulated specifically for its age.
Younger puppies need high-quality protein to support their muscle growth. On the other hand, senior dogs need to go for a lower calory food that can help them maintain a healthy weight while supporting their activity level. Age-appropriate food is also formulated according to the dogs’ teeth development. That way, the food they eat isn’t harder than what their teeth can handle preventing any injuries to their mouth.
When it comes to a dog’s activity level, higher-energy dogs, dogs that are more athletic or exercise more regularly need to eat a higher calory food because they spend more calories throughout the day. On the other hand, dogs that don’t exercise as much need a lower calory food so they can maintain their ideal weight and avoid becoming obese.
A dog’s size should also be taken into consideration when choosing the right dog food. You’ll notice that the kibble size can vary. Smaller dogs find it easier to eat smaller-sized kibbles as bigger-sized ones can become a choking hazard.
Finally, there are dogs that have specific health problems that can be mitigated if you choose the right dog food. Some dogs have food allergies or have another condition that their diet can help support. Your vet will be able to tell you if your dog has any health condition that you need to keep in mind when picking its food.
Different types of dog food diets available
When at a pet store, you’ll be able to find different types of dog food diets such as:
- Natural Commercial Diets: These diets haven’t been produced by or subject to chemically synthetic processes and don’t contain any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic.
- Veterinary Prescription Diets: These are scientifically formulated diets to meet a specific health need. These diets can only be bought with a prescription from a vet.
- Premium Dog Food: These diets typically have higher-quality protein sources, no artificial dyes, and added antioxidants and vitamins. They also use better ingredients that can contribute to better digestibility and overall health.
- Economy Dog Food: These don’t carry any brand name and, in order for them to be low-cost pet food, lower quality, and inexpensive food ingredients may be used.
Which food you pick will depend on the factors mentioned in the previous section such as age, activity level, size, and health status along with your budget. Some dog owners prefer avoiding commercial dog food altogether and take on the task of preparing their dog’s food at home. If you feel tempted to go through this route, be mindful of what foods dogs can and cannot eat and take some time to learn how you can prepare homemade dog food.
Understanding at the nutritional facts label on dog food packages
The best way to tell apart good dog food from bad dog food is by looking at the nutritional facts label. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done as these labels tend to be hard to read. This is not only due to the small font size they use but it’s also tough to handle a 40 lbs dog food bag in the middle of a pet store when searching for that small label.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AFFCO) has set profiles for dog food but just because a certain dog food meets the AFFCO requirements, it doesn’t mean it’s the right food for your dog. Look for dog food companies that go above and beyond the AFFCO guidelines and use high-quality products.
The first 5 ingredients listed are the most important ones. Look for foods that have meat-based items in those first 5 ingredients. At the same time, try to avoid dog food that contains chemical preservatives and high amounts of fillers such as wheat, corn, or soy.
Here is a small list of ingredients you’ll want to see in the nutritional facts label when searching for high-quality food for your dog:
- Fresh meats and fish
- Omega 3 and 6
- Fruits and vegetables
- Minerals (like zinc and iron)
- Vitamins (like vitamins A, D, and E)
Making sense of it all
Choosing healthy dog food can sometimes mean spending a little extra money on your dog, however, investing in your dog’s health from the get-go can avoid big veterinary costs in the future as you’re ensuring your dog has all the nutrients it needs throughout every life stage.
Every dog has its own set of nutritional needs. But whatever your dog’s needs are, try to choose a diet that is made from high-quality ingredients and with few chemical preservatives. If you’re not sure whether your dog has any special nutritional needs, remember to talk to your vet and ask them for advice.