So you adopted the dog you’ve always wanted? Great, awesome, amazing! You’ve bought all the fun stuff like their toys, beds, a new collar. But now it is time to pick out the food. What do you feed this new dog? There are so many choices out there and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what to buy. Back ten or twenty years ago, people thought you had to find out exactly what the dog was eating before so you could continue to use the same food. In the past, vets would tell you to buy one food and don’t change it. Ever. Today that isn’t necessary, especially if you choose a good quality food. Newer research and studies are turning that old thought on its head. A rotational diet is considered a better way to fulfill your dogs nutritional needs. This gives your dog a variety of proteins and ingredients in their diet. Another reason to rotate the food is that occasionally dogs will develop an intolerance to a certain food if they are fed it continually for a long period of time. Fortunately, these days almost all dog food companies produce a wide range of recipes to choose from. For example, the Fromm Family line of dog food makes 18 different recipes just for adult dogs. They are one example of a company that makes good quality food at a reasonable price.
Now, if you were to ask on social media what you should feed your dog, you will likely get a different answer from everyone.
From dry kibble, to wet mixes, and now raw feeding. There isn’t one simple right answer anymore. In reality, most people opt to buy bags of dog food as that is the easiest. Still, dry food is processed food. Dry food may have ingredients like chicken, berries, salmon oil, flaxseed, and plenty of other good ingredients in it, but those dry pellets of food don’t really look like those foods do in their natural state. Just as humans are told it is best to avoid a lot of processed foods, it also applies to our dogs. Can you imagine going to the grocery store and coming home with a 50 pound bad of dry food that you would feed to your family for the next month. You might survive on it, but would you thrive on it? If you do decide to get dry food for your pet, you need to educate yourself on which are the better ones, as all dry food are not created equal. In general, dry dog food at grocery stores and big box stores are not the best quality you can get for your dog, even though they still meet the minimum requirements of dog food. A good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that have corn, wheat, soy, or meat byproducts listed in the ingredient panel. Also avoid food with animal digest as an ingredient—not something you would really want your dogs eating.
If you do purchase a bag of good quality dog food, then you can still increase the nutritional value of the food by adding wet food to it. Wet food commonly comes in the form of canned food and you can find it wherever dry food is sold. The same rules apply to canned food as they did with dry food. No corn, wheat, soy or by-products should be in them. Real meat should be the first ingredient. All you need is at least one big spoonful of the meat to mix in with the dry food. It will definitely enhance your dogs enjoyment of their mealtime and add some quality protein to their diet at the same time. Another form of wet food is dehydrated or freeze dried food. Dehydrated foods use heat to evaporate the water out of foods, and thus gently cooks the food, but the nutritional value remains high as there is only minimal processing. This food is generally granular, but air dried versions of it can be in pellet or pattie form. You add water to the dehydrated food and it is easy to mix in with the dry food. Freeze dried food are made when frozen food is kept in a vacuum chamber below freezing while the pressure and temperature changes. The ice crystals in the food are vaporized, leaving behind a dry food. Freeze dried foods are considered to be the closest thing to feeding raw. Dehydrated and freeze dried foods don’t need any refrigeration and are great if you have to travel with your pets. They can be found in a multitude of proteins and can be mixed with an assortment of vegetables, fruits, and grains.
Raw feeding is becoming more and more popular and is closest to their natural diet. After all, dogs and wolves are 98.8% genetically identical. Raw feeding has a learning curve to it, but you can buy raw online or at a specialty dog food store. Many people will also cook their dog’s food at home, but again, one has to be careful not to neglect the necessary vitamins, mineral, and amino acids. One can find plenty of help online if you choose to cook for your pet and delve into the world of raw feeding.
A couple of good sources regarding dog food can be found at DOGFOODADVISOR and CLEANLABELPROJECT. These two independent companies rate the ingredients individually and break down the safety and hazards of the ingredients. It can be misleading when you go online and see how consumers rate dog food. Most consumers do not understand the importance of the ingredients that go into their dog’s food. A lot of commercial and inexpensive brands use corn and corn gluten meal as their primary ingredient. This is then followed up with meat and bone meal (with the sources unlisted). Then it is followed by more corn or wheat products. We do understand that corn does technically register as a protein source, but as a plant protein it is much more difficult for animals to digest. This leads to the dogs receiving less protein and because it isn’t digested, it passes through their system quicker leading to more frequent bathroom sessions. Also, don’t buy into the hype of ‘Natural’ ‘Real Chicken’ and other idioms. There are not regulated standards to define these terms. They are marketing schemes designed to convince you to buy their products. Pay attention to the ingredients and really learn what you dog needs.
Understanding where your pet’s food is coming from is important to their health and quality of life. The more information a company gives you, the more opportunities to educate yourself on how to care for your pet better.
Some things to avoid in dog food
Corn, Corn meal, Corn Syrup, Other Corn byproducts-Low nutritional content, mainly a filler product. May be an allergen.
Wheat, Wheat flour Wheat Gluten ,Other Wheat byproducts-Unnecessary to a dog’s diet and may be an allergen.
Sugar-natural sweeteners are not a necessary part of a balanced diet for a dog
Xyitol or any other kind of artificial sweeteners-Some are toxic to animals and in general are unnecessary to a dog’s diet
BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)-Toxic preservative that is listed as a carcinogen in humans
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)-Toxic preservative that is banned in several countries
Ethoxyquin-This is a main component in herbicides and is associates with a slew of illnesses
Food Dyes-Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6 may cause allergic-type reactions, behavior problems, and cancer in humans. Caramel color contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE), a known animal carcinogen. Dogs don’t care about the color of their food, don’t make them eat unnecessary potentially hazard chemical.
PG (Propylene Glycol)-Chemically derived from antifreeze, which is extremely toxic to animals. PG is touted as non-toxic and non-absorbent for your pet, but consuming ‘pet-safe’ antifreeze’ will not improve your pet’s health.
Rendered fat, Beef Tallow-May contain Salmonella and other bacteria and toxins
Animal Byproducts, Animal Digest, Meat/Bone Meal-These are the internal remains of an animal. The sources may be from diseased or decomposing tissues.
Menadione-This is a unnecessary synthetic form of vitamin K