It would be so easy if you could just go into the pet store and pick out a bag of dog food knowing it’s one that’s healthy for your pet, and it’s one that he will actually eat. Unfortunately, choosing the best dry dog food for your pooch isn’t as easy as it sounds.
There are tons of brands to choose from, and every brand offers different formulas at many different price points. Not to mention, you have to contend with labels and the ethics of the brands on the shelf, all while considering your dog’s specific needs. Just as your diet is important to your health, happiness, and longevity, so too does your dog’s diet affect every area of his life. Choosing the right formula is a job you shouldn’t take lightly.
How do you know which one is right for your pup?
Just follow these tips!
The first thing to do is to research the pet food brands you’re interested in. They definitely aren’t created equal.
Start by considering the most popular brands, but don’t automatically assume they will have the right formula for your dog. “Many dog owners think the biggest brands have the best nutrient profiles,” shares Dog Digz.“That isn’t universally true, so you’ll need to know which brands really do work for pets and their owners.”
Checking out reviews online and looking at the packaging closely can help you zero in on a brand that offers healthy nutrients in their dog food, but don’t forget to look at the bigger picture too.
Do a little outside research to make sure the manufacturer sources appropriate ingredients and look into how they ensure quality control at their factory. You may discover you prefer a smaller brand because smaller batches of food are made by hand instead of massive amounts of food in a large factory.
You may also want to see which brands go above and beyond to help canines. From donating money to animal shelters to giving free bags of food to local pet owners in need, there are many ways pet food brands can help the community. You may feel better about giving your money to a brand knowing that you’re helping other animals by spending your money wisely.
Look for Food That Addresses Your Dog’s Needs
You should also consider your dog’s specific needs. Medical needs, activity level, and pickiness are all things that can affect which formula you choose for your pooch. Senior dogs are especially prone to developing problems as they get older. Some of these problems can be addressed with their diet.
A few problems dog food formulas can address include:
- Excess weight and obesity
- Digestive issues
- Food allergies
- Energy levels
As a general rule, you should start by looking at food that is targeted to your dog’s age range. For example, puppy food often contains different nutrients that enable them to gain weight quickly, while senior dog food eliminates some calories to help keep your pet slim.
Don’t forget to consider the obvious—the size of your dog! Small dogs require more calories per pound in their food than larger dogs simply because they can’t eat as much as their larger cousins.
The size of the kibble also matters when you’re shopping for your dog’s food. A tiny Chihuahua isn’t going to be able to chew the large chunks of food that a Labrador can. Small chunks aren’t necessarily good for your large dog either. It just encourages him to eat without chewing. Make sure your small dog gets a smaller kibble and your large dog gets a larger kibble.
Don’t Be Fooled by Trendy Labels
As you’re shopping for dry dog food, you’re going to see a lot of claims printed on the front of the packaging. Although it can hint at what kind of food you’ll find inside the bag, you shouldn’t be fooled by labels.
The FDA does regulate dog food, but food doesn’t require pre-market approval before being sold. In addition, specific claims are researched, but that doesn’t mean that bag of dog food is as organic as you’re being led to believe.
Another thing you may want to look out for if you want only the best of the best for your dog is whether or not the ingredients in the food are approved for human consumption. Just be careful not to fall for labels that say, “human grade” or “human quality.” These are marketing labels that don’t actually say anything about the quality of the ingredients.
You also don’t want to get caught up in trendy labels that aren’t relevant to your situation. For example, a grain-free dog food may sound fancy, but it may not be what your pet needs.
Look at the List of Ingredients
The very last step you should follow before you head to the checkout aisle is to look at the list of ingredients on the back of the bag. Out of all the healthy ingredients that should be included in dog food, meat is the most important.
The front of the bag may be plastered with pictures of meat, but that doesn’t mean it’s listed as the first ingredient. The quality of that meat matters too. Muscle meat, organ meat, and bones are important to look for on the back of the bag, and they should always be listed first.
Not only should you look closely at the label to see what kind of healthy, whole ingredients are listed first, you should also pay attention to ingredients that shouldn’t be included in large quantities.
The best dog foods don’t contain many, if any, fillers. That includes things like corn, wheat, and soy. You especially want to avoid dog food that contains questionable fillers. For example, some very low-grade brands have been known to include fillers like peanut shells. Although they do technically provide vegetable fiber, that’s not the way to make sure your dog gets this important nutrient.
Check the Expiration Date
Dog food expires just like human food, and yet it’s something a lot of pet parents don’t consider when grabbing that bag of food off the shelf. Not only can expired food taste bad, it can cause health problems for your pooch. If your dog struggles with gastrointestinal problems, it could be because he’s consuming expired food.
It’s important to choose a bag of food with an expiration date that enables your dog to finish the bag before that date arrives. Once you start looking for these dates, you may discover that you should no longer buy that giant bag of food and you should instead choose a smaller bag that your dog will finish quickly.
It’s important to know what labels mean when you’re trying to understand the expiration date. Some bags include language like “best before” or “use by date” that will tell you exactly when the food should be consumed.
You may also discover that there is no expiration date on the bag. If this is the case, you can expect the food to last long enough for your dog to eat it, as long as you know how to store it properly. In most cases, that means placing it in an airtight container right after it is opened to it keep its freshness for as long as possible.
Talk to Your Vet
If you’re struggling to find the right food for your pet because you’re simply overwhelmed, or you have tried a few different formulas that don’t seem to be helping your dog with his condition, it’s time to visit with your vet.
Ask your veterinarian at your next appointment what kind of food they would recommend for your pooch. They may recommend a brand you can find at your local pet food store, but you may also discover that they have a special brand that you can order directly from their clinic to ensure your pet gets the exact formula he needs to live a long and healthy life.
You can also talk to your veterinarian about any recommendations they may have if your dog is a picky eater. From special additives to chicken broth, they can make the healthy dog food you have chosen taste better. They may also discover a medical reason for your dog’s picky behavior. For example, if your pet’s dental health is poor, he may find it painful to chew.
It’s also possible that you’re simply ruining your dog’s meal before he has a chance to eat! Many dogs don’t mind skipping lunch or dinner because they get to eat plenty of treats and table scraps throughout the day. In this case, your vet can advise you on how many treats you can give your dog without spoiling his dinner.
Finding the perfect dry dog food isn’t easy, but it can be done! Follow these tips and you can bring home a healthy bag of food that your dog actually wants to eat.