Many pet stores dedicate over half of their floor space to food. Usually, dog food occupies the majority of this section. With so many options for feeding your canine companion, it can be tough to choose the right food. This article will outline how to choose dog food by educating you on the benefits and downfalls of the plethora of options available.
Puppy or Dog? Age Matters
The first step in choosing the right food for your dog is finding one that is age-appropriate. Puppies require higher amounts of protein, calories, vitamins, and minerals to support their rapid growth and rambunctious energy. A food formulated for an adult dog simply won’t meet the nutritional needs of a puppy. Conversely, feeding an adult dog puppy food can lead to an array of problems including a greater risk for obesity. In addition to puppy and adult formulas, you will find “senior” foods which are specially made to meet the needs of older dogs. When you go to the store to get food for your pup, be sure to make sure it is an age-appropriate formula.
Wet or Dry?
As you continue to peruse the aisles of your local pet store, you will notice that there are an array of both “wet”, or canned, as well as dry dog foods available. In general, wet food is more expensive than dry. Additionally, wet food requires refrigeration after being opened, while kibble does not.
Veterinarians often recommend reserving wet food for picky eaters, as it is generally more palatable and can stimulate a dog’s appetite. Also, veterinarians warn that feeding a diet consisting of all or mostly wet food can lead to faster tooth decay than a diet of kibble – primarily because the rubbing action of dry food on the teeth and gums is thought to help clean them. Despite its limitations, canned food does generally offer higher nutrient content than dry, and your dog is almost guaranteed to love it.
It’s All in The Ingredients
There is no such thing as a high-quality dog food without high-quality ingredients. Checking the ingredient list and knowing what to look for is the best way to select a great food for your pup that hits your dog nutrition checklist. Generally, the rule with dog food is that you get what you pay for. The cheap, bargain-brand foods contain ingredients that simply don’t have the same nutritional value as those found in the pricier varieties. Sometimes, these ingredients are not only less nutritious but they can actually have adverse effects on your pup such as indigestion and increased risk for an array of health problems down the road.
Usually, the first ingredient of a dog food will be a meat product. But not all meat ingredients are made equal when it comes to puppy chow. In a cheap food you might see a first ingredient such as “chicken by-product meal”, while a more expensive brand’s first ingredient might read “chicken” or “Deboned chicken”. Chicken by-product meal is a great example of the difference between cheap and more expensive dog foods. This ingredient is made up of ground-up carcasses of chickens that have already been stripped of their meat. This means that your dog maybe eating bone and other substances that you wouldn’t generally consider “food” for your pups. The ingredient “chicken” or “deboned chicken” on the other hand, simply consists of chicken meat. The difference in nutritional value of these ingredients is reflective of the difference in price between the foods that contain them. It is always a good idea to read the ingredient list before buying a dog food, which will help to avoid major (and costly) health concerns down the road.
Large vs. Small Breeds
You might notice that some dog foods are not only labeled for the age of the pup, but also the breed type. This is especially important to note if you own a large breed dog such as a German Shepherd or Great Dane. Dogs of this size have different nutritional needs from smaller dogs, and they are also at a greater risk for bone and joint disorders such as canine arthritis and Hip Dysplasia. Without compromising on ingredients, for the reasons stated above, it is always a good idea to get a dog food that is appropriate for your breed of dog. These foods will contain ingredients to match the modified nutritional needs of your specific dog. For example, large breed foods have lower levels of calcium and phosphorus, minerals which can lead to bone disorders for these dogs if consumed in excess.