Overview of a Good Dog Food
When it comes to dog food, reading the labels can be complicated and when people ask me for some tips, I can often talk for hours on end about the nuances and tricks that are needed to decipher the label. With that said, I have created a simpler approach, a crib notes version if you will, that can be used to choose better foods for your pet, without having to be an expert on all of the ingredients and ins and outs of the pet food label. Think of these as a ‘cheat sheet’ that can be used to quickly evaluate and choose a dog food for your pet.
- Natural is better than artificial. When in doubt, choose the more natural option instead of an artificial or processed one. Our pet’s bodies, and our own bodies for that matter, are made to get fuel and nutrition from food items that naturally occur on the Earth. Overly processed ingredients or those made in a laboratory do not meet this requirement. Look for recognizable, whole food ingredients such as duck, carrots, and sage instead of duck meal, ascorbic acid, or propylene glycol.
- Animal and fish protein is key. Dogs are carnivores by nature, although they will eat almost anything. Their bodies are meant to thrive on diets that are made up of the flesh of animals and fish. Grains and other filler ingredients, while possibly supplying protein, are not only incomplete proteins, but they are also not optimal for a dog’s body to digest and utilize the nutrients. Look for foods with ingredients such as beef or trout instead of corn or wheat. To determine if a food is really high enough in protein, use these simple rules of thumb:
- For dry foods, add the protein and fat percentages from the guaranteed analysis on the label. These two should sum to a minimum of 45%.
- For wet foods, the sum of the protein and fat values should be a minimum of 14%.
- Real, named meat should be the primary protein source. Make sure that the protein is one that you would see in nature. For example, you want ingredients like turkey or chicken instead of poultry or beef instead of meat. Although meals (e.g. chicken meal) are a concentrated source of protein and are used in many recipes, they are processed and shouldn’t form the foundation of your pet’s food. When was the last time you went to the farm and saw a chicken meal coop? Avoid byproducts as well since they are unspecified parts of the animal and might contain low digestible ingredients or come from a rendering process. Byproducts are often found in lower quality food.
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