While cats are true carnivores, dogs do not need as much meat in their food. Many commercially available dog foods use a lot of filler. As a result the dog must eat more food to get at the nutrition. These lower quality foods also use FAT to give the pet a glossy coat.
Many owners feel a glossy coat = a healthy pet = good food. Unfortunately in combination with the lower quality of the food, the dog must eat a lot more food, thereby eating a lot more fat. Thus contributing to obesity and other health problems.
Because food brands vary from country to country and each brand may change its’ formula from time to time I will not get into brand names. I will refer to the more common ingredients and discuss why they are good or bad. YOU can then determine if your dog is on a good, or poor, quality food.
The first five ingredients are the ones you want to pay most attention to. If the top ingredient is a good meat source, but the remaining four are all cheap filler, your food may not the best.
If the food indicates that it is Human Grade, that is even better, as it indicates the food is fit for human consumption. If it does not say human grade then it can even be meat from animals who were euthanized.
Chicken Meal, Lamb Meal, Turkey Meal: Good
Any meat marked with “MEAL” following it is a good source of actual meat. One of these should be the first ingredient listed on your bag (with the exception of senior food for overweight dogs). These are the gentlest on a dogs tummy and the least likely to cause allergies. Fish Meal, is something that some breeds, particularly northern breeds used for mushing, benefit from.
Meatmeal, Animal Fat, etc.: Bad
Any unspecified meat is mystery meat. It can come from ANY animal that died and was rendered that day. When you feed mystery meat, you can contribute to pet allergies as the food will not be consistent from bag to bad. It is best to stick with a consistent meat source.
Beef, Pork, and Soy: Bad if your dog has food allergies.
These are among the top 5 allergy causing ingredients for dogs (the other two being corn, and wheat). If your dog has “hot spots” or itchy areas check the ingredient list and avoid these ingredients. Some breeds, have problems digesting soy, and it has been linked to causing behavioral problems.
Corn and Corn Gluten Meal: Bad if in any of the top 3 positions, or for dogs with allergies.
A filler, corn is of no nutritional value and is a common allergen. Corn is a carbohydrate, and should never be higher than fourth on your pets food ingredient list. Carbs may make your dog fat!
Wheat: Bad if in any of the top 3 positions or for dogs with allergies.
Cheap filler, common allergen.
Chicken By-Products, and by-Products in General: Bad
Cheap filler of low digestibility. By-Products are waste left over by the rendering process. Beaks, feet, undeveloped eggs, intestines and even feathers. Not exactly yummy. But even worse is that by-products are preserved with a nasty chemical pesticide known as Ethoxyquin (see below).
Ethoxyquin: Very Bad
A preservative. It is a chemical pesticide considered so bad it is banned from use in some countries. Ethoxyquin may be used on its own or hidden in the by-Product and as such is considered part of the by-product so may or may not appear listed on the ingredient list. Has been linked to health problems.
BHA and BHT: Bad
Cheap chemical preservatives, used in lower quality pet foods. Both have been linked to numerous health problems.
Tocopherols (Vitamin E): Good
This is a more expensive preservative. It is natural, safe, and will preserve a food up to 12 months.
Rice: Acceptable, with explanation
Rice is a filler, Brown Rice being exceptionally better than Brewers Rice. Rice Flour also being low in value for nutritional purposes.
You wont find this in the top spots, it is a lesser ingredient used primarily to help control odor in the stool. Also believed to help with arthritis.
Flavors and Colors: Bad
Color dyes serve no purpose other than to make the people buy the food. The dog does not care if the pieces are different colors, the chemicals used to make flavors and dyes have been linked to health and behavioral problems.
Glucosamine/Chondroitin: Good, especially for older dogs, and large breed dogs.
Believed to help with arthritis and joint health.
There are certainly more ingredients than I have listed, but these are important ones to watch for. Better food is more expensive because of the use of quality ingredients, but as a result your pet wont need to eat as much, have fewer health problems, and best of all, have fewer messes in the yard.
Large Breed dogs require food for Large Breed dogs, particularly when they are pups – you really want to slow down their growth so their joints are not stressed too quickly, these dogs often can be fed puppy food up to 18 or 24 months of age.
Every food markets itself as the best! I caution you not to take the advice from any one who sells a particular kind of food (and only one food) they are making money by promoting that food and will only tell you good things. This even includes veterinarians. They are paid to sell certain foods. I do not want to discredit veterinarians knowledge when it comes to helping sick or injured animals but typically they receive little or no training on food brands or ingredients except from food companies who directly approach them to sell their kind of food.
The amount of dog food to feed your dog will depend on the quality of the food – foods should have feeding guidelines on the side of the bad, you should break up the daily amount into two or three feedings (three if its a smaller breed, or a pup). If your dog is obese, follow the guideline for the weight the dog should be, not the weight the dog is.
Cost does not determine quality. Some food companies inflate their price so you think its better food, others have their prices higher because of paying for veterinarian endorsement. Food made in your own country may be less costly than a product made elsewhere.