What should I feed my dog? This is a question I’ve asked myself many times, and it’s probably about the most common question I get from folks.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. It depends on breed, age, allergies, issues, environment, activity level, budget, etc. I’ve been on a dog food journey for years, but have taken a deep dive into dog food research over the last few months.
Do you remember when we were in the midst of the pandemic and how it was difficult to find products or source ingredients? The same sourcing and supply issues affected the dog food industry as well. Some companies had to substitute ingredients to get their dog food produced, with none of us being the wiser. People would tell me that they’d been feeding their dog X food for years but that now he’s itchy or has a sour tummy or whatever. It could be because the ingredients had changed.
This phenomenon drove me to do much more research on dog food. Here are the takeaways!
Beware of labels. Manufacturers will put just enough of an ingredient to claim certain branding like holistic, natural, organic, or other buzzwords.
While researching, take all info with a grain of salt, knowing that a dog food company will naturally make their dog food sound the best when it may not be the best for your dog. Sometimes the top results in search engines have been paid to be at the top of the list or perhaps paid for testing to be done that would place their product in a good light. Visit Veterinary College websites like Tufts and others to do research. Another great site to visit is AAFCO.org. The Association of American Feed Control Officials is an independent organization that has been guiding state, federal, and international feed regulators with ingredient definitions, label standards, and laboratory standards for more than 110 years. It’s also very easy to find conflicting information. So, do as much research as you dare, weighing it all, and see where you end up landing.
Animal By-Product and Meal aren’t necessarily bad. I know. Mind blown, right? We've been told that both of these ingredients are nothing but rotting, gross waste products left over from butchering (or even worse things we don’t even want to name). However, when dealing with a high-quality, reputable dog food manufacturer, it’s more of the “use the whole animal” type of concept, which is a good thing. A by-product is produced in the same facility that we get our meat from, and it’s simply the parts that humans deem unappetizing, like the heart, liver, kidneys, and entrails. These parts that we humans no longer eat are actually highly nutritious! Meal is similar but can include bones, which are also very nutritious. This is then ground up into tiny particles. Beware of comparison sites, as lots of them are paid to have their foods on the list, and they can be manipulative. For instance, one grade of dog food could be compared with a lesser grade of dog food, making the former sound super when, if it was compared to the same level of dog food, it may not be the best.
The Raw diet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This can be a good thing for your dog for certain medical conditions and with vet recommendations. But, for most pets, raw is not the optimal food plan for your pup. For one, it takes a lot of work, but it can also give them parasites, bacteria, viruses, and other not fun things.
When looking a the crude protein percentage of dog food, the highest number isn’t necessarily the best. If you have an inactive dog that’s 20 pounds but are feeding her a dog food with 30% crude protein, then she will gain weight. A 20-pound dog can usually handle a range of 22 to 26% crude protein, whereas a 30-pound dog can usually handle 30%
Corn (and other grains) - Corn and soy are two ingredients I avoid no matter what different research says simply due to the number of pesticides and genetic modifications taking place with these two crops in particular. If the corn or soy were non-GMO, I’d be ok with having some in there. This is just my opinion, though. I also stay away from legumes.
See the video below to join the conversation and see a side-by-side comparison of two different brands of dog food, each at different price points. Spoiler: More expensive is not always better! If you find a lesser-priced dog food that is close to a high-quality, more expensive brand’s ingredient list, then save yourself the money and simply supplement with the macro or vitamin that you feel is missing. Give the dog a vitamin or add a protein like an egg, yogurt, or goat milk. There is no need to spend the same or more on your dog’s monthly food bill than your own. ;-)
I try not to support a certain dog food. I’m just sharing how you can be better equipped to choose your own best option.
Are you happy with your dog’s food? How do you currently choose your dog’s food?