7 Tips for Choosing a Quality Dog Food - Simply For Dogs
Dog Food

7 Tips for Choosing a Quality Dog Food

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Just about any time we’ve talked about how to care for a dog on this blog, we’ve mentioned that dogs need high-quality dog food. But there are quite a lot of brands that are out there that promise to give dogs everything they need – and some of them can cost a pretty penny. How do you know how exactly to choose the right food for your dog?

I’ve mentioned before that for Leroy and Janice, I don’t buy extremely high priced food. There are some pricier brands that I think do a great job of offering a dog all the nutrients they need – but I don’t think you have to buy these. I spent some time researching what my dogs really need, and talked to my vet, before deciding on a quality store brand that balanced my dog’s needs with my wallet’s comfort.

Dog’s Products On Amazon

Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
$13.99
$20.76
$30.99
$14.99
-
-
-
-
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
$13.99
-
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
$20.76
-
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
$30.99
-
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
$14.99
-

Last update on 2018-07-20 at 08:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This article will cover the seven things that I researched when determining what type of food to feed my dogs, and will give you some ideas of what you should be looking for when choosing the right food for your dog.

(1) Choose the Food Based on Your Dog’s Stage in Life

The first thing to consider is what stage of life your dog is in. Puppies need different proportions of vitamins and nutrients compared to adult dogs, and senior dogs also need a different food as well. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • Puppies need the most specific balance of nutrients. They are growing, which means that their muscles and bones need a lot of protein and minerals, and that they are burning through energy faster. Here’s an example from a brand that many vets carry in-office. This puppy food contains fish oil, which provides minerals that puppies need for bone development, eye development, and brain development. It also comes in smaller bite-sized pieces so puppies can eat it a little easier. Finally, it includes a unique blend of vitamins that help protect a puppy’s fragile immune system. Puppy food usually contains higher calorie counts to give puppies more energy to develop their bodies.

 

  • Adult dogs often need their food to be more based on their activity level than anything. It’s essential that adult dogs be kept at a healthy weight. If they are extremely active dogs that work, compete, or just do a lot of exercise, they may need food that offers more calories so they can get more energy. But if they are a typical dog, the big concern is feeding them just what they need, and nothing more.
  • Senior dogs often need even fewer calories because their activity levels have slowed. However, they may need more nutrients because their bones are weakening and their immune systems may be compromised. In many cases, seniors need softer food for their teeth as they get older. Here’s an example from the same brand, which is meant for dogs over the age of seven. It specifically features a more controlled level of sodium so that your older dog’s heart and kidneys stay healthy, and also provides nutrients in very gentle, easy-to-digest formats so that a senior dog’s body doesn’t have to work as hard.

As you can see, the dog foods that promise they are for all stages of life really aren’t the best for your dog, unless they are between the ages of two and seven (considered the adult years).

Related Content:

7 Great Homemade Dog Food Recipes (Video)
How much is Fromm Dog Food?
8 Dog Food Recipes to Try This Year (Video)
The Best and Worst Dog Food Formulas – A Comprehensive Review (Video)

(2) Choose the Food Based on the Size of Your Dog’s Breed

The next thing to consider when choosing a good dog food is what size your dog’s breed grows to. Even if you have a tiny newborn puppy, you need to be feeding your dog food that is formulated based on the fully grown size. Why? Because large breed dogs have different nutritional needs than small breed dogs, especially in the puppy stage.

Large breed dogs need food that supports their joints and bones because they grow faster than the puppy’s body can keep up. They need these extra nutrients throughout their lives to ensure that their joints stay healthy with all the extra weight they have to bear. You can see in this food (again, the same vet-carried brand that I see in most vet offices) that the food contains glucosamine, chondroitin, and calcium to help the puppy’s joints and bones.

Large breed dogs are any dogs that will be over 50 pounds when fully grown when at a healthy weight. This does include dogs that we may not think of as large breeds, like Labradors. Dogs that we often think of as “large” are things like Great Danes, which are actually considered giant breeds. So be sure to ask your vet or do some research on your dog’s breed, and feed them appropriately.

(3) What Nutrients Does Your Dog Need?

The next tip I have is to consider what nutrients a dog really needs from their food. Dogs need between 18% and 22% of their diet to be protein, and their bodies get the most beneficial protein from animal ingredients (such as meat and eggs). Puppies need the higher amount, closer to 22%, to keep up with their growing bodies. They need between 5% and 8% of their diet to be made of up of healthy fats, which can typically be found in the animal meat ingredients and certain healthy grains. The remaining 75% of their dietary need is made up of various vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Vitamins A, B12, D, and E
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamine
  • Niacin
  • Folic Acid
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus

In order to get all those vitamins and minerals, vegetable and fruit ingredients are used in dog food. In other words, dogs need food that is high in animal protein, high in vegetables and fruits, and contains a small amount of healthy fat from healthy grains or the animal protein. If your dog isn’t eating a commercial food that is made with the right balance of all these things (say, for example, you are cooking their food yourself), it’s a good idea to give them a daily supplement that keeps their vitamin and mineral intake balanced.

(4) How Can You Tell if the Ingredients Are of Good Quality?

Now that you know what you are looking for when you read the ingredients, the next thing to consider is whether the ingredients listed are of good quality. Just because food has chicken in it, does it mean your dog is getting the healthy, nutrient-rich part of the chicken? Not always! Don’t rely on the front of the bag to tell you what is in a food. Read the ingredients list.

Quality ingredients will be listed by their specific name, and it will be something you understand. For example, chicken meat, ground lamb, veal, and wild-caught salmon are all quality ingredients that you may see on dog food. But if you see “meat byproduct”, then you can’t really know what that is. It may be scraps of lesser-quality parts of an animal, like the skin, the hair, the hooves, and so on. These parts of animals don’t tend to carry a lot of nutrients.

Dog Food

Also look for real vegetable and fruit names, not just the names of vitamins and minerals. You will likely see added nutrients to balance a food formula, but it should be easy to tell that a dog is eating ingredients that you could buy in the produce department. Ultimately, named ingredients (in other words, things you know the name of, like carrots and turkey instead of “meat byproduct” and long Latin words) indicate that a food is of good quality.

(5) What Ingredients Should Be Avoided?

This is where things can get a little bit controversial. Dog foods that are considered to be of lower quality can be sold for lower prices because they are made with cheaper ingredients. And one of the first things you usually see is a grain filler, like corn or wheat. Grain fillers don’t really offer dogs much in the way of nutrients. There is some debate over whether they need grains at all (some say they provide nutrition when used correctly, others argue that dogs were never meant to eat grains) – but no matter which side of the fence you fall on, both sides can agree that dogs don’t need their meals to be made up primarily of grains. The reason that dog food companies do this is that grains are cheaper to make food with. Dogs appear to be satisfied with their food because the grains fill them up, so owners never really think twice.

However, looking for food that doesn’t list a grain in the top three to five ingredients is an excellent idea. This will mean that the food is instead made up of meat, several vegetables and fruits, and perhaps some vitamin supplements, before you ever get to something that is just meant to make the dog feel full. You can check out a lot of brands that offer grain-free dog food that is growing in popularity.

Beyond that particular debate, there are some no-brainers when it comes to dog food. Dogs don’t need food with added salt – their sodium needs are low and are covered by animal meat. Dogs don’t need food with any sort of added coloring or flavoring – once again, the meat and vegetables in the food will add all the flavor they need. Dogs don’t need food with yeast added, nor do they need dairy ingredients.

The rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Dogs need animal protein, vegetables and fruit, vitamins and minerals, and perhaps some whole grains further down on the list. The more ingredients you see, the less likely a food is really that healthy.

(6) Quick Guide for Reading a Dog Food Label

Once you really start looking into the brands on the shelves, you’ll be surprised what you notice. For example, a significant portion of dog foods at the supermarket like Beneful, Purina, Pedigree, Kibbles ‘N Bits, Ol Roy, and other well-known brands, are not very good for a dog. These all include a grain product at the start of the ingredients list, added colorings and flavors, salt, and other ingredients dogs don’t need.

What’s so important about where grains are in the ingredients list? The ingredients are listed on a dog food label in the order of most to least – so the first ingredient makes up the bulk of the food, and the last ingredient is barely a percentage of the food. You want to see grains further down on the list than meat, vegetables, and fruits.

(7) Consider Special Dietary Needs

My last tip for you is to consider any dietary needs your dog may have. For example, most dogs need dry kibble because it helps protect their teeth. The crunchy kibble cleans their teeth and doesn’t get stuck to gums as easily. However, if your dog is missing teeth or has oral health problems, they may need wet food. The same rules apply for picking out a quality wet food.

If your dog is overweight, they may need food that is lower in calories. Don’t forget that training treats add calories to a dog’s day! If they have specific allergies, or just suffer from an overall delicate system, they may need food with basic, non-allergenic ingredients. Foods made with chicken, turkey, fish, vegetables, and brown rice are usually best for dogs with these issues.

Dog’s Products On Amazon

Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
$13.99
$20.76
$30.99
$14.99
-
-
-
-
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Puppy Food, Healthy Development Small Bites with Chicken Meal & Barley Dry Dog Food, 4.5 lb Bag
$13.99
-
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
Hill's Science Diet Senior Wet Dog Food, Adult 7+ Turkey & Barley Entrée Canned Dog Food, 13 oz, 12 Pack
$20.76
-
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
Hill's Science Diet Large Breed Puppy Food, Chicken Meal & Oats Recipe Dry Dog Food, 15.5 lb Bag
$30.99
-
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
NaturVet All-in-One Dog Soft Chew Supplement, Skin & Coat Health, Joint Support, Digestive Health, Vitamin and Mineral Support, Overall Health Boost For Your Dog, Made by
$14.99
-

Last update on 2018-07-20 at 08:15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Final Word

Now that you know my tips for choosing a quality dog food, know that you can find something that will fit your budget. It will take some time reading labels, and you may find it easier to get a food shipped to from online rather than buying at the supermarket – but your dog’s health is worth going through the extra trouble. Avoiding low-quality foods means you’ll save on vet bills in the long run. Be sure to talk to your vet about the right serving size for your dog as well!

Related Content:

7 Great Homemade Dog Food Recipes (Video)
How much is Fromm Dog Food?
8 Dog Food Recipes to Try This Year (Video)
The Best and Worst Dog Food Formulas – A Comprehensive Review (Video)

Sources:

https://www.vetbabble.com/dogs/selecting-best-puppy-food/

https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/general-nutrition/best-dog-food-choosing-whats-right-for-your-dog/

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/nutrition-small-animals/nutritional-requirements-and-related-diseases-of-small-animals#v3325893

About the Author Ash