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You know those giant bags of generic cereal you can find at the grocery store? They usually have shady sounding names like Unlucky Charms or Lieutenant Crunch.
When I was growing up, I lived on a pretty steady diet of that stuff. My mom never read a food label once in her life. She just grabbed the biggest, cheapest bag of cereal on the shelf and tossed it into the shopping cart. She went about choosing dog food for our pets in the same way.
Today, the market is flooded with options. It can make picking the perfect food for your dog feel impossible. Do yourself (and your dog) a favor and don’t just reach for the biggest, cheapest bag on the shelf or grab the most expensive one you can find (it HAS to be the best or it wouldn’t cost so much, right?).
Here’s all you need to know about how to choose the best dog food for your pooch.
Why Your Kibble Selection Matters
I’ve absolutely found myself thinking about how I’ve literally seen my dog eat his own poop.
If he cares that little about what his diet is (or how it tastes or smells), why should I? What will actually happen if I chose the wrong dog food? Does it even matter?
Well, in the worst-case scenarios, it can result in death if you have a dog with severe food allergies or if they are being severely underfed.
Usually you’re looking at dealing with a variety of health issues and complications resulting from obesity.
How to Pick Out Dog Food
Selecting the right dog food begins with taking a look at your dog’s individual needs. Some factors to consider when looking for the best food for your dog include:
- Age – Much like humans, the younger ones have different dietary requirements than the elderly ones. There are varieties available that are specifically formulated for both puppies and senior dogs.
- Breed – A chihuahua requires a different size kibble to chew and swallow safely than a great dane does. Most brands can be found with both small breed and large breed selections to accommodate.
- Lifestyle – A hyper dog that’s always full of energy or a nursing momma dog will have different nutritional needs than a dog that mostly just chills on the sofa all day.
- Weight – Humans aren’t the only ones capable of being under or overweight or falling prey to the health problems associated with it. Many brands of dog food have a weight management or weight control option available.
- Allergies and dietary restrictions – If your dog requires a special diet, it’s important familiarize yourself with kibble ingredient lists as well as those for treats. And if it’s determined necessary by your veterinarian, you may end up with a prescription dog food.
How to Read a Dog Food Ingredient List
If the first ingredient is lamb, that means the dog food contains more lamb than any other ingredient. They are required by federal law to list ingredients by volume.
The further down the list an ingredient is, the less of it the kibble actually contains. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve found a great dog food that contains a high quality protein source like lamb just because it made the list.
If it’s toward the bottom, there is hardly any in the product.
A good rule of thumb is anything located after the ingredient salt, sometimes listed as potassium chloride, is probably one percent or less of the overall content.
Ingredients To Look Out for on Dog Food Labels
They also get necessary nutrients from other ingredients. The highest quality kibble does not use fillers but valuable sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
The best brands will contain high-quality varieties of grains, veggies, and fruits.
Some ingredients you don’t want to see on a package include:
- Wheat Gluten
- Food Dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, etc.)
- Meat by products
- Grain meals
- BHA or BHT
- Propylene Glycol
Buying Expensive Dog Food Brands
It can be tempting to fall into the trap of selecting the most expensive brand on the shelf and telling yourself you just bought the best. If you’ve ever purchased the most expensive version of anything before, you’ve probably already discovered this is usually a myth.
Most of the more expensive dog food brands on the market have a few commonalities. They tend to be made by smaller manufactures, contain only premium ingredients, and most tend to fit in a raw or limited-ingredient diet.
When it Comes to Choosing Dog Food, Remember…
While it’s true that most of the high dollar dog foods on the market have some benefits, with just a little label reading, you’ll find that many others do as well for a fraction of the price.
Try to focus your search on locating a dog food without unnecessary ingredients that fits your dog’s individual needs (age, weight, breed, etc.).
Once you’ve made a selection, keep an eye on your dog and look for telltale signs that his food is healthy and beneficial. A good dog food choice will yield results like a shiny coat, bright and clear eyes, no upset to their digestive system, and a healthy energy level.