Choosing the Best Dog Food

The answer came to me, finally, on its own. It seeped into my consciousness after years of seeing a pattern. The key to the healthy dogs' diets was that they were consuming a diet based upon meat and the poor doers were eating diets based upon grain such as corn!

According to pet industry consultant Dave Geier of Geier Enterprises, Highlands Ranch, CO, "Pet food companies invest over $100 million each year in research and development. This includes both basic research into new and improved formulations as well as the protocols to validate their efficacy."

All this ongoing research and development bodes well for dog owners because the more we know the better we become at taking care of the dogs and puppies in our lives. Geier goes on to say that, "The ingredients in some high-end pet foods have never been better."

I have noticed that today's meat-based diets are far superior to what was commercially available years ago. Dog owners are finally understanding the need for meat and poultry products as a foundation for superior nutrition for dogs. And the myth about "all that protein causing kidney damage" has finally gone the way of such proverbs as milk causing worms and ear cropping preventing ear infections. If you need to know more about the fact that dietary protein does not harm the kidneys, read this.

Therefore, one of the parameters you need to know when you are trying to determine the best dog food to feed your pet is this: Is the diet meat-based or grain-based? The meat-based diets are the best choice. (Remember, we're talking about normal dogs, not those with heart, thyroid or other abnormalities.)

I prefer chicken as the first (main) ingredient when I recommend a dog food because I have seen so many dogs on chicken-based diets that were in really excellent health. Lamb, turkey, fish, beef and venison all are good choices, too, but subtle nutritional variations in amino acid spectrum and the fatty acid composition contributed by the "meat" may be different when these protein sources are compared to chicken. That's just my opinion; don't stop feeding a lamb and rice diet if your dog looks and acts great!

Veterinary nutrition specialist Dan Carey is a co-author of an excellent text called Canine and Feline Nutrition, and numerous other published articles that all dog owners and breeders should read. He works in Research and Development at The Iams Company. He believes strongly that dogs should be fed properly well before any breeding activities begin.

“The bitch should be at or within five percent of her ideal body weight. Excess weight is associated with increased complications and excess weight in the final third of gestation is associated with over-sized puppies. Her fatty acid status should be normalized by feeding a diet that contains proper amounts and ratios of fatty acids. If she has had previous litters, each successive litter places a nutritional drain on her. One of the nutrient types that are depleted are fatty acids. If the bitch is fed a diet without a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (5;1), her own fatty acid index will go down on successive litters.”

Nursing dogs require a higher caloric intake of properly balanced food. So, what’s the best dog food to feed your dog? The answer is it depends. In truth, there seems to be no single dog food that is the best for all dogs and all puppies. So what should you look for in a high quality dog food?

Here’s what I suggest to my clients: Look at the dog food labels. In the GUARANTEED ANALYSIS look for the Protein content to be at least 30 percent, the Fat to be at least 18 percent, preservatives to be via Vitamin E and/or C and look for Omega Fatty Acid to be present. Supplementation can be harmful, especially calcium supplementation to a pregnant bitch. If a good quality dog food is being fed no special supplementation should be needed. If a supplement is required to make the dog look or feel better or whelp healthier pups, you should instead change the food.

Optimum nutrition demands that protein, fat, carbohydrate and micronutrients such as minerals, vitamins, and enzymes are in balance with each other. Therein lies the danger of a breeder supplementing an already properly formulated diet!

Recall Geier’s statement about all that research that’s gone into the food’s formulation. How are you to know what supplement to add and in what quantity to “improve” the foods’ value? Should you be adding whole foods such as eggs, cottage cheese, or meat to the dog’s diet?

Again, if a high quality, highly digestible commercial dog food is fed that meets the previously mentioned percentages of nutrients, adding table food may undo some of the balance and quantities of nutrients being fed to the dog.

So be cautious and self-critical about supplementing a dog’s diet in the hope of improving an already balanced, scientifically established formula. 

In conclusion: I recommend that a dog owner look at the dog food label. Look at the ingredient list and a meat such as chicken should be listed as the first ingredient. Look at the guaranteed analysis to see that the protein level is at 30 percent or more. The fat content should be at 18 percent or more. And if there is a rather wide spectrum of ingredients such as omega fatty acids and vitamin E, that's good, too. There should be NO FOOD COLORING!

If you find a few diets that meet this criteria, and there are quite a few from which to choose, you just might have the confidence that you are feeding the best dog food you can get.

Image: Tony Alter / via Flickr

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