For many of us, our dogs are our best friends, but we don’t always know what we should feed them. With the vast variety of dog foods currently available, it can be a daunting task to choose the best suited for your canine friend. Factors such as breed, age, activity levels and sensitivities or allergies can and should have an impact on your choice of dog food. Let’s jump into the world of dog food and break it down into manageable to understand steps so you can make more informed decisions.
Dogs and humans are both omnivores, and so they share nutritional similarities. An omnivores diet should consist of a mix of the three core nutrients: protein, carbohydrate, and fat. A healthy balance of these three core nutrients is critical to your dog’s health. Let’s go through them one by one and find out why they are essential.
Protein for Dogs
Protein should be at the core of a dogs nutrition and is required for all aspects of growth, development, and maintenance. They are also essential for the maintenance of a dogs immune system. Moreover, excess protein can be burned as calories immediately or theoretically converted into fat for storage. However, extremely high proportions of protein are likely to lead to waste as some of this protein will be excreted through urine.
Carbohydrates for Dogs
Carbohydrates are not required within a dogs diet, but that doesn’t mean they are a negative addition. They can provide a source of energy and dietary fiber which are both critical to a dogs health.
The key to carbohydrates is choosing a high-quality ingredient(s) to provide them. Whole vegetables like Peas, Chickpeas or Pumpkin are common examples of high-quality sources of carbohydrates.
Unfortunately, carbohydrates are commonly used in dog food as they are low cost, abundant and can allow for dog food to be stored for a long time.
Fat for Dogs
Ideally, fat should be your dog’s primary source of energy as it is over twice as concentrated as energy from protein or carbohydrates. Fat’s aren’t just used for energy and are also crucial for development and the maintenance of your dog’s cells, muscles, and tissues.
The best type of fat for dogs is animal or fish fat. This is a dog’s natural source of fat for which their digestive system is designed to digest. Fat from fish ingredients is especially beneficial as it contains high quantities of the Omega three and six fatty acids. These fatty acids are known to provide a range of health benefits.
Dog food has come along way, and all dog food brands should have a guaranteed analysis displayed on their packaging. You can use this analysis to see the nutritional breakdown of the dog food in question. The nutritional values that must be displayed on dog food include the following.
- Protein (Min) %
- Fat (Min) %
- Fiber (Max) %
- Moisture (Max) %
Some dog foods may also show additional information such as the content of certain vitamins and minerals. Examples of this include:
- Phosphorus (Min) %
- Calcium (Min) %
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids (Min) %
- Omega 6 Fatty Acids (Min) %
It is very important to note that these values are a mixture of Minimum and Maximum percentages. For the case of protein and fat, it is to say that the dog food formula will contain at least this proportion. However, it is likely to contain more as manufacturers have to list a figure that is always correct.
For the values that are labeled as Maximum, such as fiber and moisture, they are likely to be lower. Despite this, these minimum figures are likely very close to reality as it would not be financially wise to heavily reduce either of these.
At Pet Food Reviewer, we base our nutritional analysis on these crude minimum figures as this is the only figure that we can use with certainty.
Dog Food Ingredients
Commercial dog food should also contain an exact breakdown of its ingredients in descending order. This means that the most abundant ingredients will be towards the top of the list and the least abundant towards the bottom. This ingredient list should allow you to quickly analyze what is present in a dog food and better understand its quality. You should take the opportunity to attempt to spot or highlight any questionable or harmful ingredients that could have a detrimental effect on your dog’s health.
Categorizing dog food ingredients into high-quality or low-quality is no easy feat. There will always be a fierce debate, especially from manufacturers about is suitable for a dogs diet. At Pet Food Reviewer, we are building a comprehensive group of posts that analyze specific ingredients, breaking down their positive and negatives features.
A few examples of these posts to date include;
- Peas, Pea Protein, Pea Flour and Pea Fiber in Dog Food
- Tomato Pomace as a Pet Food Ingredient?
- Menhaden Fish Meal in Dog Food
- Flaxseed Benefits for Dog Nutrition
- Pet Food Ingredient Insight – Dried Beet Pulp
In addition to these articles, we have listed a selection of ingredients that we consider high-quality, low-quality and potentially dangerous or harmful.
- Sweet Potatoes
- Salmon Oil
- Meat By-Products
- Pea Protein
- Potato Starch
- Artificial Flavours
Dangerous / Harmful Ingredients
- Artificial Dyes
Allergies or Sensitivities
Dietary allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances are becoming increasingly common in pets such as dogs. However, the dog food market is adapting to help combat this by providing dog food designed for dogs with allergies. We have a range of articles that explain in detail how to approach feeding a hypoallergenic dog and what foods are available that do not contain common allergens.
A few examples include:
- Best Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
- Best Dog Foods Without Peas
- Best Dog Foods without Potatoes
- Best Dog Food Without Chicken
Types of Dog Food
One of the great benefits of the modern dog food market is its huge variety. Whether it be at a grocery store, an independent pet store or a large commercial pet store there is always aisles of choices.
Dry dog food is the most widespread and common form of dog food and can also be known by the name of kibble. Its most significant advantage of dry dog food is that it can be safely stored for long periods of time and comes in a very large array of flavors and varieties. Most dry dog foods are balanced to provide your dog with complete nutrition without the need for any supplementary food.
However, the most common disadvantage of dry dog food is that it often contains processed ingredients or fillers which are not ideal or suitable for your dog’s diet. This is why it is of vital importance to choose a high-quality dry dog food that combines high-quality ingredients with balanced nutrition.
Wet dog food is commonly stored within a can and contains a much higher percentage of moisture than dry dog food. Just like Dry Dog food, most wet dog food is designed to provide complete nutrition for your dog without the need for any additional supplementation.
One benefit of wet dog food is that they tend to contain fewer fillers or processed ingredients with some containing none at all. However always check the packaging to ensure this as some wet foods will still contain fillers and processed ingredients.
Puppy foods are developed by dog food brands to provide a more appropriate nutrition to growing young puppies. With the hope of ensuring your puppy grows and matures into a healthy adult dog.
Both dry and wet puppy food is available, and they share traits of adult dog food. Some varieties of dry dog food for puppies are smaller than traditional dry dog food to allow for ease of consumption.
As dog’s age, they need different types of food to maintain their health. Senior dog foods can provide them with a balance of nutrients that are more suited to elderly dogs than traditional dog food.
Also, they contain ingredients that can aid the maintenance of healthy joints, healthy bones, and digestion. Dry and wet varieties of senior dog food commonly available from a variety of brands.
Dog treats create a great bond with your dog or reinforce good behavior. Generally speaking, dog treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your dogs total calorie intake. Going over this limit could cause your dog to become overweight or develop other health problems.
There is a vast variety of dog treats available and finding which your pet enjoys may take time. Examples of dog treats include small crunchy treats, animal bones, and rawhide.