What is the best dog food these days? With all the contradicting information and a variety of selection nowadays it can be hard to answer that question. Picking your dogs food is an important decision as the nutrition directly affects behaviour and health. Do you notice your dog often has an upset stomach or ear infections? If your dog is eating a brand that contains by-products or artificial flavours, they may be lacking the critical nutrients and vitamins that are needed to preserve good health. To make the right decision exclusively for your dog, you will need to do a combination of research, conferring with your vet and experimenting.
Home prepared diets are split into two categories: raw and cooked. In addition to this raw divides into two further categories: Prey model raw – this is feeding a dog only raw meats and Biologically Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) which believes that dogs, like humans, should have a balanced diet involving vegetables and fruits. With all home-prepared diets you must be prepared to initially spend a few hours a week on research which may seem time-consuming but as you get used to the routine this will slowly decrease but never stop fully as finding new recipes and combinations is key to a varied diet. Although this may seem long-winded you will be rewarded with many wonderful healthy years with your dog (and will save a few dollars on vet bills.)
Home Prepared Diet
We all want the best dog food for our pooches, but we must be realistic within our lifestyles. Considerable amounts of research are needed when you begin your home-prepared diet, they really can be superior in many ways to commercial food. The fact that you know that it’s all natural with no artificial flavourings is reason enough – whether you will be feeding raw or home cooking. However, even with the best intentions, if you change your dog to an unbalanced home diet you may in fact cause the health problems that you are trying to avoid– a high quality commercial diet far outweighs an unhealthy, unbalanced and poorly researched home diet.
Several vets will often try to discourage owners from the home prepared diets and support a commercial food diet – saying that it’s a risk to you and your dog (as not everyone does the specific research). However, if a hygienic kitchen is maintained, and you use the same procedures that you would when preparing a family meal, it will greatly lower the risks that vets report.
Another benefit to homemade is you are in complete control on what goes into your dog’s mouth, you can pick the right meats and veg, very important if your dog has allergies or a long-term illness. You can prepare, package and freeze weeks ahead of time meaning that when the meat/veg is on sale you can stock up! I would recommend getting a small freezer for your dog as it will be easier to organise, you can package the meals in which ever way, whether you choose to put a few days into one container or just one day’s worth and perhaps even dedicate a weekend afternoon to cook next few weeks meals.
It will be a large commitment to not only spend the time and effort making meals from scratch but to get the correct balance, just like us humans, through lots of research. Be prepared that a home-prepared diet can perhaps be more expensive than a kibble or canned food, yet it can be thought of as an investment as the trips to the vets will potentially be less frequent.
Looking at forums and making accounts to interact with other dog owners, many having one been in the same position as you now, can be really advantageous to expanding your knowledge and comfort in safely making your dog’s diet. www.dogforums.com/dog-food-forum is a great place to have a read on many raw and home-cooked tips and menus.
Commercial Dog Diets.
Everyone wants to buy the best dog food on the market! Perhaps commercial dog foods benefit your personal situation better or you would like to offer this in addition to some home-prep meals. The dog industry is colossal already and growing daily and many of the dog businesses have seen the unconditional love we have for our animals and therefore has been altering their recipes and giving us a vast amount of options.
When shopping around for the healthiest and best dog food, remember one thing: Dogs eat meat! This is the most imperative thing to remember as many processed dog diets try to scrimp by having only a few meat-based products in their canned food or kibble. High meat content is of the upmost importance and meat should be at least the first 3 ingredients on the packaging, look in particular for chicken, fish, beef and duck (these are whole proteins).
Dogs need the particular combination in their diet. Consisting of nutrients, moisture, fiber and importantly proteins and fats (yes fats, healthy ones!) Safety is the biggest concern for dog owners, and rightly so, but just verifying the ingredients in kibbles and canned food are “safe” for your pet, doesn’t mean that they are optimal or even nutritious therefore having a direct impact on your dogs mental and physical wellbeing. Many health problems in dogs, including digestive problems and even obesity, can stem from the use of poor ingredients. Food also affects the behaviour of dogs – extra E numbers or colorings can lead to a difficulty training due to hyper activity.
Steer clear of anything that has ‘by-products’ in, these are generally cheaper as they aren’t as nutritious and don’t necessitate as much attention in handling process, as well as artificial preservatives, colors and sweeteners. Also avoid generic “meat” and “meat meals” – this is because with a lot of inexpensive brands it’s almost impossible to tell whats being rendered and claimed as “meat” these low quality off-cuts could range from the likes of zoo animals, road kill and sometimes even out-of-date grocery store meat – still in plastic wrapping! California name them ‘Dry rendered tankage’ so be vigilant in looking for this as it could be detrimental to your pet’s health.
“Beet pulp” is unresolved whether or not it is beneficial. Although it hasn’t been proved that it causes digestive issues, that argument is backed by scientists. So just to be safe – I personally avoid it. See the infographic for a list of do’s and don’ts when buying commercial food. Natural preservatives, for example vitamin C & E, are much healthier however don’t last as long, so don’t forget to check the expiry date.
According to recent in-depth research of over 2,223 dog foods, including the most popular brands, only 134 of those met the maximum standard of approval for being up most organic and healthy options – that’s about 6% overall. As much as AAFCO (The Association of American Feed Control Officials) try to maintain standards for proper ingredient levels in pet food, it is actually the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) that determines the quality and cannot guarantee that every ingredient is safe.
Although this may sound like a lot of research to do there is a lot of websites to help you out with benefiting your dogs health but also not breaking the bank! Check out a couple of good dog food rating sites, for example www.dogfood.guru is a way to easily research the right commercial foods for your dog. Similarly www.dogfoodanalysis.com gives a 1-6 star rating on hundreds of different foods. To further your research try looking at a couple of dog forum sites where it is easy to set up accounts and speak to other dog owners who might help to make your decision.
Remember, it’s all about research and experimenting as what is right for one dog may not be right for the other. If you have the appropriate time to spend investigating what is right for your dog, then maybe home prepared is the way for you, but don’t be disheartened if you can’t apply the same amount of time to do this as previously mentioned – there is a lot of variety out there.
I personally recommend a natural home-prepared healthy diet as close to what they had in the wild. As although we now eat processed foods, our dog’s evolution hasn’t quite caught up. Nevertheless, as I mentioned earlier even the biggest of brands recognises our concerns for our pooches and are providing us with a great variety.