The idea of choosing dog food which is the best suitable for your pet by trial and error method is like using humans as a guinea-pig to perform experiments.
Your dog trusts you and it can’t say that it feels unwell after eating the food you have chosen.
Though, it is true that dogs get used to any food quite easily, except some products (chocolate, for example, which is toxic for them).
But, the right dog food contains all components in necessary proportions for your pet to grow healthy. If you love your dog, you won’t feed it with junk food.
Well, you are willing to buy the best dog food? It seems to be a piece of cake. Turn on the TV and you’ll see dozens of commercials of dog food reach in meat, vitamins and minerals. Are you sure that this is true?
Because I’m not.
More often than not, it isn’t profitable for the manufacturers to make dog food from high quality ingredients, so they use some food waste.
Moreover, the majority of large manufacturers also produce some food for humans. So, guess what do they do with the waste?
The main questions
What food is right for your dog?
The most important question to answer before buying dog food is what ingredients prevail in it? Does it contain meet or cereals? The ingredients that come first in the list have higher percentage ratio.
The food with high meat content is more preferable, than that reach in cereals. Yet, it is more expensive.
Unfortunately, there is no ideal dog food, that is good for all dogs without exception. However, it is possible to define several criteria which will help you select dog food that is perfect for your pet.
- The ingredient that comes first in the list of the food contents is very important! It should be meat or fish component; as well as the meat percentage ratio should be more than 25-30%. It is not meat, but maize and wheat you’ll find first in the ingredients list in the most of dog food kinds that are widely being advertised. It isn’t very good if the meat content is lower than 10%. Dog food that contains more than 50%) of meat ingredients (it comes 1st in the content list or it is a sum of meat components in the whole list) will always be on top of any dog food ratings.
- As for the type of meat and fish ingredients: you won’t see beef there very often, usually chicken is indicated as a meat component. However, it’s great if there’s lamb, duck, turkey, venison, salmon, trout, herring or any other kind of ocean fish instead of chicken; these seldom tend to cause any food allergy. Quite rarely camel and ostrich meat can be encountered within dog food content.
- Meat meal. It is a good component, which can be indicated also as dehydrated meat. Since while cooking dry food the water evaporates the amount of meat that was initially dehydrated won’t lessen.
- Presence of fish-oil and animal fat (usually it is chicken fat) is always a plus. However, its content shouldn’t exceed 18%.
- Chicken/beef liver is a highly digestible by-product.
- If there are cereals in the dog food these are, as a rule, oat flakes, orzo, switch grass and rice (brown rice is more preferable). Please, keep in mind, that beer rice isn’t a good component for dog food. If maize ingredients are good – this is another point for discussion. Though these are quite acceptable, if the dog isn’t allergic for the latter and it doesn’t come first in the list of ingredients. It is very wrong if maize is indicated 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the list of the food contents or if its derivatives are used. Substances such as: maize, CGM (corn gluten meal), maize gluten, corn meal etc.
- Dried beet marc or beet press-cake. It is an important substance for dog’s digestive tract, but its concentration in the dry food shouldn’t exceed 4 %. In spite of wide spread delusions, beet press-cake has no impact on the color of white dogs’ fur.
- There shouldn’t be any artificial dyes and flavoring as well. As for food additives, it is better be Vitamin С, rosemary extract and tocopherols (compounds often with vitamin E).
- Fruits and vegetables. Usually these are encountered in Holistic Dog Food. Recently potatoes and beans have been found as a part of some expensive dog food contents. Though quite a lot of vets still can’t reach agreement if it is healthy. However, if it is indicated as sweet potato (batata) you shouldn’t get concerned since such a component is good for dogs. Other healthy and permitted food additives are apples, carrots, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes, forest berries, flax seed, yucca extract, rosemary, thyme, chicory root etc.
- Additives for cartilages and diarthroses: glucosamin and chondroitin are good for them.
What you should avoid when choosing dog food?
- If it is possible don’t buy dry dog food where the contents are rather ill-defined. Something like: vitamins, antioxidants, animal fat, vegetable derivatives, flavors and other food additives, oils, corn etc. But what are these vitamins, fat or food additives exactly? The food contents must be detailed and clearly indicated; it is desirable to specify percentage ratio as well.
- Wheat or wheat middling, wheat flour, gluten. Benefits of maize components are still doubtful.
- Vegetable oils made from soybean, maize or any other plant have rather poor digestibility if compared to animal fat.
- Such substances as: butylhydroxyanisole, butylhydroxytoluene and Ethoxyquin are toxic when used as food additives, since they are cancer inducing substances. For example, Ethoxyquin, is quite often used as a component to preserve dry dog food. However, it is prohibited to use this substance when producing food for humans, because it was proved that Ethoxyquin can cause hepatopathy, cancer, human immune system disorders.
- Some expensive dog food contains beans (namely peas) — it is ok, if these are mentioned at the end of the food contents list. Though quite a lot of dogs suffer from flatulence due to this component and for some dog breeds it is quite painful. For this reason, avoid dog food that contains colored granules. High quality dog food is always of homogenous gray-brown color
Wrong choice of dog food: what should you do?
- If you dog suffers from chronic diarrhea/semi formed stool or vomiting, low body mass, it’s quite possible that improper dog food is the reason. You should consult your vet and switch to another kind of food 2-3 times and check if the symptoms have changed and how.
- If you observe clear correlation between changing the dog food and dog’s symptoms, it means that your dog has an ultra-sensitive stomach. That’s why you have to study thoroughly the contents of proper and improper food for your pet to define the incitant of allergy.
- When changing your pet’s diet don’t just change the food manufacturer, but take into account protein/carbohydrate content of the food. For example, if the dog used to eat food with chicken as a main component, try to change it for lamb, fish and buy some corn free dog food.
- If after several attempts of changing the food type you still fail to settle your pet’s stomach, you must go to see a veterinary physician, since the symptoms we have mentioned above may indicate some other far more serious health problems, that can’t be diagnosed without performing a special examination.
How exactly you should change the dog food?
If you are planning to switch from natural dog food to commercial one, keep in mind that this process as a rule must take about 5-7 days during which you should add little amount of dry food to the ordinary diet of your pet. Each day the dry food content should increase.
Switching from one dry food kind to another usually takes 3-4 days. Sadly, it’s impossible to predict whether this new food will be the right one for your pet. But if you see that the dog’s stool has become worse or it started vomiting – these are the first signs that your dog’s diet is improper and the food kind is wrong for it.
In this case you must get back to the pet’s previous diet for at least a week till the dog completely recovers and only then start introducing another kind of dog food.
Rapid change of diet when a pet has an ultra-sensitive stomach may lead to serious digestive disorders. If the food is chosen properly and general state of the pet is satisfactory you may add some natural food to the dog’s diet – it isn’t prohibited.
The main idea is not to give your dog lots of different food in a short period of time. However, you can add some dry food into dog’s porridge or give it as a treat to a pet.
You can do it sometimes at the condition that your dog doesn’t suffer from any digestive disorders after eating human food.
At that it is acceptable to mix dog food of various manufacturers and, for example, feed your pet with dry food made by one company and canned food produced by another.
How to calculate how much food does your dog need?
When calculating daily demand rate of dry food, you should consider dog’s size, age and lifestyle.
You should also adjust this amount according to the dog food class, since economy and premium class food have different energy value, therefore you should give lager amount of less nourishing food to make sure that a pet gets enough of nutrients.
Calculation of daily rate according to pet’s size:
This amount is divided into 2-3 meals.
- Small dogs – 0.3-0.6 lb (premium), 0.6-0.8 lb (economy);
- Medium sized dogs – 0.6-0.8 lb (premium), 0.8-1.3 lb (economy);
- Large sized – 0.8-1.3 lb (premium), 1.3-1.8 lb (economy).
Pet’s daily ration changes if a dog has some unusual lifestyle or it experiences some extraordinary state:
- pregnant, nursing dog needs 25% increase of daily ration;
- working (the dog is used to guard, to hunt, participates in exhibitions and competitions) – daily ration should be 30% increased;
- sedentary life style, old dog – decrease daily ratio by 20-25%.
Puppies are fed using other calculation schemes, because they grow fast and need more food:
- small sized dog breed – 0.5-1 lb (premium), 1-1.3 lb (economy);
- medium sized dog breed – 1-1.3 lb (premium), 1.3-2 lb (economy);
- large sized dog breed – 1.3-2 lb (premium), 2-2.6 lb (economy).
Number of meals during a day depends on a dog’s age:
- 1-2 month – 5-6 meals;
- 2-3 month – 4-5 meals;
- 3-5 month – 3-4 meals;
- 5-6 month – 3-2 meals;
- After 6-month age – 2 meals a day
High level of water makes the food less nourishing and your pet gets necessary nutrients slower.
You can add canned food into the dog’s daily diet together with dry food (according to 1:1 ratio). Gourmet canned food is given to a pet in small portions (not more than 10% of daily amount of food) as an additive.
Dog food types
According to its state:
Dry food – it is balanced feeding that contains vitamins complex, fats, carbohydrates, proteins. This is the most popular basic dog food type. An obligatory condition is that the dog always has a bowl with clean fresh water, that should be renewed twice a day.
Dry food is divided into classes according to its quality, source of raw materials used to produce the food.
Semi-dry food containing propylene glycol that prevents food from drying;
Wet food (canned dog food) – this kind of food is based on boiled products and 70-80% of water. There is canned food for everyday feeding and gourmet one.
Frozen food – this is a mince made from natural components of vegetable and animal origin.
Dog food classes
There are special ratings created to help you get through the collection of dog dry food, its contents, quality, useful properties etc. These ratings help a dog breeder to choose exactly the food that has higher quality-price ratio. Nominally dog food is divided into 4 classes:
This kind of dog food is produced using the cheapest ingredients and it explains its low price. By the way this is the dog food being advertised on TV almost all the time.
This class of food contains by-products with addition of low quality grain varieties and soy beans.
Not no mention that quite often meat components of this food are categorized as 4D (dead, diseased, disabled, or dying). As a rule, it isn’t healthy to feed a dog with this class of food all the time, because excess of hormones, pesticides and food additives as well as deficit of vitamins and amino acids has an adverse effect on your pet growth pattern, health and appearance.
It may also cause some unwanted behavior disorders.
This class of food has rather low level of nourishment and digestibility, therefore the consumption level is higher than that of dog food of regular class. Energy value of dog food of economy class is about 250—300 kcal/100 g.
Ingredients of higher quality are used to produce this kind of food. The main source of protein here is its meat component. However, the majority of regular class dog food contains artificial dyes, food additives, aromatizers and they have elevated concentration of salt.
Nevertheless, regular class dry dog food has higher digestibility level, than the one of economy class. The amount of undigested food in dog’s intestinal wastes is lower, than when feeding it with economy class dry dog food. Energy value is about 300—350 kcal/100 g.
We can’t say that this class of food has all the nutrients the dog needs, since instead of meat quite often it contains meat by-products and food additives aren’t indicated in the food contents list. Increased amount of protein content is the advantage of using dry dog food of premium class if compared to the one of economy class.
But again, very often high concentration of protein in this food is due to meat scrap and by-products, not by natural meat ingredients.
This is dog food of high quality made from fresh quality meat (for example, lamb, beef, chicken etc.) together with corns (flax, orzo, oat seed etc.).
Super-premium dog food class has high digestibility level (over 80%), its energy value is more than 450 kcal/100 g, which significantly decreases its consumption amount.
The food of this class is reach in vitamins and has no food additives, aromatizers and stabilisers. The only drawback is that super-premium class dog food still contains some small amount of ingredients that can’t be digested by the dog stomach.
Among super-premium class dog food there’s a product line called “holistic” – this is dog food that contains up to 90% of natural meat/fish components and other natural vegetable additives. It has no GMO, food additives or dyes in it.
However, there is no such class in the official rating of dog food and it should be considered as a subcategory of super-premium class dog food.
Fish, chicken, high quality by-products as well as rice and/or vegetables: carrot, beet, potato are ingredients of super-premium class dog food.
However, it contains gluten, dyes and food additives. dog food of this class digestibility is about 75% and energetic value is higher than 350 kcal/100 g.
Holistic class food is the most natural and quality dry food for pets. It contains high quality ingredients, which are good even for human food. Manufacturers of this food provide detailed list of food contents.
This food contains meat, corns, oils as well as probiotics that improve digestive process. Your pet’s health will surely benefit from eating such food.
Food kinds for dogs of different size
Food for large sized dogs
Physiologically large sized dogs are quite different from others. You should take these differences into account when selecting dog food. If dog shoulder height is more than 24 inches and it weighs more than 60 pounds the dog is considered a large sized one.
They have rather lasting adolescent period (up to 2 years long). The puppies grow very fast and they have troubles with their diarthroses and ligaments.
That’s why it’s not recommended to feed them with food of regular class. Besides intestinal tract and gastric distention are dangerous for these dogs.
There were cases when dogs died because of bloat. To avoid such situations feed your dog with small portions of food. At the same time, it should contain all necessary nutrients and still dog’s hunger.
The food shouldn’t include any nonnutritive fibers such as maize, soy beans and orzo seeds, that just stuff the dog stomach and are put into the food only to increase its volume.
For large sized dogs excessive mineralization of the skeleton is harmful, because it may cause its delayed growth. Therefore, you should pay attention to calcium and phosphor content in dog food – their proportion in the food for large sized dogs is sufficiently different if compared to the food for smaller dog breeds.
It is desirable that all important minerals (including zinc and manganese) were present in the food in form of chelates (complex salt that helps organism to digest these substances).
It’s important to keep in mind that large dogs have higher loads on their locomotor system. Therefore, their food must contain chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine.
Vitamins A and D are aimed to promote dog’s growth and mutually supportive antioxidant components strengthen immune system of a dog and ensure heart disease and early ageing processes prevention.
Surely, you should keep an eye on the dog’s weight – it should be stable.
Food for middle sized dogs
Terrier, poodle and other breeds are considered as middle sized ones. These dogs are very active and quick as well as the healthiest among all. There are no special requirements for food for middle sized dogs.
The only thing is that fat concentration percentage in the food shouldn’t exceed 18 %, since these dogs’ organism rather poorly deals with its excess. Which may lead to hepatic disorders.
Complete feed for middle sized dogs should contain proteins that consist from dispensable and indispensable amino acids. Absence of at least one of them has negative impact on dog’s health.
That’s why eggs, chicken and other healthy ingredients should be present in the dog’s food in the first place.
Calcium, phosphor and vitamin D are added into the food for middle sized dogs to strengthen their bones. Chondroitin sulphate and glucosamine ensure healthy diarthroses and cartilages of your dog.
These two substances acting together protect dog’s diarthroses and cartilages and preserve their elasticity.
Food for small sized dogs
If compared to larger dogs, small ones have tachytrophism (rather speedy metabolism). That’s why their food should have high metabolizable energy.
Food for this kind of dogs shouldn’t contain any nonnutritive fibers (maize, soy beans, orzo), since these just increase the amount of food, but they are of no use.
Stomach of small dogs isn’t big, that’s why it’s difficult to meet their energy demand by increasing the food portions and number of meals. If the food doesn’t have proper energy value the dog won’t be active.
On the other hand, small dogs easily put on weight when they are overfed.
Fatty acids and B group vitamins are added into the dog food to keep small dog’s fur and skin in a good condition.
The amount of these substances should be calculated precisely not to put excessive load on dog’s liver.
Paul Townsend is a founder and author of Meethepet.com. He’s been fond of aquarium husbandry since his early childhood.
His favorite aquariums are biotopes (Amazon River), Echinodorus and Angelfish. However, through the years he’s had experience of keeping almost all types of freshwater fish and shrimps.
Last update on 2019-10-22 at 19:58 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API