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How to Choose a Good Quality Dog Food

Good pet nutrition is a great subject to kick off the new year. Choosing a dog food can be overwhelming with so many varieties on the market.

How do you determine what is the healthiest choice for your dog?

Here are some tips that can help you find the best quality food for your pooch.

Read the Ingredients Label: No matter what the age of your pet, you’re going to want to see some specific things in the ingredients to be certain it’s a good quality food. In pet foods, the ingredients are listed by weight/quantity – so the the first few ingredients will comprise the bulk of the food.

The first ingredients should alway include some form of named animal protein like beef, chicken, lamb, or fish. Caution: avoid ‘meat by-products or poultry by-products’ as these are usually manufactured from low-cost parts that could come from any number of sources. If a listing includes ‘meal’ – a named type such as beef meal or chicken meal is better than ‘meat meal’.

Whole Vegetables, Fruits & Grains: Like humans, dogs get nutritional benefits from whole foods. Good quality dog food formulas will include added essential vitamins and minerals derived from legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains or meat. For those who prefer to leave grain out of the mix by choice or necessity due to diet sensitivities, there are many high quality grain-free foods on the market.

Quality Fats & Oils: A balanced diet provides about 10-15% fat, and promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat. Fats provide energy, add taste and flavor to foods, as well as aid in the absorption of certain vitamins. Quality fats used in dog foods include poultry fat, vegetable oil, soybean oil, and fish oil. Avoid foods with a generic ‘animal fat’ listing as they can come from less than desirable sources.

Choose a Food for Your Pet’s Particular Size, Activity Levels & Life Stage: The nutritional needs of a puppy are quite different from an adult or senior dog. In addition, the size, activity levels of the dog can also be important. Some pet foods are formulated to meet the dietary needs of a specific breed. For example – a breed that’s susceptible to joint problems might benefit from a food that includes vitamins and minerals that help strengthen bones.

What to Avoid: Say no to artificial colors, flavors and preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Look for natural preservatives, such as tocopherols (forms of vitamin E), vitamin C, and rosemary extract instead. Watch out for added sugar or artificial sweeteners! Dogs love sweet things too, and these are often added to foods to coax dogs to eat sub-standard foods. 

Note the Important Dates on the Bag: Natural preservatives mean the food has a shorter shelf life than those using artificial preservatives. Look for the freshest products by checking the date of manufacture and ‘best by’ dates.