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How to Pick a Healthy Dog Food

Updated on April 29, 2019
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Jennifer is a Senior Business Administrations major, and Economics Minor at Illinois State University.

Picking a dog food can be a daunting task. You can find dog food in almost every supermarket, retail store, and farmers supply stores. Then you have specialty pet stores that are becoming more and more common, from large chains like Petco and PetSmart, to smaller, more specialized local stores. While everyone knows that healthy eating is important for humans, it is essential that our pets eat healthy too.

Each pet is different from the next, in breed, size, shape, activity level, and allergies, so there is not one dog food that would work for every dog. But there are common ingredients that should be avoided in large quantities, other ingredients that are not the highest quality, and other warnings of the pet food industry.

Fillers, it is like going to a buffet and at the front of the line where you pick up your plate there is tons of cheap fillers. Such as bread, rolls, potatoes, salad, and pastas. These are cheap, and make you full so that you take less of the bigger, more expensive items, such as the meat carving station, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. This can be seen in dog food. For example, a common store brand dog food is Pedigree, there are many flavors of this brand, and different sized kibbles. This food is usually seen as very economically priced, around $25 for a 50 lb bag. At only $0.50 a pound, a known brand name, and it is easy to grab at most stores, dog owners think it is a good product.

The first six ingredients in Pedigree Original Chicken and Vegetable formula are as follows: Ground Whole Grain Corn, Meat and Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat, Soybean Meal, and Natural Flavors. This brings us back to the buffet example of cheap fillers, all of those ingredients have little nutritional value and are very inexpensive. While dog food should break the bank, you should be able to look at the ingredient list and think would I feed myself something with these ingredients?

The "How-To" of picking out dog food starts with doing research. You must first identify some personal things such as how much are you willing to spend? If you have a small dog, you may be able to get a larger bag and save money, and if you have a large dog, you may be looking at spending more money more frequently as they have an increased need for food. Once you identify a price point, you should then consider any allergies. Common allergies in dogs are Chicken, potatoes, beef, lamb, soy, eggs, and dairy. If you dog has allergies then you must tailor your search to something that doesn't include those items, or find a brand of food that offers "Limited Ingredient Diet" formulas. Those formulas are like hitting the jackpot for pet parents whose dog suffers with allergies as they are free from common allergens, and only use a small amount of ingredients to aid in digestion.

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