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What is a Healthy Dog Food?

Updated on January 30, 2010

What Is MY Dog Eating?

A lot of pet owners are worrying about what’s in their dogs’ food. They wonder if specialty brands are really worthwhile, whether grocery store dog food is okay, and what their dogs really need. Should you feed your dog a high protein dog food? Should you feed your dog a "holistic food"? Let’s take a look at some myths and real information about dog food. There are a lot of things you probably don’t know!

It is also important to consider your dog’s special needs and circumstances while choosing an adult formulated food. Breed and size are two factors as well as any health issues and if your dog is active or inactive. Smaller breeds metabolize much faster than larger breeds and will need twice the calories. Larger breeds will need to eat more and will also need food that helps strengthen their bones and joints. Active dogs will need food with high levels of fat which will not help the inactive dog.

The dietary needs for adult dogs will vary dog to dog depending upon condition, size, and breed. In general, the aim of adult dog food should be the continued maintenance of well being for the immune system, skin, coat and muscles. Always try and buy one of the best rated dog foods.

THE LABEL?
-The first thing most of us notice on any label is the product name. The product name may also contain primary ingredient names such as “Beef Dog Chow”, or what kind of dog the food is intended for, such as “Puppies, Adult, Lactating”, etc.

If, in the product name, an ingredient is listed, say for example that “Beef Dog Chow”, that beef must be at least 95% of the total weight if there is no water required for processing, and at least 70% when water is included. So, for dry kibble, 95% of that weight needs to contain beef.

When the title contains “dinner, formula, nuggets,” and other similar words, the ingredient named must be at least 25% of the weight. So in a product named Lamb Dinner, 25% of the total weight for the product must be lamb.

But, if only ¼ of that entire product needs to consist of lamb, the lamb may not (and probably is not!) the main ingredient. Ingredients must be listed in a descending order of weight. So, even though the bag says Lamb Dinner, the lamb may be fourth in order.

Example:

    * Lamb Dinner Ingredients: Corn, meat and bone meal, wheat, lamb.

In that Lamb Dinner, the main ingredients are really the corn and meat and bone meal. Not desirable for a healthy meal.

On the other hand if the ingredients listed were

    * Premium Lamb Dinner Ingredients: Lamb, ground rice, ground yellow corn…

This presents a more desirable meal and one that your dog can actually consume and digest properly.
(although the fewer grains and fillers the better!!)

Finally,The dog foods found on most grocery store shelves, the generic or store brand ones, are not usually considered among the best foods for your pet. More often than not, these brands are full of ingredients that are lower in quality and inexpensive. While these brands provide a cheaper alternative to the other brands, they are generally not recommended. A quick glance at the ingredients can provide an example of lower quality food.

Generic meat ingredients without a specific species named is not a good thing to feed a dog. Avoid phrases such as “meat byproducts” or “meat and bone meal”. Look for brands that can list the animal that they use as an ingredient, like “chicken meal” or “beef”. Also, avoid any brands that list corn as their main ingredient. You are feeding a dog, after all, and not a pig or a cow.

But, you say, Fido is delighted with the store brand food, which retails for half of what the brand names do? That's because Fido's been tricked. Chemicals have been added to that food, creating a pleasing color and aroma which Fido finds irresistible and which hides the fact that the food is not one of the best dog foods. These chemicals are easy enough to spot if you know what to look for. Coloring agents, drying agents, and texturizers are just some of the tell-tale ingredients that should cause you to sit up and take notice.  I liken it to a fast food restaurant for humans. The smell is so tempting and the taste of that burger and fries is hard to resist but, we all know that a fast food diet is bad for our health. The same principles apply to your dog and the inexpensive grocery store/wholesale club foods. Think of the discount foods as "Fast Food" for your dog. If you think about it, do you want them eating that every day??

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