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difference in dog food quality

Updated on February 10, 2014

There are a lot of different opinions when it comes to dog foods and if there is or is not a difference in quality and if higher quality dog foods or more expensive brands only for sale in stores that specialize in animal foods are better for your dog. To answer that question. Yes, dog food matters.

A lot of people assume that the grocery store brands are perfectly fine for their dog, and I was one of them. Why would we think it would not be? It's the brands we know, we know the names, we see the commercials on TV and there's always a happy dog skipping around and sometimes even a child and a happy family. Why would we have any reason to think that particular food might not be as healthy for our dog as we think it is?

We know these brands and it is convenient to buy our dog food at the grocery store where we buy all our other things. We look at the bags and often based on that we buy a bag, or we look at the price, or we let friends influence us who use a specific brand of dog food. Or we let the TV commercials influence us.

It's only after doing some more research that a lot of people discover that there are more options out there, specific pet foods they'd never heard of. Sometimes they might be a little more expensive but that is not always the case. As a matter of fact a lot of these foods are more filling and your dog might need less than he would from the "cheaper" food.

  • Why have we not heard of these brands?

Because they are not for sale in the grocery stores, which makes it more difficult for people to get to know these brands. Unless you are active in the dog showing world or actively work with animals and know about these things. Or unless you do active research online and google something like "good dog food" or "best dog food", you will see these unfamiliar names pop up and a new world of good quality dog foods will open up to you.

  • Why are they better, what is the difference?

The difference is in the ingredients, people often assume a dog food will be good quality for their pet because it is allowed to be sold in the store. But hamburgers are also allowed to be sold at fast food places but imagine eating that every day of your life, in the long run, it is not healthy for your body. That's mainly the difference, the grocery store brands are fillers and will fill your dog up but have little nutritional value to them. They are the Mc Donalds for dogs.

  • How can I tell if a dog food is good quality?

Look at the first 6 ingredients on the back of the bag, if it says MEAL or MEAT and actual animal names, then you probably have a decent dog food. If in the first 6 ingredients you find words like CORN, WHEAT, by-product, artificial coloring, sugar. Then I would put the bag back and look for something else. Corn and wheat are cheap fillers but offer little nutritional value for dogs. On top of that, corn is very hard to digest for dogs. Artificial coloring to make the food
look nice is unnecessary, dogs care more about the smell of food than the color, especially considering they are partially colorblind! Sugars in dog food can lead to a hyperactive dog. There have been many cases where people changed their dog food and suddenly the dog's behavior changed as well. By-product means beak and or feet of poulty, so now you know what "chicken-byproduct" means when you read it, no actual meat, but basically the parts that are
thrown away otherwise.

  • What are the long term effects grocery store pet food brands might have on my dog?

As mentioned above, hyperactivity because of added unnecessary sugars. Lack of specific nutrients which can cause diseases on the long run. Your dog might (seem to) do great on a cheaper dog food for the first 8 years of his life but suddenly he may go downhill and you can't find an explanation for it. That same dog might have lived an extra 5 years on a different dog food. Something a lot of people notice as well is a change in coat, often coats will get thicker and shinier and overall more healthy looking when dogs are switched to a higher quality dog food. If your dog has bald spots or thinning hair in some places, switching dog foods might be what you need to do.

  • What are the long term effects higher quality pet foods might have on my dog?

A healthier coat, a healthier and possibly longer life, less veterinary visits, so if you would be concerned about the price of higher quality dog food in the long run you would see that even out by the fewer vet visits you need to make. I have noticed I have said "in the long run" quite a few times in this article, that's because that's basically what a better quality dog food does, in the long run, you will see the effects of it and will be happy with your choice.

  • Where can I find these better quality dog foods?

Most of them can be found at your local specialized pet food and supplies store, stores like Petsmart and Petco or Petclub offer a wide array of high quality dog foods. There are also quite a few websites that sell these brands online and sometimes also offer discounts, such as:

  • Do I need to be a millionaire to be able to afford these dog foods?

I myself am certainly not one, I once bought store brands as well and soon after making the switch I realized that my dog needed less food to be full than he did of the grocery store dog food. And like mentioned before, you will most likely have your dog around longer and visit less veterinarians.

Have you ever noticed your dog itches a lot? Or he bites himself. That might be because he has a corn or wheat allergy. When you look at it from a rational point of view it makes sense for dogs not to eat corn, a lot of dogs develop a corn allergy which results in itching of the skin.

There are quite a few dog food brands out there that specialize in so called Grain Free dog food, especially for these dogs.

  • What about dog treats?

A lot of these higher quality pet foods also offer their own line of pet treats in different flavors, often also grain-free.

Here are some examples of ingredient-labels:

Canidae ingredients list - highly recommended natural dog food
Canidae ingredients list - highly recommended natural dog food
Acana ingredients list - highly recommended natural dog food
Acana ingredients list - highly recommended natural dog food
Orijen ingredients list - highly recommended natural dog food
Orijen ingredients list - highly recommended natural dog food

Compared to a grocery store brand

Beneful dog food - grocery store brand dog food
Beneful dog food - grocery store brand dog food

If you are completely convinced that a better quality dog food is the way to keep your dog healthy and happy, but don't want to travel far or to a specific pet store or pay a little more for some of the higher quality brands, Costco's Kirkland pet food brand "Nature's Domain" is actually pretty good quality! And for Costco card owners easy to pick up while doing their other shopping, and also Grain free.

You can also go the raw meat diet route which would be even more back to basics and ideal for your dog. But some people (such as myself) like the convenience of the bag of dry food.

[ingredients label Orijin freeze dried food:]
[ingredients label Acana Pacifica:]
[ingredients label Canidae all life stages:]
[ingredients label Beneful:]
[photograph dog:]

© 2014 D. Lemaire


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    • natural holistic profile image

      D. Lemaire 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for the comment.

      I didn't know that about the picture, I will replace it :).

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi, you can delete this comment if you want, since I just want to mention some HP stuff.

      I recommend you delete and replace the first image before someone comes along and flags you on it. HP does not allow watermarked or pixelated images. If you have one of your own shots or a dog that is always better.

      Just a side note: this is a fine article but a raw diet is better for a dog. Read some articles on my profile or look at the forums on the net. If you really want to find out which is best for your dog take a look.

    • natural holistic profile image

      D. Lemaire 4 years ago from Arizona

      You're welcome, thanks for leaving a comment :).

    • natural holistic profile image

      D. Lemaire 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks a lot, a lot of people assume the food found at your local Walmart for example is good because otherwise it wouldn't be sold right? But once you start researching what's in it... you see there is definitely a difference. Thanks for commenting!

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 4 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for the great tips, will bear them in mind for my dog!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      Great Hub about the difference in dog foods. I've always purchased the highest quality I can afford and am diligent about checking the labels. I stay away from those foods high in grains, sugars and empty calories. My dog suffers from pancreatitis, so I have to be very careful as to what I feed her! Thanks for sharing this important info! Voted up, useful and interesting.