This is a question I get asked a lot in practice, and there is not a good answer because there is not one single dog food out there that is appropriate for all dogs. It can be especially confusing when you go to the pet store and see aisles and aisles filled with all different kinds of food and the internet filled with even more options and suggestions. As a result, I will share with you the information that I share with my clients to help them choose an appropriate food for their dogs.
Nutrition is a vital component to the growth and development of your pet. It is important that your pet receives a good quality, well-balanced diet throughout his life. There are many high-quality diets on the market and many very bad diets as well. How can you tell if a diet is good for your pet?
AAFCO Statement – All pet foods are required to have a statement from the American Association of Feed Control Officials that remarks on whether it meets the standards for maintenance, growth, pregnancy, lactation or all life stages. The statement is usually written in small print somewhere near the ingredient list. There are two ways the statement is written:
1. Animal feeding trials have been performed on the food
2. The food meets the requirements based on biochemical analysis
If the food has had animal feeding trials, it has actually been fed to animals and their blood work has been measured to make sure they do not develop dietary deficiencies. The alternate method means that on paper the food looks good, but it has not been fed to animals to ensure the nutrients are getting digested and absorbed appropriately to ensure there are no deficiencies. Whenever purchasing a type of dog food, make sure you look for this statement on the bag to make sure animal feeding trials have been performed on the food.
Ingredient list – The ingredients on the back of the bag of food are listed in descending order based on the amount that is in the food. In other words, the first ingredient comprises the majority of the food. How the food is labeled also indicates how much of the ingredient is in the diet. For example:
|If the label says this||The food has at least this much chicken|
|CHICKEN for dogs||70 percent|
|CHICKEN DINNER for dogs||25 percent|
|Dog food WITH CHICKEN||3 percent|
|Dog food with CHICKEN FLAVOR||Less than 3 percent|
Vitamins – In addition to your pet’s diet, a vitamin or nutritional supplement may also be recommended. Most high-quality diets are well balanced and have all of the nutrients a pet needs. However, some pets have special conditions that require supplementation. In addition, when dry food is processed, it may lose some of the vitamins and minerals because of the heat processing.