Here’s a topic that is both controversial and important: food, or as I say to my pups, “foodies”! I can’t say for sure how many times as a breeder I get asked about food preferences, issues, and what to trust in the mountain of info regarding the subject. Below are just a few things that I’d like to share.
(*Please keep in mind that I am not a veterinarian. You should do your own research and consider adjusting food should any problems arise. Also, please consult with your veterinarian on this subject, but do realize that many veterinarians receive a commission on the food they sell. These foods can be a great option for you, just know that there are alternatives that are equal or even greater in quality that cost less elsewhere.)
Dog Food Is Dog Food. What’s The Big Deal?
If you’re even wondering about dog food, then that’s a good thing. Surely, it’s easy enough to walk into your closest market and pick out the cheapest dog food and call it good. But here’s something you may want to consider…You’ve put all the hard work and money into acquiring this new furry family member, you may want to think about this very instrumental part of their development and health—what they will be eating for the rest of their life.
There are so many things that go into the decision of what dog food to buy. They include budget, your individual pet’s needs, your preferences, your goal, and the time you are willing to give to preparing it. If you’re hoping for a blanket statement of “buy brand X and only brand X” then I’m sorry to disappoint. There are just too many variables from person to person and dog to dog. But here are a few tips to help make your choice easier…
First and foremost, it’s important to note that the food your dog eats is in direct harmony with their health and longevity. In addition to proper breeding, what a dog eats is usually the contributing factor to whether or not they experience poor digestive health, heart, and other organ issues, as well as skin, coat, and energy deficiencies. Just as you would not, and could not, subsist on a diet of junk food, neither can a dog. There are many who say, “it’s just a dog” or “I just feed mine table scraps” or “I don’t see the difference between my $10 dog food and a $70 dog food”. And while that may be sufficient and fine for some, don’t you want your dog to have its best life, too? The dog food industry is huge and without knowing what you’re looking at you could very well be feeding your dog that “junk food” equivalent without even realizing it.
Standards and Recalls
There are notable and recognizable dog food companies that experience recalls all the time. Some have never experienced a recall, such as Ziwi, Nature’s Logic, Ollie, Bixbi Rawbble, Fromm, Life’s Abundance, Earthborn Holistic, Canine Caviar, just to name a few (this is obviously subject to change). Please don’t be overwhelmed and throw in the towel on a brand because of one line or one quantity was recalled. The key is how often and how many does a particular brand gets recalled. The recalls most severe are at the tune of salmonella poisoning, unregulated or dangerous levels of vitamins and minerals, heart failure, and death. While by and large, I don’t believe these companies are reckless in their efforts, I do believe that some dog food companies are looking at their bottom line and that is all. Lack of regulation is just one highly avoidable issue. When choosing a dog food, please make sure that it is at least approved by the AAFCO and pay close attention to the resources you google pertaining to brand recommendations as some are endorsed. To find recalls on dog food and treats check out dogfoodadvisor.com. As a general rule of thumb, I will completely avoid dog foods that receive the worst ratings. This link and google searches can help you identify consistently subpar foods: https://www.dogfoodnetwork.com/reviews/the-10-worst-rated-dry-dog-food-brands/
It’s All In The Ingredients
You’ll want to familiarize yourself with a few terms before looking at ingredients in dog food. While all seems good and well, ingredients are not created equally. Of particular note is the first listed and main ingredient. You may notice it says chicken meal or beef meal or chicken by-product. If you’re wondering what those are and the difference between the two check out this link: https://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/choosing-dog-food/animal-by-products/ A couple of other terms to consider are grain-free, grain inclusive, and ancient grains. The factors sum up to taste, allergies, digestive issues, and weight management.
What I like and look for like the first and main is chicken or deboned chicken (salmon, lamb, or beef are other options for variety or allergy needs), probiotics and prebiotics, omega’s, and fresh fruit and veggies. However, if your budget does not allow this, then a wonderful alternative is to add fresh to kibble. There’s a surprising amount of dog-safe people foods that are quite nutritious and fun to eat. These can be used daily or occasionally to break up the monotony of kibble every day. Let’s be honest, would you want to eat the same meal without variation for your whole life? Here’s a non-exhaustive list of dog-safe people foods AND ones that are NOT safe: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324453
Raw: Is It For Me?
Ultimately all kibble and wet food aside, raw is best for your dog. As with preparing human food, special care in the preparation for a raw diet can help avoid E-coli and salmonella poisoning. This option can be pricey and time-consuming to prepare, but with the right relationship with a butcher or even hunters, this can be remedied. Note* though more costly, these foods usually mean more digestible matter and less fecal waste, therefore less amount is required to eat pound for pound. There are freeze-dried raw alternatives that you can find at pet stores and specialty dog food stores that are premade and ready to go. These can be both fresh in the refrigerated section or in bags and can be reconstituted with water. If you’re interested in doing more research on this diet I suggest you join the ‘RAW & BARF feeding for dogs’ group on Facebook.
Here’s The Upside
Hopefully, by now, you’re armed with some tips and resources to help you find the right food for you and your dog. After examining your needs and goals and the needs of your dog, you will begin to see that what is good for your neighbor’s dog (or even your other family dog) is not necessarily good for another. There’s no “one size fits all” and there’s much to choose from. The upside to all this info is the great variety you can give to your dog. Foodies are just one more way to add to the spice of life. Have fun and good ‘lick’ on your dog food journey!