What is the best dog food?
The best dog food depends on the type of breed and nutritional needs that each canine needs. There are several important factors when choosing a food for your dog but there are some basic characteristics that a good food should have: No controversial chemical preservatives, no unknowing meat ingredients, no artificial coloring, no generic animal fats, substantial amounts of meat-based protein, fat to protein ratio of 75% or less and moderate carbohydrate content.
Don’t be ashamed to admit it: more than once we have chosen our dog’s food based solely on cost, budget and even the publicity that has touched us the most; leaving aside what is healthiest for him. But not looking at how we are feeding our pet can have fatal consequences for it. And our dog’s health is not a matter to be left to chance.
Now, how do I choose the best food for my dog?
The supply of concentrated pet foods seems to grow daily, with a wide range of options when it comes to deciding what to fill your canine’s plate with, some of which are even specific to different types of breed, physical activity, age or health condition.
But don’t worry, in the following four steps, we teach you everything from what dogs’ usual intakes should be, how to read food labels, how to choose depending on the pet you have, to what human treats you can accompany your diet with:
Step One: What should your dog’s food contain?
To meet your pet’s nutritional needs, a good concentrated food should be made up of protein (such as red meat, chicken, fish or turkey), carbohydrates (oats, rice and vegetables), animal and vegetable fats.
Protein because, being a descendant of wolves, their diet is strictly carnivorous, which means that most of their food – and the concentrate you choose – must be supplied with animal protein. These are vital for the good development of the dog during all the stages of his life.
Whether you’re a puppy, adult or senior, all dogs need protein to preserve their body structure, body function and immune system. To achieve this, they need 22 amino acids (the organic compounds that make up proteins), of which only 12 can synthesize. The others should be obtained through food. These essential amino acids are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, threonine, phenylalanine, triptogen, valine and methionine.
Hence, the quality of the protein is also a key factor in the choice of feed, as they do not all contain the same levels of amino acids that can be used by the animal’s body, which is called”biological value”. For example, the egg is one of the most biologically valuable eggs, followed by fishmeal, milk and beef. Chicken is also a source of quality protein.
Therefore, it is important not to be carried away by high percentages of protein in food (since it does not necessarily mean that it is better than one that has lower percentages) but by the quality of these. There are concentrates which, although overcrowded with by-products from slaughterhouses, have little biological value.
For its part, among the major functions of carbohydrates and fats is to become an energy supply. Fats provide the most energy, surpassing carbohydrates and proteins by up to five times. In addition, they provide Omega fatty acids, which make your pet’s coat and skin look healthy, help transport fat-soluble vitamins and improve the palatability of food, as they often have the good taste that makes dogs like their food.
And what should it not contain?
Knowing that your pet’s intake should be composed mostly of quality protein, the next step is to identify which food products do not provide the necessary nutritional values for your pet.
Corn, or corn flour, is one of the most widely used fillers in concentrated foods because of its low cost. But, many dogs have trouble digesting them properly or are even allergic to them, as well as to soy and wheat, so it’s best to have cereals that come from barley, oatmeal, brown rice, millet or quinoa grains.
However, care must be taken to ensure that the quantity of cereals does not exceed the quantity of products of animal origin, which is very common in the cheap versions available on the market. Excess of these can cause skin or gastrointestinal problems, otitis and bad body odor, among others.
Foods created with by-products are also not recommended, as they consist of waste from food processing plants. In fact, there are concentrates under the human-grade label which indicate that all ingredients are suitable for human consumption.
Chemical preservatives such as ethoxyquin, BHT, BHA or propylene glycol may have toxic consequences in the long run; therefore, their preservation should be in a mixture of tocopherols, a family of organic compounds that have the property of protecting fatty acids. Foods that contain yeast, synthetic vitamin K, and colorants should also be avoided.
Step Two: Read the labels
Knowing what ingredients your dog’s food should contain is not enough. You must also know how to interpret with certainty the labels of the products on the market. Only then will you know the nutritional content and which is the best quality for your dog’s needs.
In them, you should find the minimum of crude protein, the maximum crude fat, the maximum crude fiber and the maximum humidity, as well as the order of the ingredients according to the amount they have of each one. That is to say, the top of the list means that they have a greater presence than those who follow them. For example, if the first ingredient that appears is corn, it means that the concentrate is composed mostly of this grain and not of protein.
But this reading is not always reliable, you have to be careful with the interpretation. There are companies that start their lists with protein as their first ingredient, but then three different products from the same cereal follow. That’s one way to hide the fact that the main ingredient really is cereal and not meat as such.
Another trick to determining what the main ingredients of the food are is to look for the first source of fat on the list. The products that precede it are usually the base of the concentrate.
Proteins are normally equivalent to between 25 and 30% of the product, although there are currently new lines whose protein content can reach up to 70% because they lack cereals, thus seeking to assimilate as much as possible to what would be their”wild” diet.
Step Three: Your pet is the guide
Needless to say, but it’s always worth repeating: knowing your dog well and knowing what his needs are will be your best guide when choosing his food.
Just as not everyone metabolizes food in the same way, neither do dogs. Then, depending on your body, age or activity level, your intake will vary as this may change the amount of calories you need. A supercharged dog could convert this extra energy into fat, causing obesity and its possible consequences: cardiovascular, respiratory and skeletal diseases.
If your pet is a puppy, its nutritional needs are much higher than at any other stage of its life, since at the moment they are creating, as such, the foundation of its body: the growth of the pitsthe development of muscles, organs, immune system and cognitive development. In most dogs, the puppy stage lasts only the first year of life, although in large breed dogs over 22 kilos, this can last up to two years. During this time, your diet should be high in protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients.
Once they reach adulthood, their intake should be adequate to maintain a healthy physical condition, which may change depending on the pet’s physical activity and added conditions, such as specific diseases or intolerances. In general, your diet should be complete and balanced, including ingredients such as taurine, chelated minerals, proteins and calcium, and should be served in proportions that do not cause you to vary sharply in weight. To know if it is at its ideal weight, you should be able to appreciate its waist and feel the ribs with ease, which are covered only with a light layer of fat.
High-performance physical dogs (such as those that do housework, rescue, agility testing or sledding) need to be fed more than the average dog in the home, with food containing up to 30% protein, almost 2000 digestible calories per kilo and 20% minimum fat, and with larger portions of food per day. In these cases, it is best to consult with your vet if you are a high-performance pet and how your diet should be programmed to meet your needs.
Opposed to these are inactive dogs who need their food to contain fewer calories to avoid the risks of obesity and disease. An inactive canine is one that is not enthusiastic about physical activity, preferring to sleep or move as little as possible. In your diet, therefore, you should reduce the amount of treats or prizes and in some cases reduce food portions. Also, several brands currently have special lines of reduced calorie concentrates, as well as formulated foods for dogs with specific diseases, such as kidney failure or diabetes.
After five or seven years of age, depending on the breed, canines enter an advanced or senior age, in which their diet must also change to ensure a better quality of life. If your senior dog stays healthy enough, a balanced senior food will be enough to keep him well nourished. However, consider the signs that accompany this stage of their lives, such as decreased physical activity, which causes them to gain weight, and difficulty in chewing food, sometimes requiring them to moisten their food.
In addition to age and activity, breeds are also a fundamental aspect of food choice. Small ones, for example, have a faster metabolism, so they burn much more energy at a faster rate. Depending on your daily activity, they may need up to twice as many calories per day as other types of larger breeds. That’s why the diet for small breeds has additional protein, is rich in fat and comes in a suitable presentation to facilitate chewing.
Large breeds, on the other hand, have the slowest metabolism. But, because of its size, its appetite is much greater. Its content is lower in fat but with high concentrations of protein and its presentation is more robust so that the animal is encouraged to chew rather than swallow food.
Step Four: Pamper it! Accompanies your diet
Even though you have to keep them on their proper diet, this doesn’t mean that they can’t occasionally indulge in a snack for human consumption. The question will be to be clear about which foods you can eat without being harmed. That’s why here’s a list of foods you shouldn’t feel guilty about if you try your beloved pet:
Peanut butter, besides being a favorite of dogs, is a great source of protein, heart-healthy fats, vitamins B and E.
Occasionally, you can accompany its concentrated food with cooked chicken without seasoning of any kind. pits so you can add a little flavor to your food and give it a little extra protein.
Eggs are excellent for increasing the amount of protein in your diet and also provide riboflavin and selenium to your pet.
Not only do apples help clean your dog’s teeth – improving his breath – they are also sources of fibre, vitamin A and C.