How to choose a Dog Food

Your dog is a very special member of your family and you want only the best for him/her, and that includes feeding them the healthiest food possible. There are so many choices out there that is can be very confusing as to choosing the best brand for your dog.

Dog Food choices

It is important to be mindful of the fact that no single brand of food is suitable or best for every dog. Some high quality dog foods may agree with and be very good for the majority of dogs, but some may not do so well on it and even experience gastrointestinal upsets. It's all about determining what works best for the individual canine. Thankfully, there are many high quality dog foods on the market today, enabling you to try a few to ascertain which one is a good fit for your dog.

Below are a few guidelines to choosing the right food for your dog.

Stage of life

Always choose a food that is suitable for your dog's stage of life. This is very important as puppy food is higher in overall calories, as well as protein, vitamins and minerals necessary for proper development whereas adult food is lower in these ingredients and higher in others. Puppies eating adult food will not receive the proper nutrition, adult dogs eating puppy food may develop weight issues or become obese and older dogs require food formulated for senior dogs that are easier to digest.

Selecting the type of dog food

When selecting dog foods for their pets, people often wonder whether it is best to feed wet (canned) or dry dog food and the answer depends on the animal. Read more about making the decision on whether to feed your dog wet (canned) or dry dog food here.

Examine the ingredients carefully

High-quality, healthy dog foods require high quality ingredients which are essential to maintain your dog's optimal health. The truth of the matter is that so called "economy" brands may contain cheaper ingredients that are not as easily digested as their premium counterparts and as such do not offer your dog the best nutrition. Even though they may seemt to comply with the legal specifications for percentages of carbohydrates, fat and protein, these food may offer lower energy values and low grade proteins. This may result in healthy nutrients not being absorbed as they pass through your dog's digestive system. This means that will also need to feed your dog larger quantities of low quality food to get the same nutrition as a smaller serving of premium food, so you may actually be saving money in the long run by buying premium, quality foods.

So when shopping for a healthy dog food, always review the list of ingredients, keeping in mind that by law, ingredients are listed by weight. Proteins such as meat, chicken, fish, egg or some meat or fish meal should be the first or second ingredient listed on the packaging. Meat, chicken, fish, and eggs all have a high biological value, which means they have a high percentage of protein in the form of digestible, usable amino acids. Click here for more on deciphering dog food labels.

Guaranteed Analysis Comparison

Also examine the Guaranteed Analysis on the packaging, these are similar to the ingredients listing but the numbers listed in this section are calculated on an "as fed" basis and do not include the amount of moisture in that food.

Wet or canned foods tend to have more moisture (up to 80 percent) than dry food which can contain as little as six percent. In order to calculate the actual amount of an ingredient in a food or to make a comparison between brands or wet and dry dog foods, the numbers are converted to Dry Matter (DM) figures. These figures are useful when comparing them to nutrition charts offered by various dog food regulatory bodies.

Regulator Seal

Ensure that the dog food you choose is endorsed by the regulatory body of your country. The packaging should contain a statement or seal of approval to ensure that it has been legitimately tested and approved. This ensures that all ingredients, guaranteed analysis and DM figures have been tested and are correct.

Switch foods gradually

When you have selected your dog food brand of choice, slowly transition your dog from his/her current food to the new one. This is important because a sudden change in food can lead to changes in the bacteria of your dog's stomach and intestines which may result in gastric upset.

To avoid these problems, switch food slowly over 7 to 10 days. The best way to do this is to start mixing small portions of the new food with the old food. Start with a quarter new food to three quarters old food brand for 3 days and then go to a half and half ratio for 3 days and if there are no issues to 75% to 25% ratio. If your pet is handling the transition well then you should be able to feed the new food only. If you encounter problems, contact your veterinarian for advice.

Once you have researched your dog food to ensure that it is nutritionally sound, keep an eye on your dog and assess his/her condition after a month. A glossy coat, good body condition (not over or underweight), bright eyes and a good energy level will assure you that you've made good choices in his/her nutrition.