If you’re like most dog parents, you’re probably astounded by the ever-increasing amount of choice when you visit your local pet supply store to purchase dog food. There are so many brands, product lines and price points from which to choose. Whether you are selecting food for a new pup or changing your dog’s diet, this article provides some informative guidelines to follow in making your selection.

 Always look beyond the enticing words and visuals on the packaging by examining a product’s nutritional content:

  • Look for a statement by the manufacturer that the product meets the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) or that animal feeding tests were conducted using AAFCO procedures and the product provides complete and balanced nutrition. Such statements provide some basic assurance regarding the food’s nutritional value.
  • Select a product that is protein-based versus corn-based. Most pet nutrition experts will agree that a protein-based diet is optimal for a dog’s growth and development into a strong, healthy pet. While grains such as corn are often touted by the pet food industry as furnishing essential energy for a dog, this is not completely accurate. A more precise explanation for their use is that they are instrumental in turning the food into kibble form and they are relatively inexpensive. In short, grains act as filler calories and for the pet food manufacturer hold down their production costs.
  • A protein such as chicken, beef or lamb should be listed as one of the top five ingredients. This reflects the requirement by pet food manufacturers to list ingredients in order of their weight. Since the first five ingredients typically make up the majority of the product, under most circumstances, products with a protein listed in the top five are better choices because their protein content is apt to be higher.
  • Be mindful of the sources of protein listed on the label. While meat listed in “meal” form is typically an excellent source of protein (i.e., the protein source is dried and finely ground into a meal and then added back in during the manufacturing process), meat by-products are not always good sources of protein and do not necessarily supply the same quality of nutrition.
  • If preservatives are present, look for Vitamin E and/or C as opposed to chemical preservatives. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are both good ingredients; according to experts the former aid in controlling inflammation and benefit a dog’s heart and kidneys while the latter help fight infections and support healthy skin and a shiny coat. Finally, no artificial food coloring should be present.

As dog parents, we have a lot of choice when it comes to the food we serve our pets. Educate yourself by reading the labels on all food products. It will help you make an informed dietary decision and contribute to your dog’s health and longevity.

Practicing good canine nutrition simply makes sense.

Bon appetit!