Selecting the Best Kibble for Your Dog

By Karen Asp

Selecting the Best Kibble for Your Dog

Selecting the right kibble for your dog can be an overwhelming task. After all, there are dozens of choices on the market these days. To help simplify your decision, ask yourself these seven questions:

1. What life stage is your dog in?
This is an important initial question, as it will then help to narrow your choices, says Korinn E. Saker, DVM, president of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition. Puppies, for instance, should be on a growth diet, which will contain the proper nutrients for their rapid development. For healthy adults, an adult maintenance diet may be best, and senior dogs will thrive on food made specifically for their geriatric needs.

2. What's the health status of your dog?
If your dog is healthy, choose a food based on life stage. If your dog has health conditions, talk with your veterinarian, since another type of food could make a difference. For instance, if your pet has allergies to pollen or grass, a food with omega-3 fatty acids could help minimize inflammation associated with allergies, says Dr. Saker.

3. Does the food meet AAFCO standards?
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets standards for pet food manufacturers. The product will carry a statement indicating it is complete and balanced, as well as what life stage it is intended.

4. What does the ingredient list include?
Ingredients appear in the proportion in which they occur in the food. For instance, if chicken is first and rice is fourth, that food has a higher proportion of chicken by weight than rice.

Take note of how much protein is in the food. Higher-level protein diets generally work well for puppies, pregnant dogs and service animals that may have more physical demands. Older canines additionally need very good quality protein, so look for foods with the actual meat or meal close to the top of the list.  

5. How big is the manufacturer?
The bigger the company, the more money it has to spend on research and development. “It may also have more stringent quality control measures and be able to offer high-quality foods at reasonable prices,” says Dr. Saker. That doesn't mean you cannot buy from a smaller company; just be aware of this potential difference. 

6. How big is your dog?
Dog food comes in kibbles of various sizes. While you might think any size will work, buy one that is appropriately sized for your dog's mouth.

7. Is your dog overweight?
If your dog is a little heavy, the weight issue needs to be addressed. But don't do it by cutting back on your dog's regular food. "You'll reduce calories, but you'll also cut valuable nutrients," says Dr. Saker. Instead, purchase a calorie-restricted food, which reduces the amount of fat calories while still providing optimal nutrition. Be sure to follow the feeding instructions on the food’s packaging.

The ultimate test, however, will be passing your dog's lip-licking taste bud evaluation.

Karen Asp is a freelancer covering health, fitness, nutrition and pets for numerous publications, including Prevention, Woman's Day, Shape, Self, Fitness, Health, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping and Natural Health. She shares her office with a golden retriever in training to be a therapy dog.

Tags: dog care , dog food

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Posted on August 30, 2010

Gloria says: We adopted our dog back in 2006 and even since back then, he has been so very finicky. We tried all dry dog foods and he wouldn't go near them. Then we started him on different wet foods, and he seemed to like it and then after a while he stopped eating entirely. I don't know what to do about his food. I bought all different types of canned dog food and he sometimes doesn't eat anything. I will make him some table food becuse I don't want to see him starve. What should I do and what is the best food out there for my dog. He is a golden retriever/lab and is going to be 7 years old in January of 2011. Please help us

Posted on January 22, 2010

Swinkguy says: Corn is hard for your dog to digest. I would never feed my dog a food that contains corn, wheat, soy, or any by-product. Also, look for specified meats in the food, such as chicken, beef, or duck. Terms such as meat, meat and bone meal, and animal fat can mean anything.

Posted on November 6, 2009

Rebecca says: I have been reading a lot lately in pet advice columns about avoiding corn in dogs food. Several articles have stated that quite a few ailments can be traced back to corn in dry kibble, that dogs commonly have an allergy to corn in the kibble and that corn is irritating to the digestive system of dogs. What is your opinion on this? I have been up and down the ingredient lists, it seems so many brands of kibble have corn in them. I hate to think I am hurting my dog. Thank You.

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