Seven Indicators of Dog Food Quality
The best evidence that you’ve chosen the right dog food is your dog itself. Your furry pal’s inward and outward appearance is tangible, visible proof that you’re dishing up a food that meets its nutritional needs.
While other factors can also affect your pup’s health and behavior, making sure your dog eats properly is fundamental to its well-being. Fortunately, there are a number of ways your dog reflects your chow choice, say experts. Here are seven signs your dog is thriving on well-balanced, nutritious dog food:
- A shiny coat and healthy skin If your dog has a dull, dry and brittle coat with flaking skin, diet could be to blame, says Dr. Bart Iaia, DVM, who practices in Renton, Wash. Look for omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in dog food, says Dr. Iaia. Your pet needs these essential fats. Flaky skin could be a sign of a zinc deficiency, a problem with home-cooked diets.
- A healthy digestive system Poop is more than the stuff you, ever the responsible dog owner, scoop on a regular basis. Poop matters, say Dr. Iaia and Dr. Laird Goodman, DVM, a Beaverton, Ore., veterinarian who is on the board of directors for the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association. “You want good stools -- firm, but not dry, and not loose,” advises Dr. Goodman. Note how often your dog poops as well, says Dr. Iaia. If your dog poops more than twice a day, that’s an indication your pal’s food might not contain enough protein in forms it can use. You can be reassured if your dog’s food has “complete and balanced” on the label.
- A resilient immune system Vitamin E and antioxidants will help your dog stave off illness, building its immune system, says Dr. Iaia. Veterinary research has found that a diet rich in antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, improves immune system responses. This is particularly important as your dog ages, since a dog’s ability to fight illnesses weakens as it grows older.
- Strong bones and joints Calcium and vitamin D make for strong bones in your dog, just as they do for you. Dog owners who simply feed their dog meat, rather than a well-balanced commercial food, run the risk of their pet suffering soft bones, resulting in fractures, experts say. A well-balanced dog food will include all such essential nutrients.
A veterinarian can use X-rays to evaluate your dog’s bone density if a problem is suspected, says Dr. Korinn E. Saker, DVM, Ph.D., diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and a clinical nutritionist at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. X-rays can also detect hairline fractures and other “less obvious” health problems caused by poor nutrition, such as urinary tract stones, adds Dr. Saker.
- Healthy teeth and gums Your dog’s teeth should be strong and white, with healthy, pink gums covering the roots. If you notice a reddening of the gums, a buildup of tartar on the teeth or bad breath, it can indicate dental problems, says Dr. Iaia. Some dry foods and dog treats are designed to slow the progress of dental disease, so look for products that specifically mention dental care or tartar-fighting properties.
- Strong muscles Hourglass figures aren’t just for movie stars. Your dog should maintain good muscle tone, with an hourglass shape when viewed from above, says Dr. Saker. “Obese dogs have lost the tucked up appearance just after the ribcage, when viewed from the side,” she says. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs but not see them. If your dog is eating a lot but looks too thin, you’re probably not feeding a high-quality dog food, says Dr. Iaia.
- A healthy heart A well-balanced, complete dog food will include protein, calcium, amino acids, fatty acids, potassium and sodium to promote heart health. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog’s heart health through regular checkups, and if needed, blood work.
Seven could be your dog’s lucky number, in terms of future health, if it exhibits these positive signs. Dr. Goodman advises that you should avoid feeding your dog table scrap handouts, along with too many treat snacks. Instead, stick to a quality diet that both you and your dog can count on. And don’t be afraid to discuss the matter with your veterinarian, who may be able to provide additional nutrition-related advice. Dr. Goodman suggests, “Take the label from your food to the veterinarian to have a better understanding of what you’re providing your dog.”