Look for the Best Dog Food Brands
When shopping for dog food, pet food stores offer a wide variety of choices.
“There are foods on the market which are very easy and tasty for your dog but don’t provide the highest nutrition,” says Dr. Katy Nelson, a Virginia-based veterinarian. She has consulted on the nutritional makeup of dog food products. “Even though your pet may be excited about what’s in their bowl, it won’t necessarily glow afterward, just like people who regret those visits to fast-food restaurants.”
How can we tell the difference? Like with fast food for people, very inexpensive dog food may indicate a less nutritious meal.
“Generally, the higher-priced premium brands have higher-quality ingredients and specialized nutrients,” says Dr. Amy Dicke, a veterinarian who also consults on the nutritional aspects of pet food.
- As a general rule, it’s wise to feed your pet the best food you can afford.
“From foods which use human-quality sources, to foods which use the scraps off of the slaughterhouse floor, you truly do get what you pay for most of the time,” says Nelson.
- After price, look at the list of ingredients.
Like we screen our food labels for unsaturated fats or high fructose corn syrup, there are things to look out for on dog food ingredients lists.
Because ingredients are listed in order of quantity, “always look at the first three ingredients on your pet food’s bag,” says Nelson. “If there is corn or something with the word ‘gluten’ in those first few ingredients, step away and keep looking.” Gluten, a vegetable protein, is a cheap alternative to protein from animal sources. But animal protein is more nutritious for your pet.
How to Find the Best Dog Food on the Market
Although it’s not a panacea, there is a seal of approval you can look for. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides pet food guidelines and regulates ingredients’ naming.
“AAFCO’s nutritional adequacy statement identifies the food is nutritionally complete and balanced and contains all of the required nutrients,” says Dicke.
Beyond that, there’s still variation. But Nelson recommends at least avoiding foods without AAFCO approval.
Special-Needs Dog Food
Many foods are tailored to particular circumstances, like a dog’s health or age. Dicke says AAFCO also regulates these claims. Choosing the right one for your dog involves matching your dog to the goal of the product, which typically falls into the following three categories:
Body Size/Activity Levels
According to Dicke, “Pets that are overweight or underweight need different nutrition than those who are at an optimal weight. Pets who get lots of exercise also have different nutritional requirements.” These food labels include weight control, performance, or maintenance.
Your dog may have a condition requiring a therapeutic or prescription formula. For instance, dogs with sensitive stomachs can benefit from foods containing prebiotics. These non-digestible food ingredients stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria that help the digestive system. Other blends are specialized for heart health, dental health, bone/joint health, and more.
Our Best Dog Food Brand Recommendations Based on Health Needs
Ask Your Veterinarian About the Right Food For Your Dog
In the end, however, Nelson says the most important thing is to discuss your dog’s food options with your veterinarian. She says the most significant mistake people make when choosing food is seeking advice from the sales associate at the pet store rather than their veterinarian.
“Your veterinarian can help you find the food that’s best because they know the particular issues that your pet deals with,” she says. “Your veterinarian has the best interests of your pet in mind.”