Step 1: Basic Dietary needs of dogsAs with humans, there can be individual differences between dogs. I will detail these in the next step. However, there is a general recommendation regarding the nutrition of dogs. A balanced diet is when the amount and proportion of macronutrients and micronutrients are adequate. It’s not enough to know how many calories your dog needs. Those calories cannot come from one type of macronutrient. An average dog needs food with a minimum of 18% protein. For puppies, this number is 22%. Since protein is the most important nutrient, this number can be even higher. It is not uncommon for dog food to have a 30% protein content. The situation is less clear about carbohydrates and fats. Average dog food for average dogs contains 10-15% fat. A lower and higher fat diet may also be warranted in some cases. Manufacturers are not obliged to write the carbohydrate content on their products, so you have to calculate it based on the other ingredients in most cases. What is more important is the fiber content. Dogs also need fiber for proper digestion. Too little and too much fiber can also have detrimental effects. The ideal of this nutrient is 4-6%. As you can see, the numbers above are only approximate values. However, if the recipe you are examining differs significantly from this, you may want to choose another product. For example, if a dog food contains less than 18% protein, it may not be suitable for your pup.
Step 2: Consider individual differencesSome aspects determine the individual nutritional needs of dogs. Examples include age, physical characteristics, activity, and health status. Puppies need more protein and calories to grow. The same is true for lactating dogs. Elderly dogs have less metabolism and activity, so they need fewer calories. Active lifestyle dogs also require more food than dogs lounging all day. Adequate calorie intake is critical because you need to avoid under-or-over-feeding. Both can have serious health consequences in the long run. Some brands produce dog food for specific breeds. In this case, manufacturers usually take into account the needs of the particular breed. There are also large breed and small breed formulas, although they indicate the kibbles’ size. Kibbles for small dogs are quite small in size. If your dog has a sensitivity or allergy, you should choose a product based on it. For example, if your puppy responds poorly to gluten, it is better to avoid gluten-containing recipes.
Step 3: Consult your vetYou should also consult your veterinarian if you have any of the above sensitivities or allergies. However, some health issues make you definitely need expert help when planning your dog’s diet. Examples are kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease, or inflammation of the pancreas. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose these conditions properly and figure out the right steps. Not to mention that dog foods specifically for treating diseases are usually prescribed. There can be several causes of diarrhea, so it is worth investigating, but most of the time, choosing the right diet will solve the problem. You don’t have to worry about occasionally loose stools or diarrhea. In addition to prescription foods, there are commercial dog foods that can provide a great supplement.
Step 4: Wet vs. Dry foodYou are now closer to determining your dog’s nutritional needs. The next step is to decide if you are buying wet or dry food. The most significant difference between canned and dry foods is moisture content. So in most cases, dry food is appropriate, and canned versions are a matter of individual preference and budget. An exception is if your dog has a harder time chewing due to some dental problem. Nor should we forget that dogs may find wet food tastier. For this reason, it is worth mixing the two at times. Canned form foods tend to be more expensive in the long run and have less shelf life.
Step 5: AAFCO StatementThe Association of American Feed Control Officials is a voluntary association known for its pet food guidelines. Look for a dog food that has the AAFCO statement on its packaging. Thus, you will most likely be able to provide your four-legged friend with a diet that meets at least the minimum nutritional requirements.
Step 6: Check the ingredientsThe next step is to examine the ingredients. The ingredients are usually listed in quantitative order on the food. So look for a food that has meat or meat meal as its primary ingredient. Don’t be afraid of meat meals. These are real meats in minced form, without moisture. Do not confuse meat meals with meat by-product meals. Dogs are also able to digest carbohydrates. However, do not list any carbohydrate source first on the list of ingredients. Strive for complex wholesome carbs that are easy to digest and do not cause sensitivity. Of course, if your dog is allergic or sensitive to something, it should not be included in that product. Fats are useful sources of nutrients. They provide energy but at the same time, have a good effect on the functioning of the body. Animal fats are very healthy for dogs. Besides, you need to think about replacing omega fatty acids. These fatty acids support the health of the skin and coat of dogs. The best sources of omega fatty acids are fish oil or flaxseed. Micronutrients, that is, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, should not be forgotten. We can provide these to our dogs in the most natural way in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some brands include additional vitamins and minerals in their recipes in addition to fruits and vegetables. Fibers and probiotics support digestion in dogs. Good dog food should contain fiber, but not too much. According to experts, good dog food has a fiber content of about 4-8%. Probiotics are microorganisms that support the intestinal flora. It is always a good sign if there are beneficial bacteria among the ingredients. Ingredients to avoid should be mentioned too. These are various fillers (wheat, corn, soy), unnamed meat by-products, and artificial chemicals. Not only do they have poor nutritional value, but they can also be detrimental to dog health in the long run.
Step 7: Strive for a fresh packageThis step is, of course, quite difficult if you shop online. In that case, the best thing you can do is buy from a reputable online retailer. If you buy your dog food in a supermarket, look at the sell-by (or best before) date on the package. Then check the packaging for holes or tears. Remember, the supermarkets’ goal is to get rid of older products. Therefore, older dog food will be placed forward on the shelves.
Step 8: Keep dog food stored properlyBoth dry and wet dog food can spoil after a while. Of course, dry food has a longer shelf life than wet food. Before opening, it is advisable to store both varieties in a dry, cool place. After opening, keep the dry food in its own packaging in an airtight container in a cool place. Be sure to store canned food in the refrigerator after opening.
SummaryI hope that the steps above will make it easier for you to choose the most suitable dog food. Healthy eating is not only important to us humans. We also need to give our best to dogs. This is especially true if our dog has some special nutritional needs. If, for some reason, you still have trouble choosing the best product, consult your veterinarian.
Author: Peter Laskay