Choosing the best dog food requires a solid understanding of dog nutrition, pet food labeling standards, and the individual needs of the dog in question.
The best way to keep a healthy, happy dog is to feed it right. But, with all the pet foods and dog diet options available today, choosing the best dog food can be complicated. Before choosing a dog food, understand canine nutritional needs and know how to choose a dog food that meets them. Dogs may have different nutritional needs at different stages of life, and dogs with medical conditions may require special diets.
AAFCO and Dog Nutrition
The Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO) has set standards for canine and pet food nutrition. Dogs require a diet consisting of at least 18% protein and 5% fat. AAFCO has also set minimum standards for canine vitamin and mineral requirements. Because some of these nutrients could harm dogs if eaten in higher concentrations, AAFCO places maximum limits on the quantities of these nutrients. Manufacturers in the United States aren’t required to comply to AAFCO’s pet food nutrition standard, so, when choosing dog food, look for a label that says “Formulated to meet the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profile.” The label should also specify which stage-of-life requirements the food meets, whether those of puppies, adult dogs, or senior dogs.
When choosing the best dog food, look for a food that contains high-quality, human-grade ingredients. Avoid preservatives. Choose foods made mostly of meat, rather than carbohydrate filler ingredients like corn and wheat. Popular AAFCO-approved brands include Hill’s® Science Diet® dog food.
Dog Dietary Requirements Change Over Time
Dogs have different dietary requirements during different stages of life. Puppies, as well as pregnant and nursing dogs, need more fat, calcium, protein, phosphorus, sodium, vitamin B12, and chloride in their diets. To maintain good health and thrive, a puppy needs to eat puppy food. Dogs who are pregnant or nursing needs foods formulated for their needs. By the same token, geriatric dogs can benefit from senior dog food formulas.
Prescription Dog Food may be Necessary
Illness can change a dog’s dietary needs. Dogs with systemic conditions like diabetes, kidney, and liver disease may have special dietary requirements, and some may benefit from a homemade diet fortified with supportive supplements. Many dogs experience food allergies to common dog food ingredients like chicken, wheat, dairy, lamb, or soy. A veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist can give the best advice about feeding dogs with health conditions, since these dogs’ needs will vary on an individual basis.
Don’t Buy Just Any Dog Food
In order to choose the best dog food, pet owners should understand dog nutritional needs. Know what to look for on a pet food label, since not all pet foods meet AAFCO’s canine dietary requirements. Consider the animal’s stage of life before choosing a dog food. If the dog has any health conditions, consult a veterinarian. Proper feeding can improve many canine health conditions.