How to compare different brands of dog food and find the most nutritious food for your companion based on the ingredients on pet food nutrition labels.
What is in your dog’s food? Does the brand of dog food really matter? Nutrition plays an extremely important role in your dog’s overall health and life span, just as it does with humans. What all living, breathing beings eat, matters. The trick is figuring out exactly what you are feeding your dog when you look at a pet food label! .
Different Brands of Dog Food
Although there are literally hundreds of different brands of dog food, they all fall into one of five different categories. These categories are generic, store brands, popular brands, premium brands, and all natural foods. These foods are all created in different ways. The less expensive foods will change their ingredients based on the prices of the ingredients. The more expensive foods will use the same ingredients regardless of price so the product is more consistent.
Many people think if they compare the guaranteed analysis on the bags that they will know what they are purchasing. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you read closely, you will see these analyses are listed as ‘minimum’ and ‘maximum’ values. What this means is that these figures really don’t tell you anything. A food could list a minimum protein value of 23%, but it could actually have 75% protein which would be detrimental.
Dog Food Ingredients
The one best thing to do when purchasing dog food is to read the ingredients. The ingredients will be listed in descending order of most abundant to least abundant item. The first ingredient in any dog food should be a meat source. Dogs are not efficient at obtaining their protein from things like wheat or corn, so a food with the first ingredient as corn may analyze out to a healthy level of protein, but that does not mean that your dog will be able to utilize it. Also watch for labels that have several similar sounding ingredients listed one right after another. For example, a food with the first ingredient of chicken followed by corn meal, corn gluten meal, and corn bran is mostly corn. Also be wary of by-products; these are waste products from the processing of meat for humans. Yes, all of our dogs would love to eat a by-product, but to take a by-product and make it look like dog food greatly decreases the nutritional value.
Many pet food labels have ingredients listed that most people do not understand. Animal digest and soy bean mill run are two ingredients that can be confusing. The Association of American Feed Control Officials, or AAFCO regulates pet food ingredients and manufacturing and has a list of definitions for all approved pet food ingredients.
Nutritious Dog Foods
The most nutritious foods will have pet food labels that contain recognizable ingredients that you could purchase at the store. These all natural foods use high quality, whole food ingredients and have much less processing so your dog’s body doesn’t have to work as hard to get the nutrition he or she needs. While these food do tend to be more expensive than store brands, they have many benefits. Dogs eating all natural foods tend to need less food which will save you money. They also produce less waste. Some of them require fewer medications and many even shed less!
Preventive care of your dog begins with a healthy diet just like with humans. With a little research, you can easily interpret dog food labels to ensure you are purchasing the best product for your companion.