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By Sarah Taylor

How to choose the best food for your dog

We all ask ourselves this question, “What kind of dog food is best for my dog?” There are all kinds of brands, and it’s important for us to treat our four-legged friends to the best just as we would do for ourselves. The best place to start would be to decide whether you need puppy, adult or senior brand of dog food. This will affect their health and growth more than you’d know.

There are three different stages to a dog’s life1. It’s important to give your dog the correct food that they require such as puppy, adult and senior formulas. This will help to ensure that they get the most out of their food to keep them healthy, energetic and living longer. Just like humans, dogs have their own personalities and maturity levels. So you’ll have to watch them and get to know your dog to give them the best.

Even dog food has a shelf life, and things such as oxygen, heat and light will affect how long your dogs food will last. Always check the Best Used By date on the product packaging. This will give you the best time frame to use. Dry and canned food have different life spans. Canned food is good for two years whereas dry food is only good for about one year. Check the preservatives on the label, as natural preservatives break down more quickly.

The best way to help prevent plaque and tartar build up is to give your dog some raw hide bones to chew on; chewing scrapes the plaque away which keeps it from hardening and turning into tartar. Dry dog food will not help this; so if not watched and taken care of it can lead to serious problems like irreversible periodontal disease. Make sure to pair the correct raw hide bones’ toughness with your dogs age.

Different dogs prefer different types of food. Some are picky and like only one brand of food where some have allergies2 to certain ingredients. It’s important to really keep an eye on how your dog is reacting to the food you give them. Puppies need lots of nutrients and vitamins so they can keep their energy up and help them grow since they have a fast metabolism. Adult dogs need nutrients to keep them moving and active as they’re starting to age. Seniors will need a lot of care because their metabolism slows down to where obesity may become something to watch along with plenty of exercise.

Always check the labels on your products packaging in order to know how much to give your dog. They may need more or less depending on age, health and lifestyle; best thing is to ask your veterinarian for a more accurate amount but there’s always online dog food calculators to use as a guideline. Food labels are guidelines to use; they’re also the most important thing you could look at when deciding on the right food. They all have a guaranteed analysis list to give the products nutritional contents. Labels saying, “dinner”, “entree”, etc, has to contain 25% of he named ingredients.

If the food’s a certain flavor such as chicken, it must contain 95% of that ingredient; if it’s a combination of ingredients then it must make up 95% of the food. Any specific ingredient added has to be 3% of that ingredient. Be careful of choosing foods with “flavoring”, as that only has to be a detectable ingredient. Ingredients are listed by weight, including water in the ingredients. This goes for picking out treats for your dog as well, same rules apply so check those labels!

Essentially, if you can pick out a healthy dog food that they’ll eat and that’s full of nutrients and vitamins and are getting enough calories (as needed) a day, then no additional vitamins are necessary unless said otherwise by your vet. They need lots of fiber and protein to keep bones strong and immune system up to stay healthy and energized. Be sure to factor in everything when deciding on calorie intake3.

The AACFO is strict and has detailed guidelines when it comes to what can and can’t be put into your pets food. There are no references to quality or grade when the companies are labeling the product. As long as the companies meet the minimum requirements then the food is processed and sold. Some brands only do minimum nutritional values but it’s a healthy and nutritional brand than it’s more than likely it’ll exceed their guidelines and will be worth the research for your dog.

Most pet food brands do pet feeding trials, which are used to see if they food is good enough to pass and make it to the shelf. Some pet trials only last for weeks so most people are unsure about the long term effects of the food they are feeding their pet; so that’s a reason to really research before you buy. A lot of good can come out of feeding trials which help to see if the product is worth buying.

1 Puppy, till 18 months; Adult, 12 months to 6 years; Seniors, 6 years and up.

2 Corn, wheat, soy, chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, dairy, eggs.

3 Pregnancy, trauma, medical conditions, age, activity level.

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