Does the vast selection of dog food make your head spin? The sheer volume of choices can make sorting between good and not-so-good dog food particularly overwhelming. Choosing the right food for your four-legged friend is a crucial part of keeping him happy and healthy for as long as possible.
Identify the main ingredients in the food. Look at the ingredient list to determine what the first source of fat or oil is. Once you have identified the first source of fat or oil, that along with any ingredient(s) listed before it are considered the main ingredients of that particular food. Since different foods have different numbers of main ingredients, using the first source of fat or oil as an indicator will help you to properly narrow it down. The most important part of your dog’s diet should be protein as derived from quality meat ingredients.
Evaluate the quality of the main ingredients. Does the label list specific or generic meat products? Generic ingredients like meat, meat byproducts, poultry, poultry byproducts or fish do not indicate a species. Since generic ingredients generally suggest lower quality products, avoid choosing food that does not specifically indicate a species. Opt instead for dog food that lists specifically named meats like chicken, turkey, beef and lamb. While the highest quality ingredients do not include any animal byproducts, some dog food can include such ingredients and still be considered a good food as long as the byproducts are lesser rather than main ingredients.
Avoid dog food that lists corn as a first ingredient. This advice is particularly important if the food also contains corn gluten meal as a main ingredient but lacks a specifically identified meat protein. Be wary of any food that contains corn gluten or soy meal as main ingredients because some dogs cannot tolerate soy products. For dogs without sensitivity, small amounts of soy are acceptable, but the best dog foods only include organic soy, if any at all.
Learn more about dog food manufacturers. Identify the brands of dog food that you are seriously considering and then research each manufacturer to learn more about them and their reputation. Check manufacturers' websites and online consumer reviews about their products to determine which brands are most reliable and use the highest quality ingredients.
Conduct a personal feeding trial. Even the highest quality dog food is useless if your dog isn't willing to eat it. Choose a few different brands of foods that you determine to be of good quality and offer your dog a taste test to see which one he likes best.
- Consider your dog’s unique needs. If you have a puppy, opt for high quality foods designed specifically for a puppy’s nutritional needs. The same applies for senior dogs or dogs with special issues like allergies, medical conditions or sensitivities.
- If there are brands of food that your dog doesn't care for during the trial period, call your local animal shelter and ask if they'll accept donations of open dog food bags.
Kristina Barroso is a full-time teacher who has been freelance writing since 1991. She published her first book, a break-up survival guide, in 2007 and specializes in a variety of topics including, but not limited to, relationships and issues in education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Florida International University.