How To Choose The Right Dog Food

If you know what details to look for, the right questions to ask and who to ask them from, you can firmly choose the right food for your dog without worry.

A large part of your dog’s health is determined by the food that they eat and there are so many things to keep in mind when choosing the right food for your dog. While we can start with the basics:

  • Giving your dog lots of energy
  • Promoting a healthy digestive system
  • Ensuring they maintain a shiny and healthy coat

The fact is, it will be require both harmony and balance from a multitude of things to find the right fit… and the right food for your dog.

1. Ask Your Vet and Other Professionals For Advice

If there’s anyone who knows what’s best for you dog, it’s your vet. On your next appointment, take some time to question them about the specific food requirements of your dog.

If your pet needs dieting, they will tell you and also recommend a nutritional plan. If your pet is suffering from food-related allergies, they will be the ones running tests.

If your dog’s particular breed should stay away from certain foods or food ingredients, they can tell you.

The advice you get from your vet will lay the foundation and set you on the path of the knowledge with you must continue seeking. Don’t expect their advice to go into extensive detail either unless you ask the right questions.

Ask their opinions on dry or canned food, whole and raw food, including brand name suggestions. Try to probe them on specifics from nutritional value of ingredients and vitamins to how they relate to your dog or dogs’ breed.

2. Get More Advice from Dog Professionals and Dog Lovers

While your vet is a great source for advice, you can’t expect them to know about every type of food available or to keep up with all the new products coming to market. Their advice will be a firm foundation, but you will need more information to complete the full picture.

Building your wealth of knowledge will ensure you always have new questions to ask, not only from your vet, but all the dog lovers and professionals you meet along the way.

Seek out friendly, helpful staff who are both dog-lovers and dog owners themselves. You’ll probably find they’ve heavily researched the subject already and will happily share their findings with you.

Local Pet Stores

Be sure to ask them not only what products they recommend, but which ones they buy themselves, and why.

Boutique Pet Stores

If you’re looking to research more natural and whole foods for your dog, then visit a few boutique pet stores that carry a wide selection and start asking questions.

Ask them specifically, what products do they recommend for your dog and most importantly, why?

After getting advice from a few different stores, what similarities did you find in their advice?

Don’t just buy what they recommend, educate yourself about specific ingredients your dog should eat or stay away from and how to handle certain foods to keep them fresh.

Dog Professionals

Over time you’ll meet many professionals from dog trainers to groomers and breeders, and you should always take advantage to ask your questions. Take every chance you get to build upon your knowledge and how it relates to your dog.

Other Sources for Advice

Whether you meet more pet lovers at the store, or find them online or at the dog park. Ask them questions!

What to do they feed their dog? If the answer is just store-bought food, ask them about premium or natural food products they’ve thought of buying or come highly recommended.

3. Understand a Question’s Value Before You Ask It

The goal of asking for advice is not so you can simply follow it blindly to the cash register. If you can understand a person’s reasoning behind their recommendation, you can judge how it weighs into what’s important to you and your dog.

  • Do they only suggest a certain dog food because it’s cheap and their dog seems to like it?
  • Are they conscious of the ingredients or it’s preparation?
  • Have they noticed any positive changes in their dog since they switched brands?

Don’t just take advice for a quick purchase and be done with it. Make sure you ask the questions that are important to you and your dog.

Now that you know where to get advice from and the type of answers you should be looking be for, let’s factor into what should be added into your questions and why.

4. Always Factor in Your Dog’s Age

To make a truly informed decision you will need to check all the boxes and one of the first will be your dog’s age. The right food for your dog will change over time as they grow and shift through the cycle of life.

Puppies

Newborn puppies and dogs under one year of age will be in a constant state of growth. They require a unique blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and calories to help foster their development in adulthood. Their teeth will be newly formed and as such, they will not be able to properly chew hard and solid foods.

In the first few weeks, you might find your puppy to be rather lethargic as they grow into their bodies and most likely they be inquisitive about everything, including what goes into their mouth (healthy or not).

The chances are your puppy will sleep a lot and will not be very finicky, but you, very much need to be.

In the months that follow you’ll most likely find their energy level to be off the charts! As their teeth start to take shape, you’ll have to decide if want to move on solid or whole foods.

Their nutritional diet will also change to ensure they can keep up with the demands of the bodies and curious minds.

This is also a great time to jot down their eating tendencies, as the habits they learn early will be hard to break later.

Young Pups

While they may still look and act like puppies for years on end, you’ll notice their growth spurt decline as they move into their youth. Soon after, it will stop altogether. Sure, they might gain or lose weight, but their bone structure will stay roughly the same.

The energy levels of young pups might even rival those in their puppy stage, so you need to be conscious of their activity levels and match their feedings and diets accordingly.

Adulthood

Most of your dog’s life will be spent in adulthood and while their bodies may not change too much on outside, things will definitely be happening within.

You will need to find a unique blend of proteins, vitamins, and minerals to keep your adult dog both happy and full of energy.

Habits will form and finally set, and they will be a lot more conscious about what they eat. Their activity levels will also drop at some point and you must take notice when they do and adjust their feeding and diet accordingly.

Senior Doggies

As dogs’ age, their bodies lose the ability to maintain functionality to repair themselves and adapt to changes in the environment. If you haven’t already purchased pet insurance for your dog, this is the time to consider it.

Not only will your dog’s dietary needs change as they grow out of adulthood, their habits will too. Where they once had an endless supply of energy, the might now turn into the Nap King.

The calories and carbs they used to burn off with enthusiasm may now simply drop directly to their waistline.

If you’re still feeding your dog hard food, you might notice a lack of interest, which might indicate problems with their teeth. If feeding them wet food, you might notice their bowel movements to be less solidified.

There is no one-meal- fits-all here, and you will need to adjust your senior dog’s feeding habits according to how their bodies react to their diet.

5. Understand that Dogs come in Different Breeds, Shapes and Sizes

If you think every dog should eat the same thing, think again! Dogs are no different from people and in general, can’t reach optimum health eating the exact thing, day in, and day out for the rest of their lives.

Yes, all dogs will require a certain amount of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in their diet, but those numbers will vary greatly.

It’s not just a dog’s breed that determines their nutritional needs but their size, body composition, and activity level must also be factored in.

Bodies of Rottweilers and Bulldogs tend to be pure muscle, while other breeds may trend on the skinny or chubby side.

Muscular dogs will usually have faster metabolic rates and in certain cases, skinny dogs too. Some chubby dogs may gain weight easily, while others, it’s simply part of their charm.

If there’s anything to learn here, it’s that no two dogs are truly alike and you will need to cater to their diets accordingly. If you’re not careful about what they eat, this could later trigger conditions like allergies, arthritis, and diabetes.

No matter the size or the breed though, your dog should consume a balanced diet that promotes healthy skin and coat, bone development, immune and bodily functions.

If any of these are out whack, it might just be what you’re feeding them.

6. Note Your Dog’s Activity Level and Health

The foods your dog eats will play a huge role in their overall health and you must note any changes that may be caused by food intake and adjust according. Advice from your veterinarian here should hold a lot more weight than any other.

A dog’s fitness and activity level will also factor heavily into what they can and cannot eat. You shouldn’t expect a lazy dog to burn off carbohydrates and calories the same as an active one.

If your dog’s activity is one the decline, don’t hesitate to try new foods to see if it changes for the better, as it simply may something they’re eating that makes them feel tired.

7. Be Conscious of your Dog’s Size and Weight

Not all dogs will eat the same amount of food or even the same types of food. Just like us, each one will have their likes and dislikes and gorge accordingly.

Unlike people, dogs will not be conscious of their body. They will not look in the mirror and think they are fat and curb their eating habits accordingly.

In general, if you place a food they like in front of your dog, they will eat it!

You have to be the voice of reason here and be their guard against obesity. Your vet will also have their say about your dog’s ideal size and weight and you should follow their advice accordingly.

8. Price is NOT Everything

Don’t discount the fact that pricing will be the tipping point for many people when it comes to the food they purchase for their dogs. If it’s a factor for you, then raw and gourmet whole dog food is most likely out of the question.

What matters is that you make a conscious decision and don’t simply buy a product because the price tag wills you to.

  • Cheap will not always equate to a lack of quality
  • Expensive will not always mean it’s good for your dog

To find the best value, you should be either looking for something on sale or something that’s still reasonably priced. Before you purchase anything, however, you have to be sure of what you’re buying.

9. Get to Know Dog Food Labels and Ingredients

There are so many different brands of dog food out there, it’s impossible to know them all. If you want to know what’s inside and how good it is for your dog though, just read the labels, not the advertising.

While manufacturers will try to distract you with marketing gimmicks and beautiful, happy dog dogs on the packaging, you must train your mind to look what’s inside.

In North America dog food ingredients are listed in order by weight, starting with the heaviest first. If you want to know what’s mostly in the food, the first few ingredients are the key.

  • Parts – If you know what’s in a hot dog, then you know what parts truly means and that it’s not a synonym for nutritious. If you’re buying cheap, generic dog food, this is what generally in it.
  • Sodium – Is salt, plain and simple. If it’s high on the list, you’ll probably find your dog to be thirsty and dehydrated. If you’ve already noticed this being a problem, try lessening the sodium content of their food.
  • Grain – Think gluten. Some dogs have an allergic reaction to it, while others simply become lazy and lethargic. If this is your dog, look for a grain-free product.
  • Fats – Yup, it’s fat. If your dog doesn’t specifically need it, be sure it’s very far down the ingredient list.
  • Water – Simply put, wet food. If listed as a key ingredient, note that it will contain high amounts of moisture. While not a danger, be careful it’s not there just to fill up the packaging and make it like there’s more to it.

10. Deciding Between Canned and Dry Food

There are two determining factors here that you won’t find mentioned on any packaging. If you’re consciously aware of them, you’ll at least be able to note how they affect your final decision.

  • People normally buy dry food because it’s cheap and low maintenance
  • Canned (or wet) food goes bad quickly and is not recommended if leaving your dog indoors for extended periods.

Your veterinarian will also be a wonderful guide as to the type of food you should buy, but it will be up to you and your dog to make the final decision.

Dry Foods

When we say, this is low maintenance, we mean it. Pour in it a bowl, then let your dog devour it.

If they make a mess, it’s easy to clean up. If they leave it sitting there during the day, it will look and taste pretty much the same at night.

You can buy it in bulk, you can store it for long periods and if it has a rough texture, it’ll probably help with keeping your dog’s teeth marginally clean too.

This is the easy method and for most dogs, it will be all they need. Is it the best and healthiest choice? Probably not, but if you’re consciously reading the labels and purchasing accordingly, you’ll already know the goodness within.

Do note that dry food does not contain water, so you should always have a big and fresh bowl waiting nearby during feeding time.

You can also make the food a bit softer by letting it soak in a splash of water (great for older dogs with teeth problems) or top it with a bit of wet food to make it more palatable.

Canned Food

While not exactly high-maintenance, canned food does take a little more effort on your part. Be warned, it’s also messy and it smells.

You can’t let it sit there all day either. Once you open the can you should feed your dog right away. If you’re not giving them the entire can, seal it and put it in the fridge. Better yet, remove it from the can entirely before putting it in the fridge and ensure it’s well sealed (the less air, the better).

Don’t expect refrigerated can to keep long either, only open a new can if you plan on completely using it that day.

If you’re thinking wet food means water, you are correct.

Canned food is well-hydrated and it contained elevated water levels. In fact, you’ll probably notice that water is listed as one of the first few ingredients.

Once you open the can, you’ll find it comes with a very strong smell. Your dog’s nose will most likely perk up and start sniffing the air right away. Their elevated interest in the food’s scent can help make sure they clean their plate.

A downside to canned food is that they generally have fewer calories than dry food. Some experts also say that they lose vital nutrients over time, so be sure to look for expiry dates that are well into the future.

11. Going Raw or Gourmet Whole Food

If you’re going gourmet you can expect to pay a premium for it and as such, you want to make sure you know what you are paying for.

In two words, (think) people food.

The ingredients listed in premium dog food should be similar to that which you will find in natural or organic foods. If you’re going to buy something with cheaper unnatural ingredients, just make sure you’re aren’t paying extra for it.

Whole – This is the opposite of parts, and if it’s listed as a top ingredient, then it’s probably worthy of the gourmet label. If you don’t see it, then don’t pay extra for it.
Product – This is an upgrade on byproduct (a.k.a. parts) and is a noteworthy distinction that comes with a price tag.

Unless you’re shopping in a ritzy neighborhood, don’t be fooled into thinking you can find these products at your regular grocery store. Even big pet stores won’t always carry the best quality products.

Grocery and block-chain stores stock what sells — and cheap sells the most.

If you want to truly learn about gourmet pet foods, visit a few specialty boutique shops. They can provide you all the knowledge you need and may even give you a full lesson in understanding dog food ingredient labels.

These shops also tend to sell dog foods made from local produce, tended by people who care to make sure that all their ingredients are fresh.

Is the price tag associated with this loving attention? You betcha, but even if you can’t afford it, just knowing what good things to look for in cheaper brands will be worth your while.

If you ever wanted to know what foods you could make yourself for your dog, copying a few of these gourmet recipes is a good start.

12. Check for Package Freshness and Far Future Expiry Dates.

While you would think this a given, how many people have you actually seen looking at the expiry date on dog food, especially dry food?

Have you yourself, ever looked for an expiry date on dog food?
If not, it’s time to start!

Consume By Date

What you might think is a sell-by date is really a consume-by date and canned and dry dog food are meant to last a ridiculously long time. Think of it like buying soup or cookies, if it’s anywhere near expiring, you’ll put it down and find another.

If you’re not yet consciously aware that most stores put the oldest product in the front (within easy reach) and the newest in the back (out of reach), now you know.

This rule is Marketing 101 and applies to everything from bread to dairy, not just dog food. Lazy people don’t look and will usually take for granted that what’s in front of them is the freshest product… and they are usually very wrong!

Package Freshness

It’s also important to take notice of the food packing. Don’t lower your standards just because it’s dog food.

You wouldn’t buy a dented can of vegetables or anything with ripped, old or faded packaging for yourself, so don’t do your dog this disservice.

Quality is quality and if you are paying for it, you and your dog should expect it!

Continued Freshness

Don’t start to get sloppy when you bring the food home either. You surely know what happens when a cereal box stay is left open and moisture gets in, so always remember to seal the bag.

You know to keep your own canned goods in a cool and dry place, so give your dog’s food the same attention.

If you’ve already opened the can, transfer to an airtight container and keep it refrigerated, same as you would for yourself.

13. Be Aware of Possible Food Allergies and Digestive Problems

Trust your dog and your dog’s body to let you know if something you’re feeding them is not good for them.

If your dog is allergic or simply not well-suited to what you are feeding them, you will be able to see changes in their appearance or personality.

We are what we eat, is not just a saying that applies to humans.

Whether it be glossy eyes, sensitive teeth, unhealthy looking hair or skin it the effects will be noticeable. Negative signs like moodiness, loss of interest, constant scratching, or decreased activity can all be caused by unbalanced food intake, so be on the lookout.

As for signs from their bodily functions, it would hard not to notice differences when they go to the bathroom or when you see the food they’ve already eaten, suddenly re-appear on your carpet.

That’s not to say, an adjustment period might not be needed, but if their body continually rejects what you’re feeding them, it’s time for you to change their diet.

14. Continually Expand Your Food Knowledge

Don’t think by reading a few articles and some product ingredients that you are now an expert. Your knowledge will require refinement over time and it will take more a few trial-and-error runs for you to find the right food for your dog.

As your dog ages and their body changes, what you thought was right will turn to wrong. As long as you continually refine the process of choosing the right food your dog, you can easily adapt to whatever the future might hold.

15. Be Sure To Let Your Dog Partake in Every Decision

Don’t forget to include your dog and your dog’s health into your decision making, as they will be the most important factors in choosing the right food.

Look for Positive Reactions

These types of positive reactions will all also play a big role in choosing the right food as if you’ve truly found the perfect fit, your dog will let you know in many different ways.

  • Are they willing to eat what you serve them?
  • Are they enthusiastically enjoying mealtime?
  • Do they seem to have an extra bounce to their step or more overall energy?
  • Is their coat shinier? Are they looking and feeling healthier?
  • Are they happier and more playful?

The advice you get from everyone else will help in your decision-making, but in the end, the final decision should be your dogs’.

Remember, they are the ones who have to eat what you put in front of them and they will give you as many signs as they can to let you know when you’ve found the perfect balance of taste and nutrition.

16. Lastly, Don’t Be Afraid to Circle Back and Ask Again

Just because you asked advice before, it doesn’t mean you can’t ask again.

After you’ve learned about what’s specifically best for you dog, circle back to everyone you talked to before, so you can form a fresh opinion.

If you have done your research on choosing the right food for your dog, then you probably perceive yourself to be a fountain of knowledge. The problem with this is that will have formed certain opinions which you believe to be true.

Whether your newfound knowledge is correct or not, is up to debate. The only way to know for sure is to test it for feedback.

If you’re finding feedback on your opinions to come with negative reactions or warnings, take the good advice you’re being given and refine your opinions accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Lastly, ask yourself and your dog daily if you’re on the right track.

Your reflection and how it’s mirrored in your dog’s loving eyes will go a long way to keeping you on the right path.

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