As if there aren’t enough decisions in life, how am I supposed to know what the best dry dog food is?
I was standing in the pet food aisle, blinded by dozens upon dozens of colorful bags, cans, and bins. Some looked pretty serious, as in: How could you dare not to feed your dog wild caught salmon from a stream in the Pacific Northwest?!”
Others are a little more well, vague and a lot cheaper. Maybe I’m weird, but I always feel a little guilty if I don’t buy “premium” dog food for our pup.
Am I a conscientious pet parent or a sucker for marketing? How am I supposed to know what the best dry dog food is?
You are probably like me. You want what’s best for your dog, BUT:
1. You don’t want to feel like a sucker for paying five times as much for dog food that is basically the same in a different package, and
2. You don’t want to get a phD in chemistry and animal nutrition to make sure your dog is being fed as healthy as possible.
On the one hand, I think how much difference can it make? This is the same dog who knocked over the garbage and ate a 4 week old bratwurst. How sensitive can her stomach really be?
On the other hand, I take seriously the commitment to our dog to keep her as healthy as possible.
Tough decisions! But never fear Good Doggies readers, we are here to wade through the muck and report back to you with quick and easy answers.
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This Guide will help you pick the best dry dog food for your dog without burying you in babble. So without further ado, let’s get to it!
I used to think dry dog food was better. Turns out that’s not necessarily true.
Dry food is more common, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better. Learn more about the differences of wet and dry dog food in this comprehensive dog food review.
The first step is to determine which type of dog food to buy. Do you need wet dog food or dry? Your dog’s nutritional needs will dictate where to start.
Wet dog food, according to Dog Food Advisor , in their post entitled “ Canned or Dried Dog Food—What’s the Better Choice? , state the nutritional superiority of wet dog food.
However, dry dog food does have an important place in a well-rounded diet for dogs that are able to chew it up.
The statistics do prove wet dog food to have more of the nutrients our dogs need. The Dog Food Advisor has a nice chart detailing the percentage differences between the two.
Take protein for instance. Dry dog food has between 18-32% and wet food typically has 28-50% protein ( Dog Food Advisor ).
The all important fat content also has quite a large gap, with dry dog food having 8-22% of fat, yet wet dog food has 20-32% fat content.
After reading those numbers, you may be saying to yourself, “I will never give my dog dry food again!”.
Or you may even be feeling kind of bad for feeding dry food to your dog, given the nutritional discrepancies. Don’t freak out just yet! Dry dog food still has a place in your dog’s diet.
If your dog has no problems chewing and digesting their food, dry food is a great way to give your pups some variety.
It also offers a convenient solution due to how long it takes for it to spoil. You can pour plenty in the bowl for them to graze on, or come back to whenever they feel like it and it will still be just fine.
Wet food is only good once opened for a small window of time, plus it may cost more.
Another way for your dogs to enjoy both is by mixing them together. Some dogs have a bit of diarrhea if they’re not used to wet food or they can become constipated if their food is too dry.
Mixing them is a great way for them to enjoy the benefits of both as a nice treat occasionally, or to transition from one type of food to another.
Wet food is ideal for dogs that have a hard time chewing, little appetite or have grown older and their noses don’t work as well.
The wet food is easier to digest and the smell is stronger, coaxing an uninterested dog into giving it a go. Choosing the right food for your dog can also depend on the size of your fuzzy ones.
Many dog foods have a formulation designed for different sizes and types of dogs. For example, most make a special food for small dogs.
This is basically making the food “bite size” so they can eat it a bit easier. My Dachshund and my German Shepherd can handle completely different types of food and toys due to their size differences.
You also need to consider the nutritional requirements of your breed. Smaller dogs need different amounts of nutrients than larger ones. The same goes for the foods aimed at senior dogs.
Let’s assume you’ve decided to go with the dry dog food for the convenience factor. How do you readthe label and make practical use of what it says?
The lists of ingredients and all of the percentages can be daunting. Let’s break down how to decipher the meaning of it all so you can make a good investment in your special pal.
Dog food labels are usually divided into two sections; guaranteed analysis and the ingredient list.
The guaranteed analysis is important because it lets you know how much crude protein and crude fats are in the food.
This where you realize you are not reading the label on a box of cereal for human consumption.
The crude ingredients are not listed as digestible sources, so it is crucial to determine how much of the food is digestible.
There is a formula (Math!) for figuring this out. Pet Education has simple enough formula for determining the moisture content that will help you to understand the guaranteed analysis information. petMD also has a fantastic slideshow breaking it all down for us laypeople.
As far as the ingredients list, the first few items listed are the most important.
Look for things like chicken, beef, fish, and lamb. These items have high levels of digestible protein.
Also be sure that a flavoring is not among the first ingredients. If a food has enough of the actual meat protein, they won’t need as many flavorings.
Dog food labels are regulated and there are specific rules for manufacturers to follow. The AAFCO ( Association of American Feed Control Officials ) provide the oversight into animal feed and labeling practices to ensure a safe and healthy product overall.
The premium brands of dog food have a hint of skepticism behind them. Many consider the “premium” label to be a marketing ploy in order to justify a certain price.
The best way to determine how premium a dog food is is to study the label and compare it to other labels.
Compare the General Analysis information as well as the ingredients list.
You want more protein and less crude ingredients. Premium brands will usually have a higher concentration of protein materials and moisture.
Another factor is how your dog digests the food. For whatever reason, a certain combination of ingredients may work better for others.
There is also a certain level of trust that goes along with buying dog food, due to the labeling. If you feel better about one company over anothe and that gives you peace of mind, that’s good. In that case, it’s a few extra dollars well spent.
Ultimately it comes down to personal choice and what you read on the label and know about the company.
As with anything you read here, you should always consult with your vet if you have health concerns with your dog.
You can ask also your vet what dry dog food he or she recommends. This is great because they will already be familiar with Your Dog.
If you don’t want to go to the vet, PetSafe has an article listing Vet recommended brands. They can help steer you towards better brands.
The main thing that makes any decision easier is a little bit of knowledge. Hopefully this guide has removed some of the mystery from buying dry dog food.
After deciding which type of food your dog needs, be sure to buy a high-quality brand so they don’t have digestive issues or food allergies.
Use your knowledge of your dog and the advice of your vet to add to this information and you should have a good idea of what the best dry dog food for your pup is.
Do you have a favorite dry dog food or a way that you choose? Leave a comment below!