There are more choices in pet food than ever before. Where once dogs ate kibble or dined on table scraps, new options have flooded the market. Most stores not only carry wet and dry food, they also offer organic options and raw meat. With more choices comes more confusion. How should you decide which food is right for your dogs?
The first rule of thumb is that there is no one-size-fits-all for dog foods. Pet food brands make diets that are breed-specific, condition-specific and many other variables. Before you choose a diet for your dog, think about the following factors:
Your dog’s age. A dog has different needs as a puppy than she does as an elder, and many foods have nutrients that are age-specific.
Your dog’s weight. Foods can help your dogs gain muscle or weight or drop a few pounds.
Your dog’s health problems. Dogs with cancer, diabetes, allergies or other conditions may need specialized diets.
How much you can afford. Dog food isn’t cheap, but you should get the best you can afford.
Raw Dog Food
Raw diets are exploding in popularity because they come closest to the natural canine diet. Raw diets consist of raw meat blended with vegetables, fruits and bones. This is known as the B.A.R.F. Diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food). Raw food is believed to convey special benefits, like smaller stool, fewer allergy problems and higher energy level.
Raw foods are high in protein, low in carbohydrates in comparison to canned or dry food. On the negative side, there is a greater risk of food-borne illnesses like E. Coli and Salmonella for humans, plus the potential for an unbalanced diet for the dog. Ask your dog’s vet to recommend the safest raw brands for your pet.
Canned Dog Food
Canned food is among the most convenient pet food. It is usually higher in protein than kibble, with a lot fewer carbohydrates to slow your dog down. The moisture of canned food is also a benefit, because it helps keep the urinary tract healthy. Finicky canines prefer canned food, often because it is easier for them to digest. A drawback to canned food is that it goes bad after being opened if not refrigerated right away. Even then, open cans are only good for a few days.
Dry Dog Food
Despite the inroads made by canned and raw food, kibble is still a staple for many dog owners. Some believe that dry food is better for their dog’s teeth and gums, since it can help scrap tartar off their teeth. Dry food is also relatively inexpensive, and it can be left out for much longer than canned food. The most negative aspect of dry food is that they often contain ingredients that are not healthy, like artificial colors, flavors, by-products and grains. Be sure to read brand labels carefully. If you have questions, consult your local vet.
There are other resources for finding out the best food for your dog. Pet websites and forums ofter a wealth of information. Certain dog breeds do well on specific food, so if you own a purebred, breeders can also help you find what your dog will like best. Read labels before you purchase dog food. Brand websites should always contain information about what is in their food. If something seems “off” or information about an ingredient is incomplete, don’t buy the product. The same is true for products made overseas. If you purchase pet food from a discount store or outlet, it is probably fine, just make sure to check the packaging for expiration dates.
There are so man pet food options on the market that as long as you are conscientious, you will be able to find the food that is the perfect match for your dog.