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We are often asked what food we feed our dogs so I thought I would comment on this. Please note: I am not a nutritionist. I just try to read as much reliable information as possible, talk to experts, research and research and do more research.
Several years ago, I decided to seriously research the subject of dog food. During the research I discovered many things and we made changes in the food we were using immediately. Following are some of the important issues I discovered:
First of all, you must consider if your dog already has any particular problems. You must take into consideration not all dog foods are good for all dogs. You, yourself must do the research to find out what ingredients might help–or hurt–a particular condition that your dog might have. Your dog may already have an allergy to wheat or chicken, for example, so you would obviously not feed them anything with wheat or chicken in it. Second, you must consider what you can consistently afford and what is consistently obtainable. The best food in the world is not going to help your dog if you can not afford it or you can not find it! Third, the activity level of your dog. Very active dogs obviously will need more protein and calories than a dog that lies on the couch or in a kennel all day. We adjust the protein/caloric levels according to the time of year and activity levels of our setters.
So, let us assume that you have a puppy or a perfectly healthy dog and you just want to be sure it stays healthy. So, what should you look for? The first five to ten ingredients listed on the bag are the most important. Ingredients are listed in order of content (the most of something first, the least of something last). The first ingredient should be a meat product. If the first ingredient is corn, please move on to something else.
Corn-based dog foods are not the best choices we can make. If you look at the list of ingredients in your dog’s food and the first one is “ground yellow corn” or anything “corn” for that matter, you seriously need to realize what this means. Corn is used as a cheap filler. It basically has no (good) nutritional content for your dog, it can be difficult to digest and cause allergies, skin problems, and it is even linked to behavioral problems. Corn is only 54% digestible. Dog food companies defend their use of corn saying it is a good carbohydrate source. The problem with that is that a dog can not metabolize corn very well and this causes dramatic energy spurts, lack of attention, aggression, poor coat, shedding, and the like. Look into this yourself, please! A corn-based dog food is very bad for your dog. I would venture to say to avoid all dog foods with anything “corn” in them. You will see it listed as corn gluten, corn meal, etc. Don’t just take my word for it, please—do an Internet search for “is corn-based dog food bad?”
Other considerations of the contents listed are the uses of meat by-products (not good, and the food you choose should contain none), preservatives (you want a food that uses natural preservatives such as Vitamin C or E), generic fats and proteins, artificial colors, artificial flavor and other additives. I could go on and on here, but I feel it is just best to just mention one of the most important things I have discovered and stir up the subject by mentioning it here and encourage you to do your own research. Here is a good source of ingredients that are “bad.”
Following is a list of some popular brands of natural diets. More and more are being introduced, so this is not complete, these are just a few to get you started:
- Blue Buffalo
- Diamond Naturals
- Diamond Chicken Soup
- Diamond Taste of the Wild
- Eagle Pack
- Solid Gold
These are just a few and you will find that many new brands have recently appeared on the market. It is highly doubtful you will find a good, natural dog food at the supermarket, so honestly don’t bother. You will need to shop your local farm supply, Agway, or Pet supply store. You might even need to order what you want on-line or see if your shop will order it for you. We are very fortunate to have a “dog food guy” that orders for us in bulk every two weeks, as well as an excellent resource in our local Agway and Tractor Supply.
The bottom line is to do your homework. There are some very good resources on the Internet. Learn about the ingredients. For instance, just because the bag says it is a meat-based food doesn’t mean you should buy that. What kind of meat is it? Where did it come from? Is it a whole fresh meat or single source (chicken (good) or poultry (not good)) and is it one of the first two ingredients? Other good things that should be included in the food are vegetables. Dogs love fruits and vegetables and they are good for them. Our dogs love raw carrots, green beans, broccoli, strawberries, raspberries, etc. (they eat the berries from our yard before we can get them and if they could get into the garden, I don’t think we would have a single sweet pepper or tomato left!). Think about what a dog would eat in the wild–aside from the fact that it wouldn’t be eating processed dog food at all–they would be eating meat, vegetables, and fruits, grasses, etc., but I highly doubt you would see a pack of dogs raiding a corn field.
You have to learn about the ingredients used in the dog food, how they are processed and how they are preserved. Studies have shown that a dog actually does better (in the wild) on raw foods, raw meats, etc. So, feeding them the processed crap available today really does not compare to what would be optimal in the wild. And unless you really know what you are doing, feeding a raw food diet to your dog is not recommended, either unless you are really able to do the research and monitor the nutritional needs of your dog. Much progress has been made in this area just recently, so it is not out of the question anymore.
We really must do our best to find the best food we can. In the past few years, more and more dog food companies are moving toward grain-free, byproduct free foods and there are many excellent choices available. There is really no excuse not to be feeding your dog a good, healthy kibble these days.
Also, please don’t just put your dog or puppy on a particular food because someone recommended it. You need to know why and what is in it. Not because a breeder recommends it or has a particular dog food logo on their Web site. Do your own homework and become knowledgeable about what you are–or are intending on–feeding your dog or puppy, then go out and purchase the best food you can consistently afford to feed. I am sure you agree that we are what we eat and this applies to our dogs, also. Feeding the best food we can afford will save money in the end with less visits to the vet for skin problems, kidney problems, arthritis, ear problems, abnormal growth problems, etc., which are all linked mostly to nutrition sources and some breeds are more prone to these conditions than other breeds. It is a good idea to research your breed history. Good nutrition will lengthen the life and quality of life of your dog. Also, feeding your dog a better quality dog food requires less of it to be fed. It may cost more per pound, but you will not need to buy it as often or feed as much of the crap you were buying before.
Also, I should mention, don’t just switch your dog’s food all at once. You should do this gradually over at least a week–and sometimes longer for a dog with a sensitive stomach. It also seems more difficult to switch a dog that has been on a corn-based food. Believe me, dog’s love the corn-based food. It’s like candy to children. So, be prepared for the switch to take longer and be patient, but don’t give in (unless, of course, the new food is making your dog sick with vomiting).
I have also been told that it is also a good idea to switch between different flavors, if your brand has different flavors available. Supposedly, a dog (of any breed), just like people, can develop allergies to anything and switching the sources helps to ensure they do not develop an allergy. I should also mention at this point that I strongly feel a dry kibble is the best–not canned food.
I recently discovered a very informative Web site that reviews dog food: dogfoodanalysis.com. I feel it does a very good job of rating dog foods and gives the reasons behind the ratings.
Please, take the time to do a little research, learn about the ingredients in dog foods, and buy the best kibble you can afford!.