Five things you need to check before buying dog food
Are you feeding your dog the right food? And what even is the right food? Discover the five things you need to check before buying dog food.
Before commercial dog food was made available in the mid 1800s, most dogs, even domesticated dogs, were carnivores. But since then, many different dog foods and brands have been introduced. There are dry, wet, raw, and even freeze-dried food options. And all of them promise to nourish your dog and keep them healthy.
But are you feeding your dog the food they really need? Here are the top five things to check before buying dog food.
1) Poor quality fillers
Unlike with human food, almost all dog food comes already prepared. Because of that, you can’t pick and choose the ingredients that work best for your pup. And surprisingly, there are many commercial foods that have poor quality fillers and ingredients that your dog would be better off avoiding.
First, what exactly is a “filler” anyway? A filler is a lower quality ingredient that a manufacturer uses to pad food in order to cut costs. These fillers are usually starches or high carbohydrate sources. Here are the fillers to cut back on, or avoid.
Corn is one of the top filler ingredients in dog food, simply because it’s affordable. And while corn does provide some nutritional value, it shouldn’t be one of the top ingredients in your dog’s food.
Corn isn’t harmful to most dogs, but it is considered high-calorie, and it ranks lower on the biological value of food for dogs (only rating 54 out of 100). Basically, corn isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either.
While some soy items, like edamame, are healthy for your dog in moderation, most commercial dog foods include highly processed soy as a filler.
There are a few benefits to your dog eating soy, including higher protein content and amino acids. However, soy and soy protein should never be a higher percentage (vs. meat) in your dog’s food.
Not only are many dogs allergic to wheat, but it’s also a common filler that isn’t necessarily needed in dog food. Of course, a completely grain-free diet has been linked to some health issues, but just like with other fillers, too much wheat can be a bad thing for your dog.
When it comes to wheat fillers and/or other grains, they should only make up about ¼ of your dog’s diet. If you believe your dog is allergic to wheat, consult your veterinarian and get them tested.
Sugars and sweeteners
Unlike corn, wheat, and soy, sugars and sweeteners have no place in your dog’s regular diet. While some dog treats have sugars (like carob or yogurt treats), your dog’s daily food shouldn’t include any.
Sugars and sweeteners can cause weight gain, tooth decay, diabetes, and even liver issues in your dog. If you must purchase a cheaper dog food that includes sugars, make sure they don’t make up more than two percent of the recipe.
2) Potential allergens
While fillers aren’t always the best options in dog food, allergens can be worse. Just like humans, dogs can have allergies too. However, their symptoms don’t always look the same as the symptoms of a human. When feeding your dog, it’s important to check for potential allergy symptoms.
A dog’s allergic reaction to food can look like:
- Flaky skin
- Hair loss
- Chronic ear infections
- Chronic foot infections
- Constant licking their fur
- Scooting their butt across the floor consistently
- Red eyes or eye discharge
- And more
If you suspect your dog may have an allergy, it’s important to take them to your veterinarian. They will be able to test for all allergies. And, they will provide you with what your dog is allergic to, so you can avoid it. Plus, they may be able to recommend a specific dog food that would work better for your pup.
So, what are some ingredients that your dog may be allergic to? Of course, this is not an extensive list, but here are some of the most common allergens:
Some dogs are also allergic to more than one ingredient, so an allergy test is the best way to find out what your dog may be allergic to. From there, you can search for foods that don’t include the ingredients they’re allergic to. And, it will also be important to find foods that offer enough protein (at least 35 percent of your dogs diet) if your dog has a specific protein allergy.
3) Ingredient impact
Do you consider yourself eco-conscious? Are you trying to reduce your eco-footprint? If so, something else you need to be aware of is the impact your dog’s food may have on the environment.
There are many practices that have been put into place in recent years for pet food companies to be more sustainable. However, some companies still use ingredients and practices that impact the environment negatively.
One example is dog food that uses beef (specifically prime or human grade) beef in their foods exclusively. Beef has one of the highest co2 emissions in the world.
Instead, look for dog food that uses chicken, lamb, or pork. Also, try to avoid dog foods that have other high-impact ingredients like sugar and palm oil. These ingredients have been known to cause environmental problems, and should be avoided as often as possible.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to look at the practices of the dog food manufacturer as well. Are they following proper quality control? Do they use packaging that can be recycled, composted, or reused? Do they cut costs in other areas (like shipping, packaging, and labor?) in order to make a profit? These practices could harm the environment, even if the food quality is better than other dog foods.
4) The supplier’s history
Do you know about the company that makes your dog’s food? Do you know if they work with reputable suppliers, or if they’ve had any recalls in their pet food? Depending on how a company is run, this could also affect the quality, ingredients, and benefits (or in this case, disadvantage) that their dog food provides.
To see if you’re feeding your dog a food that has been withdrawn or recalled, you can always look at the U.S. Food & Drug Administrations (FDA) website. They keep their list up to date on all of the withdrawals and recalls that have been made.
While recalls can happen, even if the food is usually completely safe, see if the food your dog eats has been recalled multiple times. This may be a sign that the food isn’t as great as it claims.
5) Your dog’s tastes
Finally, the last thing you need to check before buying dog food is if your dog likes the food. Yes, their health is important. And yes, you want to make sure the food you feed them is as high-quality as possible.
However, sometimes, no matter how healthy the food is, your dog just won’t like it. And that’s okay. Dog’s can be picky (just like humans) and they have their own taste buds, likes, and dislikes.
If you find that your dog doesn’t finish their food, or seems bored with it, try a new flavor. Or, try the wet food version for a feeding or two. If you’ve tried multiple food options, and your dog still won’t eat properly, or doesn’t seem to like it, talk to your vet. They may be able to recommend a food or homemade diet that will work best to get your dog to eat.
Make sure you check these five things before buying dog food
While commercial dog food has come a long way, some options are better than others. And, it’s important to take your dog’s specific taste, possible allergies, breed, size, and more in mind as well. However, this list of the five things to check before buying dog food is a great place to start when looking for dog food that would work better for your pup.
Photo by Karsten Winegeart