Every pet owner wants the best for their dog, especially when it comes to food and no one wants to feed their dog something that will damage their health. With all of the dog food brands out there claiming to offer the best in balanced nutrition, it can be hard to tell who’s really telling the truth. Does the food need to have a “natural” or “organic” label? Does it need to include special ingredients or will regular commercial dog food fit the bill? Let’s take a look at the methods you need to use to choose the right food for your pet.

The health benefits of popular foods

Don’t Skimp On Quality
It can be pretty tempting to choose the cheapest dog food on the market. After all, to the human eye, all that kibble looks pretty much the same. And we know that dogs don’t really care about color or shape. So, why shouldn’t you pick the cheap food? It’s not really a savings in the long run. Inexpensive dog food manufacturers tend to use a higher percentage of fillers – grains and animal by products instead of meat Bottled and jarred packaged goods. This means that your dogs aren’t really getting as much nutrition per volume. They’ll eat more, and are more likely to become fat, since fillers offer calories, but not the same nutritive content. Plus, a poor quality diet can lead to health problems down the line – and we all know how costly it can be to take your dog to the vet.

Identifying Quality Food
So, we know that you need to look for a high quality dog food that offers the nutrition your pet needs without a lot of problematic fillers. But how do you find out which foods are really the best? There’s more to it than just buying the most expensive food, or picking a package that claims to be recommended by vets. There are few certifications or rating boards out there for pet food. That means you need to look past the marketing and decide for yourself based on ingredients and production methods.

What To Avoid
Fortunately, there are a few easy rules of thumb you can use to determine the quality of a food. For instance, all ingredients listed as “by-products” decrease the quality of a food. So do ingredients that don’t have a specific source. “Meat” or “poultry” meals are lower quality pet food ingredients than named sources like turkey, chicken, beef or lamb. Generic stocks and broths are also indicators that the ingredients might be low in quality in this food. Preservatives can decrease the quality of a food, as well, and can cause allergic reactions in some dogs. BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin are the most common ones used in dog foods. Artificial colors can have similar problems, and should usually be avoided.

Next, take a look at the percentage of a particular ingredient. There’s no law that says a pet food company has to list exact ingredient quantities, but they have to be listed in order from most to least, just like human food. The top five ingredients are where we want to look. The first three should include two or more named meats, not meat meal. Ideally, unless you’re buying a food for allergic dogs, lamb shouldn’t be the only protein source, either. Beef is also not a preferred protein source, but shouldn’t rule out a dog food. Added animal fats, other than fish oil, aren’t ideal, either.

The first five ingredients may include grains, but they should be specific grains, and the same one shouldn’t be used twice in the first five. So, while “brown rice flour” is an acceptable ingredient, it loses points if it appears along side “brewer’s rice” in the top five. Corn, either ground or whole grain, is usually a cheaper and lower quality grain than wheat, barley, or rice, and is less desirable. Wheat and soy are less good, unless you already know your dog isn’t allergic to them. Extra salt should not be added, but doesn’t rule out a food completely.

What To Look For In A Dog Food Brand
If these are the things you need to avoid in a dog food, what should you be on the lookout for? Organic meat sources are a plus, though regulation of what’s considered organic in pet food is fairly loose. Foods that have been endorsed by breed groups or pet nutritionists are often a plus, as are foods that are baked, rather than extruded. Dog food containing vegetables (rather than grain sources) and fruit is preferable to food that’s mostly corn or other cheap grains. Ideally, animal sources should be hormone free and free of unnecessary antibiotics, and vegetables should be organic or pesticide free.

Barley is considered a better grain choice than others, as is oats. Flax seed oil and sunflower oil are also good things to see in your dog’s food. Specific animal protein sources (chicken rather than poultry) are good, too. However, remember that “chicken” is the same as “chicken meal”, though “chicken” would be different from “lamb”. Glucosamine and chondroitin are desirable additives, as well.

When it comes to your dog’s food, don’t rely on someone else to tell you what to get. Take the time to look through the ingredients and see what pet food is really made of. Only by being an informed consumer can you get top quality pet food and keep your dog in great condition for years to come. Good food is what it takes to get a happy, healthy pet. Make sure you put in the effort to find it.

A few months ago I left the business world to pursue my passion of working with animals while trying to improve my health. To do this, I am using my 20+ years experience as a dog breeder and pet owner. I also worked for a well known veterinarian and national vet supply company for several years. I have a B.S. In Agriculture with an emphasis in Animal Science and Ag Business. I want to be clear that in no way does any of this qualify me to be an expert. I am only sharing my experiences as informational material only. You should always consult your veterinarian before making any health choices for your pet. Please click here [http://www.love-your-dog-food.com] if you are interested in the details of how choosing the right dog food brand can truly make your dog happy and healthy.