Good nutrition is probably the most important contribution you can make to your dog’s good health. Providing a wholesome diet will help keep your dog at an optimal weight, give a strong immune system, and help hold off diseases associated with aging, such as diabetes and cancer. Plus avoiding chemical and toxins will ensure your friend’s optimal health for years to come. With so many choices available it is easy to become confused.
What’s the best food for your pet? In this area it is a general rule of thumb and the old adage “you get what you pay for”. You can’t expect to pay hamburger prices for fillet mignon. It’s the quality of ingredients that set the top quality food apart.
Any dog food that you choose should be deemed adequate on the basis of feeding trials for your dog’s stage of life. The criteria have been proposed by AAFCO in the United States and CVMA in Canada. These are not foolproof criteria but are the best options available.
The essential and minimal “complete and balanced” is regulated by the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO) a private advisory board whose members are from various government agencies. They have two tests; a food trail of feeding the food to only eight animals for 26 weeks monitoring their condition through-out and the second test is a chemical analysis in which the testing does not prove that the nutrients contained in these unregulated quality of ingredients can actually be absorbed by the body.
The feeding trials proposed by AAFCO are not ideal for many reasons. Typically, they include only a few animals and don’t take into consideration large breeds or very small breeds. There is also some concern that the trials don’t run long enough. For example, a growth feeding trial for puppies may end by four to five months of age, yet the pups continue to grow after this time. Also, the growth-related nutritional disturbances will probably not be detectable by this time
These trials are also relatively lax in their expectations. They consider a gestation/lactation trial successful if two-thirds of the females evaluated lose no more than 15 percent of their body weight by weaning. How about the one-third that lose even more? Ideally, females should return to their optimal weight by weaning if their nutritional status has been well maintained.
The claim that a pet food is 100% complete means that the food, even though it may have poor quality ingredients, meets AAFCO’s standards and it has accepted the food as a complete and balanced diet.
Even with these shortcomings, the AAFCO feeding trials are better than nothing and are far superior to relying on National Research Council (NRC) requirements alone. Click the links for more information on AAFCO and California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).
Now it’s up to the manufacturing company to produce a cute advertising campaign and a nutritious looking label that makes their food very appealing to the consumer to purchase. It is more economic and sexy for dog food companies to put their dollars into the marketing than into the quality of each individual ingredient. Don’t let pictures and adjectives on labels influence your selection; look at the ingredients list first, then research what each of those ingredients actually is.
Don’t try to compare dog foods on the basis of protein content. The percentage of protein in the diet is only a reflection of what is needed to supply essential amino acids. Additional protein only turns to fat or gets excreted in the urine. Don’t be fooled It is the quality of the protein provided, not the quantity, that makes the real difference in a dog food.
Pay attention to the ingredient list, even though it is hard to predict quality based on the terms used. For a canned product, there should be at least one animal-based protein source in the first two ingredients listed. For dry foods, an animal-based protein source should be one of the first three ingredients. This is a good clue as to how appropriately the diet has been formulated, because animal –based protein sources contain a better balance of essential amino acids. If meat or poultry meal is listed first on the label but the grains have been sub-categorized (e.g., cornmeal, kibbled corn, flaked corn), it is safe to assume that the manufacturer is trying to sell you a cereal-based diet but wants you to pay the price of a meat-based diet.
If vegetables or grains such as corn, wheat, rice, barley or soybeans are listed first on the ingredients list on the dog food bag, they may well be a source of protein, which you usually find in the lower economic brands of dog food.
Too much meat in the diet is not desirable, either. In dry dog foods, it is impossible to overload on meat because of the technological process involved. For canned foods, however, high meat content means low calcium. It also means that meat is providing most of the calories when a digestible carbohydrate would do a better and safer job. When canned foods contain a high percentage of meat, the companies must add calcium supplement to guard against calcium/phosphorus imbalance. Too high of a mineral concentration (ash) is also not good and probably implies that the ration contains a lot of bonemeal and poor-quality protein sources.
Buy commercial dog foods manufactured by a well-respected company that has contributed substantially to nutritional research in pets. These companies have the most to lose by distributing an inferior product because they have a reputation to protect. Fad diets and manufacturers will come and go, but the dog-food companies that intend to be around will be the ones most concerned with adequate nutrition.
- How to Select a Good Quality Dog Food
- Don’t compare food on the basis of protein content. It is the quality, not the quantity, of protein that counts.
- In a canned food, at least one of the first two products listed should be animal-based protein; one of the first three ingredients in a dry food.
- Select a food by a major company that has conducted substantial research into pet nutrition.
- Select foods that use higher quality ingredients.
- Select the correct formulated diet for your pet’s age.
- Learn how to read ingredient labels and guaranteed analysis labels.
Misty Pines carries three top quality diets; Nature’s Variety, Fromm and Chicken Soup for the Soul, which are providers of high quality foods in dry, canned and raw food diets. Puppies enrolled in the Misty Pines training program may receive a free 4lb bag of Fromm Heartland Gold puppy food and may bring in their empty bag as their coupon to receive another complimentary 4lb bag of food.
Start your puppy early on the road to health with quality diets found at Misty Pines.
Next month’s article: “Types of Dog Food.”