Most pet owners wonder what is the best dog food they can buy. Unfortunately, finding the good, healthy dog foods can be a challenge since the question really depends on a lot factors. With hundreds of different kinds of brands on the market, it can be hard for owners to compare reviews and ratings. Add in the fact that every breed of dog has its own nutritional needs and every family has their own budget, it’s impossible to say that one company or product is the absolute top-rated.
Nevertheless, what we can do is help you know what to look for when researching types of dog food. By comparing the ingredients, pros and cons, and health benefits of, for example, dry vs wet dog food, owners can make informed decisions. Here’s our guide to help you find high-quality dog food brands in America!
- 1 How Much Do Americans Spend On Their Dogs?
- 2 Basic Dog Food Facts & Statistics
- 3 What Dogs Need To Eat
- 4 Dog Food Ingredients
- 5 Bad Ingredients Lead To Poor Health
- 6 Good Dog Food Ingredients
- 7 Types of Dog Food
- 8 How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?
How Much Do Americans Spend On Their Dogs?
According to a 2017 APPA Pet Owners Survey, these are the basic annual expenses associated with dog ownership in the US:
- Surgical Vet Visits: $474
- Routine Check-ups: $257
- Food: $235
- Food Treats: $72
- Kennel Boarding: $322
- Vitamins: $58
- Grooming: $84
- Toys: $47
With most of these costs relating to a canine’s health, US households can save money by ensuring their dogs get the right nutrition from good dog food.
Basic Dog Food Facts & Statistics
In 2016, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 34.1% of dogs were overweight and 19.8% were obese! This means over 50% of dogs had or were at risk of developing obesity.
The dangers of canine obesity include:
- Reduced life expectancy and diminished quality of life
- Skin, respiratory, metabolic, and endocrine disorders
- Chronic inflammation
- Kidney dysfunction
- Cancer and diabetes
- Orthopedic disease
What we feed our dogs and how much of it we give them can seriously affect their health. Studies have shown that dogs consuming 25% less calories than average tend to live over 15% longer.
What Dogs Need To Eat
Before deciding on the best dog food for your breed, it’s important to know what dogs need to eat. Dog food can be narrowed down to three main nutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrates. The recommended amount of each depends on your dog’s breed, health, and activity level. However, understanding how nutrition can affect your pet’s body is crucial to picking the right diet, brands, products, etc.
Ultimately, feeding your dog a balanced diet means a healthy mix of quality ingredients that provide the following nutritional components.
Proteins are essential for puppies as well as older dogs. Like with humans, protein aids in cell, tissue, muscle, enzyme, hormone, and antibody development, growth, maintenance and repair. This is particularly critical for active breeds and growing dogs.
Oftentimes, the best source of protein is lean meat (animal-based sources), such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, and fish.
Fat is the largest, concentrated source of energy for canines – providing more than twice the energy of proteins and carbs. In addition to providing your dog fuel to be active, fats also help animals process and absorb nutrients from food as well as provide protection for internal organs.
While a high-fat diet may not be ideal for an older, less-active pet, fats are necessary for working dogs and ones with kidney disease.
Carbohydrates are vital for healthy dogs. Sources such as grains, beans, potatoes, fruits and vegetables offer energy, nutrients, and fiber that maintain your dog’s gut and intestinal health. Fiber keeps your dog’s digestive system strong, preventing constipation and diarrhea.
Water accounts for approximately 60% to 70% of an adult dog’s body weight. While food is always important, pets must also have access to fresh, clean water!
Dog Food Ingredients
To learn what’s in your pet’s food, you’ll need to check out the ingredients list. By law, companies are required to list all ingredients that are in your dog’s food in order by weight. Basically, this means that the ingredients list starts with the most used ingredient and ends with the least used. That’s why many dog owners prefer giving their pets food that start with premium ingredients like chicken or beef rather than corn meal.
However, that figure does include any water in the ingredient.
Meat vs Meat Meal
An ingredient listed as “chicken” means unprocessed chicken – just like the chicken breasts you’ll find in a store. On the other hand, chicken meal is processed chicken with all water and fat removed. Basically, the chicken is reduced into powder.
How an ingredient is labeled or phrased can tell you a lot about its contents.
- The term “beef” indicates that real beef must make up at least 70% of the product.
- The terms “beef dinner”, “beef platter” and “beef entrée” only require a beef composition of at least 10%.
- Moreover, “with beef” means only 3% of the ingredient is actually beef.
- And finally, “beef flavor” denotes that there is just enough beef to flavor the product, resulting in less than 3%.
Bad Ingredients Lead To Poor Health
Low-quality or bad ingredients can cause health issues for pets. Unfortunately, identifying poor nutrition sources, questionable quality, and cheap fillers can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Here are a few types of ingredients to watch out for as they can lead to poor health in dogs.
- Avoid dog foods that list ingredients as “poultry by-products” instead of “chicken meal”.
- Unnamed sources of protein can be dangerous for your pet to consume.
- For example, ingredients described as meat by-products are usually ground up, internal animal remains that dog food companies use as cheap substitutes for quality protein sources.
- Where possible, choose proteins meals.
- Avoid chemical preservatives used in low-quality dog food
- Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Propylene Glycol (PG)
- Studies have linked BHA and BHT to kidney damage and cancer.
- Ethoxyquin is an herbicide that causes a number of medical conditions, including liver, spleen, stomach and skin cancer, kidney and liver damage, immune deficiency syndrome, and blindness.
- Corn, Wheat, Soy, White Rice, Onions, Grapes, Garlic
Good Dog Food Ingredients
Here’s a breakdown of good dog food ingredients. However, it’s important to remember that there are always exceptions, and owners should consult with their pet’s vet concerning specific diet needs and recommendations.
- Whole Proteins – chicken, beef, fish, duck, liver, eggs, pork
- Whole Grains – oats, quinoa, brown rice
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Vitamin C and E
- Sweet Potatoes, Peas, Carrots, etc.
Types of Dog Food
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of dog food on the market. In addition to these kinds, there are brands and products that are specifically tailored to certain breeds and dogs will allergies.
Dry Dog Food
Also known as kibble, dry dog food is the most popular type of commercial pet food purchased in the United States. Affordable and with a long shelf-life, dry food options are plentiful and fully address your pet’s nutrition needs.
Manufactured to provide a balanced diet, kibble is ready-to-eat and comes in different sizes and types for specific dog breeds. However, many dry dog foods have fillers, processed ingredients, and preservatives so you’ll have to carefully review their ingredients.
Wet Dog Food
Wet food is often used as a meal supplement for dogs who need more water in their diets or have a tough time eating dry food. For example, it’s great for senior dogs or canines that have lost some teeth. In addition, wet food often contains fresher ingredients than dry food because it’s preserved through the canning process or refrigerated. That’s why dogs absolutely love it!
However, wet food is often more expensive than dry food and it doesn’t last as long once opened or in the fridge. This makes it less convenient than other options, especially if you’re planning on being gone for the day and won’t be able to come home to feed your dogs!
Grain-Free Dog Food
Grain-free dog food has become very popular in recent years. Although whole grains are acceptable, other grains are known to be common allergens for pets. Moreover, research shows that these ingredients, which are often used as dog food fillers, can actually slow down your canine’s immune and digestive systems. If you’re concerned with providing the best dog food for your pet, you’ll want to choose a product that is free of wheat, corn, soy or grains of any kind.
Ultimately, the best dog food depends on your dog’s age, stage of life, breed, special dietary needs, and allergies. While there isn’t one universal brand or product that is good for every canine, a little bit of research can help dog owners make informed decisions. Consult your veterinarian if you have to.
How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?
How much and how often you feed your dog is the other half of the equation. You can buy the best food, but serving too much of it can be unhealthy for your canine.
Puppies 6 months and younger should eat 3 to 4 times per day. After 6 months, pups can eat twice daily. And once pups become adults, owners can limit meals to one or two a day, depending on size, breed, and exercise or activity levels.
However, this doesn’t translate into a full cup at every meal. The amount really depends on the number of calories per serving (e.g. per cup). And dog treats should only make up about 5% to 10% of your dog’s daily diet.
According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), your canine’s average daily energy (Calorie) needs are as follows:
|Type of Dog||10 lbs||30 lbs||50 lbs||70 lbs||90 lbs|
|Adult Active Dogs||405||920||1355||1750||2100|
|Young Adult Active Dogs||435||995||1450||1875||2265|
|Older Active Dogs||325||745||1095||1410||1700|
Use this chart and the feeding guide on your food’s label to figure out how many cups to give your pet.
If you’re thinking of changing your dog’s food, be sure to always change their diet slowly. Swapping dog foods quickly can cause issues with your pet’s digestive system, so gradually introduce any new brands or products over a two-week period!