Food Facts

There are a lot of brands of dog food on the market.  Both the cost and the quality vary a great deal.  Complete dog foods with appropriate levels of protein and fat for your dog will also provide the proper balance of vitamins and minerals.  Ask breeders and veterinarians for recommendations.  Learn about the ingredients.  Read labels.  The ingredients are listed on the products in order of amount, most to least.

Protein

Protein sources in dog food include chicken meal, lamb meal, turkey meal, fish meal, chicken by-products, meat by-products, chicken, beef, turkey, pork, salmon, fish meal, corn, and soy.  Dogs with allergies to some protein sources may tolerate lamb, lamb meal, salmon, or fishmeal without an allergic reaction. 

The quality of protein sources is variable and some are more digestible than others.  Ingredients like chicken, turkey, beef, and lamb are highly digestible and provide your dog with a better quality protein than soy protein and corn.  Some dogs do not tolerate foods containing soy. 

Ingredients like chicken by-products, lamb by-products or beef by-products include muscle tissue and nutritious organs.  However, the by-products used in some foods may also contain large amounts of animal parts that have very little nutritional value.  Some inexpensive dog foods may contain poor quality animal by-products. 

Chicken, lamb, and turkey contain a lot of water that is lost during processing. The percentage of protein in these ingredients is low when compared to chicken meal, lamb meal, fish meal, and turkey meal. Both types provide good quality proteins.

Carbohydrates

Brown rice, brewers rice, rice, wheat, corn, barley, peas, garbanzo beans, and oatmeal are sources of carbohydrates.  These ingredients also contain some protein. Brewers yeast, corn, corn gluten, and wheat are controversial ingredients in dog food. I recommend avoiding dog food that contains these ingredients. Oatmeal, barley, quinoa, peas, brown rice, and sweet potatoes are higher quality ingredients. Ear infections, dry itchy skin and a poor coat may indicate a food allergy.  There are a number of good quality foods available for dogs that develop food allergies. (Discuss the alternatives with your veterinarian.)

Fats And Essential Fatty Acids

Animal fat, poultry fat and plant oils are sources of essential fatty acids.  Flaxseed oil is a good source of fatty acids.  Most premium foods provide adequate amount of dietary fats.  Some inexpensive foods may not provide optimum levels of essential fatty acids.

Preservatives

Preservatives like Ethoxyquin may be harmful to your dog.  Dog food can be safely preserved with natural ingredients like mixed tocopherols and vitamin C. 

Supplements

Some vitamin and mineral supplements may be harmful to your dog if you feed a complete dog food.  Most commercial dog foods already contain the proper balance of vitamins and minerals.  One can have too much of a good thing. High doses of fat-soluble vitamins can be dangerous.  Calcium supplements can be harmful to puppies.  Excess dietary calcium increase the risk of some orthopedic disorders such as hip dysplasia, OCD (osteochondritis dessicans) and panosteitis, especially in large breed puppies.  

Canine supplements that contain concentrated omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids help to maintain a healthy coat and skin.  High fat supplements are also high in calories and should be used sparingly.  Most premium dog foods contain adequate amounts of essential fatty acids.

Plain low fat yogurt contains beneficial bacteria.  The organisms in yogurt can be especially helpful when your dog is on antibiotics since these medications can alter the "good' bacteria in the intestines.  Most Labs will enjoy the addition of a tablespoons of yogurt to their food.  Supplements like Missing Link and Wellness Super 5 contain beneficial bacteria as well as essential fatty acids.  Some premium dog foods contain these beneficial bacteria. 

Supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin may help maintain healthy connective tissue and joints.  Some dog foods formulated for older dogs contain small amounts of these substances, but the amount is probably not be therapeutic.

Recommended Brands and Age/Active Appropriate Formulas

Brands that I recommend include Canidae, Eagle Pack, Earthborn, Fromm, Holistic Select, Natural Balance, Precise, Taste of the Wild, and Wellness. There are many other good quality dog food on the market. The Dog Food Advisor website rates dog food brands. The website also lists dog food recalls.

The nutritional needs of dogs change with age and activity level.  The ideal formula meets the energy needs of your dog and provide the proper balance between protein, fats, vitamins and minerals.  Maintaining a proper weight is very important to your dog's health. Determining the proper amount of these foods for growing puppies and less active seniors can be difficult. You should be able to feel your dog's rib cage, but not see it.

The ideal food for your puppy does not have to be marketed as a puppy food.  The appropriate formula for your older dog may not be labeled as a senior dog food. For puppies, I recommend a food with 25 to 28% protein and 15 to 18% fat. I feed my puppies Fromm Gold puppy food for 6 to 8 months. I give them Fromm Gold Large Breed puppy food until they are about 18 months old. 

For adult dogs, I recommend a good quality dog food withe 24 to 26% protein and 14 to 16% fat. I recommend a good quality food with 23 to 25% protein and 13 to 15% fat for seniors. 

High protein (28-32%), high fat (18-22%), high energy dog foods are appropriate for very active, hardworking dogs. These high calorie foods may contribute to excessive weight gain.  Overweight dogs and puppies are much more likely to develop joint disorders. 

Low protein (20%-22%), low fat (10%-12%) maintenance dog foods may be appropriate for some less active overweight adult dogs. These foods are  not appropriate for puppies and active adult dogs.  These foods may not provide dogs with adequate amounts of protein and fats if given for long periods of time.

BARF- Bones And Raw Food or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food

Some dog fanciers are very enthusiastic about the BARF diet. The goal is to provide your dog with the diet that Mother Nature intended.  Do your homework if you are interested in the raw food diet for dogs.  A proper balance of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and carbohydrates is important.  There are several companies that sell a frozen raw dog food product that contain balanced amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.  Many dog owners are very pleased with this diet and feel it is worth the extra time and effort.  Some veterinarian's do not recommend feeding dogs a raw meat diet.  Concerns include dangerous bacteria, nutrient deficiencies and damage to the bowel caused by bones.