Your new furry friend deserves the best of everything, including the best food. Unfortunately, not all dog food is created equal, and you might feel overwhelmed when you see the number of options available. Misleading marketing can make it difficult to sort out the truth about any given product, and food labels are never easy to read. However, with a few tips and your veterinarian’s advice, you can steer clear of the duds and find the perfect dog food for your pup.
Select “complete and balanced” dog foods
These magic words are not just catchy advertising; they are the official seal from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that a certain food contains the nutrients that dogs need. This is called the nutritional adequacy statement, and it can help you feel at ease that the food you are giving your puppy is well-rounded. The AAFCO upholds strict standards for pet foods, and its seal of approval is a good first step in evaluating a food for your dog.
Look for the age, weight and breed recommendations
Some dog owners mistakenly believe that their puppy is just a smaller version of an adult dog, but dogs need different nutrient formulations at different stages of their lives. Puppies, for instance, need a more calorie-dense diet to fuel their growing bodies. A quality dog food label will clearly state that it is suitable for puppies or for “all life stages.”
Avoid grain-free foods
Unless your pup has been officially diagnosed with a grain allergy, don’t fall for the hype of grain-free dog food. Dogs are not strict carnivores and thrive on a diet that includes meat, grains, fruits and vegetables. These ingredients are not “fillers,” they are essential to your puppy’s health and well-being. In fact, scientists are currently exploring an apparent link between grain-free diets and heart disease in some dog breeds.
Know the code words of nutritional labeling
The wording used to describe any given food can actually tell you how much of it is included in the formula. For example, simple words like “beef” or “chicken” indicate that the protein makes up 95% of the total product. Additional words like “dinner,” “platter,” “entree,” or “nuggets” are used when the protein comprises 25% of the total product. The word “with” is used to indicate that the ingredient comprises 3% of the formula. Finally, stay far away from products that only list beef or chicken “flavoring.” This means that only a trace amount is present. A trace amount of protein certainly is not enough for your growing pup!
Ask the pet food company about sourcing
Though quality control and sourcing information is not required on pet food labels, you can always call the pet food company and inquire. Speaking with a customer service representative about where ingredients are sourced from can really tell you a lot about a company’s reputability and openness. If the company has nothing to hide, they will be all too glad to tell you about the high-quality ingredients they use.
The food that you choose for your puppy can have a huge impact on their life. Selecting a high-quality food that is rich in nutrients can help your pup grow strong, avoid disease, and live a long and happy life. Though a low-quality food may be temptingly cheap, it may cost you more in the end through veterinarian’s bills and worry over your beloved pup. Armed with these tips and a little guidance from your trusted veterinarian, you are ready to pick a brand and formula that not only fits your budget but also fits your pup’s needs.