Thursday, April 11, 2013

What should I feed my dog? (Part 1)

The one question every dog professional is probably asked most often is; "What food is best for my dog?"

And the absolute truth is that there is no best dog food. There are best choices for a particular dog, but there's no "easy button" for finding your dog's best food.

It takes some research to find it - and a check list of your and your dog's requirements.

Some checklist items you should consider before you go shopping:

1. Cost. Some people can afford to give their dogs the finest, imported Kobe beef. Most of us can't and wouldn't even if we could. Set a realistic budget for feeding your dog each week/month.
How big is your dog and how much does she eat? If you have a small dog that eats less than a cup of dry food a day, maybe a more expensive brand of food that meets all of your other requirements is worth considering. If you have a massive dog that eats several cups of food a day, you may have to consider less expensive choices.

2. Convenience. There is a trend these days toward raw food and/or freshly prepared, homemade dog food. It may be wonderful if you can fit it into your schedule and freezer, but it may not be an option for those who, more often than we'd like to admit, settle for cereal for dinner because we just don't have the time or energy to cook after work.

3. Quality. Another recent trend is to include ingredients that are "in the news" as providing health benefits. Blueberries and cranberries and oatmeal and on and on and on may be great foods, but does your dog's food need to include them? I tend to believe that fewer ingredients is better, but that's probably because I've tried, more than once, to figure out which ingredient is triggering my dog's allergies.
Also pay attention to where the food is made, and how. We've all been frightened by the tainted, imported dog foods. And many smaller dog food companies in this country use common packing facilities to make and package their products. This is called "co-packing." It means that while one company's food may be perfect for your dog, another company's recipe may contain ingredients you don't want, and it was made on the same equipment. Something to consider.

4. Health and Allergies. Is your dog sensitive or allergic to some foods? I have one dog that can't eat chicken and/or turkey and I have to scour the dog food labels to find products that exclude "poultry by-products." 

So what do we feed our dogs? Between my sister and I we have five dogs and feed them four different foods - because there is no "right" food for all of them. One has allergies, one has kidney issues, one's a puppy, and two (thank goodness) are normal, healthy adult dogs.

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