Your dog has nutritional needs that are distinct from human requirements. Pet food brands often use terms like “natural” and “holistic” to appeal to dog owners who would like to believe that their pets are getting the best food possible. It’s essential that pet parents realize that those are simply just marketing terms!
Since all dry and wet packaged food are processed, it’s impossible to purchase food that is completely natural or organic. A good alternative to manufactured dog food is home-made meals, where you can control the ingredients and quality of the food. But since a large number of pet owners depend on dry packaged food for their dog’s nutritional needs, it’s important to understand the true components of your dog’s food.
When you examine the back of a dog food packet, ingredients are listed by weight along with their respective percentages. If you know how to read this chart, it’ll give you a fair idea of what is going into the food your pet is eating, and how you can find the best brands available. Without further ado, let’s get going!
The first and primary ingredient is animal protein.
The source of protein may either be chicken, venison, beef, pork, or rabbit. This is usually listed in two ways: fresh meat and meat meal. Owners should always examine the list carefully to ensure that the fresh meat is mentioned by name. For instance, a brand that declares its primary ingredient as “chicken meat” is far more trustworthy than one that just list as “meat.” The meat meal is constituted of ground up animal by-products, which are parts not used for human consumption, such as the heart, liver, feet, etc. There is nothing wrong with by-products, but ideally the packet should be clear about which animal the “meal” comes from.
The next ingredient is carbohydrates, which can be derived from grains and vegetables.
Grains should be a smaller part of the dog food’s composition than the animal protein. Rice, soy, wheat, oats, and corn are all used to help with the dog’s digestion, while providing a source of carbohydrates as well as certain types of proteins. It’s preferable if the product uses brown rice, rather than corn or soy, since the latter can be used as a filler of no nutritional value.
While vegetables are a good source of energy, they should be listed much lower on the ingredient chart. Owners have to understand that their canine charges require a higher proportion of animal proteins than humans do, and cannot maintain a healthy diet on vegetables alone. Instead, a certain amount of vegetables in your dog’s food provides fiber, omega 6, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Fruits are also a good source of fiber, but should be listed low on the chart. These are minor ingredients meant to accentuate the digestibility of the food.
Fat is good for your dog.
This is an ingredient that most dog owners are wary of. However, any balanced diet requires a certain amount of fat content to be well-balanced. Aside from helping to improve your dog’s coat and giving it a shine, it also adds taste to the food. Avoid dog food that lists just “animal fat” instead of a named poultry fat. A generic, unnamed fat can easily mean that cooking oil has been included in the food. Do look out for Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids – they are present only in especially high quality dog food.
One thing to note, these ingredients may lose important nutrients during the process of manufacturing, which is why mineral and vitamin supplements are added to the food to give your dog a well rounded meal.
Preservatives are inevitable in packaged food, since manufacturers want their products to have long shelf lives. Preservatives help maintain the taste and quality of the food over time. Artificial preservatives are the norm in standard dog food, but more discerning owners can purchase more expensive brands that only use natural preservatives. Some brands use coloring, while others avoid it. The color of the food do not hold any benefits to your dog, so just like using appealing marketing terms, manufacturers color their products to make it look more appetizing or healthy to the owners. It’s best to do your research and find the brands that avoid using artificial coloring in dog food.
If you feed home-cooked meal, you should still follow the nutritional content of these products. Here is a tip: Include a protein-rich meat in your recipe, augment it with natural sources for carbohydrates and fibers, and ensure that your dog is getting sufficient omega 3 and 6 fatty acids!
Avoid harmful ingredients such as sweeteners, salt, or onions, since they are harmful for your dog, but use turmeric for a natural digestive aid. Ultimately, a balanced diet is key to a long, healthy life for your pet, and for that it’s worth spending some time to find the right ingredients to suit your dog’s nutritional needs!