Pet owners can be overwhelmed by the sheer variety of dog food options. It can be difficult to choose the right dog food for your pet. Are you content to feed your dog kibble from a big-box brand? You should try Instagram’s trending raw food.
My research as a pet writer has led me to the veterinarians and pet food manufacturers, spending hours researching pet food. It is impossible to give a definitive opinion on the best dog food. Owner and veterinarian should decide what the best food is for their dog. I can offer advice on the qualities of healthy dog food, how to identify reliable brands, how to make pet food labels, how to report complaints about your pet’s food, and what fine print you should be aware of.
Highlights of og-food purchasing
Discuss your dog’s diet with your vet. Every dog is different.
A statement from AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) can be found here. This private organization provides nutritional standards, label regulations, and other guidelines to state and federal pet food regulators.
You can ensure your dog is getting the right nutrition for his age by feeding them the proper food.
Pet food labels don’t need to include marketing jargon like “organic” and “gourmet”.
Grain-free pet food does not have to be considered superior to traditional pet food. If your vet doesn’t recommend a grain-free diet, you can avoid having to pay an additional fee.
Although raw-food diets are inferior to those made from commercially prepared food, major veterinary organizations disapprove of them because of bacterial concerns. Home-made dog food is safer that commercially prepared food.
Dogs should eat 90% of their food. Treats can be added 10%.
These guidelines are a good starting point. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether your pet is getting the right amount of calories if they are on a low- or high-calorie diet.
We are the reason you should have faith in us
Wirecutter’s pet author. My research required me to cover complex topics such as dog DNA testing, pets insurance, and subscription boxes. Since I started my own blog on pet food years ago, I have a good understanding of this complicated subject. This guide was created from research on pet food manufacturers. I was also informed about the regulatory powers of AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Pet Food Institute held different views on dog food types. The World Small Animal Veterinary Association was also an option. I also considered independent reviews and research from PetMD, Veterinary Partner, and Whole Dog Journal. I also checked out the Petfoodology blog which is part the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center Tufts University. Dr. Jose Arce is the president of American Veterinary Medical Association; Danielle Bernal and Wellness Pet Company; Dr. Karen Fine, a holistic veterinarian, works at Central Animal Hospital in Leominster (Massachusetts). Parisa Fowles-Pazdro started Maxbone pet-supply shop. Dr. Darcia Kostiuk of Champion Petfoods. Rachel Beck is director of Banfield Pet Hospital’s Veterinary Technician Training Programs. American Kennel Club’s chief vet; Holly Reed and Chris Reed, who are the owners of Bayou, the Giant Schnauzer, that won the 2021 AKC National Championship. I also sought out 16 pet food manufacturers, from established brands to startups, to share their secrets on how they make their food and what quality control procedures are used.
Different kinds of dog food
My dog may eat whatever I put in his bowl, but it doesn’t provide him with proper nutrition. Dogs need more nutrients than what they get from food. The AAFCO establishes the nutritional requirements for commercially produced dog food. The AAFCO has issued a nutritional assessment statement certifying that dog food is safe and nutritious. While the AAFCO does not regulate, many states have adopted its guidelines. These guidelines were created with feed regulators as well as agriculture departments and the FDA. The FDA regulates ingredients and labels for pet food.
AAFCO classifies pet food according to their species, life stage, and type. It is crucial to feed your dog the right food for their age and breed to ensure they get the proper nutrition. Dog food that is high in calories and designed for active dogs can cause senior dogs to gain weight. Cats need different nutrients, so don’t feed them dog food.
Our dogs should have fun at meals! As long as your dog is eating healthy food, you can accommodate their preferences. When you feed your dog, be sure to watch them. Danielle Bernal is a veterinarian with 17 years’ experience who works for Wellness Pet Company. Danielle Bernal asked Danielle Bernal this question: “Are their happy?” It is important to think about the overall health and well-being of your pet when you are deciding what food you feed them.
These are the top dog foods.
Dry dog food is most popular. Dry food is easy to find, can be stored at room temperature, is inexpensive, and comes in large quantities.
Wet Food can be purchased in single cans or pouches. It is usually more expensive than kibble. It has 70% to 78% moisture, which can help keep your pet hydrated for longer.
Semi-moist food is usually packaged in ready to use pouches. It can be more expensive than kibble. It may also have more artificial colors, sodium, and sugar. It is similar to craft dough in that it can dry quickly and has crumbly texture.
raw food is a good option for pet owners, as they believe it to be less processed than other forms. It can be dried, frozen-dried or sold fresh.
Vegetarian prepared meals are popular among pet owners who are vegetarians. A veterinarian who is knowledgeable about nutrition can help you determine whether your dog is suitable to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The grainlessprepared foods are very popular. They use potatoes or legume flour (beans, lentils, or beans) to replace the wheat or oats found in pet food. Because dogs can’t digest complex carbohydrates like starchy vegetables and grains, these are popular options for pet owners. Dogs can digest them thanks to the enzymes they produce. Ryan Llera, VCA Animal Hospitals, can also easily digest complex carbs like grains. A pet owner might want to consider switching to a non-grain diet if they suspect their dog is allergic. Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2018 survey found that only 0.2% and 0.1% respectively of cats and dogs have food allergies. Certain ingredients, such as chicken, are more common in dogs. Grains are not common allergens for pets.
A pet owner may also buy toppers, treats, and mixins to supplement their dog’s food. These additional foods may have nutritional information or be included in a traditional can, but they are not intended to be the dog’s main food source. According to our experts, 90% should be their primary food source. The rest can be made up by treats.
Which dog food brand is the best?
None of the experts we spoke with were able tell us which pet food facilities in the United States are the best (PDF). Dog food company representatives were more likely to recommend their products than other people, as expected. Dr. Darcia Kostiuk from Champion Petfoods, senior vet (the company behind Acana and Orijen), admitted that there is no “gold standard” in pet food.
For a professional Dock-Diving Dog (video), the best thing may not be right for the dog sitting next to you. Dogs are just like humans. Dogs have different metabolisms, activities, and temperaments. Your veterinarian can help you choose the right product for your dog.
How to tell if a brand has good reputation
There are guidelines that vets have approved to help dog food buyers determine whether the manufacturers are reliable. While the AAFCO sets standards for dog food, it is the WSAVA that establishes international guidelines in key areas such as veterinary care and nutrition.
It is possible to check whether the dog food brand you are looking at buying is safe.
A trusted pet food company can provide information about several things. One example is whether they have a veterinarian nutritionist. This person creates the pet’s diet (e.g., a pet food formulator who has a degree in pet nutrition). They should also be able to tell if any nutrition research has been done or peer-reviewed products used.
To get an idea of the ease it took for pet owners to find this information, we posed as pet parents. We asked 16 pet food companies (PDF). Both straightforward answers and non-answerable questions were received. Nom Nom Nom Nom, Nom Nom Nom and Royal Canin provided direct answers to our questions, even though none of them gave clear answers. They often provided details about the processes and people involved in making pet food. Eukanuba, Iams and others were the biggest players in pet food. They did not respond to our email. Although it is possible to find answers to many WSAVA questions, it can sometimes be frustrating.
How to read a label on dogfood
It’s easy to lose yourself in the aisle of dog food and compare every aspect, from calories to serving sizes. Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Many states use the AAFCO-specific labeling language. Here’s how to decode labelling language based on FDA and AAFCO experts.
The most important part of a label is the “nutritional sufficient statement”.
This section is often called the “AAFCO Declaration” on the back label. It confirms that the food contains the right nutrition for your dog’s age. This section is essential and should not be given to your dog.
This section may not be on a product. The label might indicate that the dog food is intended for supplement feeding.
A statement by the AAFCO may not cover food that can only be obtained through prescription. Your vet may recommend a vegetarian diet to your dog in order to treat a medical condition. The AAFCO might not consider this food to be “completely balanced”. This section should be on all food products you buy over-the-counter for your dog’s primary food source.
The majority of the description is marketing jargon.
Rachel Beck, a Banfield Pet Hospital certified vet technician and director for Veterinary Technician Programs, stated that just because a food is called something fancy doesn’t necessarily mean it has better ingredients or is more quality. Banfield is owned by Mars Petcare, which includes brands like Eukanuba, Iams and Royal Canin.
Products labeled “premium”, “gourmet” or “high-end” don’t necessarily have to be made with higher-quality ingredients. They are also not subject to different standards.
“Organic” food labeling requirements for pets don’t exist. AAFCO defines natural as “natural”. The AAFCO defines “natural” as food that is free from artificial flavors and preservatives. Pet owners can choose to avoid these ingredients if they prefer to consume less processed food. Color additives are used to make food look more appealing to the eye.
A product must have a specific amount of an ingredient to be listed as an ingredient. There are some caveats.
AAFCO regulations govern how pet food ingredients can be listed in a product’s name. Multiple ingredients must be listed in the title, in ascending order, as in the ingredient lists. While certain percentages must be included in the name for ingredients to be listed, they can vary between 3% and 95%. It is important that you are familiar with the naming rules. Make sure to check the ingredients list. Don’t fall for the false impression that “Dog Food with Chicken” is a stuffed bird.
These are the most important rules to follow when training dogs.
The 95% rule: Dog food called “Ingredients” should contain at least 95% of the listed ingredients. These products are “very few ingredients” due to high amounts of named ingredients. Dog owners might appreciate this simplicity. Named ingredients must not exceed 95%. This does not include any additional water required for processing. If you add the water to the product, the ingredient will make up 70% of the total. Beef and liver must be the first ingredients in a product called Beef & Liver Dog Food. They should comprise 95%.
The 25% rule, or “dinner rule”, A dog food with the title “dinner” can only contain 25%.
This applies to all product names that include the terms “dinner”, or “entree”, or “formula”, as well as “platter” and “nuggets”, or “nuggets.” Multiple ingredients must be listed in a product name to make up 25%. Each ingredient can be as low as 3%! Beef ‘nLiver formula dog food might contain only 3% liver and 22% of meat.
They must make up 25% of the food. Therefore, the ingredients listed in product names may not be the same as the main ingredients. Eukanuba chicken rice & vegetables adult dog food might have three main ingredients. Water, chicken, chicken liver, pork liver and water are the first ingredients.
This “dinner rule” allows for hiding ingredients. You should carefully review the ingredients list to make sure your dog doesn’t get allergic to it.
The “with Rule” or the 3% rule: Any dog food title that includes the word “with”, must contain at least 3% of the name ingredient. Dog Food with Chicken will likely contain very little chicken. Purina Dog Chow Complete Adult Dry Dog Food with Real Chicken has large amounts cooked chicken on its package. It actually contains far less chicken than people believe. The sixth and seventh ingredients are chicken byproduct and poultry, respectively.
It is not necessary to include “guaranteed analysis” in the section.
The “guaranteed analysis” is used to determine the amount of protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. It does not guarantee the minimum and maximum amounts, however, Lisa M. Freeman, Petfoodology veterinarian, states. It is not a way to compare pet food, or evaluate the nutritional content of individual foods.
It is better to ask your veterinarian if your dog needs more moisture. Comparing numbers is easier if you ask the manufacturer about the “average” or “typical” nutrient percentages. To ensure consistency, a good pet food company will employ nutritionists and use quality control measures.
Don’t be alarmed if your dog food contains unappetizing ingredients. Even though they might not be appealing to us, we can trust our pets with the safe meals and by-products in dog food.
These are some facts you might not know about ingredients.
Meat byproducts, meal “Meat Byproduct” can include mammal organs, bone and fatty tissue. With some exceptions, “Meat meal” could be any mammal tissue. This can be made into a powder for pets or as a meal. FDA states that “meatmeal” may have more minerals than other human grade or visually appealing cuts of meat. Beck of Banfield Pet Hospital stated that meat and bone meals contain concentrated essential amino acid, calcium and phosphorus that can help dogs have strong bones and muscles.
Vegetable fat These ingredients add flavor, energy, and nutrients to pet food such as omega-3 and six fatty acids.
You can feed your pet food wheat, barley, wheat or corn. These foods provide energy, carbohydrate and fiber. Gums made of seeds and plants help keep food in good shape.
Preservatives Thickeners, preservatives and preservatives
Names that sound chemical should be FDA-approved.
Your pet should consume 90% of its primary food source. Treats can make up the remaining 10%. Packaging and pet are both factors that can impact the food your dog should consume to stay healthy. First, read the label. You may find different sizes for different brands.
You should also make sure that you measure what food your dog eats. It can cause pet obesity if you don’t measure it. American Kennel Club’s chief vet officer Dr. Jerry Klein said this. Your veterinarian will be able to give you more specific advice depending on your dog’s activity level, breed, size and age. Your veterinarian will also evaluate your pet’s weight to determine if it is too or too small. You can use the American Veterinary Medical Association’s body structure chart to determine if your dog has a good health.
Is grain-free dog food bad for dogs?
Talk to your veterinarian about the health effects of grain-free dog food.
In 2018, the FDA began an investigation to determine if there was a link between pet foods that were grain-free and Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). The FDA reported that the number of DCM cases increased by up to 500% between January 1, 2018, and April 30, 2019. This is a significant increase compared to previous years. 91% of dry food-feeding dogs and cats ate grain-free diets. FDA has yet to confirm any link between diets and DCM cases. According to a July 2021 FDA report, they are still investigating possible connections between these diets and cases of DCM that is not hereditary.
Independent research has shown that grain-free diets can lead to some health problems. There were seven peer-reviewed studies on this disease as of September 2021. Petfoodology’s Lisa M. Freeman said. Retrospective studies that date back to 2021 showed that dogs with DCM had smaller hearts and lived longer when they switched to a diet that included grains, whether it was non-traditional, traditional or commercially available. This is unusual for DCM hereditary. A small-scale study on DCM dogs published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 2021 found that dogs who ate a grain-free diet had higher levels of troponin, a protein that indicates damage to the heart muscle.
But what about raw-food diets?
Raw-food advocates prefer traditional dog food to raw-food. Raw food is easier to digest and less processed for pets. The FDA and CDC have deemed raw meat-based diets unsafe. They can be contaminated or have nutritional concerns.
Over 30 essential nutrients were identified by the National Academy of Sciences for dogs. Raw pet food, particularly if made at home, might not be sufficient to provide the required nutrition. Although some animals may be comfortable with raw food, there are many organizations that do not support raw meat-based diets. The American Animal Hospital Association and American Veterinary Medical Association4 are some of these organizations. These organizations point out the high risks of contamination and poor nutrition of home-prepared pet food. It is not clear that raw-food-based pet foods (including commercial meals) have any health benefits over traditional pet food. The Pet Food Institute is made up of both dry- and wet food producers. This article draws a moderate line. This article discusses safety concerns and studies that point out the dangers of raw-food diets. It recommends speaking to your veterinarian.
Experts in vet nutrition said that there is no peer reviewed evidence that raw food is better than other pet foods. Wirecutter discovered that studies claiming raw food diets are beneficial were outnumbered by studies claiming that they pose a risk to the health of pets and people who eat them.
International Journal of Food Microbiology published a 2021 study that suggested that raw-food pet food may be at risk from antibiotic resistance. These foods are not cooked to kill bacteria. The researchers examined 25 brands of pet food and found that 14 types of raw dog food had multidrug-resistant pathogens. 13 out of 34 pet foods, including semi-moist and dry, contained pathogens. Only two of the pathogens in question were multidrug-resistant. AKC notes that healthy dogs won’t get sick from eating foods containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria. They could spread the bacteria to their pets.
What about recalls on pet food?
It’s important to keep an eye on recalls for pet food in order to ensure your pet’s health. Although recalls can be extremely concerning, you don’t have to ban a brand you trust based on one report. I have been following recall reports for the past 10 years and have seen recalls affect both small and large conglomerates. These recalls can include salmonella contamination, high mineral levels, and infractions of compliance guidelines. If your brand is recalled, don’t panic. To get a refund, you can stop feeding your dog the food and return the product to the store or manufacturer. To ensure food safety, check the FDA’s past recall history. If your pet’s food has not been recalled but is causing digestive problems or kibble mold, you can file a complaint with the FDA.