My wife, Julie and I,  recently changed our diets to gluten free and I have noticed I’m feeling better.  About 6 weeks ago we changed our dog food to a grain free diet as well.  Low and behold our dogs are less gassy!  I researched dog food about 15 years ago and decided to review the research and pass on what I have learned.

First of all there are thousands of dog food manufacturers.  Walk in any pet store and you will be over whelmed by the number of brands and types of food  to choose from.  How do you find a product that’s right for your dog?  This article will help you make an informed decision.  With dog food, you do get what you pay for.  Cheap kibble that is advertised on the television has ingredients that are not the healthiest and have fillers that dogs just don’t need or can digest.  Don’t get caught up in the commercials with lively dogs chasing after animated carts or running because they love Bacon!  You can’t believe what’s on the front of the package either.   You want to know what is in your dog food you have to read the back of the label.

Let’s look at fillers.  A filler is an ingredient that dogs can’t digest and its only there to help form the food and make your dog feel full.  The more filler in your dog food the more you dog poops.   I think we can all agree the less poop the better! That’s right folks!  Filler goes in one end and out the other.  It has no nutritional value.  Dogs cannot digest these fillers because they don’t have a human digestive system.    Your dog will have to eat a greater quantity of food with filler to meet their nutritional requirements as well.  Some examples of fillers are corn, wheat, soy, citrus pulp and animal byproducts.  Look at the ingredients on the back of the label.  If you see any of these fillers find a different brand of dog food.   Dogs are carnivores, if the primary number 1 ingredient is corn, don’t buy it!  Some of these dog foods actually have pictures of corn and wheat on the front of the packaging.

When shopping for a quality healthy dog food you need to flip the bag and read the back label.  The first thing to look for is  “AAFCO” or Association of American Feed Control Officials.  This means the food has been tested and meets minimal requirements of nutrition for all age levels for your dog.  The next thing you want to look for is “Made in USA”.  Made in the USA tells you that they are making their dog food under laws and standards set forth in the United States.  Basically, you know there is quality assurance that is being met.

Next, look for the guaranteed analysis.  Your highest percentage should be protein.  A dog’s primary diet should be protein.  Next is fat percentage.  If you have an obese dog look for a lower fat content, if your dog has problem putting on weight or is too skinny they need higher fact content.  Compare the fat content to other dog food producers to compare.

What are the ingredients?   Dog food manufacturers know customers are now looking at labels and will have a meat product listed first.  Here is the trick.  Ingredients are weighed prior to dehydration.  So meat will be number one on the list of ingredients, but after its dehydrated and the waters in removed the weight of the meat drops considerably.  You end up having more carbohydrates than meat.  So, look for ingredients which list the first 3-4 ingredients as meat.

What kind of meat should I be looking for Randy?    The first thing you should see in the ingredients is a protein product: chicken, beef, venison, salmon, egg, etc.   When you see meat followed by “meal”, that means its concentrated meat which has 300% more protein than fresh meat.    Meat by-product is the nasty things people don’t eat (beaks, feet, bone, and feathers)   and have little nutritional value.  Steer clear of meat by-product.   So, now we know our ingredients should contain at least 3 proteins, the next ingredient will be a carbohydrate.  Carbs are necessary to help bind the meat to make the kibble.  A quality dog food will have potato, sweet potato, peas, brown rice, and/or oats.  These types of carbohydrates are easier for dogs to digest than corn and wheat.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  Nutritionists recommend dog food quality in this order; raw, canned, dehydrated and dry.  Raw being number one followed by canned dog food because it has water and is biologically appropriate than dry food.  Raw and canned dog food is made up of about 80% water.   If you are really motivated to can make your own raw food, however, I recommend purchasing it from the freezer section of your favorite pet store.  Making raw dog food can be tricky and it’s important that you are meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs.  In addition, feeding raw is more work than I’m willing to get involved in.  Raw can be purchased in the freezer section of your higher end pet stores.  By purchasing your raw food you can be assured your pet is getting all the nutritional requirements that they need.

If you are unwilling to feed raw or canned food the next best thing is dehydrated dog food.  Dehydrated dog food comes in a box and you had water to it.  The bottom of the list according to nutritionists is dry dog food.  Now don’t get me wrong, I feed my dogs a quality dry dog food.  On occasion I will mix canned dog food with the dry, but primarily we feed dry.  Dry is easier and more cost effective for me to feed.  I have large breed dogs and all live to at least 12 years old.  Their coats are healthy on a dry diet and I have not experienced an issues feeding dry.

Nutritionist also recommend varying your dog’s diet.  Don’t feed them the same bag of food for their entire lives.  That’s because no dog food is perfect.  Varying the food on a weekly or monthly basis will ensure your dog is getting a well-balanced diet.   When you do change make sure to do it gradually, by mixing their food at first.  A sudden change can upset your dog’s stomach and cause diarrhea.

When it comes to treats, we need to do the same homework.  Junk food is junk food.  Go and look at the ingredients of your dog treats you currently have in your home.  I wouldn’t be surprised if there are preservatives like BHA or propylene glycol in the ingredients, not to mention the fillers we spoke about.  There are usually high concentrations of sugar (corn syrup).  When training I use my dog’s dog feed as treats.  When I am going to train, I will skip feeding him in the morning and feed him his ration of feed during our training session.  That way he is highly motivated and we are meeting his daily nutritional requirements.  If you want to buy your dog a special treat go for the dehydrated meats.   I have also boiled chicken as a training treat.  My dogs love chicken!

There are a lot of quality dog foods available for you to choose from.  I hope this helps you sort out the junk food from the quality foods.  Quality dog food will help your pet live a long, healthy, comfortable life.

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