Do you second guess your dog food choice every trip to the market or pet store? Is the clerk at the pet store always suggesting another dog food choice? Does your neighbor insist that what she feeds her dog is the best? Does your veterinarian insist on the brand that the hospital offers? How are you to decide? Trust your dog and your research. These 5 easy tests will help you make the right choice.
1. Does your dog eat the food even when it is not feeling good?
Dogs are notorious for eating anything. But they can become finicky if their food doesn’t taste good. Foods with limited fat content are often rejected. This is especially true when they are not feeling well. If your dog does not readily dive into its two daily meals, you may want to try other brands. Look for brands with higher fat content, but be very diligent about following the feeding instructions and monitoring your dog’s Body Condition Score (BCS).
2. Is your dog’s coat soft and shiny?
A soft and shiny coat is a good indicator of proper protein and dietary fat. Omega-3 fatty acids especially improve coat quality. My veterinary experience indicates that foods high in carbohydrates produce coarse and dull fur. This link will help you calculate the percentage of carbohydrate in your dog’s food from the label information.
3. Are your dog’s eyes clear and bright?
William Shakespeare and Leonardo DaVinci are credited for the expression that “the eyes are the window to the soul.” We in medicine, human and animal, have confirmed that individuals with clear and bright eyes tend to be very healthy. These dogs seem alert to their environment and tend to be always ready to engage in activity or interaction.
4. Does your dog make only moderate or small amounts of stool?
Quality dog food is highly digestible. This means that most of the food is absorbed from the intestines and little non-digestible residue is left to form stool. Large amounts or frequent stool production suggest that the food has ingredients that are indigestible. Nutrients in stool are of no value to your dog and makes for very expensive poop.
5. Does your dog food brand have a veterinary nutritionist on staff that answers questions directly?
The pet food industry is fast growing and attracting many dog food makers. Many manufacturers, especially the newer entrants, claim veterinary consultation for the development of their product but seldom offer the credentials of that individual’s expertise. They also seldom keep a veterinarian on-staff to oversee the quality of production.
Call your dog food company and speak to their veterinarian. Ask specifically what cuts of protein they use and the source. Ask whether they make their own food or outsource it to a co-packer (companies that make dog food for many brands). Ask about veterinary nutritionist quality control of the outsourcer. I suggest avoiding brands that co-package. Multiple alerts and recalls on the FDA website are generally a result of brands co-packed by the same company. Our brand evaluator can help.
Nutrition is the most important factor for your dog’s health. Using these guidelines can help you choose wisely.
Dr. Ken Tudor,
THE DOG DIETITIAN