Unfortunately, not all dog food is created equal and it's up to the pet owner to sift through the numerous dog food brands and formulas on the market to ensure that their lovable pooch gets the best nutrition possible. Yet, before you can tackle the dog food market, arm yourself with knowledge that will help you decipher the differences between good and bad dog foods.
In this article, we'll discuss the healthy ingredients and nutrition you should be watching for when on a quest for new dog food. We'll also recommend the top best dog foods of 2020 that will provide your furry friend with a well-balanced diet.
According to the American Kennel Club, good dog food will contain meat, vegetables, grains, and fruits, as each will provide a valuable source of essential vitamins and minerals. Commercial dog food brands labeled “complete and balanced” will offer your pup the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive, such as Vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, and Choline.
Unless your dog is fed a homemade food diet, or your vet recommends otherwise, your dog will not require vitamin supplements when fed well-balanced commercial dog food.
Dogs require three crucial ingredients in their daily intake to stay healthy: carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
Carbohydrates are essential to dogs for the same reasons they are for humans. Carbohydrates provide adequate energy to animals. Without carbohydrates, a dog's energy could become depleted, leading to weight gain, which could lead to stress on joints and the heart. Carbohydrates can be found in dog foods that contain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, rice, and potatoes.
Fats are vital in a dog's diet as it aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and reduces inflammation, Fat will also retain your dog coat's shiny sheen and keep skin healthy. Fat can be found in dog foods that contain foods that contain healthy oils, like Omega-3 fatty acids and other fish oils, sunflower oil, and flaxseed oil.
Protein plays several vital roles in a dog's diet; it develops and rebuilds muscles and tissues as well as forms healthy cells, grows fur, and regulates hormones. Protein is often the leading ingredient in dog foods, as it is the meat source, but it can also be found in eggs, dairy, and some grain.
Now that we've covered important nutrition facts, let's get into the meat and potatoes of choosing the best dog food brand: how to read the guaranteed analysis label. A guaranteed analysis label will display the minimum percentage of crude (roughly) protein and crude fat, and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture.
Protein and fat are crucial to your pet's health; the minimum percentage guarantees that the food will always have at least that amount.
While too much fiber and moisture can be problematic to your pet's health, the maximum percentage signifies that it will not contain more than that amount.
So how do you know if your dog food contains too little or too much of the above components? You'll have to do some simple math to find the answer. Luckily, we have an equation to get you started. First, you must know the dry matter content in your dog food. You'll find this amount under moisture max. *Moisture does not provide any nutritional value to dog food and is only added to preserve texture.
100 – Moisture Content = Dry Matter
Guaranteed Crude Protein ÷ Dry Matter Content x 100 = True Protein Content
Guaranteed Crude Fat ÷ Dry Matter Content x 100 = True Fat Content
Guaranteed Crude Fiber ÷ Dry Matter Content x 100 = True Fiber Content
Protein, fat, and fiber nutritional needs fall in between the following percentages unless otherwise stated by your veterinarian.
Protein: 28% Fat: 17% Fiber: 3-5%
Protein: 18% Fat: 9-15% Fiber: 3-5%
Protein: 21% Fat: 13% Fiber: 3-5%
The best dog foods contain high-quality versions of these components that are suitable for your dog’s digestive system.
We've covered what makes a good dog food choice and what types of food will be good for certain age groups of dogs. Now, let's discuss what some of the best dog foods on the market today are, and what helps them stand apart from the other varieties on the shelf.
This pet food manufacturer is part of the Champion Pet Food Company. They pride themselves on using only in-house processing to create their dog foods, reducing the chance for mishandling or contamination. You don't need to take our word for it, though, Orijen's pet foods have a passionate following on online markets such as Amazon and Chewy. If you're ever concerned about your pet food coming from a bunch of different locations or don't want a slew of strange ingredients in your pet's diet, Orijen is a great dog food brand to try.
Another top-notch dog food brand to consider is Natural Balance. It features a gluten-free blend of everything that your pooch needs. One look at the ingredients label, and you'll see why it made our list of top dog food brands. It doesn't load every bag with filler ingredients and premium protein ingredients typically occupy the top spot as far as ingredients go. If your dog has a gluten sensitivity or needs to be on a grain-free diet, Natural Balance offers several amazing lines of pet food that meet your needs.
Merrick dog foods offer high-quality ingredients with mixes that fall right in the ideal range of needs for your dog. They offer plenty of grain-free options as well. Similar to Natural Balance, you're sure to find the main protein source at the start of the ingredients list, so you can rest assured that your pooch is getting a great diet without the added filler.
Taste of the Wild dog foods are an amazing option for those who may be on a budget, but still want to buy their dog high-quality food. Like most of the dog food brands on our list, animal protein will always find itself at the top of the ingredient list. Instead of loading up the dog food with a bunch of filler ingredients, Taste of the Wild opts for a balanced mix of healthy fruit and vegetables. The result is a dog food that canines crave.
While this dog food runs on the higher side when it comes to price point, there's no disputing the overall quality of the food. Another thing that makes this dog food special is Honest Kitchen's dehydration process, which they say helps the dog food retain its quality for longer periods of time. The ingredients label is full of line-items you can trust, such as organic oats, cranberries, and duck.
Another excellent dog food brand is Canidae. They offer a range of limited ingredient diet blends that your dog will love and that you can feel confident about feeding them. Added vitamins, minerals, and probiotics give your dog support where they may need it if they're on a limited ingredient diet.
There's a lot to love about Nature's Variety Instinct. It gained a lot of traction early in the high-quality premium dog food market, which means it's easy to find online as well as in retail stores. In addition to an outstanding mix of protein, fat, and carbs, Nature's Variety Instinct doesn't use any preservatives or artificial coloring to create its dog food.
There's a ton of choices out there when it comes to dog food. Because of this, it's crucial to stay on top of what the best brands for your dog are. If you're looking for a high-quality dog food for your canine, be sure to try one of the brands listed above.