Hi everybody! Today’s post is from a reader’s request and it involves healthy food, just not for you! As you know, I’m a dog trainer in real life and, while I have no formal education in dog nutrition, I have a strong interest in it and have seen the effects of good and bad nutrition on the behavior of dogs.
Here’s what I look for when choosing a food for Kyra:
- Identifiable ingredients. I know what chicken is. Do I know precisely what corn gluten meal/peanut hulls/soy grits are? And would a dog naturally eat that? Or how about the ingredient “meat.” Exactly what animal does “meat” come from. And meat by-products? Wow. The extra parts of mystery meat. Yum.
- No by-products. Yes, I know that liver, kidney, pancreas, etc are considered by-products and I would feed those. However, I don’t know if that’s what the manufacturer used when they say by-products. Maybe they used beaks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines that are reasonably free of feathers (I’m paraphrasing the AAFCO definition now).
- Limited or no grain. I’m personally a grain-free fan, but you need to do what you think is right. Dogs don’t need grains (or so I’ve read) and they are a common food intolerance/allergy. Intolerances and allergies are different, with intolerances generally affecting intestines and allergies generally affecting itching. That’s not to say you won’t have a dog that’s intolerant/allergic to a meat, but it’s more commonly a grain.
- No artificial colors or preservatives. We don’t need that stuff and neither does your dog. The dog does not care what color the food is. I promise. And speaking of colors… I haven’t seen a healthy food yet that was multi-colored. I’m just saying…
- Meats as the first few ingredients. The ingredient list is listed by volume. So that means that if chicken is listed as the first ingredient then there is more chicken, by volume, than the 2nd ingredient. However, if the grain is broken up (i.e. “rice, rice bran, rice flour,) then obviously there’s more rice than chicken and the manufacturer might have broken it down so chicken could be listed first. Additionally, if the meat is a whole meat (i.e. “chicken” not “chicken meal”) then it still contains water. The meat cannot contain water and go through the extruder (or whatever they use) so it has to be turned into a “meal” to be usable. When that happens you can lose a lot of volume (think 33%-ish) and in turn the meat might actually be lower on the ingredient list. So, it might be good to see “chicken, chicken meal, lamb meal, and then other stuff…” With that ingredient list you could feel relatively certain that there was a high percentage of meat in the food.
- Never believe the front of the bag. There are specific rules about the labeling on the front, but they are so ridiculous that it’s safe to say – don’t buy the marketing or the front of the bag! Read the ingredient list and choose for yourself.
- Good food is expensive. You are going to have to spend a pretty penny to feed a good food. However, you should see better health, better appearance, and less stool from a quality food that’s right for your dog. They will also eat less of a quality food because their body can use more of it. But not all foods are right for all dogs. I’ve fed a couple of very high quality foods to Kyra that didn’t agree with her. One gave her loose stool (because she apparently can’t tolerate barley well) and they other made her so hyper it wasn’t even funny.
- Don’t forget about treats! Apply the same requirements to your treats as you do your food. They can be a little junkier, but if you are doing a lot of training they should be high quality. Also, make sure to keep your dog at a healthy weight (easily feel ribs but not see them, obvious waist line, tucked up abdomen from side view) because it’s better for their bodies. You may need to adjust the amount of food if you are using lots of treats.