Sheltie Planet

What is The Best Dog Food?

By Becky Turner

What is the best type of dog food for your Sheltie? Take a look at the hidden "baddies" in popular dry kibble brands - and exactly what dog foods contain the good stuff for your pet's health and longevity.

What is the best dog food?

What is the best dog food?

What is the best dog food to give to your Shetland Sheepdog?

Is it safe enough to give him dry kibble only or should you be giving fresh foods as well? And what's this talk of dog food scams? Should you be worried?

The Scale of Dog Food

At one end of the scale, you have the dirt-cheap supermarket dog food. You may think you're catching a great bargain, but it's not so great for the health of your dog.

Consider this: it's impossible for a 40lb bag of kibble sold at $9.95 to contain quality protein and grain. The cheap ingredients used are definitely below par. If you see cheap ingredients like corn, soy and meat by-products at the top of the label then your Sheltie is almost definitely undernourished.

At the other end of the scale, you have dedicated dog-lovers who only ever prepare fresh dog meals from scratch - food fit for kings! This approach is fantastic for your dog, but it does take more careful planning to ensure you get all the essential nutrients into your Sheltie's diet. It is also more expensive and time consuming, even if you prepare ahead.

So what's the best solution for your fur friend?

Finding The Balance

The best solution, for most dog owners, is to find a healthy balance somewhere between the two. If you currently buy the cheapest kibble you can find, try to identify a premium quality kibble that contains decent meats and grain in the right proportions.

I'll explain how to interpret dog food labels in a moment - and I'll show you two of the best dog food brands recommended by other Sheltie owners who've already done their homework.

Raw Meaty Bones

Dogs thrive on raw meaty bones

Alternatively, for a little more effort but a lot greater reward, give your Sheltie a diet of raw meaty bones from the butcher (about 15-20% of the dog's bodyweight per week) along with some table scraps (namely vegetables) plus a little flaxseed oil and a taurine supplement. This will give your dog everything he needs to live a long and healthy life.

Fresh water is an obvious essential for any dog's diet, so make sure your Sheltie has an available source at all times.

Dog Food Scams

There are two concerns when we talk about dog food scams.

1. The Source of Meat - If your dog is primarily eating kibble, make sure you buy a decent brand of dog food. It's no secret that many supermarket pet foods now contain some very dubious sources of meat in their dry kibble food. As sickening as it may sound, these sources include euthanized pets and road kill. They also use any kind of slaughterhouse by-product, including animals treated with hormones and other drugs which are not destroyed by the cooking process. This could be harmful to your dog.

2. The Meat vs Grain Ratio - The other issue with kibble is the amount of meat compared to grain. For the last decade, a lot of pet food manufacturers have turned to cheap grain ingredients to bulk up their product. In turn, the meat and protein content is reduced. This is very bad for your dog, who, in the wild, evolved to eat mostly raw meat and bones, with a little vegetation found in the belly of their prey. In domesticated dogs, we should try to replicate this diet where at all possible. A mostly grain diet is woefully inadequate.

Read The Label: The Baddies

When browsing the dry dog food brands, don't make your choice based on price alone. Here's a list of ingredients to avoid like the plague:

Ingredients to Avoid in Dog Food

What's really in supermarket dog food?

Meat and bone meal - If you see the term "meat and bone meal" - stay away. You're looking at dog food which legally includes animals euthanized at the vet's office as well as road kill. If they were wearing chemical flea collars or had been treated with antibiotics or steroids before they died, those get ground up and added too. So does the plastic bag around the carcass. (Note: the exact wording is important: if you see "beef meal, lamb meal or poultry meal" this is GOOD. It simply means the meat has been ground up. When listed early on in the ingredients, it's usually a sign of a higher quality pet food.)

Meat by-products - This refers to any part of a slaughterhouse animal not deemed fit for human consumption. "Meat by-products" include intestines, chicken heads, duck bills, fish heads, chicken and turkey feet, hides, feathers and bone. The problem with by-products is they can include diseased and contaminated slaughterhouse meat and even dehydrated garbage. Some vets claim that feeding such slaughterhouse waste to your dog increases the risk of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. What's more, the harsh cooking process also destroys the natural enzymes and proteins that would otherwise nourish your dog so it is of little benefit anyway.

Poultry by-product meal - This consists of ground and rendered parts of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, mostly exclusive of feathers. "Poultry by-product meal" is not required to include actual meat, and can include diseased and contaminated meat and harmful chemical additives.

Propylene Glycol - This is a synthetic preservative used to keep the kibble moist and has been identified by some vets to cause red blood cell damage in cats. There is little research into its toxicity or safety into the chronic use in pet foods.

Ethoxyquin - This is another chemical additive, listed as a pesticide by the Department of Agriculture. It is banned from human food because it is known to promote cancer of the kidneys, bladder and stomach. Yet shockingly, it is still used in some commercial pet foods.

BHA & BHT - These are additives used by American pet food manufacturers, yet are banned by most countries in Europe. BHA and BHT are known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction, plus bladder and stomach cancers. Disturbingly, manufacturers are only required to list the ingredients they add to the dog food themselves - so any BHA and BHT added earlier in the manufacturing process go unreported.

Mineral oxides or sulfates - Trace minerals in the form of mineral oxides or sulfates can't be digested by animals.

Read The Label: The Goodies

The ingredients on dog food labels can be confusing. Fortunately, your task becomes a lot easier if you focus on the top five (as these are the most plentiful). Good ingredients to look for include:

Beef, lamb or poultry meal - This is good quality, ground-up meat and there should be at least one at the top of the ingredients list. Not to be confused with the "meat and bone meal" or "poultry by-product meal" listed top among the baddies.

Vitamin E or C or Tocopherols - These are natural preservatives which help retain the fats in the dog food.

Trace minerals in a Chelated form - This enables the minerals to be easily absorbed by your dog's intestinal tract and bloodstream.

What's The Best Dog Food?

There are numerous dog food brands which will provide your Sheltie with good quality nutrition. Sheltie Planet readers recommend both Blue Buffalo Premium Dog Food and Nature's Variety Prairie Dog Food which you can get delivered to your door. These both pass our test for having good quality meat ingredients, little or no grain, and natural preservatives.

Blue Buffalo and Nature's Variety pass our dog food test

Premium dog foods recommended by Sheltie Planet readers

Supplement That Fresh Diet!

What if you decide not to feed your Sheltie ANY processed dog food at all?

That's great new for your dog - she'll love chewing on those raw meaty bones. However, just be aware that you still run the risk of undernourishing your dog, since you're now responsible for providing all her nutrition.

Remember, the three components of a healthy dog's diet are:

  • Fresh water - available at all times
  • Raw meaty bones - 15-20% of your dog's bodyweight per week
  • Table scraps and vegetables - no more than one third of the diet

Visit your local butcher for some raw meaty bones. They will keep your Sheltie entertained for hours and the chewing will help clean her teeth, preventing tartar build-up and bad breath.

It's recommended you boost this fresh food diet with these two supplements:

Solid Gold Flaxseed Oil

Solid Gold Flaxseed Oil

Rich in Omega 3 and 6, B vitamins, potassium, lecithin, magnesium, protein and zinc. It improves the skin and coat and protects against degenerative diseases and illness. This is the only flaxseed oil product on the market that doesn't contain hexane, to which dogs can be allergic.

Taurine Tablets

PetAg Taurine Tablets

This is an amino acid found in animal proteins, and a taurine deficiency can cause blindness and heart disease in dogs and cats. Most cat foods now contain a source of taurine but only a few high quality brands of dog food like Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula contain it.

About The Author

Becky Turner is a writer and zoologist-in-training. Learn more about Becky here. If you'd like to support her work, check out her ebook, The Sheltie Anthology, a complete guide to everything Sheltie.