What is The Best Dog Food?
What is the best dog food to give to your pet Sheltie? Is it safe enough to give him kibble only or should you be giving fresh foods as well? And what about dog food scams - should you be worried? This article examines the truth about cheap dog food and what essential nutrients you need to get into your Sheltie's diet for good health and longevity.
What is the best dog food to give to your beloved fur friend?
Is it safe enough to give him dry kibble only? Or should you give fresh foods as well? What's the deal with dog food scams - are some brands really bad for your dog's health? How often should you give dog chews and is it really necessary to give supplements?
At a Glance
If you're in a hurry, here are our top dog food recommendations. They contain quality ingredients to support your dog's health without breaking the bank.
We also recommend your dog chews on raw meaty bones or pre-packaged dog chews once a week to remove plaque and maintain healthy teeth and gums.
If you have a minute, keep reading to get the lowdown on the dog food market. What's legal? What's not? What is the best dog food and why?
The Scale of Dog Food
At the low 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. It's impossible for a 40lb bag of kibble sold at $9.95 to contain quality protein and nutrition. The cheap ingredients used are not supporting your dog's heath. If you see ingredients like corn, soy and meat by-products at the top of the label then your dog is undernourished.
At the high end of the scale, you have premium dog food brands and dedicated dog lovers who prepare fresh dog meals from scratch. Food fit for kings! The latter is fantastic for your dog, but it does take more planning to ensure you get the essential nutrients into your dog's diet. It's also more expensive and time consuming, which is why we lean toward a quality kibble, together with good dogs chews for healthy teeth and gums.
Dog Food Ingredients
There are two concerns when we're on the lookout for dodgy dog food ingredients.
1. The Source of Meat - 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 are also legally allowed to use any kind of slaughterhouse by-product, including animals treated with hormones and other drugs which are not destroyed by the cooking process. These could obviously be harmful to your dog.
2. The Meat vs Grain Ratio - The other problem with mediocre 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 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 heavy grain diet is woefully inadequate.
A List of Bad Dog Food Ingredients
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:
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.
(Careful - the exact wording is important. If you see beef meal, lamb meal or poultry meal this is very good. It simply means the meat has been ground up.)
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. Now, your dog might not mind, but the problem with by-products is they can include diseased and contaminated slaughterhouse meat and even dehydrated garbage. Some vets suggest this increases the risk of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases. What's more, the intense cooking process destroys the natural enzymes and proteins that would otherwise nourish your dog.
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 again 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 dog 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.
A List of Good Dog Food Ingredients
The ingredients list on dog food labels can be confusing. 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" which we listed top among the worst dog food ingredients.
Vitamin E, vitamin C, or Tocopherols - These are natural preservatives which help retain the fats in the dog food.
Trace minerals in chelated form - This enables the minerals to be easily absorbed by your dog's intestinal tract and bloodstream.
A Fresh Dog Food Diet
Let's say you have a lot of spare time and love to dote on your dog. You may like to feed your dog a fresh, all-natural diet - but where do you start? Dogs have different nutritional needs to humans and so require a different dietary balance. But don't worry, we've got you covered.
As a basis for a fresh diet, feed your dog raw meaty bones from the butcher (these are cheap or free). Dogs absolutely love this and they'll enjoy eating for much longer than the time it takes to snarf down their kibble. Offer about 20% of your dog's bodyweight in bones per week. You can also give some table scraps, namely raw or cooked vegetables.
This is a really healthy and cheap way to feed your dog a good quality diet. But it comes with a couple of downsides. First, with long-haired breeds like Shelties, the meaty bones stink out their fur every day. Second, it requires a some supplementation to give them all the nutrition they need to stay healthy.
1. Flaxseed Oil - This improves the skin and coat and protects against degenerative diseases and illness.
2. Taurine - This is an amino acid found in animal proteins. A taurine deficiency can cause blindness and heart disease in dogs and cats.
These supplements are included in premium kibble, but are very important if you're feeding a fresh diet of meaty bones. We recommend these dog supplements.
Fresh water is an obvious essential for any diet, so make sure your dog has a clean source of water at all times.
Remember, you can keep it simple and feed your dog a daily dry kibble and weekly chews which already include these supplements.