With hundreds of foods to choose from on the market, tighter household budgets and with many brands not being clear enough in their ingredients list, choosing the right food for our dogs can be tricky.
A dog’s diet can determine quality and length of life, so we want to try to get it right for them. Excessive salt, sugar, fat, artificial additives and preservatives can be detrimental to health. Despite this, if we read ingredient lists of many well-known supermarket brands of dog food, we'll find lots of unhealthy ingredients. What should we be looking for though?
To begin with, terms like 'cereals' and 'meat derivatives' could refer to absolutely anything so should be avoided, if possible. Terms like this make it impossible to know what's actually in the food and it could cause your dog problems.
Companies have to list ingredients in order of percentage, so the first one is the largest and most important part of the food and the second listed being the next largest and so forth. Look for a food where the first listed is meat and ensure that meats are named properly. 'Chicken meal' as opposed to 'meat meal' for example, as meat meal is not specific enough. We want to be asking, 'what meat exactly?'
Artificial colours and preservatives are sometimes used. Artificial preservatives work at slowing down decomposition which gives foods a long shelf life. There are a whole host of concerns regarding effects on dog health. They can even affect a dog's behaviour, which is why if you have ever consulted a Dog Trainer or Behaviourist, the first thing they may have asked you about is what you feed your dog.
Why do big companies want to include nasties and miss out the good stuff though? Nutritious ingredients like meat, fruit and vegetables cost, so they substitute with cheap ingredients and fillers. But these ingredients are not useful to the dog so manufacturers add cheap protein supplements to make up for lack of nutrients and add salts, fats and sugars to make up for lack of taste. A better food will help keep your dog in the best possible health so you can enjoy a long life together. It'll also ensure their coat stays sleek and shiny, their eyes bright, and their immune and digestive systems in order.
One of the main reasons we are often quick to opt for a cheaper food is of course due to our household budgets. With the cost of living rising and all of us trying to make savings where possible, it is no wonder we are a little more apprehensive about spending more on the dog's food. However, with less fillers and more nutrients per gram, we actually have to feed much less of a good food than that of a low grade food. Many companies have a calculator on their website where you can enter your dog's weight and it will tell you how many grams per day you need to feed, as well as the cost per day.
But, which food is best? The simple answer to this is...there is no answer! When deciding on a food, there are many factors dog owners may have to consider. If, for example, a dog food is made and flown from overseas a dog owner might prefer to choose a British company. One food might work for some dogs, but not others. Some dogs thrive on high protein, but others can only tolerate a lower protein food. Some dogs have common intolerances such as chicken or grain. 'Grain free' foods have been at the forefront of the pet food industry for years, but now research is changing the narrative. We stock an insect protein based dog food at NB Dogs, which some owners prefer over meat for environmental and/or moral reasons. Some dog owners swear by raw food, others disagree and prefer an extruded kibble. Cold pressed? We stock a cold pressed dog food from a Scottish company, Rùn, which is available to weigh out in our store to fill up your own container. Zero waste, zero packaging!
It's great that there are so many options in the pet food market, but there can be so much to consider right? You can read independent reviews on many well known food brands below. We find the below websites super helpful.
You can also talk to our friendly staff in our store! We are always more than happy to assist.
Image credit - GSD by Curious Sloth Photography and Rùn cold pressed dog food by Emma Martin Photography
Model - our friend Novak the GSD