One of the hottest topics of debate among dog owners is what type of food is best. The truth is, there is no one brand that is best for all dogs. And with so many different dog foods out there, and so much conflicting information, the pet store can be an overwhelming place, especially for new pet owners.
So how do you decide what’s best for your dog? First, ask your vet. This is particularly important if your dog has any health conditions that require a special diet. However, be aware that many veterinary clinics, even otherwise good ones, have incentive to promote some brands of dog food over others. Our first vet would push Science Diet to all their patients, giving free sample bags at your first appointment with any new pet. So I’d be wary of a vet that only recommends one brand. We’ve since switched clinics, and have received much better advice on food.
Basically, rather than worrying about the specific brand, look for foods that are high-protein, and that are low-grain or grain-free. Many dog foods are filled with corn, wheat, or rice. Wheat and corn are especially known to cause skin allergies in many dogs. Rice is more tolerable, but with the recent studies showing high naturally-occurring arsenic in rice, we’ve decided it’s better for us to avoid grains altogether. Many grain-free foods use sweet potato instead, which is a great alternative, with high nutrient content. And try to avoid anything that is brightly colored, as these generally contain dyes which are at best unnecessary, and at worst could cause an adverse reaction.
You want something with a meat protein as the first ingredient. If your dogs are sensitive to chicken or beef, salmon can be a good alternative. Ginny has had skin sensitivities, but they cleared up when we switched to a salmon and sweet potato food. Our dogs love chicken, but we don’t love the stink that ensues after they’ve eaten chicken-based food or treats. Some brands have food that contains wild game such as venison or rabbit. The important thing is to find a food your dog loves to eat that also has a good nutritional balance. With so many choices out there, you should be able to find a quality food that still fits your budget.
Whatever you choose, it’s important to keep your dog on a consistent feeding schedule and to carefully portion their food. Limit the amount of treats you give them–a difficult task if you have particularly persistent little beggars like ours! And while it may be tempting to slip table scraps to your well-behaved dog, that can lead to unwanted pounds and may lead to some unwanted behaviors over time. If you are vigilant, you can keep your dog at a healthy weight while still keeping meal time enjoyable.
Do your dogs have a favorite treat? Do you have little beggars at home like we do? Share your stories in the comments!