How to research dog food
We’ve interviewed many vets and veterinary nutritionists over the years of editing and writing for pet and veterinary magazines. We have also been able to feed our dogs many different types and brands of food.
Important to remember that none of the products included in this guide were recommended by our veterinarian experts. It makes sense because veterinarians all agree that each dog’s needs are different and the best food will be determined based on these factors. We consulted four veterinarians to help us choose the right food for our dogs. One of them was a certified veterinary nutritionist. Another professor of animal and nutritional science advised us on what to look for in healthy dog food. The information we gathered was used to guide our selections.
This guide contains food that is balanced and complete according to Association of American Feed Control Officials’ (AAFCO), has high-quality ingredients and provides the appropriate levels of protein, fat and fiber for each category.
We also used educational resources to help us make our decisions. Association of American Feed Control Officials(AAFCO), and the Global Nutrition GuidelinesPublished by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).
In order of importance, what to look for when buying dog food
AAFCO nutrition adequacy statementThis is the most critical factor in determining if dog food is safe and healthy. You should ensure that any food you give your dog is compliant with the AAFCO’s nutritional guidelines. This means that the food meets AAFCO nutritional standards. “complete and balanced”For the dog’s stage of life. These standards and definitions are explained in the slide below.
Guaranteed analysisHere you will find the percentages for the most important nutrients found in food: protein and fat, fiber, moisture. You might also find other nutrients such as chondroitin and glucosamine in the guaranteed analysis. Shepherd suggests that it is worth checking to see if the brand regularly tests its finished product to make sure it meets their standards. This information is usually found on the brand’s website. All foods in this guide contain moderate to high levels of protein (AAFCO minimums for puppies are 22% and adults are 18% respectively) and low or moderate amounts of fat (AAFCO maximums for adults are 5.5% and 8.5% respectively).
Ingredients list:It doesn’t need to be difficult to navigate the ingredients list. Look for animal sources of protein at the top of your list. These are the most prominent foods in the guide. Although whole meat is best, it can be very heavy due to its high water content. Dry food removes that water, so it might not have as much meat content as you think. It’s not necessary to disregard meat meals that are made from animal parts that humans do not eat. These meals can be a great source of protein, if they are good quality. These might have more protein than whole-meat because the water has been removed.
Healthy extras:Swanson notes that certain foods may contain additional ingredients to support healthy skin, hair, and joints. These include long-chain omega-3 fatty acid (EPA and DHA; typically from marine-based oils, meals), omega-6 fatty acid (safflower, sunflower, corn oil or flaxseed oil, etc.), glucosamine, chondroitin, green-lipped mussels, and additional vitamins (vitamin A, biotin) and minerals (
, copper). The immature GI tract of a puppy can be benefitted by probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics can also help senior dogs boost their immunity.
Calorie content:If dogs eat too many calories, they might gain weight. Excessive calories can lead to serious health problems. On the nutrition label, look for the calorie content in kilocalories (or k/cals). You will need less calories if your dog doesn’t do a lot of activity. If they are very active (e.g., performing or working dogs), you’ll need more calories. Volume can help your dog feel satisfied. You want your dog to eat as much food as possible, but within their daily calorie limit. This is how it looks calorie calculatorTo determine the amount of calories your dog requires, Foods that meet this standard are generally rated higher in our selection process. Your veterinarian can help determine how many calories you are giving your dog.
Feeding trials It’s an added bonus if a food has been subject to feeding tests and a laboratory analysis of its ingredients. “It’s expensive to conduct feeding tests, and foods substantiated by feeding tests are made by companies that put a lot of resources into quality control,” Shepherd says. The nutritional adequacy statement printed on the label might read: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [product] provides complete and balanced nutrition for [life stage],”It means that the food has been tested and proven to be suitable for pets through feeding trials.
Expert formulationsIt is important to think about who decided the ingredients for your dog’s food. Shepherd suggests that you look for companies with a PhD-level nutritionist who has experience in dog nutrition. A brand must also have food scientists who work with nutrition experts. We prioritized brands with a dedicated nutritionist to align with this guide. WSAVA recommendations.
Next-level ingredients:Marketing messages may suggest that cage-free, organic, wild-caught or human-grade ingredients are healthier for pets. These ingredients can be a benefit if you care about the welfare and well-being of your pet. Wild-caught fish are not treated with antibiotics, unlike farmed fish.
These foods may be more suitable for dogs who are taking medications. Some foods can also be made with meats and eggs from cage free chickens or turkeys.