What we eat as humans has a tremendous effect on our quality of life. Too much fast food renders us overweight. Eating intolerant or allergenic foods cause our body to break out in inflammation. Not eating enough leaves us lacking the energy to enjoy our lives to the fullest.
Dogs are no different. What we feed our canine companions greatly affects the quality of their lives, too. Therefore, it’s so important to understand the different types of dog food available and which types might best suit your own dog.
Types of Dog Food
Before choosing the best type of food for your dog, it’s important to first understand the most popular types of dog food available. These include:
- Generic Dog Food: This is the standard dog food that you see lining the pet food aisle in your local grocery store. As the cheapest option, this type of dog food is the unhealthiest option. Ingredients are typically a mix of grains, soy, and meat by-products.
- Premium Dog Food: Slightly more expensive than generic dog food, premium dog food offers slightly healthier ingredients. It tends to contain less soy, healthier grains, and higher quality ingredients.1
- Whole Food Cooked Diet: This diet resembles more of what we eat as humans. Meat and other animal products tend to make up at least half of this diet. The other half is typically made up of fruits, vegetables, dairy, potatoes, and, in some cases, even leafy greens.
- Raw Food / B.A.R.F (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) Diet: Arguably the healthiest and most expensive way to feed your dog. A raw food diet consists of feeding your dog what canines ate before they became domesticated. This includes muscle meat, bones, and some vegetables and fruits.2
How to Know Which Diet is Best for Your Dog
Unfortunately, there’s no one best diet for all dogs. Different dogs will require different diets depending on their needs. To help understand what diet best suits your specific diet, there are two things you need to do.
1. Consider Your Dog’s Age, Activity, and Size
Larger breeds naturally have larger mouths and teeth, making them able to tolerate larger servings of food. Similarly, smaller breeds will do better with smaller food fitted to their small mouths and teeth.
Outside of breed size, older, more brittle dogs do better with smaller, more digestible pieces of food. Especially when compared to their younger counterparts, who are happy to gnaw away at larger pieces of food.
In addition to your dog’s age and size, you must consider how active your dog is. More active dogs will naturally require more calories to sustain energy and healthy functioning. Since generic dog food typically consists of more simple carbohydrates that only provide short-lived energy, a more energy-sustaining, nutrient-dense whole food or raw food diet may make more sense for a very active dog.
2. Consult a Veterinarian
A professional veterinarian can help pinpoint your dog’s nutritional needs much quicker and more accurately than someone lacking their expertise. Vets can alert you to allergies, intolerances, and nutritional deficiencies affecting your dog. Also, they can even suggest specific diets to help your dog live optimally.3
How to Properly Implement the Best Diet for Your Dog
Having knowledge is one thing; making sure your dog follows a new diet is another. To help you make implementing your dog’s new diet as seamless as possible, it’s important to learn a couple of things.
Learn to Read the Ingredients
The pet food industry is notorious for its use of misleading buzzwords and confusing ingredient lists. If you’re leaning towards a generic or premium dog food diet, it pays to do your research. Doing so will help make sure you understand what’s actually inside the food you’re purchasing.
For instance, if you see the phrase “with cheese,” “with salmon,” or “with” anything, the food is only required to contain three percent of that ingredient. So, if a dry dog food label reads “Chicken Dinner for Dogs with cheese”, it contains 25 percent chicken and three percent cheese.4
Check the Nutritional Adequacy Statement
Depending on the age, activity, breed, and reproductive status of your dog, their diet will ask for different nutritional requirements.
If you opt for generic or premium dog food, it’s usually made obvious on the bag or can what kind of dog would best benefit from the food’s nutrition. For example, you might see something like “provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs”.
As a rule of thumb, always prioritize dog food companies with an AAFCO statement on the back. It means that that company belongs to the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Additionally, the statement indicates that their product undergoes strict measures to ensure its stated level of nutritional value is true.