Posted by Chelsea Hill on

Choosing the right food for you pup can be daunting, just walk down the dog food aisle at your local supermarket and you'll realize that pet nutrition contains just as many "catch words" as people food: Grain-Free! Human-Grade! Healthy-Weight! The list goes on. So how do you choose? Let us give you some helpful tips to make it much easier...and lets face it, less of a headache.

But if you're just looking for a few quick recommendations and a great place to shop top brands, take a look below. But if you really want to learn the ins and outs of healthy foods for your dog, sit back, relax, and read on!

A Few Things to Know Before You Shop 

1. Talk to your vet. He or she can provide recommendations based on your pup's unique needs, allergies, and sensitivities. 

2. Keep an eye out for key words like "complete and balanced." They signal that the dog food should provide all the nutrients your pet needs in sufficient amounts.When a pet food is labeled as “natural,” it means that according to FDA guidelines, food ingredients have not had any chemical alterations. Similarly to human food, organic products must be marked with an official seal from the USDA to qualify).  "Holistic" does not mean the same thing! There is no legal definition for the term, so it can be used as the companies wish.

3. Look for the "AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement," which you may also find in small print on the back or side of the packaging. AAFCO stands for the Association of American Feed Control Officials and it provides nutritional recommendations. Anything marked as "intermittent or supplemental" is no the same thing!

4. You have to measure. Yeah yeah I know, you may be thinking "it's so much easier to just keep their bowl full all day", but obesity poses a huge problem in the dog world. Using the right portion for your dog's age, size, and activity level will make a huge difference. So take a few more seconds and just use a measuring cup instead of leaving out a full bowl. Switch it up sometimes and pour kibble into a puzzle or "slow feeder" it makes for a cool enrichment activity!

 Premium vs. Affordable

 There truly are lots of great foods out there but the most important thing is the company's quality control practices.

Many companies employ a board-certified nutritionist to formulate the diet, testing the nutrient content and adequacy, and assessing for contaminants. 

Premium varieties often boast about their ingredient lists. 

Labels must name everything that's in them in descending order by weight, but ingredient lists do not tell you anything about quality.

Manufacturers can also influence the order by splitting up similar components (e.g., flaked corn and ground corn) or adjusting the moisture. For example, dry "meat meal" actually contains more meat than water-filled "whole meats," according to the American Kennel Club.

Many people are concerned about foods containing by-products instead of whole meat. However, some parts of the animal that are considered by-products, such as liver, can be very nutritious.

The two biggest (and most expensive) "catch words" in pet food right now are grain-free and human-grade, but you don't have to spend more.

Ultimately, choosing a formula comes down to what you and your vet think is right for your pet, but both premium and budget-friendly versions can contain healthy carbs, proteins, and fats.

How Does My Dog's Size Factor Into His Food?

We get asked this question often. ABSOLUTELY, it's a huge factor to consider, probably the most important. Puppies need specific puppy food, for their growth and development.

Large-breed puppies in particular need more nutrients that support muscular and skeletal growth, according to the AKC. For my girls we used Purina Pro Plan Focus Large Breed Puppy Formula Dry Dog Food

As for adult dogs, you can buy food labeled “for all life stages, but feeding sedentary pets a calorie-rich mix also fit for young pups may contribute to weight gain. Smaller breeds can do better with smaller kibbles, but the super-specific distinctions become less important with dogs when they're older.

 Wet or Dry?

Wet food is not necessarily better, but it's generally more tasty and the excess water it provides may help keep dogs hydrated, So mixing some with boring kibble is reasonable.

Here's a tip for when you're staring at all those cans: A named ingredient like "Beef Dog Food" means the product must contain at least 70% beef. However, names like "Beef Entree" or "Beef Dinner" only have to contain 25%. "With Beef" or "Beef-Flavored" doesn't have to contain much at all.

 Weight Loss and Sensitivities

OH NO! Your dog's weigh-in at the vet didn't go so well. What do you now? The doc may want to prescribe a special therapeutic diet but don't fret many brands sell food intended for porky pups.

Weight-loss foods should be formulated with a lower-calorie density and may contain higher concentrations of other nutrients such as protein. Often, they are also higher in fiber, which should help them feel more full.

For example, Purina ONE SmartBlend Healthy Weight Dog Food  contains 15% fewer calories than its regular ONE SmartBlend formula.

If you believe your dog suffers from a skin or stomach issue, the first thing you should do is consult your vet. The problem might stem from something other than diet.

Food marketed toward dogs with digestive sensitivities may limit certain ingredients or alter nutrient levels, but it depends on the company.

When both of my pups started showing signs of tummy upset, our vet advised us to seek out formulas that contain omega-3 fatty acids in the form of fish oils to help soothe irritable skin, and switching to a food with new ingredients for tummy upset.

Purina Pro Plan Focus Sensitive Skin and Stomach Formula Salmon and Rice Formula Dry Dog Food is what we have found works best. We also spoil them with adding Purina Pro Plan Select Sensitive Skin Salmon and Rice Canned Dog Food to their kibble. 

Now I know that was a lot to take in, but if you narrow it down to, age, size, activity level, as well a dietary needs, it really is simple. Don't get hung up on all the "catch words" and latest trends. Buy to fit you pup!

One last thing to take away, if you are anything like me, I get forgetful often. With work, kids, furbabies, and lets face it just simply ADULTING. I sometimes don't pay attention when the dogs food is running low. Then I have to run to the store, wait in line "which I hate" and carry in that huge bag of food. Thankfully, I found an amazing company that auto ships my babies food right to me! YAY no more lines, well at least for dog food. As an added bonus, every bag sold feeds a dog in need. This fit perfect for our family, our community, and Metro Pit's overall mission.   

Thanks for reading! Peace, Love, and Pittie Paws

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