Picking the right food for your new fur baby can be daunting. There are so many things to consider. Over the last few years of having multiple dogs, multiple breeds in my home, I have learned a lot and wanted to share. Some of the information I discovered, I wish would have all been in one spot. Since it wasn’t, I’m doing it. Another thing I discovered is, for every thing I found positive about something, I could also often find something negative. My best advice, consider the source.
I say consider the source often. Even as you read this, consider the source (me) as not being an expert. I do not have a degree in animal nutrition. I’m just someone who likes to investigate things until I am able to draw my best conclusion.
As I mentioned, there are factors that go into picking the best food for your fur babies. These are in no particular order.
Price. For some, price is a HUGE factor, for others, they want the best no matter what the cost. I, personally, am more on the latter, I would rather spend more on healthy food for my pets but I also recognized the most expensive does not mean the best for every breed! Do the research before dropping a lot of money.
If price is a factor, then determine how much you can budget before you pick the food. You may also want to consider the pet you are purchasing. For example, a Great Dane can go through a 30lb bag of food in two weeks, a Jack Russell may take two months on a 15lb bag. You may want to scale down and get a medium size dog over a large dog if you are not going to be able to feed them properly. Remember, dogs are a 7-14+ year commitment and the food bill grows as they grow. It’s easy to feed a puppy, think about adult size, senior, special diet, etc.
Ingredients. Look at the ingredients! If the dog food has a lot of dye in it, stay away from it! Yes, I know it makes it look pretty and you feel bad about giving your baby bland dog food, but if you go back and research, almost every recalled dog food has some sort of dye (usually red) listed in the ingredients. When I saw the most recent recall, Beneful Recall, I was saddened. First, because I know a lot of people feed it. Second, because it is a Purina brand and, even though I don’t feed their dog food, I do use their horse feed and I believe they are a good company overall for pet food products. They are a large company manufacturing a variety of pet food products the consumers want. The last reason I was bothered by it is the red dye in it. It just solidified my belief about red dye being a problem.
Full disclaimer…I don’t stay away from red dye completely….my dogs do, on occasion, get treats which have red dye in them, such a Beggin Strips, but I am very aware of it and minimize how much; unless Zipper, my JRT, gets into the bag while I’m gone and eats half of it at once! Not saying that happened or anything! (My tweet about it). Of course, I actually try to stay away from red dye in foods myself. I don’t know why but I remember reading something years ago about it and just stay away. Except red velvet cake. Hey, my dogs get their Beggin Strips, I get my Red Velvet cupcakes. Moderation!
Continuing with ingredients, as most people know, the first three ingredients are the most prominent items in the dog food. The more natural the ingredients, the healthier for your pet. The first three should be a real meat source, not a by-product. Do not be fooled by the name! There are tricks to confuse you. If the name clearly states a meat, such as beef, make sure there is no descriptive words with it, such as dinner or meal. Those are code words for different percentages. For example, if it says “Beef” and nothing else, then beef has to make up 95% of the main ingredients, if it says “beef dinner or beef meal” then beef only has to make up 25%. Huge difference! Always look at the ingredients. It is also important to look at the ingredients because they sometimes use different meats to make up the protein and your pet may be allergic to one and not the other. I have learned my JRT will eat anything but seems to appreciate red meat more than lamb. My mastiff has a pickier stomach and was on lamb and did ok, but seems to prefer poultry or red meat as well.
Crude analysis is another important factor. I used to think the higher protein is always better. Over time & extensive research, I have learned this is not true. KNOW YOUR BREED! Understand their needs. Understand their activity and growth. I’m going to start with Zipper. His name says it all. He flies everywhere. I’m not sure there is a slow speed on him. Even walking across the room he does a little prance instead of a slow walk. He is high energy and, at 18lbs, considered a medium size dog. He goes between Orijen and Acana Ranchland. Orijen owns Acana, it is just slightly cheaper. His primary food is Acana Ranchlands. It is 31% protein and 17% crude fat. The ingredients are a long list of protein rich foods. He does great on it.
I felt bad not feeding Bella, my mastiff, Acana, but I just couldn’t afford it. After doing research, I learned Zipper’s food is a little too high in protein for her. I was feeding her Earthborn Holistic Great Plains Feast and she did well on it, but I would notice she would be stiff at night after playing at the dog park. I almost switched her to a different food based on a friend’s suggestion of breeder recommended, which I will discuss in a minute. I did not switch her brand, just her type. I switched her to Earthborn Holistic Large Breed and I am happy I did! It is 26% protein, which is 1% higher than recommended for her breed but she is extremely athletic, so the 1% will not affect her at all and 13% crude fat. Well within the recommended percentage. In addition, it has Glucosomine & Chondroitin in it! Within two weeks of the switch, I saw a huge difference in her stiffness! The friend I mentioned earlier? He has switched to it as well. I still give her a supplement of Glucosomine & Chondroitin as well, but she gets the majority from her food.
If you have a giant breed or large breed, there is a lot of information floating around the Internet. People get passionate about their way being the best way. This is where I say to use some common sense as well. In my opinion, when I read WHY Great Dane puppies should not have as much protein because of how fast they grow, it MADE SENSE to me. At the same time, you have to be aware of when to switch them from puppy food to adult food. Some Great Danes grow until 3 years, that doesn’t mean they should be on puppy food for 3 years. Do your research. Read a few REPUTABLE articles. Consider the source. Are they getting a kickback? Do they have a vested interest in a particular product. Also consider their activity level. As I mentioned, my mastiff is more active than a typical mastiff. She will play for hours at the dog park with male dogs half her age. She will go to the barn and run around. She is ACTIVE so more protein is good for her. She even gets a half cup of Zipper’s food mixed in with hers from time to time. She loves it.
Now I want to talk about breeder recommendations. Breeders are in a business, especially large breeders. When their reputation goes up, they become a target. They will be approached by companies to promote their product, in return, they usually get the product for free or at cost. Think about it; you’re feeding a lot of dogs for FREE and you are selling the puppies for profit? Of COURSE you’ll consider it. Most of the time, the product is good, it would be considered upper middle of the road. Affordable for most people. It happens in every industry. I’m not saying the product is bad, but just keep in mind, there is usually some sort of kickback.
***I do want to put my plug-in here for ADOPT over breeders. You can get purebred dogs / puppies from shelters and rescues. Unless you need a breed for a specific reason, job, or you plan to show them, please consider adoption from a local rescue or shelter. ***
There are great tools available to help you sort through the details. One great resource is DogFoodAdvisor.com where it rates the different brands. Please note, they can only rate one or two types per brand, so I would also suggest looking at the company website if your flavor is not reviewed. It is important to also read the review, not just the visible rating. You will see key areas of concern or items they were not able to evaluate because the company didn’t make it available. That could be important. If the company won’t disclose key nutrient information then you may not want to feed it! There is the flip side as well, sometimes the product may be better than 5 stars, but they only rate on a 5 star tier so all 5 stars are not equal.
So, now for some money-saving tips.
If you decide to feed a premium dog food, most of them participate in a rewards program. Both Acana and Earthborn do. For every 12 bags I purchase, I get the 13th free. All I have to do is save the UPC. Ask your local pet store if they participate. Three locations in Kansas City sell Bella’s food, K9 Closet, Brookside Barkery & Bath, and Blue Parkway Bait & Pet Supplies. Blue Parkway does not sell Zipper’s food. All three locations participate in the 12 bags / 1 free program. Usually big box pet stores, like PetSmart and Petco do not sell the brands that participate.
Get on an email list for both the food and the store you end up purchasing from or join their social media page(s). I receive a $3 coupon off Earthborn every 4-6 weeks. I know it’s not a lot, but it helps. If you are at a dog friendly event in town and they have a booth, ask the rep for coupons. Let them know you currently feed and how much you love it. You’ll be surprised. I know this post is about dog food, but I can say I have received coupons for a whole bag of horse feed just by asking! I have also received free small bags of Orijen and Acana just because I asked. The food is expensive! They know it! I won’t say it works all the time, but it does sometimes.
If you’re staying in the mid range, visit your wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club or Costco. Find out which brands they carry, then look them up on Dog Food Advisor. I know at one time, Sam’s Club had a four star rated food for a great price! Not sure if they still do. Another location to look at for dog food is Tractor Supply. They have started carrying grain free dog food at a reasonable price and many people do not think about them.
I hope this helps you in determine the right dog food for your baby. Remember to consider each dog is different, each breed is different, and each need is different. What’s right for YOU is what is important!
This article was written purely for information. I received no kickback or request to write it. It all started because I posted something about red dye on the Beneful recall I saw on Facebook.