Choosing the right food for your best friend isn’t a simple process. There are many details about your dog that will factor into this decision: age, breed, weight, and activity level. You need to think about what effect your lifestyle will have on how and when you feed your dog. It’s important to compare foods so that you find one that best meets your dog’s needs. You will want to consider the food’s ingredients, both essential and fillers. Here is some information you should keep in mind if you want to choose the best dry dog food you can.
Benefits of Dry Dog Food
There are many reasons why dry food can be more convenient than wet. To begin with, dry food is easier to store. All it requires is an air tight container to keep your dog, or rodents, from getting into it. There is no need to refrigerate dry food after opening it.
Because dry food doesn’t spoil as quickly as wet, it can be left out for hours or, at times, even days. This can allow your dog to feed on demand or to be left alone when necessary. Dry food is also more cost effective because, unlike wet food, it can often be bought in bulk, making it cheaper per pound.
Dry food can be more energy dense, which would be beneficial if you have an active dog. It can also be specially formulated to improve the dog’s dental health by eliminating the causes of bad breath. There are dry foods that are shaped to keep dogs’ teeth free from tartar, too.
Dry food comes in a wide range of shapes and sizes, which makes it convenient for dogs of varying breeds and ages. It can also be found in many assorted flavors, which can be convenient if you have a finicky dog. With a little research, you can find the best dry dog food for any dog.
Cons of Dry Dog Food
Some animals don’t drink as much water as they should. There can be many reasons for this: illness, advancing age, or living in a hot, dry climate. In these situations, dry food would be less beneficial than wet. It can also contain more preservatives, which may be undesirable to some pet owners.
Dry food can be less palatable to some dogs than wet food. This can be particularly true as dogs get older. It may also contain less animal-based proteins and more grains, which can be poorly tolerated by some dogs. It is important to ensure that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks when choosing your dog’s food.
How often should you feed your dog?
There are a few factors that determine how frequently your dog should be fed. As well as extra training (such as potty training), puppies, like human babies, also need to be fed more frequently than adults. Another, somewhat related, factor is your dog’s breed. Active breeds tend to require more frequent feeding than couch potatoes.
Most adult dogs do well eating 2-3 times a day, with puppies needing for that to be increased to 3-4 times. However, if your dog is particularly active, or nursing pups, you might try feeding on demand. If your dog doesn’t eat every morsel as fast as you put it out and has high nutritional needs, this could be the best option.
How much should you feed your Dog?
As with frequency, the amount of food your dog requires depends on several factors. Puppies, because they are growing, require more food per pound than young adults. And older adults, which tend to be less active, often require less than their younger counterparts. Larger breeds also require more food than smaller breeds.
It’s important to speak to your veterinarian to determine both your dog’s optimal weight and the amount of food required per day to maintain that weight. Treats should be included in your dog’s daily food allowance and keep them limited to no more than 5%-10% of the total amount.
What should you consider before buying?
The meat people eat tends to be skeletal muscle and some organs. There are a lot of parts left over, both edible and non-edible. The leftover edible parts can include the lungs, kidneys, brain, fat and blood. Although we don’t eat these parts, they are still full of protein and can be used in dog food as by-products.
Like people, dogs need a balanced diet that includes meat and vegetables and consists of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Many mistakenly believe that dogs are carnivores, but that is not the case. Although protein should be listed high in the ingredient list, high protein diets can be harmful, even dangerous. Check the label to ensure that your dog’s food contains other necessary nutrients too.
Some ingredients, collectively called fillers, can be added to dog food as dietary fiber or for non-nutritive purposes. Plants can provide necessary vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates, but these ingredients can sometimes be added to boost the food’s protein content, too. However, dogs need animal protein not plant protein. Look for fillers that are high quality, such as whole grains, but are listed lower in the list of ingredients.
Dry dog food, because of the way it is packaged and stored, requires preservatives to extend its shelf life. Although artificial preservatives are effective in preventing the breakdown of fats, the main cause of dry food spoilage, there is some concern that they can be dangerous to your dog’s health. Natural preservatives don’t carry the health risks but also tend to produce a shorter shelf life. Some natural preservatives used in dog food include vitamins C & E and some plant extracts, such as rosemary.
In addition to artificial preservatives, there are other chemical additives that you’ll want to pay attention to. Food dyes, which can cause problems in animals like they do in humans, are a completely unnecessary additive for dogs. Chemicals may also be added as dietary supplements and to add flavor or sweetening.
When you buy a food for a certain life stage, you want to make sure that it has everything your dog needs. These foods are required to have an AAFCO statement on the label certifying it as a balanced source of nutrition for that stage. This organization oversees the production of animal food in the same way that the FDA oversees food produced for human consumption.
Dog food portioning depends on several factors: weight, life stage, activity level and “calories per serving” of the food you’re using. Fortunately, most foods will make these calculations for you and provide a chart on the label that tells you how much your dog needs. If you are attempting to help an overweight dog shed excess pounds, an ideal weight for their breed can be used instead.
The top 7 best dry dog foods
Taste of the Wild
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This dry dog food costs around $50 for a 30 pound bag, or $20 for a 5 pound bag.
Taste of the Wild is grain free and made from roasted meat and fresh vegetables. Across all flavor varieties, animal meat is the first ingredient listed and some formulas include roasted meat. It is fortified with vitamins, minerals and canine appropriate probiotics and there are no fillers included. Only natural preservatives are used in this dry dog food.
The product label includes a feeding chart and lists the Calories per cup, to ensure proper portions. The dry food comes in puppy, adult, pregnant/nursing and senior life stages. It is also prepared for both large and small breeds. This brand is formulated with a few fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants, but not nearly as many as Blue Buffalo. All these details combined explain why it is currently the best-selling dry dog food on Amazon.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
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Although this food does contain grains, they are only whole grain oatmeal, barley and brown rice. It also includes a wide variety of fresh vegetables and herbs, and only natural preservatives are used. It is made with added vitamins, minerals, and oils that assist with both coat and joint health. Probiotics are also included for digestive health. The protein source is deboned meat and no by-products are added.
This food is formulated specifically for adults, puppies and seniors and it comes in a variety of flavors. It has kibble sizes designed for toy, small and large breeds. A feeding chart is included to ensure proper portioning. Blue Buffalo has the largest variety of fruits and vegetables, including seven that are included because they are rich in antioxidants.
At the time of writing this, Blue Buffalo Life Protection costs less than $50 for a 30 pound bag.
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free
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Another grain free food, this brand emphasizes natural ingredients. The protein comes from animal meat, with no by-products. There are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and also natural additives. It doesn’t use artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. It does, however, contain plenty of vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients. Probiotics and fiber are also included.
This food comes in adult and puppy formulas, as well as large and small breed. There is also a reduced fat option. The portion information includes both a feeding chart and information on Calories per volume. One thing unique to this brand is that it includes instructions on the label for gradual transition when you first begin feeding it to your dog. This brand contains an average amount of fruits and vegetables, compared to the others, some of which are antioxidant-rich. It is a little more expensive than the previous two brands, costing nearly $60 for a 26 pound bag.
Wellness Complete Health
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Like the previous option, this food is also formulated with all natural ingredients. The protein source is animal meat with no by-products added. It also contains fresh fruits and vegetables and is enriched with vitamins and minerals. It is formulated with essential oils and probiotics for healthy coat, joints, and digestive tract.
This brand is geared specifically toward small and toy breeds and is formulated for a variety of life stages: puppy, adult, senior, and reduced fat. It comes in smaller kibble sizes and the caloric count is optimized for smaller bodies. The label provides both a feeding chart and caloric content, for accurate portioning.
Although this brand does not claim to be grain free, it has excluded wheat, corn and soy, which can cause allergy problems in some dogs. Though this is the most expensive brand listed, it has also received more 5-star ratings than any of the others. It costs approximately $30 for a 12 pound bag.
Purina Beneful Originals
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Purina Beneful Original offers great value, as it costs less than $30 for a 31 pound bag. This food lists animal meat at the top of its ingredient list and it also contains lesser amounts of whole grains and only trace amounts of fresh vegetables. It uses meat meal and by-products as protein sources as well. Beneful is vitamin and mineral enriched and contains natural preservatives but does also have artificial coloring included.
Formulated for adult dogs, this food meets AAFCO standards. The label includes a feeding chart, Calorie content, and transitioning instructions for new customers. It has tender morsels, as well as crunch kibble, combined for texture variety. This brand has the lowest calorie count.
This is probably because the whole grains are listed near the top of ingredients, in greater amounts than the meat by-products and meals. Although this brand is only the fifth highest selling of the ones listed here, it does still have a 4 ½ star rating and, at less than a dollar per pound, is the most cost-effective.
Merrick Grain Free
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Merrick Grain Free will set you back just under $60 for a 25 pound bag.
Each variety of this dog food lists deboned meat at the top of its ingredient list. It maintains a 70/30 ratio of meats to fresh produce. It also contains fatty acids for coat health and natural additives for the joints. Additionally, this food is enriched with vitamins, minerals, probiotics and antioxidants. The carbohydrates are easily digested and all preservatives are natural.
The feeding chart focuses on goal, rather than actual, weight which suggests that it is suitable for overweight dogs. Although not packaged separately for different life stages, the label does provide additional feeding instructions for young dogs and those that are pregnant or nursing. The high meat to vegetable ratio, along with there being no grains added, is probably why it has a higher calorie count than all the other brands.
CANIDAE Life Stages
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Formulated by Vets, this food is nutritionally dense to keep dogs satisfied between meals. It is made from high quality meats, rice and vegetables. It contains only natural flavors and preservatives. It is enriched with vitamins and minerals and it also has probiotics for digestive system health. It does not contain meat by-products but does list meat meal as a main ingredient.
This food is AAFCO certified to be formulated for all life stages. There are feeding instructions included for adults, puppies, dogs that are pregnant or nursing, and older or overweight dogs. This is the only brand that contains no meat or by-products. All of its protein is provided by meat meal, which is described below.
CANIDAE Life Stages currently costs about $45 for a 30 lb bag.
Take care when choosing snacks and treats
Treats can be used in training, as part of dental health, or as just another way to show your pet some love. As previously mentioned, treats should not take up more than a small portion of a dog’s daily diet, but the quality of those snacks should also be considered.
Treats should be enriched with nutrients rather than biscuits that are made only from fillers. The ones that dogs tend to love best, however, can be high in sugar and fats. Consider offering fresh vegetables, which can be high in fiber but low in calories, also. But check first because some people food can be toxic to dogs.
What is meat meal?
Aside from the soft tissues that are used as protein by-products, there are other parts of an animal that can be used in dog food. These can include such things as hair, hooves, hide, and stomach. These products are cooked and dried, a process known as rendering, so that they can be added to dog food as an additional nutrient source.
These parts contain protein and amino acids but require further processing to be usable as a food source. Meat meal tends to be approximately half proteins, which can enrich the diet with essential amino acids that are essential protein building blocks.
Clearly, there are a lot of factors involved in choosing the best dry dog food possible. There are pluses and minuses that should be considered. You should also consider how and when you plan to feed your dog and be mindful of the ingredients the food contains.
There are many foods to choose from. The important thing is to educate yourself about what’s available and trust yourself to make a good decision. Remember that any treats you give are food too and should be selected just as carefully. It isn’t a simple process, but it’s worth the effort.