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dog food

9 Tips for Finding the Best Dog Food

From small dogs to working dogs, every canine deserves a nutritious and high-quality meal suited to their dietary needs

By Maddie Wojtalewicz

With endless options to choose from, deciding the best brand and formula for your dog can be challenging. There’s a lot to consider, from certifications to ingredients to your dog’s breed and size. To keep your pet running all day long, we wish to make the process a little easier. Below are nine tips for choosing dog food that is right for your pet. In addition to reading through this slideshow, we suggest working with your veterinarian, who can provide you pet food and nutrient recommendations based on your dog’s age, size, breed, lifestyle, and more.

TIPS FOR FINDING THE BEST DOG FOOD

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1.    Look for dog food certifications:
Your dog food should have a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), typically found in small font on the back of the bag or can. This can tell you how the dog food meets the nutritional requirements established by the association annually, and what life stage the food is intended for. (source)

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2.    Know key dog food ingredients:
Before picking a brand, you’ll want to understand what ingredients are in the dog food and the amount of each ingredient.  While this does not tell you the quality of ingredients, its’s good to know in case your dog has certain dietary restrictions that you need to plan for, such as allergies, sensitivities, or aversions. (source) Like humans, dogs can be allergic to a variety of foods, such as beef, dairy, wheat, eggs, chicken, and lamb.  Allergic reactions can include chronic ear inflammation and gastrointestinal problems, and symptoms of an allergy can include abnormal licking. (source)

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3.    Dog food ingredient nuances:
The product name is the primary means by which a specific pet food is identified.  Using an ingredient, like beef, in the name requires that the total product be 95% or more beef.  When a product name includes beef alongside another word, like “beef dinner,” “beef entrée,” or “beef platter,” beef makes up less than 95% of the total product, but at least 25%. (source)

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4.    Ingredient research:
You’ll have to do a little extra homework if you’re looking for information on the quality of the ingredients in certain dog foods.  Look up the manufacturer, which should be listed on the label, and find out if it meets certain standards, like practicing quality-control measures.  Certification of a manufacture’s procedures, testing ingredients, and supplier audits are all examples of specific quality-control measures. (source)

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5.    Your dog’s age matters:
Just like humans, dogs have different nutritional requirements based on their life stage.  If you have a puppy, give them food specifically made for a puppy’s growing body.  Once they’re 80% of their adult dog size, or around 12 months old, you can switch their food to an adult dog formula, which has different levels of protein, fat, calcium, and other essential nutrients.  Pregnant and nursing dogs, along with senior dogs, have different dietary needs as well.  Talk to your vet about choosing the best option for your dog’s age and condition. (source)

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6.    Size up your dog food options:
Keep your dog’s size in mind when picking out food.  Small breeds will be more comfortable eating smaller-sized kibble, whereas healthy, larger breeds can eat larger pieces.  (source) Also keep in mind that large and small breeds have varying risk levels of different diseases and ailments.  If your dog is predisposed to certain issues, you may want to consider a tailored diet of nutrients aimed at helping prevent those conditions.  Overall caloric intake is different for large and small dogs too.  So, when you’re in the pet food aisle, look for a bag designed specifically for your dog’s size. (source)

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7.    Take your dog’s lifestyle into account:
A dog’s overall activity level should be an important factor in choosing pet food.  A service, hunting, or working dog will likely need more and different levels of nutrients than a house pet. (source)

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8.    Choosing wet or dry:
In general, both options are nutritious and safe for dogs.  Dry food is the more popular option because it’s often less expensive and easy to store.  But if your dog is a picky eater, they may find wet dog food more appetizing, making it easier for you to feed them. (source)

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9.    Monitor your dog:
If your dog is showing any unusual behavior or symptoms, including not eating or drinking regularly, a dull or flaky coat, lethargy, weight gain, gastrointestinal disturbances, or excessive itching, it may be time to alter their diet.  However, talk to your veterinarian about the symptoms before changing your dog’s food.  (source)


BONUS: ANSWERS TO YOUR FREQUENTLY ASKED DOG FEEDING QUESTIONS 

How much should I be feeding my dog? The feeding directions on the dog food bag are a good starting point. However, your dog’s calorie needs will depend on a variety of factors, including their age and activity level. Talk to your vet about how many calories per day your dog needs to determine the appropriate serving size. (source) What’s the best feeding schedule for my dog? It depends. After you figure out how many calories your dog should be getting daily, figure out a schedule that works best for the both of you. Keep in mind that puppies need more feedings per day than adults. Remember: Routine and consistency are key for keeping your dog healthy. (source) Why is my dog overweight even though I’m following all of the proper feeding directions? Beyond your dog’s food type, serving size, and feeding schedule, you should factor in the treats they’re being fed, as well as any table snacks they receive. Treats should make up no more than 5% of your dog’s overall calorie intake. (source)
 

For more tips and advice for choosing your dog’s food, consult your veterinarian.
 

Visit your local Tractor Supply, where a team member would be more than happy to help you choose the best food for your dog.
 

About the Writer
Maddie Wojtalewicz is a writer from Indiana.