This question is one of the most commonly asked in our office. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer because every pet is different. Certain diets will work very well for one pet but may not be the right fit for another pet. First, let’s address some common misconceptions about commercial dog foods.
Meat versus grain based diets:
Many pet food producers recommend grain free diets, trying to match what “wild dogs” would eat. In reality, domesticated dogs have the digestive enzymes necessary to digest grain-based foods. Unless your dog has gastrointestinal problems like vomiting/diarrhea, or itchy skin (that may be an indication of food protein allergy), diets with grains are safe to feed & nutritionally complete.
Many pet food makers tout the lack of by-products in their food. Consumers believe that things like eyeballs, noses, skin, are added to foods that contain by-products. In reality, these by-products, such as liver, spleen, kidney, heart, are more nutritious than muscle meat. Most people don’t want to eat them, so don’t want to feed them to their dogs. When processed properly, by-products provide valuable nutrients for the pet. They are excellent sources of quality protein, vitamins and minerals and can help contribute to a balanced nutritional profile.
It is still unknown whether there are benefits from feeding raw foods versus cooked, but would you eat uncooked meats daily? What is known is that independent testing has shown that 30-40% of commercially prepared raw diets are contaminated with bacteria that cause disease, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Listeria, & others. Any potential benefits to feeding a commercially prepared raw diet are outweighed by the dangers of illness from bacterial contamination. We recommend to avoid these foods because the risk outweighs the benefits.
Aside from the inconvenience of cooking for one or more extra “family members”, a home cooked diet may be a good solution for dog owners who are concerned about commercial pet foods. However, the diet must be prepared following exact recipe directions without substitutions, or illness from lack of proper nutrition can result.
There are thousands of recipes that you can find via Google; these should be avoided as they may not be specific to your pet’s needs. A great and reliable site for proper recipes is called Balanceit.com. They offer numerous correct recipes for homemade diets (but of course, they also sell their own dog food/supplement brand). Additionally, a consult with a veterinary nutrionist can be arranged to develop a diet specific to your pet’s individual needs. Contact Prior Lake Pet Hospital for more information.
So, now you know what not to feed, what should you feed?
THE SHORT ANSWER:
You want to choose the best food within your budget, available at a convenient location, that works well for your specific pet.
To help make that decision, first, choose a major manufacturer; Royal Canin, Iams, Purina, and Hill’s Science Diet are just a few! Then select an appropriate diet for your pet’s age (puppy, adult, or senior), and size (small breed or large breed). These large companies have professional nutritionists on staff and do extensive research on their foods before production begins. Many small companies use formulated diets that have never been studied by feeding trials before being sold so they are formulated to be complete but have not been tested. And as everyone knows things on paper don’t always match up to real life.
We recommend twice a day feeding especially for large and giant breeds that are prone to bloat. Please, limit table scraps and “people food” as much as possible. Dogs will often hold out for the good stuff, leaving the rest to sit in the bowl. If they get too much “people food” they may not get enough good nutrients as they need.
For pets with chronic medical conditions that require special diets, always check with your veterinarian before making any changes.
When changing brands or even flavors, mix the old diet with the new one for 3-5 days; some dogs will develop vomiting or diarrhea from a quick change.
Food we feed our pets:
- Royal Canin
- Iams Proactive Health
- Purina ProPlan
- Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet
- Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Advantage Puppy
- Fromm’s Feline Mature Gold
THE LONG ANSWER:
You could spend many years researching different dog foods. Your first step should always be looking for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement. The “AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose” also called a “nutrition claim” is a statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance or a combination of these, or if the food does not meet the complete and balanced requirements than it is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only. Under AAFCO regulations, this statement must be substantiated by the state and the pet food manufacturer. Be sure this statement includes the phrase “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate [this diet] is complete and balanced”.
If you would like more information, a good resource is produced by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Nutrition Committee. They have several links explaining in detail how to research dog food companies and the important questions to ask. Follow this link to review a fact sheet: http://www.wsava.org/sites/default/files/Recommendations%20on%20Selecting%20Pet%20Foods.pdf
Please review it, then contact the pet food manufacturer directly and ask them the questions on this list. If they are unwilling or unable to provide you with the requested information, be very cautious about buying their food.
Would you like a nutrition consult with a Veterinarian? Call today to schedule!