Good quality ingredients in dog food is important for dogs’ health. It’s a good idea to double-check the ingredients in your dog food.
When choosing food, it’s helpful to recognize our individual food philosophy. Some examples:
- “Someone else feeds me, so I’m happy.”
- “Convenient processed foods are good. I check the labels and get most of the nutrients I need.”
- “I feel better when I eat whole ingredients more than processed.”
- “I grow and hunt everything I eat.”
After much experimentation I feel better when I’m eating “natural whole” foods (vs. processed) as much as possible, so that’s where my philosophy is based.
However, processed foods are convenient and sometimes necessary to maintain a certain lifestyle.
The same holds true for dog food.
There are decent commercial dog foods available. Regardless of a preferred type of dog food. The trick is finding the best one we can afford.
The good news is that we have free access to online tools to find the good foods we may want to date.
Ingredient Quality Spectrum
Regardless of whether our food philosophy leans towards processed or whole or somewhere in between, dog food ingredients range from “excellent” to “ugly”. Where in the spectrum you decide to play into depends on your food philosophy, your time and interest level (discussed in Part 4 of this series), and your budget.
I propose that if you find a dog food that contains any “ugly” foods, do not use it. If there are any on the “bad” side of the spectrum, try to avoid using it. If you are comparing two dog foods and one has more ingredients on the “excellent” side than the other, then go with the excellent. Pretty simple. Now we just have to find which ingredients are in which dog foods and are where on the spectrum.
Find Your Dog Food – Process and Tools
I suggest using one (or both) of the processes outlined below to find your dog food. Even if you decide to feed raw or homemade, it’s helpful to know a good “backup” food (e.g. when boarding, traveling or in emergencies).
The first process, “Get Familiar with Ingredients”, takes a little longer, but you learn more.
The second process, “Use the Slim Doggy Database” is faster.
Process 1: Get Familiar with Ingredients
- Find the ingredients list for your current dog food or one you’re interested in (either online or on the package). (You’ll find better luck of finding a good dog food from a pet or health food store than a chain supermarket.)
- Read this very short The Daily Puppy article to get familiar with “good and bad” ingredients (read this.)
- Read this short Slim Doggy article, section “A Snapshot of a Good Dog Food”, for a little more detail (read this.)
- Now compare your dog food’s ingredients to the Slim Doggy list.
- If any suggested “no…” ingredients from the Slim Doggy list are in your dog food, then disregard that dog food and choose another to analyze.
- If any ingredients in your dog food have a lower preference in the Slim Doggy list (e.g. “meals” instead of “actual protein sources”) then put that dog food on a “maybe” pile and consider choosing another to analyze. You’ll soon start to recognize which ingredients are where on the Ingredient Quality Spectrum.
Process 2: Use the Slim Doggy Dog Food Database
Slim Doggy generously provides a free Dog Food Database based on the standards listed in their Ranking article (read this.)
Use their database tool to narrow down your dog food dating pool (click here for the tool.)
Notes about the Slim Doggy tool:
- The only dog food types filter options are “Dry”, “Canned” and “Treat”.
- Dehydrated foods are considered “Dry”.
- Freeze-dried foods are considered “Canned”, even if it comes in a bag.
The size of the database can be daunting (there are 6 pages of foods “Dry” foods ranked “High”). You’ll want to narrow down your options:
- If you have a dog food, see how it ranks. Compare it to another brand you’ve considered.
- List affordable brands available locally, or note brands that have been recommended. Check the database to see how each generally ranks and consider picking the one of the higher ranked foods.
- If you are looking specifically for dehydrated or freeze dried food types only, you may want to first list some of the brands that offer them. (I used amazon.com to look for “dehydrated dog food” in “Pet Supplies”.) Otherwise, they are lumped together with “Dry” (dehydrated) and “Canned” (freeze dried).
Good luck! And remember, these are just hints and guidelines. And don’t feel that you have to analyze every single dog food available just to find the “right” one. There may be more than one “right” one for you. Remember, you can dog food date! And if your dog has special needs or your veterinarian made specific recommendations, be sure to take them into account.
Remember: It is important to take your dog to your vet on a regular basis and to discuss nutrition for your dogs with your vet. Even if you decide to agree to disagree with your veterinarian, your dog benefits when your dog’s health care professional knows what they are eating.
Read More in this Series
Part 1 proposed a plan to find the “perfect” dog food.
Part 2 recognizes that dog food choices are personal (like dating).
Part 3 outlines basic nutritional requirements for dogs.
Part 4 discusses driving forces behind dog food decision making.
Part 5 helps you narrow down your dog food choices by being picky about ingredients.
Part 6 discusses cost estimates and success factors. It is the final entry in this series.
More “Avoid” Ingredient Lists
There are some disagreements as to what ingredients to actually avoid. If you’re curious about learning more about “bad and ugly” ingredients, here are some additional links to “avoid” lists and perspectives.
A longer avoid list: http://www.dogfoodproject.com/?page=badingredients
A “Top 5” avoid list: http://www.thelabradorsite.com/5-dog-food-ingredients-your-labrador-doesnt-need/
For those with good eyesight here’s a detailed resource for “Identifying Better Products”. http://www.dogfoodproject.com/index.php?page=betterproducts