There's no doubt that feeding a balanced raw or home-cooked diet with a variety of ingredients is hands down the best diet you could give your dog. But for many of us, that type of diet just isn't possible. You won't see any judgment here!
If you are one of the many, many people who feed kibble but you still want to make sure your beloved pup is getting the absolute best nutrition possible, then I want to help you out by giving you what I consider to be the 10 best steps to follow when you go to choose what kibble to give your dog.
Now I know a lot of articles will just list the best brands, but I'm not going to do that. Firstly, because depending on where you live certain brands will or won't be available, and secondly, because companies and formulas change so often that this article would quickly be outdated.
Instead, I prefer to give you my 10 tips on how to choose a food and become an informed consumer. So here you go!
Usually, the cheaper the food, the cheaper the ingredients inside the bag. So avoid bargain foods as well as generics or store brands. They're usually made with cheap, poor quality ingredients.
Choose kibble that includes organic or human-grade ingredients, as well as meats produced without hormones or antibiotics.
Look for kibble that says natural on the label. This doesn't actually tell you the quality of the food ingredients, but it does mean that it can't contain synthetic preservatives or chemicals, unless they are specifically listed on the bag of food.
Only buy foods that contain whole meats instead of meals (like chicken meal, beef meal, fish meal). And avoid any foods that don't list the actual type of meat. If it just says meat meal, or meat by-product, avoid it at all costs.
Add in fresh vegetables and fruits to your dogs meals, as well as other home-cooked foods like your leftovers (avoiding any food that could be toxic to your dog, of course!).
Don't just feed your dog one brand of food. He needs variety just like you and I do, so choose 4 to 5 different brands, all high quality of course, and rotate them on a weekly or monthly basis. This way you're sure to cover all his nutrients and he'll get a wide range of different ingredients. This also protects him against developing food allergies. Don't just limit this rotation to one single brand of food, because they tend to use the exact same base ingredients and only change the meat ingredients.
Don't be afraid to call the manufacturer and ask about their ingredient sourcing, suppliers and production methods. If they refuse to answer your questions, don't buy from them.
Avoid foods that contain any type of synthetic additives. Even though dogs who consume these regularly appear to be healthy, there isn't any research on what the long-term consequences to their health are. If you're not sure about which additives to avoid, grab a copy of my Pet Food Ingredient Analyser, which includes the names of the most common ones to avoid.
Try to stay away from kibble that lists any type of meat by-products as the first protein source. You can use this type of kibble occasionally in a pinch, but by-products are a much less healthy meat source than the muscle meats.
Only buy from stores where the food rotation is high and the food isn't sitting for ages on their shelves. The longer the bag has been sitting on the shelf or if it's improperly stored, the faster it degrades.
I hope this list of do's and don'ts helps you see a bit more clearly in the murky waters of the pet food industry. With a little knowledge and a little bit of research, you can make sure that your pup is getting the absolute best nutrition you can offer him.