Dog Food 101

Where to start? Choosing a food for your beloved dog can be overwhelming!

Have you ever walked into a pet store and said, “I’d like to get some new food for my dog,” and see the staff member glaze over? You will soon read why we react that way when this happens.

Let us get started!

First consider the following:

Formula: puppy, adult, senior, weight management

Dog Size: small breed, medium/average, large breed

Lifestyle: do you have kids, finances, freezer space, cleaning habits

Keep the above noted factors in mind as we go through some of the various types of dog food.  There are at least 5 different types of dog food; kibble, wet (canned), raw, freeze-dried raw, cooked frozen. I’m sure there are more, but these are the most common.

Kibble or dry food is one of the most common types of dog food. It is easy, clean and economically quite feasible. These can run the gamut of quality from drug store brands to specially prepared and unique protein-based ones. Try to stay away from recipes that are starchy and have fillers and by-products. Much like for humans, eating white rice and corn regularly may not be the ideal diet, or so I’m told.

Do you want your dog’s food to have grains or be grain-free? Currently Ancient Grains, such as oats, barley, brown rice, sweet potatoes are quite common, and again, much like for humans, are much healthier. Others opt for a grain-free diet. There are pros and cons to both, just make sure to do your own research. Also consider that many vets and breeders have arrangements with certain brands, and may be pushing to sell you those. *listening to your vet while doing your own research is always recommended.

There are many types of potential protein options or a mixture of proteins, some which your dog may or may not like. Don’t worry, they will let you know. Also, some brands and some formulas have a higher percentage of protein which can make some dogs’ stomachs upset, but may be ideal for active dogs. You can always find the percentage breakdown on the packaging.

There are also fancy kibble that are coated with freeze dried raw or have kibble mixed with bits of freeze dried raw. These are highly palatable, but may run at a higher price point. Your dog may also just eat the yummy freeze dried raw leaving the kibble behind. 

It is interesting to note that North American pet food regulations are not as strict as in the European Union (EU). These regulations look to test the food, evaluate the cleanliness of the facilities and such. Some North American products however have passed EU standards, making them that much more enticing to some customers. Canadian brands that pass EU standards include 1st Choice and PetCurean prodcuts to name a few. 

Wet or canned dog food is also quite common. Most canned dog foods are complete meals, meaning they meet the nutritional requirements for daily feedings. There are however ones that are just supplemental or toppers, meant to be combined with dry food. This is important to note for calorie sake. Some dogs also get used to the mix of wet and dry and will be expecting it, often refusing when a kibble only option is presented. Trust me, I learned the hard way.  Some canned formulas come in a pate form while others come in a more enticing stew formula. To further complicate things, you can also get senior, puppy, grain free, with grain options in wet food as well.

Raw food has been trending on an upward trajectory and appears to have quite the following. Remember that question about lifestyle, kids and finances? This is where those answers become important. Raw food requires preparation, ie: getting the right serving out the night before and thawed in time for morning and afternoon feeding. The food can only be out for a very short amount of time to prevent salmonella and bacteria from forming. Having small kids and raw is tricky, but can be done with diligent cleaning and rules. Raw food for bigger dogs for example can also add up quite a bit, some spending upwards of $80/week if not more. Raw food can also come in different forms ie: Primal has raw food in small pellets which are similar size to kibble, called Primal Pronto. They also have nuggets as well as patties. Some raw also has higher veggie content than others to make the price point better. Lots of options to choose from if this is your choice of dog food and the benefits have been shown, it is just not for everyone.

Freeze Dried Raw is an easier form than frozen raw, and less messy. Most people add warm water or broth to soften the food as it is quite powdery. These mostly come as small patties or inch long nuggets. Depending on the size of the dog this form of food can also add up financially quite quickly. However it is highly palatable and dogs love it.

Last but not least is the frozen or refrigerated cooked food. There are a few brands that have cooked food that is either kept refrigerated or frozen. This form is slightly less messy than straight raw food, and without the worry about bacteria. In addition, there are also a lot of new smaller brands and pet stores cooking their own food in-house to save you from doing it. It is another great option, especially if you get to know a local producer or in- store manufacturer of such cooked food.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider, a lot of which I did not even get into, when it comes to dog food. One thing is for certain, pet owners are no longer willing to blindly feed their dog anything, and have higher expectations overall for the pet food market. Definitely do your own research, consult your local pet professionals and see what works for you and your beloved pet.

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