A dog choosing his foodWith so many choices of dog food brands readily available on the market, it can be a challenge to know which is best for your pup. Each one offers key phrases such as "no fillers" or "grain free" to grab your attention in an attempt capitalize on the $109 billion in revenue produced by the dog food industry. Let's delve behind all the advertising hype to uncover what matters most for your dog's nutritional needs. 

Buying Food For Your Dog's Age 

Balancing the correct ratio of fat, protein, calories and other essential nutrients can be tricky. Understanding your dog's personal balance requirements starts with his age. Senior dogs tend to require fewer calories due to a less active lifestyle, higher fiber for their digestion, and glucosamine or chondrointin supplements for joint support. On the other hand, puppies usually need more calories and protein than adult dogs for their rapidly growing bodies. Too much or too little of either one can have a long-lasting negative impact on a puppy's health. Your veteranarian should have a good idea of when you can switch formulas for the different life stages, based on the age and overall health of your dog. 

Different Foods For Different Sizes?

So, if the dog's stage in life is important for selecting the right food, what about the size of the dog? While all dogs have certain basic nutritional needs in common, large breed dogs require less calcium to protect them from diseases such as hip dysplasia whereas small dogs tend to be hypoglycemic when they do not consume enough calories in frequent meals. It all goes back to that balancing act, and, thanks to recent labeling laws in 2016, the bag should indicate if it contains food that meets the criteria established by the Association for American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) for your dog's size as well as stage in life. 

Is There Anything Else On The Package I Should Look For?

Now that we have established your dog needs food that is formulated for his size and age, the quality of the food comes into play. In addition to being AAFCO compliant, we recommend only buying brands with ingredients you can both read easily and understand. It may be more expensive to purchase a higher quality dog food made with a larger percentage of quality meat and other healthy ingredients, but consider the much larger veteranarian costs associated with the diseases caused by malnutrition or fillers and additives. Plus, we know you want your best friend to stay by your side with that extra pep in his step as long as possible.  

To Add Grain Or Not To Add Grain

There are many who believe a grain-free diet is good for dogs, and humans too for that matter. The basis for this theory is that your pooch's wolf ancestors did not graze like cattle in a field of wheat, but rather hunted wild game to eat. While this is true of the ancestral canines, it is likely your dog's digestive tract has evolved to handle the breaking down of grain with ease. In fact, it is far more likely for dogs to have allergies to a particular type of meat or filler than to a source of grain. That said, there are times when a grain-free diet may be the best solution to a particular health concern for your pet. Be sure to consult with your veteranarian to see if your dog will benefit from going grain-free.

Top-Rated Commercial Brands

Alright, so to recap, we know age, size, a mention of meeting the AAFCO standards and ingredients anyone can pronounce are important. However, you still need to know which brands offer quality ingredients in a balanced formula you can trust. Luckily, there is a wonderful resource called the DogFoodAdvisor. When you visit his website, you will find a plethora of thoroughly reviewed dog food brands, complete with ratings. He even lists recalled brands on his site. Click on these links for his top dry dog foods and top wet dog foods.

Save Money With These Recipes At Home

We recognize quality dog food can come with a steep price tag. Just as it is less expensive for humans to cook at home for our meals, dog owners can often save money cooking their dog's meals at home. Apart from time and effort, the biggest drawback to preparing all your dog's meals can be finding the best recipe for balanced nutrition and flavor. For those who enjoy knowing exactly what is in their pup's food and find the obstacles to cooking the food at home are not overly challenging, check out these great recipes that seem mighty tasty for Fluffy! 

Made at home or bought in a store, quality dog food is crucial to getting critical nutrition to your pet no matter what stage in life or size. If buying your pet's food, read the labels for any red flags like additives, check out DogFoodAdvisor for raved about brands, and always ask your vet for any concerns about the brand. When cooking at home, check recipes you use against the ratios the AAFCO recommends for your pet.