The internet is full of myths and misperceptions on what makes a healthy dog food and what you should be feeding your dog. But how do you really know what’s the best food for your dog?
Your Dog’s Club are here to put the record straight, bringing you the latest of scientific evidence to help you make the right nutrition decisions for your dog. If you’d like to choose from a curated selection of top-quality dog foods, simply take a look at our range here.
Is raw or kibble better for dogs?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of what’s in your dog’s food, it’s a good idea to decide on what type of dog food you and your dog would prefer. Unless you’re looking to cook your dog’s meals from scratch, there are three main types available: dry dog food (kibble), wet dog food, and raw dog food. Each group come with their own pros and cons, but this alone does not dictate how healthy your dog’s food will be for them. Just as there are poor quality kibbles available, there are poor quality wet and raw foods too – and the same can be said for the high-quality formulations of each group.
Do dogs need meat to be healthy?
Another decision that you need to make on your dog’s behalf is if they will eat meat or not. Vegan and vegetarian dog foods have seen a huge surge in popularity recently, and there are plenty of vegan dog foods on the market. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the healthier option. In fact, there’s not enough research done on the matter to say conclusively one way or the other, and the studies that do exist have plenty of flaws, opening their results up to questioning.
It is important to remember, though, that meat-free foods need to provide protein through other means – and most vegetarian and vegan dog foods will do this through beans, peas, and other legumes. Whilst the science on this still isn’t conclusive, there are suggestions that diets high in these ingredients may predispose dogs to a heart condition known as dilated cardiomyopathy.
This lack of science means that we can’t say for sure if your dog will be better for eating meat or not, and your decision on this will likely come down to your own personal ethics.
Is grain-free food good for dogs?
You will likely have noticed that a lot of dog foods have embraced the ‘grain-free’ trend, where they replace the grain content of their recipes with other sources of carbohydrate – most commonly, sweet potato, white potato, and legumes. The marketing typically associated with these kinds of foods suggests that they are the healthier option, but this isn’t exactly accurate. Whilst it’s true that refined grains can cause blood sugar spikes, potentially leading to problem behaviours as well as other health concerns, the same can be said of white potatoes. In this scenario, the grain-free food wouldn’t offer any benefits over the grained option!
However, whole grains can be a really useful part of your dog’s diet, just as a sweet potato alternative can be too. So the question shouldn’t really be “are there grains in this dog food?”, but “what kind of carbohydrate is in this dog food?”.
What is the number 1 healthiest dog food?
Now that you’ve decided what direction you’d like to take with your dog’s food (whether it’s dry, wet or raw; whether it’s meat-based or plant-based; whether it has grains or is grain-free), it’s time to start thinking about specific foods and what the healthiest food for your dog may be.
The first thing you need to remember about this is that every dog is different – your own dog will probably benefit from a totally different diet from Fido down the road. This will be down to their metabolism, how active they are, whether they have any intolerances, and more.
Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at dog food labels. The first thing you want to be checking here is the food’s analytical constituents – this is a section commonly found next to or below the ingredients list, and should look something like “protein 20%, fat 15%, fibre 6%, ash 7%”. If the food has more than 14% moisture, this will also be listed. You may also notice that the amounts here don’t add up to 100% – this is because whatever is left can be primarily attributed to NFE (nitrogen-free extract) content, which is mainly starches and sugars.
If you have an average, healthy dog, who gets around 1-2hrs exercise a day, an ideal composition to see here would be around 25% protein, 15% fat, 5% fibre, 6% ash.
What should the main ingredients in dog food be?
With so many possible ingredients out there, it’s not possible to definitively say what the best ones are for our dogs. However, all dog foods must display their ingredients in descending order – meaning that the first listed ingredient will be the most prevalent one and the last ingredient will make up the smallest contribution. There are little tricks manufacturing companies can use to get around this, though, so keep an eye out for ingredient splitting (where one ingredient is split into different parts to push it down the list, e.g. “soya protein…soya oil”) and ingredient grouping (where multiple ingredients are grouped together to pull them up the list, e.g. “meat and animal derivatives”).
You also want your dog food to be specific about their ingredients. Vague ingredients mean that the recipe can change depending on what’s more readily available, which could upset your dog’s stomach. More specific ingredients are also often more traceable, meaning it’s easier to check on the quality of the source. With this in mind, it’s better to opt for a food that lists “Chicken (fresh chicken 19%, dried chicken 18%, chicken fat 4.5%), Duck, Turkey” than a food that lists “Poultry”, just as it’s better to choose a food that lists “Brown rice, Oats” than one that lists “Cereals”.
I’m still not sure what to feed my dog: can you help me?
Absolutely! We love helping people give their dogs the best in life and getting their nutrition right is a massive part of this. You can read more about nutrition in our blog, or you can contact us at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to help!