The Best Food For Dogs

The Best Food For Dogs

by T. J. Dunn, Jr. DVM

Can you answer the question…
“What’s the best food to feed a dog”?

If you don’t care to read through this explanation of my personal opinion, simply click to the conclusion at the bottom of the page. You’re welcome!

Will your dog’s food be predominantly meat or grain?

What is the best food to feed a dog? Every day veterinarians are asked that question by dog owners. It’s a sincere question because most dog owners want to feed the best diet regardless of price or convenience of acquisition. The content of this page is my opinion regarding the “best” dry food and how to determine what you think is “best” to feed dogs. Please understand that the entire discussion on this page relates to healthy dogs with no kidney, thyroid, food allergy or other abnormal conditions. Here is why it is strictly an opinion… there is no single answer to the question “What is the best diet to feed a dog?” Or if there is an answer it is this “It depends”. Over the past 37 years I have been examining dogs and cats in my practices I have made it a point to ask the owner “What diet are you feeding?” I have gotten all sorts of answers but in every case I relate the owner’s response to what I am seeing in the patient. And over the years my suggestions regarding what to feed have changed. Originally I took the pet food manufacturer’s declarations as fact… that an assortment of “Complete and Balanced” pet foods were perfectly nourishing because that wording was not legally permitted on pet food labels unless feeding trials demonstrated its veracity. I eventually discovered I was mistaken in the belief that any “Complete and Balanced” dog food was appropriate to feed.

In 1978 I had an awakening. A number of clients were presenting dogs to me that had coarse hair coats and slightly greasy and flaky skin; and often these dogs (and cats!) had chronic itchy skin, hot spots, ear infections and seemed overweight. So… they were over-caloried but under-nourished. Their calorie intake was up but the food they were consuming simply… no matter that the pet food label indicated “Complete and Balanced”… was not providing a proper nutrient spectrum to the dog. Sometimes I would simply say that some fatty acid supplements “might help”. I was a believer in those “Complete and Balanced” diets. One of the reasons I couldn’t see what was going on regarding these dogs with poor health signals relating to diets was that some of the “Complete and Balanced” diets were resulting in well nourished dogs, partly because the owners were feeding table scraps as well. (I’ll jump ahead a bit and tell you the defining element that separated the good “Complete and Balanced” diets from the poor ones was this: The poor diets were based on corn (corn was listed as the first ingredient in the ingredient list on the label) and the good diets were based on chicken or some other meat source (chicken, lamb, beef, poultry, etc. were listed first on the ingredient list).

I was always instructed, and learned in the few nutrition courses in veterinary school (nutrition is much better covered in veterinary school these days) that an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in a dog’s diet would lead to health disasters. This holds true today, too. I was instructed that “since meat is high in phosphorus and lower in calcium, too much meat is not good for dogs over long periods of time”. (Many people still confuse the disastrous all meat diets with meat-based diets; one is not good the other is ideal.) Grain-based diets for dogs, and even more so for cats, do not make nutritional sense and that was exactly why I was seeing those patients with the dry and flaky, sometimes greasy skin and coarse hair coats. They were eating “Complete and Balanced” grain-based diets with nothing else added. Why add anything when it is “Complete and Balanced” already?

My enlightenment came one day, decades ago, when I saw another litter owned by a local Bloodhound breeder. This fellow seemed to me to be quiet and unassuming, didn’t act like a “know-it-all”, didn’t ever have to bring any of his dogs in for anything other than vaccinations. When I’d ask him what he was feeding his dogs we would get into our annual nutritional discussion and I’d keep warning him about the home-made recipe and all that meat he had been feeding his dogs for years. Funny thing was, his dogs were among the very best I had ever seen. All his litters, and adult dogs, were robust, had perfect skin and coats even at six weeks of age, and never had to come in for skin problems, skeletal dysfunction, gastrointestinal problems or oral health issues. This breeder was sending his pups all over the country and there I was trying to tell him to be careful about “feeding too much meat” and I’d talk about such things as “a ‘Complete and Balanced’ commercial dog food would be best, make sure you don’t get skeletal problems”. I wondered why I felt rather foolish instructing him because I honestly thought his dogs were in optimum health. The answer came to me, finally, on its own. It seeped into my consciousness after years of seeing a pattern. The key to the healthy dogs’ diets was that they were consuming a diet based upon meat and the poor doers were eating diets based upon grain such as corn! For more on this subject read this page.

According to pet industry consultant Dave Geier of Geier Enterprises, Highlands Ranch, CO, “Pet food companies invest over $100-million each year in research and development. This includes both basic research into new and improved formulations as well as the protocols to validate their efficacy.” All this ongoing research and development bodes well for dog owners because the more we know the better we become at taking care of the dogs and puppies in our lives. Geier goes on to say that “The ingredients in some high-end pet foods have never been better.”

Diets rich in animal protein do not cause kidney damage in healthy dogs and cats

I have noticed that today’s meat-based diets are far superior to what was commercially available twenty-five years ago. Dog owners are finally understanding the need for meat and poultry products as a foundation for superior nutrition for dogs. And the myth about “all that protein causing kidney damage” has finally gone the way of such proverbs as milk causing worms and ear cropping preventing ear infections. If you need to know more about the fact that dietary protein does not harm the kidneys, read this.

Therefore, one of the parameters you need to know when you are trying to determine the best food to feed your dog is this: Is the diet meat-based or grain-based? The meat-based diets are the best choice. (Remember, we’re talking about normal dogs, not those with heart, thyroid or other abnormalities.) I prefer chicken as the first (main) ingredient when I recommend a dog food because I have seen so many dogs on chicken-based diets that were in really excellent health. Lamb, turkey, fish, beef and venison all are good choices, too, but subtle nutritional variations in amino acid spectrum and the fatty acid composition contributed by the “meat” may be different when these protein sources are compared to chicken. That’s just my opinion; don’t stop feeding a lamb and rice diet if your dog looks and acts great!

Veterinary nutrition specialist Dan Carey is a co-author of an excellent text called CANINE AND FELINE NUTRITION, and numerous other published articles that all dog owners and breeders should read. He works in Research and Development at The Iams Company. He believes strongly that dogs should be fed properly well before any breeding activities begin. “The bitch should be at or within five percent of her ideal body weight. Excess weight is associated with increased complications and excess weight in the final third of gestation is associated with over-sized puppies. Her fatty acid status should be normalized by feeding a diet that contains proper amounts and ratios of fatty acids. If she has had previous litters, each successive litter places a nutritional drain on her. One of the nutrient types that are depleted are fatty acids. If the bitch is fed a diet without a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (5;1), her own fatty acid index will go down on successive litters.”

What’s the best dog food to feed your dog? The answer is “that depends”. In truth, there seems to be no single dog food that is the best for all dogs and all puppies. So what should you look for in a high quality dog food? Here’s what I suggest to my clients: Look at the dog food labels. In the GUARANTEED ANALYSIS look for the Protein content to be at least 30 percent, the Fat to be at least 18 percent, preservatives to be via Vitamin E and/or C and look for Omega Fatty Acid to be present. Supplementation can be harmful, especially calcium supplementation to a pregnant bitch. If a good quality dog food is being fed no special supplementation should be needed. If a supplement is required to make the dog look or feel better or whelp healthier pups, you should instead change the food. Optimum nutrition demands that protein, fat, carbohydrate and micronutrients such as minerals, vitamins, and enzymes are in balance with each other. Therein lies the danger of a breeder supplementing an already properly formulated diet! Recall Geier’s statement about all that research that’s gone into the food’s formulation. How are you to know what supplement to add and in what quantity to “improve” the foods’ value? Should you be adding whole foods such as eggs, cottage cheese, or meat to the dog’s diet? Again, if a high quality, highly digestible commercial food is fed that meets the previously mentioned percentages of nutrients, adding table food may undo some of the balance and quantities of nutrients being fed to the dog. So be cautious and self-critical about supplementing a dog’s diet in the hope of improving an already balanced, scientifically established formula.

When you make that purchase decision it is best made after some critical study… on your own.

You will encounter individuals, just as I have, who will dog, ah, shall I say it… dogmatically state that XYZ dog food is THE BEST because it has ABC in it and no Ps and Qs! And if you even think of feeding your dog anything other than XYZ you are doing your poor dog a disservice because it will develop cancer, arthritis, be immune suppressed, have allergies and won’t sire or whelp healthy puppies. Plus it will probably have a bad temperament! I usually ask the person if they, as I have, took college level Biochemistry, Animal Nutrition, Comparative Anatomy, Genetics, Physiology, Microbiology, and so on. I continue politely to say that with my academic background I feel well prepared to make my own judgment calls regarding what I will feed my own dogs and what I recommend to my clients. Be prepared to defend your decision!

Let us take a look at four dry dog food labels and pretend you are at the store trying to decide which to purchase. Remember that protein, ideally, according to an experienced specialist in animal nutrition, should be listed as at least 30 percent. Keep in mind that dogs utilize fat well and some nutrition specialists think that at least 18 percent is ideal. I know which one of the diets I would pick if I have to take only one of the four. Take a look at a number of dog foods at a pet food specialty store and at the grocery or mass marketer store. Keep track of prices per pound. You will notice that the foods that are grain-based are less expensive per pound to purchase than the meat based foods. However, numerous studies have shown that the cost per feeding for a less expensive grain-based food is very near the cost per feeding of a more expensive (better quality) meat-based food because the recommended amounts to feed per pound of dog is higher (more food needed) when the grain-based foods are fed. In short… the dog needs to eat more poor quality food than higher quality food to maintain caloric needs.

Guaranteed Analysis Ingredients
Crude Protein (min.) 24.00 %
Crude Fat (min.) 14.50 %
Crude Fiber (max.) 4.00 %
Moisture (min.) 10.00 %
Phosphorus (min.) .90 %
Calcium (min.) 1.20 %
Alpha Linolenic Acid (Omega-3) (min.) .60 %
(Omega-6) (min.) 3.70 %
Vitamin E (min.) 200.00 IU/KG
Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) (min.) 50.00 mg/kg
Cellulase (a) (min.) 100.00 CMCU/kg

Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Brown Rice, White Rice, Lamb Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract), Herring Meal, Flax Seed, Sun Cured Alfalfa Meal, Sunflower Oil, Chicken, Lecithin, Monocalcium Phosphate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Linoleic Acid, Rosemary Extract, Sage Extract, Yeast Culture, Dried Enterococcus Faecium, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Aspergillus Oryzae Fermentation Extract, Dried Bacillus Subtilis Fermentation Extract, Inulin (from Chicory root), Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Fermentation Solubles, Yucca Schidigera Extract Mixed Tocopherols (source of Vitamin E), Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, Manganese Amino Acid Chelate, Iron Amino Acid Chelate, Copper Amino Acid Chelate, Cobalt Amino Acid Chelate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Ascorbic Acid (source of Vitamin C), Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (source of B2), Beta Carotene, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Folic Acid, D-Biotin, Sodium Selenite, Dried Papaya, Vitamin B12 Supplement

Guaranteed Analysis Ingredients
Crude Protein, not less than 21.0%
Crude Fat, not less than 8.0%
Crude Fiber, not more than 5.0%
Moisture, not more than 12.0%

Ground Yellow Corn, Meat Meal, Ground Wheat, Soybean Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of natural Vitamin E), Salt, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Niacin Supplement, Choline Chloride, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydro- chloride, Biotin, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Copper Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Zinc Oxide, Magnesium Oxide

Guaranteed Analysis Ingredients
Protein 12.5% (min)
Fat 13% (min)
Crude Fiber 3% (max)
Calcium 0.50% (min)
Phosphorus 0.40% (min)

Chicken, corn meal, ground grain sorghum, ground wheat, chicken by-product meal, soybean meal, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), corn gluten meal, brewers rice, chicken liver flavor, vegetable oil, dried egg product, flaxseed, DL-methionine, preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid, minerals (potassium chloride, salt, calcium carbonate, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), rosemary extract, beta-carotene, vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (a source of vitamin C), niacin, thiamine mononitrate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement).

Guaranteed Analysis Ingredients
Protein 23% (min)
Fat 12% (min)
Crude Fiber 4% (max)
Moisture 10%
Ash 9%

Chicken Meal, Whole Wheat Flour, Ground Rice, Lamb Meal, Poultry Fat (Preserved with Tocopherols and Ascorbic Acid), Ground Wheat, Dried Whole Egg, Lecithin, Fish Meal, Brewers Dried Yeast, Wheat Germ Meal, Dried Kelp, Dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, DL-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Source of Vitamin E), Zinc Oxide, Selenium Supplement, Manganous Oxide, Riboflavin Supplement (Vitamin B2), Copper and Cobalt, Niacin, Ascorbic Acid (Source of Vitamin C), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, D-Biotin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Calcium Iodate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement.

Nursing dogs require a higher calorie intake of properly balanced foods

In my practice I tell all dog owners that they should be feeding the best dog food they can get all year long… not just during hunting season, not just during growth, not just during the summer when the dog is more active, not just during breeding and lactation. Does it make sense to feed a poor quality of food at any time? Your dog can’t make the choice so you have to. And do not fall back on the excuse that the high nutrient density meat-based foods cause a dog to “get overweight”. They become overweight if you feed too much food for the dog’s activity level! If you don’t believe that, look here. I suggest to breeders that if you make the decision to breed your dog, you must also make the commitment to provide the best nourishment possible. Expense should not be a consideration when it comes to selecting a high quality diet being fed all year long, not just during times of stress such as pregnancy and lactation. As Dr. Carey emphasizes “Don’t cut corners on the best diet you can get for the most demanding period of a dog’s life and the most important time for a good healthy start for puppies.” Does your own philosophy regarding nutrition need some updating? Exercise, optimum body weight and high quality nutrition are your key concepts to evaluate. Be critical of old ideas, be wary of potential myths, reconsider the addition of supplements, and do a little independent study to learn about current knowledge of canine nutrition. Then watch your dogs flourish.

In conclusion: I recommend that a dog owner look at the pet food label. Look at the ingredient list and a meat such as chicken should be listed as the first ingredient. Look at the guaranteed analysis to see that the protein level is at 30% or more. The fat content should be at 18% or more. And if there is a rather wide spectrum of ingredients such as omega fatty acids and Vitamin E, that’s good, too. There should be NO FOOD COLORING! If you find a few diets that meet this criteria, and there are quite a few from which to choose, you just might have the confidence that you are feeding the best dog food you can get.

So that’s my opinion of what dog food is best. There are a number of them but you need to be selective and you probably will have to pay more for them. Will a dog survive and do well on lesser quality foods? Maybe… a professional race car will probably finish a race using poor quality gas, too. But it will never perform to its intended and maximum potential if the fuel is poor quality. If you are feeding a generic, grain-based dog food and your dog looks and feels great, my guess is that the dog is also getting table food. Adding chicken scraps, vegetables, cottage cheese, eggs and other “people food” often upgrades the total nutrients in the dog’s diet. But that’s another story we will shed light on some day. In the interim, look at this page.


Click on the link at the beginning of this article…
“The Internet Animal Hospital”

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Please follow and like us:
Visit Us
Follow Me
Follow by Email

Follow hart 1-800-hart:
call HART crazy .. but you either like something or you don't - HART likes everything and everybody! Well, except Asparagus.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *