Dog Food Nutrition: Finding the Right Dog Food
Written by Veterinarian Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM
What exactly makes one dog food “better” than another? It is a common question that I get from pet parents. Most people—including myself—want their pets to eat food that is similar in quality to what they themselves eat. Food that is healthy, fresh, flavorful, and minimally processed. Your dog’s nutrition is extremely important and choosing the right dog food can allow your pet to eat food that will make both of you happy.
Image via @JagerMurphster_
Finding the Right Dog Food
Before becoming domesticated, dogs ate only raw foods. Until the advent of processed foods in the 19th century, dogs still had diets limited to mostly raw foods with some cooked foods from their pet parents. Dogs’ digestive tracts were made to easily digest all the nutrients they needed from the raw meat and bones that they could hunt and eat. However, dogs are not obligate carnivores like cats; they can also digest plant materials and starches to get nutrients.
Like humans, dogs prefer food that is both fresh and flavorful that doesn’t leave them with an upset stomach. I believe the best dog food choice is a raw or semi raw diet, with the second best being a cooked meat diet. However, busy pet parents can’t always provide such fare, so an easily digestible commercial dog food with mostly pure protein sources and organic fruits and vegetables is another strong choice.
Choosing Dog Food: Reading Labels and Understanding Ingredients
So what’s the best way to know if the dog food you’re considering has the right ingredients? It’s simple— read the label! Be sure to pay attention to the first five ingredients, which make up the majority of what’s in the food. Here are some items to consider when examining the ingredients:
1. Are there high-quality animal proteins? A quality dog food has beef, chicken, or another animal protein in the first few ingredients instead of poultry by-products or animal by-products, where the specific meat is not named. Don’t be afraid of organ meats and raw nutrients coming from bones—these are very easy on a dog’s digestive tract.
2. Are there too many carbohydrates like wheat, corn, rice, or potatoes? Seeing those in the first few ingredients may mean the recipe is higher in carbohydrates than your dog needs.
3. Are there high-quality veggies, like organic carrots and broccoli? Finding these actually might require a peek a little further down the ingredient list.
4. Is there a probiotic? Probiotics help keep your dog’s digestive system healthy and in good regulation.
Deeper into the list of ingredients, beware of items dogs don’t need at all, like high fructose corn syrup, wheat, wheat gluten, and soy. Unnecessary sources of carbohydrates like these can easily lead to obesity and other health issues. Likewise, extra sugar is tasty but leads to diabetes and obesity; too much salt might end in hypertension and heart disease.
On the other hand, vitamin and mineral additives can promote healthy skin/coat and overall improved health.
Stella & Chewy’s Freeze-Dried Raw Patties and Meal Mixers give pet parents an easy way to incorporate raw foods into their dog’s existing diet while providing essential nutrients without unhealthy additives. Stella & Chewy’s also bakes their kibble, making it less processed—plus they add freeze-dried raw ingredients.
A high-quality diet is evidenced by your dog’s healthy digestive tract, vibrant skin and coat, healthy teeth and gums, and increased energy. As always, talk to your vet about any concerns you have about your pet’s health.
*Dr. Lindsay Butzer was paid for her time, but all opinions are her own.
BIO: Dr. Lindsay is a small-animal veterinarian working in Boca Raton, FL. She graduated from Colorado State University and followed that with a degree from the DVM program at Ross University. Dr. Lindsay did her clinical year at Tufts in 2016 and has been practicing at Clint Moore Animal Hospital since then. You can learn more about her on Instagram @lindsaybutzerdvm or on her YouTube Channel.