Keeping your pet happy and healthy starts with top dog nutrition and a good wholesome diet. While a good diet starts with nutritious food, your budget may come into play when deciding the proper top dog nutrition. Not too worry—you have options! Here we will be covering the following topics to provide insight into a well-balanced nutrient-rich diet for your dog…
Daily Top Dog Nutrition
Dry kibble and wet foods are the most common daily nutrition source your dog gets. Make sure the ingredients are all natural, high quality, and not parts and pieces of other animals. A dog’s daily feed should meet most of its nutritional needs whether you choose wet or dry. Before jumping into a decision or purchase, you should consider a few important wants and needs for you and your dog. Perhaps some are obvious, while others are not.
Now, let’s get right to it!
6 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Dog Food…
- The Ingredients
- Grain-Free Dog Food?
- Gluten-Free Dog Food?
- Food Labels [Made In the USA]
- The Alternative
1. The Ingredients
That seemingly endless list of ingredients on the back of food packaging can be quite overwhelming, right? Don’t fret!
Here we have compiled a list of the most commonly found ingredients (and wording) in dog food that we recommend you should “say no to” and those that you most definitely should “say yes to“.
Say NO To…
× Artificial Preservatives
× Artificial Coloring
× Artificial Flavors
Say YES To…
√ High Quality Whole-Food Ingredients
√ Protein is the #1 Ingredient (Chicken, Salmon, Turkey, Lamb, Venison, Beef, etc.)
√ All Natural
√ Minimally Processed Ingredients
√ Antioxidant-Rich Fruits
√ Vitamins & Minerals
√ Healthy Omegas
If you follow these general guidelines you’ll be well on your way to providing the best nutrition for your dog. I can’t express enough how important it is to look for those specific beneficial ingredients as well as those you DO NOT want to see in your dog’s food.
2. Grain Free Dog Food?
Grain-free dog food is a hot topic. Maybe you’re thinking grains should be included in the “say no to” list because you’ve seen grain-free labeled dog food filling the store shelves or maybe you have seen it advertised as the “easier to digest” option. Or perhaps you’ve heard it’s simply the “better choice”. Well, first you need to ask yourself, “Does my dog need grain-free food?” The emphasis being on “need “. The best advice I’ve received is to choose a grain-free option dog food if your pet really does have trouble digesting grains or has a specific food allergy. These occurrences are rare. Otherwise, do not limit yourself to buying a grain-free option just because it’s popular.
Grains are a good source of fiber that promote a healthy digestive tract and carbohydrates that work well for a dog’s energy. Some of these grains include: rice, oats, and barley. Bottom line, there are many good grain-free options as well as with grains. Use your best personal judgement or base your decision on the recommendation of your veterinarian or a pet care specialist.
3. Gluten-Free Dog Food?
The thing to remember here is that dog food labeled gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean it’s grain-free—it’s possible the bag of food can still contain corn as an ingredient, which is a grain. However, it should NOT contain wheat, rice, barley, oats, etc. On the other hand, grain-free labeled dog food should be gluten-free.
Gluten-free dog food would be the necessary choice if your dog has an allergy or sensitivity to gluten. These issues are very uncommon in dogs. But, can they happen? Sure. Therefore, unless your dog has an allergy or a sensitivity to gluten, do not focus on gluten-free dog food as your priority.
4. Food Labels [Made In the USA]
First of all, it is important to know where your dog’s food is being produced and where the ingredients are coming from. We want to know where our own food comes from, so why not do the same for our pets? We have an obligation to provide the best for our pets, and we want to feel good about it too.
As I understand it, USA based pet food manufacturers are only able to use the “Made in the USA” if they stick to the high quality controls and stringent requirements in order to guarantee the quality of the food product. And, made with 100% USA ingredients. However, I’ve also heard that there is a little bit of (sneaky) wiggle room. This essentially meaning that the crucial components of the package of food MUST be from the US but there may be a small part that is not from the US. Let me give an example. There’s a company that uses the “Made in the USA” label but also states on their packaging that they source ingredients from New Zealand suppliers, in addition to North America. I’m only guessing, but perhaps some vitamins or something like that were outsourced (vitamins not being the significant part of the product).
Whatever the case may be, I can appreciate the honesty of the companies that disclose where else they source their ingredients from, even if it’s minute. I’d rather be informed. Some companies don’t even do that so it leaves you guessing. The only way to find out is by calling the company and inquiring if ANY ingredients were outsourced. With all that said, further investigation needs to be conducted to provide more clarity on how pet food manufacturers are held accountable for their labeling.
Lastly, I’d like to point out that even with products made in the USA, food recalls still do happen. However, I think it’s safe to say that there have been more issues when ingredients or production is mainly outsourced and for that reason many people have lost faith in the quality of these products. They specifically look for the label that says “Made in the USA” to feel some assurance. If you ask me, I definitely gravitate towards food, treats, even toys, that are made in the US. At the very least, I avoid any of these types of items made in China. What about you?
With everything to consider, from ingredients to where the food is made, it might seem impossible to get everything (or close to everything) at a price you’re comfortable with. Rest assured you have choices. You just have to be willing to check various pet supply stores, both brick and mortar and online. Common brand names will often times have coupons to help reduce costs. Pet supply stores have sales from time to time. Many good deals can be found online as well. All of these approaches will enable you to keep your pet expenses low.
No matter what, you can get high quality food, that is nutrient rich, has a protein as the #1 ingredient, and lots more for a decent price. On average it may cost about $27 for a 14 to 15 pound bag of adult dry dog food. That’s the average—Not too bad, right? For wet food, on average may cost about $29 for a 12 pack of a 12 to 13 oz. can.
A few other factors will come into play on the cost of food such as the selection of brand, the lifestage (puppy, adult, senior), the main protein, other included ingredients, if it’s grain-free or not, and where you choose to buy it.
Not convinced commercially produced dog food is the way to go? There is an alternative…
You can find a ton of homemade recipes on the internet that you can follow step-by-step or adapt the recipe to your dog’s likings and needs. Many times, this option is cheaper than commercially produced food.
Maybe you already have experience making food for your dog. If he’s had digestive issues in the past, you probably had to make him some kind of bland meal like poached chicken breast and rice. Use this same concept but make it interesting. Choose your protein, grain and add some vegetables like carrots, spinach, and zucchini. Voila! You’ve just created an awesome meal. It is easy to do but will require some planning and little bit of extra time, although definitely worth the effort. You can also make a big batch, portion them out, label and date the bags or containers, and freeze them. Then just thaw them on an as-needed basis and perhaps use the microwave or stove just to get the chill out.
You can plan your dog’s diet around what you have on hand (must be dog friendly ingredients of course), what provides the most nutrition, and what’s within your budget. If you use this method, you may want to consult with your veterinarian to make sure you are targeting the right proportion of protein and nutrients for your dog’s breed, age, activity level and size.
Variety In Top Dog Nutrition
How boring would it be if you had to eat the same thing every meal, every day, for the rest of your life? I can’t even imagine! So, be kind and give some variety. It is important to your dog’s diet and gives him a way to explore likes and dislikes while adding daily essentials. Let’s take a look at some of ways you can add dimension to your pet’s food.
Dogs need other nutritious vitamins and minerals besides protein. These components can be found in fruits and vegetables (in their raw state or as close to it as possible). Some of the wonderful benefits of fruits and vegetables include: antioxidants, fiber, potassium, manganese, biotin, magnesium, and vitamins A, B1, B6, C, K.
Each fruit and vegetable will of course have a different variation and amount of vitamins and minerals. So, it’s a good idea to select fruits and vegetables based on what they contain or by the preference of your pet. However, everything in moderation.
Some of these dog friendly options include…
*Remove pits, seeds, and rinds from fruits before giving it to your dog. Some seeds like apple seeds are toxic to dogs. Pits like that of a peach, can cause intestinal damage and blockage if consumed. Lastly, rinds from watermelon or cantaloupe for example, are not digestible and can upset the gastrointestinal tract.
*Some fruits and vegetables are toxic or just simply not good for a dog. A few of those include:
2. Adding a Food Topper to Your Dog’s Current Food (Ps. Works great if your dog is a picky eater!)
One easy way to do this is by adding dog food you’re most familiar with—wet & dry food. Here’s what I mean…
- If you use dry dog food as the main meal, try adding wet food as a topper. Mix it up a bit and you’ve just enhanced the meal.
- Vice versa, if you use wet food as the main meal, add some dry dog food to create something new. Your dog may like some of the crunch he’ll get from the kibble.
Another way is using a specially made food topper or meal enhancer. Many of these come in a variety of protein choices and flavors; some with fruits and vegetables. Several of these food topper options include:
- Freeze-dried raw food meal mixers. It is a safe and easy way to get the taste and superb nutrition of raw food. It can be used “as is” and sprinkled or crumbled on top. Or, add water to rehydrate and mix in.
- Chunky bites of protein in a pouch that’s usually in a gravy or broth.
- Dog food rolls that can be sliced or cut into bite size pieces and mixed in.
- Purées that come in a squeezable pouch.
- Dehydrated superfood mix that can be used “as is” and sprinkled on top or with a little water to rehydrate and then mixed in.
- Seasoning mixes that come in shakers. Just sprinkle over food.
Treats and Rewards
This one might come as a surprise when we say nutrition can also come in the form of the treats you give as rewards to your dog. There are many healthy treat options. But similar to dog food, be cautious about your choices—you’ll want to check labels and ingredients to know what you’re feeding your dog. The treats should include, but certainly not limited to: all natural ingredients, fortified with antioxidant vitamins, and protein. They should NOT include by-products, fillers or artificial flavors. Our goal is to enhance our pet’s nutrition, not deflate it.
Another way pet owners give top dog nutrition to their pets is by making their own treats from a combination of simple delicious ingredients. Peanut butter, oatmeal, coconut oil, banana, honey, and pumpkin are just some of the ingredients you can use to make your own treats. As a bonus, you probably already have most of these ingredients in your pantry; saving you money from having to go out and buy something pre-made.
Give making your own treats a try with some of these above mentioned ingredients, or create something completely unique and special! And be sure to offer treats sparingly, like a snack in between meals. They are not meant to replace the meal.
Supplements and Vitamins
Even with the best daily diet, mixed with a variety of foods and treats, it’s possible to miss some essential components to your pet’s nutritional needs. This is especially the case when your dog’s breed is prone to certain ailments. Added vitamins and supplements can help meet these needs. For example, if your dog’s breed is predisposed to hip dysplasia, adding a glucosamine tablet daily can help reduce those risks in the long term.
Don’t overlook supplements and vitamins when planning a healthy diet for your top dog nutrition needs. However, always seek advice from a trusted veterinarian if you are unsure about adding supplements and vitamins to your dog’s diet, or just don’t know which ones are best for his particular needs.
A word of advice…
Even though I stand by my recommendations, you have to feel confident about the choices YOU make. Take the time to educate yourselves on what goes into your dog’s food. Cheaper or inexpensive food doesn’t always mean poor quality or having low nutritional value and likewise, expensive food doesn’t always mean high quality or having high quality all natural whole-food ingredients that you’re looking for. Knowing what’s in your pet’s food plus which ingredients are particularly beneficial to your dog’s needs and adding variety–that initiative will give them the gift of a longer, happier and healthier life! And hopefully save you money from any unnecessary vet visits in the long run.
What do you choose to feed your dog? How or why did you come to that decision? We’d love to hear about it!