What is The Best Dog Food?
What is the best dog food for your Sheltie? Today I examine the truth about dog food ingredients and compare major dog food brands for nutritional value and supplementation.
What is the best dog food to give to your beloved fur friend? Is it safe enough to give him dry kibble only? Or should you give fresh foods as well?
What's the deal with dog food scams—are some brands really bad for your dog's health? How often should you give dog chews to keep his teeth clean?
Today I'm putting my research hat on to examine the modern dog food market.
At a Glance
If you're in a hurry, here's a summary of my findings.
While fresh foods and raw meaty bones are an excellent choice, for practicality most dog owners will want to opt for a quality dry kibble.
Don't skimp on kibble though, because cheap brands contain a lot of filler and little nutrition to support your dog's health and longevity. Premium brands are genuinely the healthiest choice.
For a quality dog kibble, I trust Blue Buffalo available on Amazon:
Your dog also needs help to keep his teeth clean.
Feed your Sheltie a dog chew once a week to remove plaque and maintain healthy teeth and gums. Raw meaty bones do a good job of scraping away the plaque too, but they will stink up your Sheltie's nice fur!
For an effective dental chew, I recommend Pedigree Dentastix:
Pretty simple, right?
But my research took me down a dark road to get here. Keep reading for the lowdown on the dog food market and the ugly truth behind dog food scams.
The Scale of Dog Food
Dry kibble may look (and smell!) the same to us humans, but looks can be deceiving. In fact, the scale of dog food is broad and price can be a valuable indicator of what you're actually buying.
At the low end of the scale, you have the dirt-cheap supermarket dog food.
Now, it may seem like you're catching a great bargain, but it's impossible for a 40lb bag of kibble sold at $9.95 to contain quality protein and nutrition for your Sheltie.
The cheap ingredients used are not supporting your dog's heath. Specifically, if you see ingredients like corn, soy and meat by-products at the top of the label then your dog is almost certainly undernourished.
This can lead to all kinds of skin, bone, joint and heart problems as he ages, causing you both pain and distress (and not to mention vet bills).
At the high end of the scale, you have premium dog food brands and fresh food (including raw meaty bones) prepared from scratch.
The latter is fantastic for your dog, but it does take more planning to ensure you get the essential nutrients into your dog's diet. Preparing fresh dog food (as you would human food) is also more expensive and time consuming.
As a compromise, I lean toward a quality kibble where the main ingredient is beef, lamb or poultry meal and essential vitamins and minerals are included.
Dog Food Ingredients
There are two concerns when we're on the lookout for dodgy dog food ingredients.
1. The Source of Meat
It's no secret that many supermarket pet foods now contain some very dubious sources of meat in their dry kibble food. As sickening as it may sound, these sources include euthanized pets and road kill.
They are also legally allowed to use any kind of slaughterhouse by-product, including animals treated with hormones and other drugs which are not destroyed by the cooking process. These could obviously be harmful to your dog.
2. The Meat vs Grain Ratio
The other problem with mediocre kibble is the amount of meat compared to grain. In the last decade, a lot of pet food manufacturers have turned to cheap grain ingredients to bulk up their product. In turn, the meat and protein content is reduced.
A high grain diet is very bad for your dog, who evolved to eat mostly raw meat and bones, with a little vegetation found in the belly of their prey. In domesticated dogs, we should try to replicate this diet where at all possible. A heavy grain diet is woefully inadequate.
7 Bad Dog Food Ingredients
When browsing the dry dog food brands, here's a list of 7 ingredients to avoid like the plague:
BAD: Meat and Bone Meal
If you see the term "meat and bone meal"—run. You're looking at dog food which legally includes animals euthanized at the vet's office as well as road kill. If they were wearing chemical flea collars or had been treated with antibiotics or steroids before they died, those get ground up and added too. So does the plastic bag around the carcass.
(Careful here—the exact wording is important. If you see beef meal, lamb meal, or poultry meal this is good. It simply means the meat has been ground up.)
BAD: Meat By-Products
This refers to any part of a slaughterhouse animal not deemed fit for human consumption. "Meat by-products" include intestines, chicken heads, duck bills, fish heads, chicken and turkey feet, hides, feathers and bone.
Now, your dog might not complain, but the problem with by-products is they can include diseased and contaminated slaughterhouse meat and even dehydrated garbage. Some vets suggest this increases the risk of getting cancer and other degenerative diseases.
What's more, the intense cooking process used here destroys the natural enzymes and proteins that would otherwise nourish your dog.
BAD: Poultry By-Product Meal
This consists of ground and rendered parts of slaughtered poultry, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, mostly exclusive of feathers. "Poultry by-product meal" is not required to include actual meat and again can include diseased and contaminated meat and harmful chemical additives.
BAD: Propylene Glycol
This is a synthetic preservative used to keep the kibble moist and has been identified by some vets to cause red blood cell damage in cats. There is little research into its toxicity or safety into the chronic use in pet foods. Stay away.
This is another chemical additive, listed as a pesticide by the Department of Agriculture. It is banned from human food because it is known to promote cancer of the kidneys, bladder and stomach. Yet shockingly, it is still used in some commercial dog foods.
BAD: BHA & BHT
These are additives used by American pet food manufacturers, yet are banned by most countries in Europe. BHA and BHT are known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction, plus bladder and stomach cancers.
Disturbingly, manufacturers are only required to list the ingredients they add to the dog food themselves—so any BHA and BHT added earlier in the manufacturing process can legally go unreported.
BAD: Mineral Oxides and Sulfates
Trace minerals in the form of mineral oxides or sulfates can't be digested by animals and have no place in their food.
3 Good Dog Food Ingredients
The list of ingredients on dog food labels can be long-winded. So when looking for good ingredients, just focus on the top five as these are the most plentiful.
GOOD: Beef, Lamb, Poultry and Salmon Meal
Beef, lamb, chicken, duck and salmon meal means good quality, ground-up meat. There should be at least one type of meat at the top of the ingredients list. Do not confuse this with "meat and bone meal" or "poultry by-product meal" which were listed previously among the worst dog food ingredients.
GOOD: Vitamin E, Vitamin C and Tocopherols
Vitamins and tocopherols are natural preservatives which help retain the fat in dry dog food.
GOOD: Trace Minerals (Chelated Form)
Chelated minerals can be more easily absorbed into your dog's intestinal tract and bloodstream to provide better nourishment.
Brands like Blue Buffalo are an excellent choice that follow these guidelines as well as including numerous vitamin supplements:
A Fresh Dog Food Diet
Let's say you have a lot of spare time and love to dote on your dog. You may like to feed your dog a fresh, all-natural diet. Where do you start?
Dogs have very different nutritional needs to humans and so require a different dietary balance.
As a basis for a fresh food diet, feed your dog raw meaty bones from the butcher (these are cheap or free).
Dogs absolutely love this and they'll enjoy eating for much longer than the time it takes to snarf down their kibble.
Offer about 20% of your dog's bodyweight in bones per week. You can also give some table scraps, such as raw or cooked vegetables.
This is a really healthy and cheap way to feed your dog a good quality diet. But it comes with a couple of downsides.
First, with long-haired breeds like Shelties, the meaty bones stink out their fur every day. Yuck! However, if you can handle this, your dog will love you even more for it.
Second, a raw bone diet requires a some supplementation to give your dog all the nutrition he needs to stay healthy.
You'll need to add the following two supplements:
Flaxseed oil improves the skin and coat and protects against degenerative diseases and illness. Flaxseed oil is contained in PetHonesty Skin Health Supplement:
Taurine is an amino acid found in animal proteins. A taurine deficiency can cause blindness and heart disease in dogs and cats. Taurine is contained in VetriScience Cardio Strength:
Note that these supplements are included in premium kibble brands, but will be lacking if you're feeding your dog a diet of fresh meaty bones.
Whether you feed your dog a premium dry kibble, or fresh foods and raw bones, the best dog food is one that's been well-considered by his owner. So thanks for taking the time to explore the world of dog nutrition.
Remember, fresh water is an essential for any diet, so make sure your dog has a clean source of water at all times.
Order your dog's next premium kibble and dental chews from Amazon today.