Over the last few years, the number of different types of dog food available from mainstream pet supply stores has grown astronomically. No longer are dog owners choosing between Kibbles ‘n Bits and Iams.
Instead, they’re presented with an overwhelming array of choices that can easily leave owners flummoxed. How can they know which one is right, then?
The simple answer for those intimidated by the dog food aisle is that there aren’t many wrong choices, unless your pet has specific medical needs. That being said, there are certainly differences between the foods available for your dog.
As you make a choice, here are some factors to take into consideration.
Know The Basics
Before you wade into the finer details of dog food, the best place to start is with a basic understanding of what types of dog food are on the market. Though there are a number of ways to break things down, common choices include economy brands that you can buy at your grocery store, premium pet foods, prescription diets, and then a variety of holistic, whole food, and raw food options.
The majority of people feed their dogs one of the first three types of food, but if you’re the kind of pet owner tempted by alternative veterinary treatments like acupuncture or Chinese herbs, you may find the other varieties to be tempting. It’s important to use caution when choosing holistic, whole food, and raw food options for your dog, however, because they tend to be less closely regulated than more conventional foods.
Ask Your Vet
If you have a handle on the basic pet food offerings available to you, but you’re having a hard time making a decision, the next thing you should do is ask your veterinarian. Your vet will tell you if your vet has any health issues that food could address such as needing to lose weight or having problems with their skin and coat – both challenges that can often be managed with non-prescription diets.
Of course, if your pet doesn’t have any particular health issues, your vet will likely recommend you choose any dog food from a reputable retailer. If your dog likes what they’re currently eating, even if it’s just whatever they were fed at the animal shelter, there’s no reason to change it unless there’s a medical need or trying something else appeals to you.
Beware Health Halos
As with human foods, pet foods are often marketed via “health halos” which are buzzwords and claims that suggest a food is healthier than it actually is. This is how grain-free pet foods became so successful despite the fact that they lacked amino acids necessary to dog’s health, and why so many foods market themselves as containing superfoods or ancient grains.
Here’s the reality about your dog’s food: buzzwords and even specific ingredients let the brands charge more, even as they aren’t offering more nutritional value than economy brands.
Still Stuck? Find A Nutritionist
Finally, while your vet knows the basics of pet nutrition and can give you some good recommendations for your dog, veterinarians don’t actually receive much training on nutrition during vet school.
If you’re really struggling to find a food that meets your dog’s needs because of allergies or other food issues, a licensed veterinary nutritionist can help you find an appropriate formulation.
With so many dog food choices on the market today, deciding what’s right for your dog is hard primarily because as an owner, you want to do what’s best for them. The good news is, for healthy dogs, most mass-market foods are fine.
It’s okay to try different things or pick what fits in your budget and trust that your dog will be fine.