You are what you eat, this also goes for your dog. Your dog’s general health and energy levels rely very much on what your dog eats. Yes a dog can eat lots of things to survive, yet a dog feeding to survive is different than that feeding a dog to be healthy.
So, let’s talk about commercial dog food and what to look out for. The main ingredients you can’t see enough of is a meat product, and by this we mean meat, poultry, fish, lamb, ….etc. So the more of that found in your dog’s food, the better since in general a dog’s main intake should be protein.
Furthermore you want to see whole food such as fruits and vegetables in the ingredients list as they provide many useful and healthy nutrients.
A good diet should also contain healthy fat or oil. These might be listed as fish oils, flax-seed, or canola oil and are all a very good source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Now let’s take a closer look at the sources of protein, the most important ingredient deciding on the quality of the dog food.
When we mention meat further below in this article, we also mean any meat product such as lamb, chicken, turkey, fish, …etc.
Meat vs. meat meal
So is meat the same at meat meal? Meal is made when meat is cooked in a process called rendering. During the process, the meat is dried until most of the moisture has left the meat. What remains is then mostly meat with some fat without the water. This means that meat meal is then highly concentrated dehydrated meat, containing 5% moisture and 70% protein. The same amount of fresh wet meat contains 70% water and only 12% protein. That also explains why the amounts you feed your dog are so different if feeding dry food, canned food or freshly cooked food.
Read about what to do if your dog is overweight
Meat, meal vs. by-product
Meat by-product on the other hand is a matter that receives a lot of controversial opinions. The word by-product means that parts of the animal, not usually used for human consumption are used. That would mean feet, legs, brains, stomachs, heads, lungs, intestines, kidney, frames, …etc. This would make by-products an ingredient, which should form as little as possible of your purchased dog food.
What you should completely walk away from are by-products not mentioned by animal type. A by-products mentioning the animal would be chicken by-product or beef by-product. By-products not mentioning the source are listed generally as animal by-product or meat by-product. These by-products could be anything from hooves, hair, beaks, and feathers to even tumors or parts of diverse dead zoo animals. You do not want to pay much money for that.
So what about grains, rice, corn, soy or starch products? The most recommended diet is a grain free one. Grain free dog food will use potatoes as a source of carbohydrates. In a non-grain-free diet the most preferred ingredient would be rice or even better brown rice.
Corn on the other hand is considered a non-expensive filler ingredient and holds almost no nutritional benefit for dogs. You might not want to pay much money for dog food relying on maze or corn as a main ingredient. Soy is another ingredient of low quality incomplete protein found in dog food which is not recommended and causes many allergies in dogs.
Want to check out the most frequently asked questions about feeding your dog? Click here for more