A dog’s gotta eat, but what type of food is best for their health, longevity, and overall well-being? There may be thousands of dog food products out there on the shelves, but as a discerning pet parent, you aren’t willing to settle for less.
Maybe you suspect that those greasy, dried-out pellets aren’t exactly great for your dog’s health, or you could just be researching ways to improve your pup’s quality of life through diet and nutrition.
More broadly, knowing what food is best for dogs can help you make smarter decisions moving forward and avoid serving less-than-optimal food to your beloved dogs. In this article, we’re laying out all the facts about the best dog food available, so let’s get started.
Selecting top-quality dog food means looking past the marketing, the branding, and the hype, and focusing strictly on what matters most: pure nutrition. Companies try to dress up their products with buzzwords and imagery, but the ingredients and macronutrients never lie.
So, what is the ideal breakdown of raw nutrition in the typical scoop of dog food? It’s all about a balanced ratio, as recommended by AAFCO - the Association of American Feed Control Officials. No matter the size or type of dog you have, you’ll want the following mix of nutrients in the food you buy:
- 35% Protein
- 20% Fat
- 2% Fiber
- 15% Moisture
Of course, you don’t need to be a veterinarian or nutrition scientist to know that nutrient sources are way more important than this broad analysis. USDA approved beef, organ meats (heart, liver), fish oil, and a range of antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies should be the main ingredients in the dog food you buy.
The right nutrient balance is just the bare minimum, and you can ensure you’re getting the best dog food by prioritizing real, recognizable ingredients that you would serve yourself and your family!
Specifics for Breeds and Ages
Every dog is different, and even those of the same breed and age have unique dietary needs based on lifestyle and medical history. As a responsible owner, you’ll need to account for these variables to serve up the right food, in the right amounts, for optimal health outcomes.
Puppies and Young Dogs
Young pups grow a lot in a short timeframe, as any experienced owner can attest! This requires food for fuel and development, specifically with a higher proportion of protein and fat.
Just a slightly shift in nutrient ratios can make a difference in how food is digested and utilized by a growing dog, so don’t just take a one-size-fit-all approach here.
Make sure those ingredients are clean, the ratios are right, and you are sticking with the proper serving sizes - no matter how much they beg for another scoop.
Older Dogs and Dietary Needs
As dogs reach adulthood (usually the 2-to-3 year range), they reach full physical development and require fewer calories to maintain a healthy way of life.
Those macronutrient ratios also change slightly, with more carbs in exchange for proteins and fats. Older dogs will may also need unique formulations of dog food that keep tendons, joints, and bones as strong as can be.
Small adjustments like these could keep your dog healthier for longer and prevent common risks of aging. If your dog encounters medical difficulties and requires unique food that digests differently or has unique ingredients, make sure you follow through with those instructions.
Dog Breeds and Sizes
Don’t overlook the breed and size when selecting the right type of food for dogs, since these are two additional factors that play a role regardless of life stage.
With small dogs in particular, hypoglycemia is an issue, especially if they’re highly active and burn a lot of energy throughout the day. Large dog breeds tend not to have blood sugar concerns, but they will tend to eat higher volumes of food at lower nutrition density.
Rather than guessing and risking buying the wrong food for your dog, get the facts from a vet you trust or go through an online quiz that will give you the answers you need.
Dry vs Wet Dog Food Debate
Does it really matter if dog food is dry like kibble, kept moist in a can, or refrigerated like food for people? While it’s hard to know exactly what dogs prefer, research suggests that some degree of “freshness” is preferable for digestion, absorption, and satisfaction.
That’s why there’s no definitive answer to the dry vs. wet food debate, and the answer seems to lie somewhere in the middle. In fact, more brands are now offering air-dried dog food products similar in texture to jerky treats, which dogs simply cannot resist.
Give Your Dog Nothing but the Best
If your dog is happy and healthy (and going to the bathroom without issue), you shouldn’t fret about food.
However, it doesn’t hurt to research better options and see how even better food can make a positive difference in your pup’s quality of life.