It seems simple enough to pick the right dog food. Go to the store, grab a bag of kibble, go home, and feed your dog. Unfortunately, it is not that easy! There are so many questions to answer. Does your dog have any preferences? Food allergies? How large is your dog? How often can you feed your dog? Is there any food your dog will not eat? What is the chicken meal? Nutrition for dogs is similar to humans with periods of "fads" or trends such as grain-free or containing exotic products like salmon or bison. While labels like "grain-free" sound like the healthier alternative, the FDA launched an investigation in 2018 for these formulas to be linked to increased cardiac issues for dogs and cats, such as canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
So, how do you pick a "good" dog food?
1. AAFCO Standards
This statement included on dog food indicates that the kibble has been prepared to meet nutritionally accepted values for the dog food nutrient profiles. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state, and federal agencies. They regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies. Any dog food purchased, including raw diets, should have the AAFCO statement to ensure adequate nutritionally valued food.
Dog food should consist of a balanced meal: meat, vegetables, grains (yes, grains!), and fruit. We like to supplement Athena's diet with raw vegetables and fruits as "treats "more than store-bought items. Just be careful to avoid things such as grapes, avocados, and onions. I always look up an item to ensure it's safe to give if I am ever unsure. Because there is a lot of confusion regarding meat vs. meal, it is essential to look at the dog food's guaranteed analysis to understand the products and nutritional value.
The 95 Percent Rule: At least 95 percent of the product must be the named ingredient; for example, "Chicken for Dogs," or "Salmon Dog Food," must include at least 95 percent of chicken or salmon, respectively. In addition, this main product must be at least 70 percent of the total product when counting the added water. According to AAFCO regulations, the remaining five percent of ingredients will be those required for nutritional reasons, such as vitamins and minerals, and small amounts of any other ingredients.
The 25 Percent Rule: When you see products named "Beef Dinner for Dogs," "Chicken and Sweet Potato Entrée," or "Lamb Platter," for example, this is the 25 percent rule in action. If the named ingredients comprise at least 25 percent of the product (not counting the water for processing), but less than 95 percent, the product name must include a qualifying term, such as dinner, entrée, or platter. Counting the added water, the named ingredients still must comprise 10 percent of the product. If more than one ingredient is included in a "dinner," the combination of the named ingredients must total 25 percent of the product and be listed in the same order as found on the ingredient list.
The "With" Rule: When you see a dog food label, such as "Doggie Dinner With Beef," the "With . . ." ingredient need only be at least 3 percent of the product. Just the addition of that one word — "with" — dramatically changes the percentage requirement of the ingredient in the food and is a good reason to pay attention to the product name.
The Flavor Rule: According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), if the label says "Beef Flavor Dog Food," then "a specific percentage (of the beef) is not required, but a product must contain an amount sufficient to be able to be detected." In this example, the word "flavor" must appear on the label in the same size, style, and color as the word "beef."
3. Nutritional Requirements
Lastly, dogs can have different nutritional needs such as age (puppy versus adult dog), breed (large versus small), and illness. Some breeds, significantly larger breeds, are at risk for developing joint issues. For example, German Shepherds are known for hip dysplasia. Due to this, we ensure that Athena's food contains specific vitamins that help strengthen and hopefully prevent that from developing. We are currently feeding Athena Kirkland's Adult Dog Lamb, Rice, & Vegetable Formula. We selected this particular food due to being a complete and balanced dog food with the addition of Omega Fatty Acids, Glucosamine and Chondroitin vitamins, and Pre- and Probiotic formulas. There are resources available to determine nutritional values for various illnesses such as diabetes, heart failure, anemia, etc. Stay tuned for more information and an overview of different vitamins, products, and minerals in fido's diet.
Outside of the rating from consumers, check to make sure there aren't several recalls. Using Athena's food as an example, Kirkland dog food has been voluntarily recalled once in 2012 for potential salmonella contamination since 2009.
Let's compare to other brands of dog foods:
Nature's Variety: 5 Recalls From 2010-2015
Blue Buffalo: 3 Recalls From 2010-2016
Bravo: 7 Recalls From 2011-2015
Purina: 5 Recalls from 2010-2020
These recalls vary from possible salmonella contamination to lacking the appropriate nutrients for the nutritional standards. I hope that this article helps you understand your choices when selecting kibble for your best friend!
With a wagging tail,
The Pawsitive Writer 💕🐾