Tips from the Vet for Your Pet: Choosing Dog Food
By Dr. Stewart Morgan DVM, Molokai Humane Society
With all the different dog foods that someone could buy, it helps to get an idea of what is best for your individual dog. Dogs that are pregnant, nursing, growing, used for hunting/sport or simply house pets have different needs when it comes to food. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a group that sets standards for marketing and labeling of animal feed and marketing. The standards they set on pet food labels are the guidelines companies use to make pet foods that are considered adequate for different times in a dog’s life. Dog food packages have an AAFCO nutrition statement telling what the food is adequate for. When choosing a food for your dog, first look to see if the AAFCO label says that the food is made for your dog’s age or condition. That is a good first step to seeing if the food is okay for your pet.
The ingredient list on the package lists the ingredients by weight at the start of preparation. Most quality dog foods have good animal sources of protein (chicken, beef, chicken meal, fish meal, etc.) as the first few ingredients; these are muscle meats. “By-product meal” means the protein source may not be all muscle meat, but kidneys, liver, intestines, or feet, bones, etc. Some of these are good protein sources, some not so good. Meal (like chicken, lamb, fish) can be a source of more protein than meat because meat is mostly water and dries out while cooking.
Dry food is usually the most economic type of food because it is easier to store and you need to feed smaller amounts. A cup of dry food has more calories than a cup of canned food, because canned food is usually about 76 percent water, while dry food is about 10 percent water.
Cheaper is not always better. A quality dog food is easily digested and fits your pet’s lifestyle. For a hunting dog, a cheap food that a 50 pound dog needs six cups to keep their weight on is not as good as a quality food that that same dog would only need two cups of per day. In the long run, the quality food will cost less and be better for your dog.
At Molokai Humane Society, we can discuss your pet’s diet if you have further questions!