Though it may seem like dog food is dog food, but, not all dog foods are created equal. The quality of dog food varies from type to type and its constituents. While there are many high-quality manufacturers and there are many manufacturers who cut corners by backing up their products with low-quality fillers and artificial additives. Dog foods are not regulated to the degree human foods are. So, to find good quality food for your pooch, you might have to do some digging!
In this article, we’ll break down the dog food market, providing you the pros and cons. To find the perfect fit you have to keep in mind the age of your dog and the physical activity.
Types of dog food:
1. Raw Dog Food
A raw dog food diet commonly consists of:
• Organ meats
• Muscle meat
• Whole or ground bone
• Raw eggs
• Dog-safe fresh fruits and vegetables
• Some dairy, such as yogurt
Dog owners should be aware that feeding your pup a raw food diet may be more time consuming than giving them cooked, commercially-made dog food. Precise care is required in the handling, preparation, and sanitation of raw food. Also, a raw food diet is typically more expensive than a processed kibble diet.
Raw food diets are not recommended in homes with small children or immunocompromised individuals. This is due to the health risk raw foods can present. For example, there have been multiple reports of recalls of certain raw dog foods due to contamination with salmonella, E-coli, campylobacter, and/or listeria.
Safety Tips for Raw Feeding:
1. Store raw food in the freezer, and only defrost what can be used within 2-3 days.
2. Always store defrosted raw food in the fridge.
3. Clean all preparation surfaces, utensils, and wash your hands with soap and water after contact with raw food.
4. Whatever your dog doesn’t eat in 15-20 minutes, take away and refrigerate.
5. Clean food bowls after each meal.
6. Avoid letting your dog lick you right after eating raw food.
• Biological availability of raw ingredients
• Increase in efficiency of metabolism, stamina and energy levels
• Healthier skin and coat
• Dental health benefits
• More natural excretion
2. Dry Dog Food
Dry food ingredients vary by brand, but all kibble dog foods are required to be balanced and meet the nutritional needs of a dog. The content, calories, and nutritional value of commercially prepared pet meals and treats are regulated by law. The ingredients in dry dog food kibble are processed together and cooked.
These required ingredients include:
• protein sources like beef, poultry, fish, and eggs
• Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants
There are many dry dog foods available. As with all foods, reading the label will help you find the best possible brand for your dog. Always remember that the first ingredient is the most prevalent in that food.
Look for a food that has a protein as the first ingredient, not a grain. The best dry dog foods have a single or novel source of protein, such as lamb, chicken, or salmon. Grain-free diets exist, but carbohydrates are required for energy, especially in rapidly growing, large-breed puppies and very active dogs. The choice of grain, however, is important. Some dogs may have sensitivities to wheat, corn, or soybeans.
• Reduced dental plaque
• Healthier gums
• Reduced risk of bacteria
• Easier storage
• Less risk of spoilage
3. Wet Dog Food
Wet pet foods have been losing some market share over the years but they remain a popular choice. They most often come in tins, trays, pouches, and chubb rolls. Ingredients are blended and cooked before being vacuum-sealed into their containers. They are then heat sterilized. The temperatures and durations of both cooking and sterilizing can vary considerably but typically sterilization involves temperatures over 100oC for periods of up to 90 minutes. Raw feeding advocates believe that such high-temperature levels are likely to damage some of the natural nutrients contained within the food. The vacuum sealing and sterilization do, however, ensure a long shelf life without the need for any added artificial additives.
Wet foods, naturally, contain much more water than their dry counterparts. For some, this makes wet foods a more ‘natural’ choice, at least compared to some dry food types like extruded foods. The high moisture content might also be beneficial for dogs that don’t drink very much or those with a history of urinary problems, for example. The high water content does, however, mean that you have to feed much more of a wet food than you would of a dry which often makes wet foods a relatively expensive option.
Tips for preparing Wet Dog Food:
Begin and end with clean hands. Both before and after handling pet food and treats, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water. Wash pet food bowls and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use. Do not use your pet’s food bowl as a scooping utensil.
• Wet food has a higher moisture content, which can help your pet stay hydrated and avoid urinary tract problems.
• Wet food has just as much protein as dry, but it has fewer carbs. That can be a big help for overweight dogs or dogs with food sensitivities.
• Wet food is often more appealing to picky eaters.
4. Fresh Dog Food
One other category of pet foods has just started to emerge – fresh complete foods. The idea is that they provide a convenient version of home cooking so they tend to include a balanced selection of high-end fresh ingredients, cooked and packed in trays or pouches. With fresh ingredients and a low level of processing, fresh complete foods are likely to retain a high proportion of their natural nutrients, at least compared to conventional dry and wet foods. However, since no preservatives are added and since the food hasn’t been sterilized like standard wet foods, fresh foods don’t stay fresh for as long as we have come to expect from our pet foods. For this reason, fresh pet foods need to be kept refrigerated even when sealed. In the fridge, they typically last up to 14 days from the date of manufacture but they can also be frozen and defrosted later before feeding.
FDA (Food and Drug Administration) Recommendations:
Pet food and treats, like many other types of food, can be contaminated with harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as salmonellosis and listeriosis. Although the FDA continues our effort to reduce contamination of pet food, pet owners should be mindful of the potential risks. You can lower your risk of getting a foodborne illness from contaminated pet food and treats by following these simple and safe handling instructions:
Tips for Buying Pet Food:
• Buy pet food products (cans, pouches, or bags) that are in good condition. Check the packaging for visible signs of damage, such as dents, tears, and discolorations.
Tips for Preparing Pet Food
• Begin and end with clean hands. Both before and after handling pet food and treats, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water.
• Wash pet food bowls and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use.
• Do not use your pet’s food bowl as a scooping utensil. Use a clean scoop, spoon, or cup instead. Use the scooping utensil only for scooping pet food.
• Throw out old or spoiled pet food in a safe way, for example, by placing it in a securely tied plastic bag in a covered trash can.
Tips for Storing Pet Food:
• Promptly refrigerate or throw out unused or leftover canned and pouched pet food. Tightly cover refrigerated pet food. Set your refrigerator to 40 F or below.
• Store dry pet food in a cool and dry place. The temperature should be less than 80 F. Excess heat or moisture can cause the nutrients to break down.
• Store dry pet food in its original bag and keep the top of the bag tightly folded down.
• Keep pet food in a secure location to prevent your pet from eating an entire supply at once.