Few things in this world are as tricky as dog food. A simple trip down the pet food aisle at your local grocery or is a journey through loud labels and purposely tricky language. Dog food packaging is designed to catch the eye, and though you might be drawn to the bright colors and cute puppy pics, remember that it’s what’s inside those boxes and bags that really counts. We all want the best for our dogs. We want simple decisions.
It’s not so easy, but don’t worry – there are no wrong answers.
Dog food is not one-size-fits-all. For every dog out there, there is a diet unique to their needs – and yours. Some humans may prefer the convenience of kibble, but others want to know exactly what is going in their pup’s bowl. Let’s look at some of the options and decipher some label language to figure out which option is right for you and your pet.
Which dog food is the best?
Dog food comes in many different forms – and each has its own benefits. What you need to determine is what kind is best for you, specifically.
Fun fact: During World War II when metal for cans was scarce, dog food companies needed to come up with a way to make shelf-stable food for pups. Thus, kibble was born! Kibble is still a popular choice among dog owners for a number of reasons, mostly for convenience. Many pet parents turn their noses up at feeding their fur babies dry pellets, but dogs still happily eat up their kibble at mealtimes without a fuss.
Pros of kibble:
- Long shelf life. When properly stored, an unopened bag of kibble can last up to a year. Even after it’s opened, it will stay good for up to two weeks.
- Volume. Bags of kibble come in a variety of sizes, and many brands can be bought in bulk.
- Price. Kibble is one of the cheaper options – especially when bought in bulk. However, buyers should be aware that you often get what you pay for.
Cons of kibble:
- Poor nutritional value. Many brands, especially value brands, contain fillers that will make your dog feel full but will skimp on the nutrients he needs.
- Allergens. Many kibbles contain common allergens that can cause your dog discomfort. Be sure to check labels thoroughly if your dog suffers from food allergies.
- Frequent recalls. It becomes difficult to control the quality of food manufactured on a large scale, like kibble. Kibble has been responsible for several recalls over the years after dogs became sick or died due to imbalanced or contaminated dog food.
Is kibble the best dog food?
Kibble is a good choice for families who are busy or budget-conscious. The labels can be more than a little tricky, but with some research, you can find a brand that works for you and your dog.
Wet dog food is another easy way to feed your pup. Pop open a can, empty the contents, and dinner is done. Dogs love the feel of chewy chunks of meat – and who doesn’t love saucy gravy? Wet dog food is a flavorful choice and a favorite for many dogs.
Pros of wet food:
- Convenience. All you need to do is open a can and pour or scoop out the contents. The labels can help you determine how much is right for your dog based on size.
- Taste. Few dogs are so picky that they won’t eat wet dog food. It’s smellier than kibble, so dogs are attracted to it immediately.
- Shelf life. When stored properly and left unopened, canned dog food can last up to five years on your shelf. Check expiration dates before serving.
Cons of wet food:
- Nutritional value. Wet dog food manufacturers will often water down their food or mix in fillers to get more volume from their ingredients.
- Dental issues. The high moisture content means that food is more likely to stick to your dog’s teeth, and less likely to help remove tartar. Dogs fed only wet food may need their teeth cleaned more often to avoid developing dental problems.
- Tummy troubles. Canned dog food is often higher in protein and fat than other foods. The richness of it can give some dogs an upset stomach.
Is wet food the best?
Wet dog food offers the same quick-and-easy convenience that kibble does, especially for those who like to keep a well-stocked pantry at all times.
Fresh dog food
The idea that dogs should eat the same quality food that humans eat has become more popular in recent years. Still, cooking entirely separate meals for our dogs can be a real drag. More and more fresh dog food companies are popping up to bridge the gap between quality and convenience, and many pet parents consider it a healthier choice.
Pros of fresh food:
- Quality. Fresh dog food is made with the same human-grade ingredients that you can buy at your local grocery store. No by-products and no fillers.
- Convenience (delivery). Many companies will deliver fresh, frozen, pre-portioned meals to your door.
- Control. Meals can be tailored specifically to your dog and their needs. Fresh dog food is also typically made with fewer ingredients, so you know exactly what your dog is eating.
Cons of fresh food:
- Price. Feeding fresh is one of the more expensive options, even if you make the meals yourself. However, you may consider it a trade-off, as it is due to the use of higher-quality ingredients.
- Inconvenience (homemade). Shopping, preparing, cooking, and portioning your own food can be messy and extremely time-consuming.
- Balance (homemade). Dogs need a balanced diet to thrive. If you’re making your own food, ingredients should be carefully measured to ensure your dog is getting everything he needs. A homemade diet will likely require a supplement to round out your pup’s diet.
Is fresh the best?
Fresh dog food is an excellent choice for dog owners who want to make sure their dog is eating a healthy diet but might be too pricey for those on a budget. Those looking to go the homemade route should consider using a food calculator, like BalanceIt.com to make sure they’re meeting all their dog’s nutritional needs.
What is the best dog food?
Every family and every dog is unique. Though there isn’t one supreme answer, the choice doesn’t need to be so hard. Here are four things you can do to help you make the right decision for your dog.
1. Consider your dog’s age and breed
Your dog’s body will grow and change – some dogs faster than others. Many brands offer varieties specific to puppies, adults, and seniors, as well as large and small breeds. The options are endless, so you’re certain to find a brand that will fit your dog’s needs.
2. Think realistically about your lifestyle
So many of us would love to cook every meal for our dogs, but few people have the time. Consider who will be feeding your dog – will it be you, a dog sitter, or maybe your children? How much time do you have to spend in the kitchen feeding your pup? How much storage space in your pantry, fridge, or freezer? What is your budget like? Is your dog a picky eater? These are just a few things that you should weigh as you make your decision.
3. Talk to your vet
Your dog will need a different diet at different stages of his life. Some breeds are more prone to obesity than others, and many dogs will put on weight as they get older. Talk to your vet about your dog’s dietary needs, and any concerns you may have about allergens. They should be able to help point you in the right direction.
4. Do some research
Reading labels can be hard – they’re often made to be confusing on purpose. Don’t bother looking at the bag. Go online instead. Check out reviews from real dog owners on foods you’re considering. DogFoodAdvisor.com is a great resource. They break down dog food labels for you and explain what the significance of each individual ingredient is. They also make excellent recommendations based on nutritional content to make it easy to find a healthy choice.