When it comes to dog food, good nutrition is as important to your dog's health as it is to your own. But his nutritional needs are quite different from yours! In general, while a human diet should be high-fiber and low in fat, a dog needs more fat (for energy and a healthy skin and coat) and less fiber (for good intestinal health).
Even if you prefer a vegetarian diet, designing a high-quality dog diet without animal protein is difficult. IAMS™ Company research supports that meatless meals do not provide optimal nutrition for dogs. Dogs are best fed as carnivores because they have simple stomachs and short intestines that are ideal for digesting animal protein and animal fat. Dogs also need carbohydrates for energy.
Life Stage and Lifestyle
With thousands of different pet foods available, how do you pick the one that's right for your dog?
Start by identifying the dog's life stage and lifestyle. Puppies, nursing mothers, and mature pets are examples of life stages. And each one has different nutritional requirements. All dog foods must state which life stage they are recommended for.
Nutritional needs also vary depending on lifestyle. A dog whose primary activity is guarding the couch doesn’t need as much energy as one who guards a flock of sheep. Another factor to consider is breed size: small, medium, or large.
Finally, consider any special medical condition your dog might have, such as food allergies, that might require your veterinarian to recommend a special diet.
Dry or Wet?
Once you've determined your dog's life stage and lifestyle needs, you need to decide whether to feed dry or canned food. Most dogs do well eating only dry food. Dry foods, such as IAMS ProActive Health™ Adult MiniChunks, promote oral hygiene for healthy teeth and gums through abrasive chewing action. Some dogs, especially finicky eaters, enjoy wet food because of its smooth, wet texture.
It's important to remember that, while dry food can be left in a bowl all day, wet food should be thrown away after 30 minutes if not consumed. So, dry food is the best choice for busy people who are not normally home during the day.
Once you know your pet’s nutritional needs and your pet's preference, you are ready to go shopping.
Ingredients are listed in descending order according to weight. Because dogs thrive on animal-based diets, it's best to pick a food in which the first ingredient is an animal-based protein source, such as chicken, lamb, fish or egg. Unlike a single vegetable-based protein source, such as soybean meal or corn-gluten meal, these ingredients contain a full complement of essential amino acids.
Scientific studies show that using a combination of carbohydrates in the diet, such as corn meal or barley and grain sorghum, offers optimal carbohydrate digestibility and helps maintain energy levels.
Scientific studies also show that beet pulp, the material remaining after sugar is extracted from sugar beets, is an excellent fiber source and promotes a healthy digestive tract.
For a glossy coat and healthy skin, your pet needs fat in the diet. Good fat sources include chicken fat and fish oil.
Dog-food labels provide limited information about the nutritional value of the food because labeling regulations do not allow manufacturers to describe the quality of ingredients on the package.
A reputable pet food manufacturer will be able to explain to you their specific methods for evaluating and assuring the quality of ingredients used in their products.
When choosing food, the price on the bag, while important, is usually not the best consideration. A low price might indicate inexpensive ingredients, or ingredients that change as market prices fluctuate.
Also, many lower-priced products have higher daily portions to provide the same amount of nutrition found in a high-quality diet. To get a better representation of value, it is the cost per feeding, not the total cost, that counts.
To figure cost per feeding, divide the total cost by the number of days the product lasts. For example, a 20-lb bag of food costs $18.99 and lasts 30 days. The cost to feed is $0.63 per day. A 20-lb bag of food that costs $15.99 and lasts 20 days costs $0.80 per day. So, when costs are analyzed properly, high-quality pet foods compare quite favorably to other brands while offering outstanding nutrition.
The Look of a Healthy Diet
Here are some signs of health to look for in your dog:
- Strong, white teeth and pink, healthy gums
- Supple skin and glossy coat
- Firm muscles in legs
- Energetic, enthusiastic personality
- Small, firm stools without excessive odor
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How much do you know about the food you’re buying for your puppy? When shopping for puppy food, pay attention to these three sections of a dog food label.
1. The Ingredient Panel
This section lists all the ingredients that make up the product. The ingredients are listed in descending order according to weight before cooking. In dry food, look for a source of high-quality animal-based protein: chicken or lamb, for example. Dogs thrive on animal proteins.
Manufacturers who use large amounts of vegetable proteins might be saving money by providing basic — but not optimal — nutrition. You should also avoid artificial colors and flavors, which offer no nutritional benefits.
2. The Guaranteed Analysis
Near the ingredient panel should be a chart of percentages called the "guaranteed analysis." These figures reveal the basic nutrient makeup of the dog food's formula and protein content. The minimum percentages of protein and fat and the maximum percentages of fiber and moisture (water) should be listed.
3. The Manufacturer’s Name and Address
This information must be included on the label by law. A toll-free number or web address for the manufacturer may also be listed. Manufacturers who list a phone number, such as IAMS™, generally have a high-quality product and welcome consumer calls and questions. If you would like information about IAMS products, visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-525-4267.
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