Archive for January, 2010

How to Choose the Right Dog Food

Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Choose the Right Dog Food
You are uniquely well-qualified to select the best food for your dog.
by Nancy Kerns
Whole Dog Journal Vol 8|#7

No one is in a better position than you are to decide which food you should feed your dog. That may not be what you wanted to hear. You may have been hoping that someone would reveal to you the name of the world’s healthiest food, so you could just buy that and have it done with.

Should you set up blind taste tests for your dog? Ask your vet what to feed your dog? Go with what your dog-walker suggests? Choose whichever product WDJ says to feed? The answer to every one of these questions is NO!

But dogs, just like people, are individuals. What works for this dog won’t work for that one. A Pointer who goes jogging with his marathon-running owner every day needs a lot more calories than the Golden Retriever who watches TV all day. The diet that contains enough fat to keep that sled dog warm through an Alaskan winter would kill that Miniature Poodle who suffers from pancreatitis. The commercial kibble that stopped my Border Collie’s itching and scratching in its tracks may cause your Bedlington Terrier to develop copper storage disease.

Every food on the market contains different ingredients, and each one has the potential to cause symptoms of allergy or intolerance in some dogs. Every food contains a different ratio of macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrates – and you have to learn by trial and error which ratio works best for your dog. Each product contains varying amounts of vitamins and minerals, and though most fall within the ranges considered acceptable by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), some may be in excess of, or deficient to your dog’s needs.

So how do you choose?

The starting place
Well, you have to start somewhere, and you undoubtedly have. Your dog is eating something already. We hope it’s a food that meets WDJ’s selection criteria, which is outlined annually in the February issue. We highlight a number of foods on our “approved” list, but consider any food that meets our selection criteria to be as good as the ones on our list. Our goal is to help you identify the foods with the best-quality ingredients – whole meats, vegetables, fruits, and grains, and high-quality sources of dietary fat – to get you into the right “ballpark” in terms of quality. Then you have to start individualized feeding trials on your dog.

Start by assessing your dog’s health. Take a sheet of paper and make a list with two columns: one for health problems, and one for health assets. Any conditions for which she receives veterinary care or medications go in the “problems” column. Other conditions that should be listed here include bad breath; teeth that are prone to tartar buildup; chronically goopy eyes; infection-prone or stinky ears; a smelly, greasy, flaky, or thinning coat; itchy paws; excessive gas; recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or incontinence; repeated infestations of worms or fleas; low or excessive energy; and a sudden onset of antisocial or aggressive behavior.

In the health assets column, list all the health characteristics that your dog has in her favor, such as fresh breath, clean teeth, bright eyes, clean ears, a lack of itching, a glossy coat, problem-free elimination, a normal appetite and energy level, and a good attitude.

If there are a lot more assets on your list than problems, and the problems are very minor, you may have already found a diet that works well for your dog. But if your list reveals a lot more problems than assets, your dog is a good candidate for a change of diet – in addition to an examination and some guidance from a good holistic veterinarian!

Now take a look at the food you are currently feeding your dog. Note the food’s ingredients, as well as its protein and fat levels, and its caloric content. Write all of this down, so you can make logical adjustments if need be. Read the rest of the article by clicking here!

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