One should be wary about trusting the marketing hype or the celebrity endorsements when it comes to dog food. Of course all dog foods will claim AAFCO compliance for being balanced and complete. So, what are the questions you should ask when reviewing a dog food?
Some questions have answers, and others just linger out there. In any case, these questions will get you thinking about which dog foods you can trust, and, they all have to do with the ingredients in your dog food.
5 Dog Food Questions
1. Where are the dog food ingredients from?
Think "Made in the USA" is good enough? Well, made in the USA does not mean SOURCED from the USA. Dog food companies are notorious for using brokers, third party suppliers, and middlemen when sourcing their raw materials. Look for: Made in the USA with local ingredients, or the state of origin on the label.
2. What are the first 6 ingredients in the dog food?
The first 6 ingredients are generally the most valuable. Depending on how many total ingredients are contained in the food, the items below this line can be classified as window dressing. An exception to this is if you're looking at vitamins and minerals (which are small amounts anyway). If you see something valuable way down on the list, it can't really be counted towards any real nutritional value of the food.
Further, if meat is the first ingredient, then the next 4 ingredients are items like peas, pea protein, and chickpeas,, you can bet that these 4 protein ingredients outweigh the meat protein in the food. We consider this less than ideal for your dog. Make sure your dog food doesn't contain any "lawful" yet unfit ingredients, read Dog Food Basics: 3 Things to Avoid in Dog Foods
Biological value, can be explained as nutritional importance. For example, just because something is classified as "protein" does not mean it is available for digestion and use in your dog's body. A chicken beak, or leather belt, while high in protein, is nearly useless nutritionally to your dog. Though, theoretically, they both could be listed on a guaranteed analysis as protein. But you know better.
Wheat gluten or corn, common dog food ingredients, have very poor biological values (rating of approx: 45-50), while eggs are extremely high (rating: 100). Keep this in mind when you're reviewing the ingredients list... what are the sources of ingredients and their corresponding biological values?
4. What is the carbohydrate content?
If you've tried looking on the Guaranteed Analysis, you'll be out of luck. Carbohydrate content is rarely shown on most dog food labels, and it's done so intentionally. This is because many dog foods contain enormous amounts of carbohydrates, starch, and sugars, and this is well known to be terrible for your dog's health.
Tip: the carbohydrates should be extremely low. A healthy canine diet does not require carbohydrates the same way that a human does. Dogs don't need corn, wheat, barley, or any substantial carbohydrates to be healthy. In fact, the only time a wild dog would eat carbohydrates is when it is already in the digestive tract of his prey. Keep in mind, your dog's biological needs are exactly the same as a wild dog.
5. What are the customer reviews?
If these are available, which when looking online, there are numerous reviews for nearly every dog food, you should pay attention. Look for credibility in the review from real dog food owners to know if dogs generally like the taste and experience of the dog food.