We know most dogs will eat just about anything, but responsible owners know that what goes inside our pets serves as the foundation for their health and determines their overall longevity. For these reasons, simply picking dog food can become a complicated task. The most important thing you can do for your dog is to educate yourself about what you are feeding them. You can do this by learning how to read a dog food label correctly, and by understanding all the ingredients your dog consumes. Here are the eight most important kinds of ingredients to look for when choosing your dog's food.
Protein can come from a variety of sources, from chicken and beef to salmon and rabbit. Some commercial dog foods are made from meat "meal," which is either the original fresh meat product dried to remove moisture, or ground-up animal parts, such as hearts, livers, bones and feet. It should not be thought of as inferior to the fresh meat component. When identifying the protein in your dog's food, be sure to check the ingredients list. The most nutritious kinds of dog food will have the name of the meat as the first ingredient and then list it again before it lists the fat source.
2. CARBOHYDRATES AND GRAINS
Although some dogs can have an allergy to certain carbohydrates and grains, some commercial dog foods include it as a minor ingredient in their product. Typically, this comes in the form of soy, beans, rice, oats, corn, barley and wheat. Grains are used to help improve digestibility in your dog's diet. They are also a good source of energy.
Vegetables are definitely not necessary in a dog's daily diet, but it is a nice added ingredient, as they can provide a lot of vitamins and minerals. Should you choose to add your own vegetables to your dog's meals, just be sure that they do not include onions, garlic or mushrooms. These are highly toxic to dogs.
Just like vegetables, fruits are not standard to a dog's diet, but some fruits, like apples and blueberries, can be shared with your canine pal as a good source of fiber. Remember not to give your dog grapes or cherries, as they can be poisonous.
5. OILS AND FAT
Fat sometimes gets a bad rap, but it is absolutely necessary in your dog's diet. Dogs require a balance of certain fatty acids. These provide energy and flavor, and encourage vitamin absorption. They can also help your dog keep a pretty, healthy coat. The most common fats used in dog foods include chicken fat, pork fat, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, fish oil and more. If you can find a dog food that offers omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, this indicates that it is a high-quality dog food.
6. VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Vitamins and minerals must be included in your dog's food to maintain good health. They help with metabolic, digestive and immune system processes, as well as helping to keep nerves and blood cells healthy. B-vitamins should come at the top of the list in the form of biotin, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is important for your dog's skin and coat. Vitamin E helps your dog's immune system.
When looking at a dog food label, look for natural preservatives like tocopherols and ascorbic acid. They are added to dog's food to improve the taste of the food and make it less likely to spoil.
Water is one of the most important elements to a dog's diet, and many commercial dog foods include a high percentage of moisture. Even though dog food includes water as an ingredient, you should always provide fresh water for your pet at all times.
Next: Dog Food Labels Decoded
Finding the right food for your dog can involve a lot of trial and error, but it is important to remain steadfast and patient when analyzing all the different elements that go into your dog's diet. If you have any questions, be sure to consult your veterinarian for expert advice.
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