To choose the best food for their dogs, owners need to understand the difference between high quality and low quality dog foods. It is true that any commercial food labeled “complete and balanced” will meet a dog’s basic nutritional needs. After all, dogs evolved to be survivors. They can live on on any balanced commercial food. They will only thrive, however, on those diets with high quality ingredients that are optimized to more closely mimic ancestral diets.
Because dogs can tolerate such a wide variety of foods, it can be tempting to choose a diet based on price. However, this is not the best strategy to ensure health and longevity. Since grains and other plant materials are usually much less expensive than meat, the pet food industry has taken advantage of the domestic dog’s ability to tolerate an omnivorous diet. This has resulted in commercial diets much higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein and fat than the meat based diets of ancestral animals. This is not, of course, to say that the average house pet needs a diet made up of 56% protein and 30% fat like the ancestral meat diet. It does mean, however, that a commercial diet that is predominantly made up of carbohydrates is not the best choice for owners who want healthy, active pets.
In general, dog owners simply need to keep a dog’s natural eating preferences in mind when choosing a food. A good dog food will be high in meat based protein, contain natural fats and oils and be free of byproducts, chemical flavors, colors and preservatives. It will also be complete and balanced to meet a dog’s nutritional needs. There are a variety of raw, home cooked and commercial diets that fulfill these requirements. Each dog owner must choose a diet that suits the owner’s budget and lifestyle as well as the dog’s preferences and health needs. The diet that best suits all of these will be the ideal diet.
Special Considerations and Cautions
A good dog food will be high in meat based protein, contain natural fats and oils and be free of byproducts, chemical flavors, colors and preservatives.
There are many canine illnesses, such as food allergies, dietary intolerances, skin issues and others, that can be improved by using diets higher in protein and fat than most commercial kibbles. This makes it tempting to believe that such diets will best help any sick dog, but it is important to remember that Mother Nature is not always kind. Sick dogs do not often survive in the wild, and some illnesses do require dietary alterations.
While diets lower in carbohydrates and higher in fats and protein suit most healthy dogs, there are situations in which more extreme versions of such diets can actually be harmful. For example, dogs with health conditions, such as late stage kidney disease, might need to eat reduced protein diets. Animals with pancreatitis or other gastrointestinal issues might need low fat diets. Obese or overweight animals often need to eat foods that are lower in fat and higher in fiber than maintenance adult dog foods. Diabetic dogs and those with anal gland problems frequently do best on high fiber diets. For this reason, it is very important for owners to consult with a veterinarian when feeding an animal with chronic health problems.
One truly “ideal” food for all dogs does not exist…this means reading labels to check for high quality ingredients.
The Bottom Line
One truly “ideal” food for all dogs does not exist. Whether owners choose commercial diets, home prepared diets or some combination of the two, the important thing is that they keep a dog’s nutritional needs in mind. This means reading labels to check for high quality ingredients. It means ensuring that dogs are fed diets with real meat and balanced amounts of protein, fat and carbohydrates rather than diets high in carbohydrates and fillers. In addition, it means taking a dog’s health status into account when choosing a diet. Creating a balanced diet for a dog is much like creating a balanced diet for a person. It requires a little research and some experimentation, but it is absolutely possible for most dog owners to accomplish.