Dog food is one of those products that is readily available to buy from a huge range of places, such as supermarkets, online, specialist pet retailers, and even your vet. It is also big business, with a lot of competition for market share, and a huge range of options available at every stage of the price spectrum when it comes to making your selection.
Basic shopping sense indicates that products that cost more should be better, and with dog food, this is generally true, and in many cases, buying a food that ostensibly costs more per kg can in fact save you money in the long run; assuming you make the right choice! So, how can you tell if your dog food is worth the money, and that you are getting good value for what you are buying at every stage of the price spectrum? Read on for six points to consider when making your assessment.
Dog food should contain the appropriate balance of nutrients to fulfil all of your dog’s needs, and their food should provide energy for life. Dog food should contain proteins, fats and carbs, as well as vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Looks for a dog food that indicates that it is “complete,” which means that it can be used as your dog’s only food without the need to feed them anything else.
The balance of ingredients is important too, and different types of dogs may require a different balance of ingredients. Find out what is the perfect balance for your own dog’s breed, activity levels and life stage, and find a food that is the closest possible fit within your budget.
Any old person can throw a load of ingredients into a pot, mix it up and call it dog food, but properly formulating a dog’s diet to match their needs is much more complex!
Your dog’s food should be formulated by specialist canine nutritionists, who are qualified and experienced in producing the right balance and formula of ingredients to match the needs of the modern domestic dog.
Check on the packaging for indications that the food was formulated by nutritionists.
Producing a nutritionist-formulated dog food that looks perfect on paper is all very well, but the real test of a dog food that gets that far is feeding trials!
Feeding trials are scientifically managed studies that involve feeding a reasonable number of dogs the same food under controlled conditions with strict guidelines, and which take some time to complete.
Food trials not only tell you that the food is palatable to dogs in general and did not have any adverse effects on them, but they also record any changes and improvements that the food produces in the dog over a period of time, to give you confidence that the food is a good one.
Feeding trials take a long time to complete, and are constantly reviewed and improved upon by the best manufacturers, so check if your dog’s food underwent feeding trials (often marked on the packaging) to provide added reassurance when feeding.
Using different types of ingredients and ingredients of different values ensure that dog foods can be bought at a range of prices, making them affordable for all dog owners. All complete dog foods should be nutritionally balanced and contain the right mixture of ingredients to meet the needs of your dog, but the quality of those ingredients can vary considerably.
High quality ingredients from recognised, named cuts of meat are preferable to products such as “meat meal” or un-named cuts, and sugar, salt, flavourings, and bulking agents such as grains should be kept to a minimum.
The safety, uniformity and quality of your dog food is something that you should take seriously, as should the manufacturers of your dog food. This helps to ensure that the ingredients of your dog’s food match the labels, are high quality, and were safely and reliably grown or produced and processed.
Foods that go through strict quality controls are safer and more uniform than those that don’t, and often, foods that are manufactured directly by the brand selling them are the best bet. Look for labels that say “manufactured by” the name of the company, as opposed to those that say “distributed by” or “Produced under licence for.”
A good quality, premium food that goes through all of the right tests and ticks all of the boxes is great, but totally pointless if the food that you choose is not matched to your dog’s life stage and other factors!
Take into account your dog’s age, breed, activity levels, weight and other elements, in order to make an informed decision about the best match of food for them.