Healthy Food Makes Dogs Pretty
By Kami Kaminski
As you may have noticed, choosing the correct diet for your dog can be difficult with so many choices and opinions on different brands. Between the small and larger pet stores, and even grocery stores, the amount of information can be overwhelming.
A healthy dog diet, as with people, has many benefits. For example, a well-balanced diet directly influences a dog’s coat, skin, shedding, allergies and overall appearance. Your first step in locating the perfect dog food for your pet is to learn how to read the ingredient labels and decide for yourself.
How to Choose Healthy Food for Your Dog
Read the Ingredients List
Dog food ingredients are listed in order by weight. The first ingredient (or ingredients) should be a protein source, such as chicken, lamb or salmon. Keep in mind that if protein source is meat (and not meal), it will contain a fair amount of water and fat.
Protein source listed as chicken, lamb or salmon meal means the water and fat was removed from the meat. Meal is concentrated meat so there could be more protein in the food, but less moisture. Fortunately, protein content is easy to determine thanks to a pet food label’s guaranteed analysis, which lists the minimum percentages of protein, fat, fiber, moisture and ash (total minerals, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, etc.). The U.S. Food & Drug Administration offers more information on pet food labels on its website.
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Check Byproducts and Vitamins
In your search for the best dog food, you may come across foods that contain meat byproducts, which are typically organ meats, such as liver, heart and kidneys. Byproducts provide nutritional value and are not a bad thing for your dog. However, a well-balanced diet cannot be achieved with byproducts alone.
After you’ve found a complete and balanced dog food with a good protein source, it is then time to look at the other ingredients. Many pet foods include fruits, vegetables and grains to improve the overall nutritional value of the formula. You may also see several ingredients with large chemical-sounding names. Usually, these will be added vitamins and minerals as well as preservatives, natural or artificial colors, and stabilizers the FDA has approved for use.
Choose a Life-Stage Appropriate Food
You can also choose a dog food that is life-stage appropriate. Many senior diets (for dogs seven years and older) will add fiber as well as additional vitamins or supplements, such as glucosamine or chondroitin to help with joint and arthritis pain. Puppy diets are high in protein, fat and other essential vitamins to help in growing. Regardless of your pet’s age, a quality food will provide the minimum amount of nutrients needed for optimal health.
With a healthy diet, your dog has a better chance of having long happy lives with little to no skin or coat problems.
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