Dog Nutrition Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Feeding Your Dog

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  1. The state of pet food today
  2. Canine Nutrition
  3. Lifestages
  4. Reading Labels
  5. Ingredients
  6. Different Kinds of Dog Food
  7. Which diet for your dog?

Ask people what they think about dog food today and you’re likely to get all kinds of answers.

“Dog foods are crap. You should feed raw.”

“I always check dog food ratings before I buy a food.”

“Dogs need human grade food. I only buy X brand.”

“Dogs are carnivores. They should not be eating grains like corn or wheat.”

“The big dog food companies only care about money. I would never buy one of their foods.”

“I’m afraid of recalls. I make my dog’s food.”

“I read labels and look at the nutrition in the food. As long as the ingredients are good, I’m flexible about brands.”

“My dogs work hard. I want high protein and good sources of energy for them.”

“My dog has X health problems. He can only eat food that has [blank] ingredients. And he has to avoid Y foods.”

Of course, it’s also possible for a person to combine some of these beliefs and believe more than one of them. However, no matter what you believe about dog food, it’s likely that you have firm ideas about the subject. In the last 20-30 years many people have come to view dogs as members of the family. More than any time in history, dogs are considered family members, friends and companions, especially in Western countries. If they are popular pets for Baby Boomers, they have become even more indispensable for Millennials.

According to a recent article in PetfoodIndustry.com (“Baby Boomers, step aside: Millennials now own more pets,” by Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, April 1, 2015), Millennials have some different pet food preferences from Baby Boomers. Research shows that Millennials:

  • Are influenced by what’s hot (including celebrity endorsements) and what’s not;
  • Like to try the latest technology and new products/services;
  • Like customization;
  • Spend more on the pets themselves as well as on veterinary care and pet services;
  • Are not brand loyal;
  • Are less likely to seek products promoted as “made in the USA”;
  • Are highly likely to use social media to connect with brands, research products and services, and read and post reviews and ratings;
  • Seek the advice of others, especially family and friends (often through social media), before making a purchase;
  • Are more likely to participate in the “shared economy” (using services such as Uber for transportation or Airbnb for travel lodging);
  • Buy brands and products that reflect their lifestyle or are consistent with the image they want to convey;
  • Purchase brands that support a cause they care about, either social or environmental.

Dog food companies, large and small, are aware of these trends and use them in competing for the dollars these devoted “pet parents” spend on their four-legged family members. Whether you are a Baby Boomer, Millennial or something else, you’ve probably noticed changes in advertising that coincide with these emerging preferences.

If you’ve purchased dog food – online or in a bricks and mortar store – you’ve no doubt seen the sales pitches. Many of them are compelling. Dog food companies urge us to buy food that is grain free, gluten-free, GMO-free; biologically-appropriate. There is food to help dogs lose weight; food for senior dogs; puppy food; low grain and ancient grain foods; dry food, canned foods and foods in pouches; frozen and freeze-dried foods; food for sensitive digestion and sensitive skin, as well as specific health issues; not to mention veterinary formulas. Obviously, we love our dogs. How are we supposed to determine which foods are actually best for our dogs? Which foods are a good buy and which ones are over-rated? Or, do we give up and make homemade food for our dogs? Or feed a raw diet?

Imagine that you are someone with your first dog or puppy – perhaps you are! Choosing a dog food must be unbelievably confusing. Every dog lover you know is probably offering you a different opinion about which food to buy. Even if you have had dogs for a long time or fed a couple of foods that you like, companies often change formulas. Or brands have recalls. Or your dog’s needs can change. Customers are often left wondering if they need to change foods.

If you struggle with some of these issues then this is the right guide for you. We are dog owners, too, and we go through the same experiences. We’ve been analyzing pet foods and food trends for a long time. We’ve read a lot of labels and other nutritional information about dog foods for decades, followed companies, and know some of the ins and outs about pet food. We can help you know what to look for and choose the best foods for your dog.

In this guide we’ll go over what you need to know about pet food today, as well as the facts about canine nutrition. It helps to know what your dog really needs in his diet to be healthy so you can choose a good dog food. Then we’ll look at dog foods. We’ll discuss labels, ingredients, and different kinds of foods. We’ll try to help you make informed decisions so you can choose the best foods for your dog based on his needs and your lifestyle. Brand X may be great for someone who has a tiny Yorkie to feed but if you have three Irish Wolfhounds, you may want to consider a different food – even though Brand X is a wonderful food.

We need to say right here that we don’t believe there is any one perfect “best” dog food or any one best way to feed a dog. Most dogs are able to eat more than one good brand of dog food, provided you have checked out the food and it suits your dog’s needs. The exception would be if your dog has a health issue that might require a particular food or way of feeding. Otherwise, most dogs are somewhat adaptable when it comes to their food. On the other hand, there’s no doubt that dogs can do better on some food than others. For example, your dog might be perfectly healthy and happy when you feed him one of several foods, including grain free foods and grain-inclusive foods with higher protein percentages. But, after some trial and error, you could determine that he seems to have the best skin, coat, energy level, and no gastro-intestinal issues when you feed him a low grain/ancestral grain, moderately high protein food with no corn, wheat, or soy. This food might be best for your dog, at this stage in his life, but it might not be the best choice for another dog. Granted, not every dog owner pays this much attention to the food they feed their dog but you probably do or you wouldn’t be reading this guide.

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