Medium-sized brown dog trying to eat a large bone.

Find the Best Food Dogs Should Eat

Learn to feed your dog the diet that works best for your pet. 

Learning what is the best dog food for your dog and you will have a happy, healthy dog.

We decided to use homemade dog food for our old rescue dog. We based our decision on some factors (comparison table below). But the bottom line for us is an economic one. It is cheaper for us to buy high quality ingredients than it is to buy premium dog food. The next factor was knowing with certainty the ingredients we are feeding our dog.

Going with a premium dog food had much to do with the health issues we have with our male cat, Lucky.

Lucky is diabetic.

We give him one insulin shot twice a day before he eats.

Fish is a good source of nutrients for dogs

Fish is a great addition to a dog's diet. Fish is a source of protein rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have health benefits like decreasing inflammation.

Veterinarians don't know what causes diabetes in cats. It may be because cats don't process or digest carbohydrates very well since they are meat eaters.

It was a struggle finding a food that would help him with his diabetes. Plus, Lucky's medication and doctor bills were an incentive to manage a senior dog's health when we were in the process of adopting Coco.

It is more convenient to buy dog food at either local stores or online. But we found that making dog food was not as time-consuming as we first thought.

Should you decide to buy instead of making food, studies have shown that there is no bad commercial dog food. But some are better than others. 

Plus, there is a huge variety of dog food formulations! Since dogs are omnivores, they can survive on either animal or plant diet if it is diverse and balanced. 

But dogs thrive on meat-based diets!

Low-priced dog food lack quality ingredients and may have minimal nutritional value. 

Introduction to finding the best food that dogs should eat

Dog owners have several choices about what they can feed their dogs. Choices are commercially-prepared food, homemade food, or table scraps. (I consider feeding a dog table scraps as a bad idea.)

Regardless of choice, quality ingredients will cost more than lesser ingredients. Premium foods tend to be free from artificial additives and chemicals. Also, they may contain human-grade and organic ingredients.

Also, you may have not known this...

but fat and protein sources are much more expensive than carbohydrates.

The following marinara sauce comparison shows the challenges we face as consumers trying to eat healthy food ourselves. 

quality ingredients make for a high quality product
Popular budget quality sauce ingredients

The ingredient list above for a popular, budget marinara sauce is vastly different than the image on the left. The premium sauce shown on the left includes fresh ingredients as well as the source of the primary ingredient. Because of the quality of ingredients, there is no additional sugar added for flavoring. The price of the premium sauce is significantly higher than the budget sauce. While the sauce is for human consumption, the same applies to dog food. To keep costs down, manufacturers add carbohydrates instead of quality proteins and fats.

How much to feed your dog

Healthy dogs need a diet that has moderate amounts of easy-to-digest protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Fortunately, there are online calculators to help us determine how much to feed our pets.

I found many formulas for calculating daily energy requirements. Formulas considered the differences in resting and maintenance energy requirements. It sounded like a lot of hair-splitting. But the difference in calculations for our dog ranged between 937 and 1412 calories a day. 

Note about the Pet Nutritional Alliance. The PNA is a group of veterinary associations created to provide information to veterinarians and consumers.  Pet food manufacturers provide the educational material for PNA. I did not find any information on the PNA website related to FDA policies and warnings to veterinarians or consumers about pet food manufacturer compliance issues. Given the issues of excessive grains and meat used in pet foods, it is disappointing that the information provided appears to be from industry only.

As a general rule, 25{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} of calories should come from protein and 350 calories per cup of food.

Now that the daily caloric requirement has been estimated, the next step is identifying amounts of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

What nutrients does your dog need?

I found that dogs need the following nutrients to survive:

Water - Water is essential as it makes up a huge percentage of body weight. 

Proteins - Development, maintenance, and repair of cells, tissues, and components need proteins. Protein requirements increase with age. Senior dogs need high quality, digestible proteins. Animal tissues include high quality protein. Organ tissues like as liver, kidneys, and heart are particularly rich in needed amino acids.

Fats -  Fats are a concentrated source of energy for dogs. Development and functioning of cells and tissues need fat as does support of the dog's immune system. Fats also help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Fats are comprised of fatty acids of which some are essential because dogs cannot make them on their own. Animal sources of fats are the best for dogs. Animal sources include chicken fat, salmon oil, and even fatty types of fish. There are many different kinds of fats that should be included in your dog’s diet, primarily a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  

Carbohydrates - Carbohydrates (carbs) provide energy and dietary fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Plants and grains are sources for carbs. Common carb sources include grains, fruits, vegetables  dairy products, as well as some organ meats, oysters, and mussels.

Minerals - Minerals are inorganic compounds used to regulate metabolism. Minerals are also major components of bones and teeth. 

Vitamins - Proper body functions including metabolism regulation need vitamins. A balanced diet should provide all the vitamins a dog needs. A veterinarian may prescribe vitamin supplementation for specific vitamin deficiencies.

Balanced Dog Diet

Your dog needs a proper balance of nutients.

According to the FDA, most dogs receive a complete and balanced diet from commercially-made dog food.  

Protein and carbohydrates provides 4 calories per gram while fat provides 9 calories per gram. This means that fats are a much more concentrated source of energy for dogs. 

My research shows that recommended percentages of protein, carbs, and fat varies. This makes sense in the fact that dogs are omnivores. But historically, dogs ate meat (protein). Carbs were incidental in the form of stomach content of animals eaten. 

Dogs did not eat high levels of carbohydrates or plant protein until well after domestication. I have seen dogs chase squirrels, but never forage in a vegetable garden. 

Source of Information
Protein
Fat

18{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}

9-15{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}

18{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}

5.5{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}

10{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}

5.5{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8}

Scientific research has shown that an adult dog’s daily diet can contain up to 50{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} carbohydrates by weight, including 2.5–4.5{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} fiber. A least 5.5{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} of the diet should come from fats and 10{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} from protein.

We are currently feeding our dog 47{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} protein, 35{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} carbs, and 18{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} fat. The only grain we are using is rice. Because we have a diabetic cat and are feeding him cat food with minimal grains included.

95{9313cc433504b347912d0d21a96db43397c0af702c12047255ad3d31fd2156e8} of dogs eating diets low in animal tissues and high in grain-based products have health issues. They are overweight. Also, they may have itchy, flaky skin, or coarse and brittle coats, or poor energy levels.

Choosing between commercial and homemade dog food

As stated earlier, we chose to go the homemade dog food route.

I spent so much time trying to decipher commercial dog food ingredient labels, it became an exercise in frustration. One thing I noticed is that dog food manufacturers "play games" with their labeling. They list different carbs separately to give the appearance that the dog food contents do not have a lot of carbs.

I was not going to make the same mistake with a new dog as I did with our diabetic cat and end up with an obese dog.

Besides reading ingredient labels, it's obvious a lot of marketing goes into the design and ad copy on the pet food packaging. The design influences consumer purchase decisions. Marketers push the boundaries of false and deceptive advertising.

Fortunately, organizations like TruthinAdvertising.org  provide information to help consumers including lawsuits related to dog food.

TruthinPetFood.com provides consumer information including information about pet food recalls. 

For example,

TruthinPetFood has reported on several class action lawsuits against Champion Pet Food. The lawsuits relate to “their negligent, reckless, and/or intentional practice of misrepresenting and failing to fully disclose the presence of heavy metals and toxins in their pet food sold throughout the United States.”

The following table highlights factor, we used to decide in favor of homemade dog food. 

Commercial and homemade dog food comparison

Factors

Commercial

Homemade

Convenience
Cost
Top Quality Ingredients
Fewer Chemical Additives
Longer Shelf Life
More Ingredient Choices
Meets Nutrition Requirements
Easy to Modify

Preparing homemade dog food can be challenging when it comes to meeting your dog's nutritional requirements. But the information included in the "Your Dog's Nutritional Needs, A Science-Based Guide for Pet Owners" will help with identifying nutritional requirements for your dog.

Dog diet information and resources

Should you decide to make your own dog food or want more dog diet information, then I recommend these resources:

USDA Food Composition Databases - provides nutritional data on foods

Nutritional Values for Common Foods - is another source for food nutritional values

Whole Dog Journal - offers in-depth, well-researched articles on topics related to dogs

DogAware.com - offers information related to dog diet and health

Home Cooked Diets For Dogs Facebook Group - helps group members prepare balanced and healthy meat based diets

Petsumer Report - Petsumer Report is a membership-based pet food review publication with over 4,400 pet foods and treats reviewed. 

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