What Is a Good Dog Food & What Is a Bad Dog Food?

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There's no doubt that Fido deserves the best when it comes to mealtime. However, a quick trip down the dog food aisle in any pet store or grocer can quickly overwhelm the uninitiated. Every label seems to scream that its contents are the healthy taste treats your dog craves. There are a few things to consider when it comes to choosing a nutritious banquet for your furry best friend.

When a Label Matters

The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a nonprofit organization that rates whether your pal’s kibble offers complete and balanced nutrition. After that, it’s up to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make sure your pup’s food is labeled correctly and safe to eat.

Manufacturers must list ingredients according to descending order of precooked weight -- thus, the first few ingredients make up the bulk of any dog food. A brand that lists meat as one or more of the first five ingredients will give your pup the protein he needs -- a minimum of 10 percent of his daily intake. Products with sugar, corn or cereal fillers high on the ingredient list may aim at satisfying Fido’s sweet tooth rather than his nutritional needs.

Canned vs. Dry vs. Semi-Moist

Canned foods generally cost more than dry or semi-moist. Also, because of the water content, your pup needs to consume more of the canned to get the same nutrients he does in a portion of concentrated dry food. Canned foods also typically contain more fat and protein per portion than dry. Fido will appreciate the taste better but pack on pounds with the additional fat.

Semi-moist may give your pup the best of both worlds, but it lacks the teeth cleaning feature of dry food and often contains extra sugar to keep it moist. The best answer may be a dash of canned mixed with dry, as long as you balance the proportions so that your pup is not going over his daily calorie count.

Commercial vs. Home-Cooked

Even if you have little talent in the kitchen, there's no question Fido would enjoy a steaming helping of lamb and rice stew or chicken with pasta and veggies more than a cup of dry, round, brownish lumps in his bowl. Getting the nutrient recipe right, however, is tricky and needs your vet's approval. One major concern with a home-cooked menu is adding in the right minerals and vitamins. A lack of calcium, for instance, can put your pup at risk for fractures or cause serious bone deformities.

Feeding the Stages

Puppies require more calories and a different vitamin and mineral content than adult dogs. Senior dogs, moving a bit slower than their middle-aged cousins, generally require fewer calories but may suffer from health issues that require a change in food. Dogs with urinary tract problems may do better on a canned diet due to the increased water content. Your vet is Fido's best advocate when it comes to recommending the brand and type of food he needs for optimal health at any stage of life.