Your canine companion is a beloved part of your family, so naturally you want him to have the very best of everything, including the food he eats. Choose a food that he not only enjoys eating, but that contains ingredients that are good for him. High quality dog foods contain ingredients that not only meet your pup's nutritional needs, but are also easily digestible for him.
Canine companions need at least 18 percent protein for adult dogs and 22 percent for growing pups under 1 year of age, according to the nutrient profiles set up by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Because protein is such a major component of your pup's diet, look for food that lists a high-quality protein such as whole chicken, fish, venison, beef, lamb, eggs or turkey as the primary ingredient. Ingredients must be listed by weight according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so the first ingredient that appears on the label is the major component of the diet. Avoid foods that list vague descriptions, such as "meat" or "meat meals," instead of a specific animal protein.
Carbohydrates and Fiber
To maintain his energy, your pup needs carbohydrates in his diet. Healthy carbohydrates also provide your pooch with the fiber he needs to stay regular and keep him feeling full during the day. Whole grains provide the best quality of carbohydrates, such as whole oats, whole wheat, brown rice, millet or whole corn, according to petMD. These grains provide your pup with more nutrients and fiber than refined grains like white rice or corn meal. Beet pulp is a type of moderately fermentable fiber that helps promote a healthy digestive system for your furry friend without causing excess gas or other tummy upset, recommends the ASPCA.
To maintain a shiny coat and his energy level, your pup needs a minimum of 5 percent fat for adults and 8 percent fat for growing puppies, recommend the AAFCO feeding profiles. When reading the label of the high-quality food you choose for your pup, look for healthy fats listed, including chicken or pork fat, sunflower oil, safflower oil, canola oil or flaxseed oil, recommends petMD. These sources of fat provide your pup with essential fatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which keep his joints mobile, his skin supple and his coat silky. Lower-quality ingredients include tallow and lard, which you should avoid because they have low amounts of linoleic acid, essential for your pup's health. These fats may also be of questionable quality, according to the Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center.
While a pup can survive on a meat-free diet with proper supplementation of certain vitamins, a meat-based diet provides your canine friend with all of the amino acids he needs without additional supplementation, according to the National Research Council of the National Academies. Meat by-products do contain protein for your pup, but shouldn't be the primary ingredients of higher-quality foods. This is because they are harder to digest than whole meats or meat meals, according to the West Valley Pet Clinic. In addition, their nutritional quality may vary based on what's in those by-products, which may include heads, necks and intestines. Avoid foods containing artificial preservatives like BHT, BHA and ethoxyquin. Opt for natural preservatives, including vitamin C, vitamin E and rosemary extract, usually found in higher-quality foods, according to VetInfo.
- petMD: The Best Food for Dogs
- The Dog Food Project: Ingredients to Avoid
- West Valley Pet Clinic: Canine Diet & the Importance of Good Nutrition for Dogs
- ASPCA: Nutrients Your Dog Needs
- National Research Council of the National Academies: Your Dog's Nutritional Needs
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Selecting Nutritious Pet Foods
- VetInfo: Ingredients in High Quality Dog Food
- petMD: Fats and Oils: Good for Your Dog’s Health?
- VetInfo: Are Preservatives in Pets' Food Products Dangerous?
- Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center: Understanding Pet Food Labels
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.