- Not all dog foods are created equal. Learn how to recognize healthy ingredients.pet food image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com
Choosing a good brand of dog food may turn out being a daunting task for many dog owners. With so many ingredients listed and words of unknown origin, deciphering such lingo may sometimes appear to require an expert nutritionist. A good place to start may be learning how to recognize healthy ingredients in dog food. However, it is always good practice to consult with a veterinarian before starting a new diet regimen for your dog, in order to ensure it contains the right nutrients for your pet's health status and lifestyle.
- Protein is the most important ingredient in dog food. The dog's digestive tract is purposely made to digest meat and fat. However, protein is also the most expensive ingredient found in dog food and this is where dog food manufacturers may try to cut corners. Ideally, the first ingredient listed should be a specified fresh type of meat or fish, according to veterinarians Foster and Smith's Educational Staff. Good sources of protein are chicken, lamb, beef and fish or meals that specify the source of protein, such as chicken meal or beef meal.
- Carbohydrates are often frowned upon for being ''fillers,'' used by manufacturing companies to use less meat, and for not being easily digested by dogs. However, when cooked correctly carbohydrates may be easily digestible and valuable sources of energy. Good sources of carbohydrates are whole ground grains such as rice, barley, potatoes, sweet potatoes and peas.
Fats and Oils
- Fats and oils are necessary in a dog's diet for the health of skin and coat but also to ensure proper brain development. As in humans, there are good and bad fats. Beef tallow and lard for instance, are rich in harmful saturated fats. Look for specific natural sources of fat such as canola oil, flax oil, chicken fat or herring oil. Valuable fatty acids are the Omega 3's and Omega 6's. Look at the ratio's between the two: for each percent of Omega-6 there should be at least 0.13 percent of Omega-3 according to the Dog Food Project website created by Sabine Contreras, certified in Animal Care from the University of Guelph, Canada.
- Quality fiber sources help dogs maintain good bowel health. Beet pulp, for instance, once the fibrous material has been removed from the sugar beets, is a beneficial, well tolerated source of fiber that is also a good source of nutrition for the beneficial bacteria that resides in the dog's intestinal tract. Healthy dog foods also use natural preservatives among the ingredients, such as Vitamin E, citric acid, and rosemary to slow down spoilage.