The eternal question has been raised in all my years of giving dog advice, and that is, what is the healthiest dog food? There are certain companies that have aligned with veterinary schools (mostly through funding and support of such schools) which do not have the best ingredients in their food that can ensure a long life for our canine companions. Sadly, a lot of veterinary students are not given a proper education on the fundamentals of food nutrition for pets. Pet owners receive advice that eventually leads to dogs getting severe food allergies, diabetes, obesity, and eventually leading to organ failure and early death.
The answer is more complicated than just naming one food. Dogs, like people, have very different metabolisms from each other. Some dogs have allergies that are hard to pinpoint. Although it may be hard to name the healthiest dog food option specific to each dog, there are some general things to consider that can guide you in the right direction.
The first rule of advice that can be given about pet food is to avoid most of the foods seen at your typical grocery store. As inconvenient as this may sound, foods such as Eukanuba and Alpo are made by huge corporations where the most cost-effective ingredients are used. They use marketing ploys and clever commercials to hide the fact that they use ingredients in their food that have little to no nutritional value to your pet. These foods are also filled with a lot of fillers and sugars, which can also cause behavioral problems such as hyperactivity.
Higher-end, holistic and natural foods are just starting to take hold in the pet food market, so there is hope that these foods will start appearing on grocery store shelves. Since they contain less of these fillers and sugars, you will end up feeding less food to your dog, so in the end the cost-margin is minimal, especially when it leads to your dog leading a happier and healthier life. For now, it is best to seek out stores that specialize in pet food and supplies.
Pay attention to the first five ingredients in the list on the dog food bag, these ingredients will be the main indicators in finding the healthiest dog food for your canine friend. Most importantly, there should be no corn, corn gluten, soy or soy hulls, wheat or wheat gluten, sorghum, meat by-product or by-product meals. By-products are simply any leftover parts on the slaughterhouse floor that cannot be used for human consumption, and that includes beaks, toenails, and any other "meat" products that can be ground up and rendered. Corn, soy, wheat and their derivatives are indigestible by dogs. As a general rule, if we keep wheat, soy, corn, and by-products off of the list completely, then we are doing our pets a lot of good in keeping highly allergenic and unhealthy ingredients out of their diet.
Small dogs have a higher metabolism than large dogs. Therefore a grain-free, protein rich diet works better for them. Larger dogs can have digestion issues with food that is so rich. That is why good grains such as brown rice, barley, and oatmeal are good additions to a large dog’s diet. Also potatoes (especially sweet potatoes) are a good binder, because they provide additional antioxidants.
A lot of finding the right food for your dog depends on trial-and-error. Sometimes digestive issues can make this a longer process. Most pet stores receive dog food samples that you can test with your dog. It is also important to transition your dog to new foods by mixing in gradually with the current diet. Choosing foods with a simple ingredient list can also help you discover what food allergies or reactions your dog may be having. It can be a struggle to find the best meal for our puppy pals, but in the end the struggle is worth it because we can provide the best and longest life possible for our dogs.