There are many brands of dog food in Singapore; Orijen, Acana, Wellness and Addiction, just to name a few. Hence we have often been asked if all brands of dog food are basically the same or if a dog owner should pay a little more, just so that he can feed his dog something a little better.
While we are not experts in dog nutrition, we have ourselves done enough research so as to ensure we feed our own dogs the best. Rather then keep this findings to ourselves, we thought we share it here so that other dog lovers can benefit too.
Don’t be Misled by the Price
While it is generally the case that the more expensive brands tend to provide better nutritional value, it is not always true. Hence never make your purchase decision based on price alone.
Not All Pet Shop Employees are Knowledgeable
We have also found that many pet shop employees are not familiar with the differences between brands as well. At most, many are able to tell you which brands are more popular with existing their clients. Again a word of caution – popularity does not equate to good value.
Wet Vs Dry Dog Food
Both have their pros and cons. Wet dog food are generally more palatable than dry kibbles. They are ideal for dogs that are unwell or those with poorer appetite. Being rich in moisture, they are also good for dogs that do not drink enough on their own. However, dogs on such diets are usually more prone to dental problems and will need to be put on a stricter dental care regime.
Likewise, kibbles have their advantages too. They tend to last longer once opened, are less messy and easier to store (e.g. unused portions need not be refrigerated).
Understand How to Read Dog Food Labels
If you truly want the best for your dog, then learn to read the dog food label. In it is all the information you need (ingredient list plus nutritional facts) to ascertain if you are indeed getting value for money. And it’s not difficult to understand these labels; you just need a little background knowledge, some of which you will find here on this post.
Order of Ingredients on Label
The first thing to note is that the ingredient list is not ordered randomly. Instead, the ingredients are listed by weight with the heaviest ingredient appearing first. That said, in order not to be misled by the label, you will need to understand the distinction between a listed meat type vs it’s meal form. If a type of meat (e.g. Chicken) is found on the list, even as the first ingredient, you will need to bear in mind that meat contains 75% water. Once this water is removed, a necessary process for the production of kibbles, the meat ingredient will naturally fall down the order and appear somewhere lower on the list. If on the other hand it is a meat meal (e.g. Chicken Meal) that is listed, you can safely assume that water and fat have already been removed and the ingredient is truly in the right position on the list.
How Much Meat Content to Feed?
Again, this depends on how you intend to use the dog food. If you intend to supplement it with actual meat at every meal, you will be able to get away with lesser meat content in the food itself. If your dog is going to be eating just your chosen dog food and nothing else, it will be important to ensure the food has sufficient meat content to give your dog the needed level of protein intake.
Hence, if you wish to make sure that there is enough meat concentration in your dog food, make sure that the first ingredient is a meat meal and better yet, the first 2 ingredients or more are meat meals. On the same token, you will want to avoid food with non meat ingredients listed on top of the list as well as those with meat type (and not meal) listed as the first ingredient.
Read the label carefully and you will see that some brands have meat by products listed on their labels e.g. chicken by product. Whether you want by products in your dog’s diet is really your choice. While its generally safe, many independent dog food review sites tend to rate the dog food of lower quality if by products are used.
Carbohydrate and Fiber
Grains are normally added to dog food like kibbles because they are carbohydrate rich and also a source of fiber (undigested carbohydrates). Examples of grains used include rice, barley, oats and even corn. When checking out the types of grains used, pay attention that they are whole grain in their unprocessed form. These are usually the best quality.
It is worthwhile to note too that there are dogs with poor tolerance for certain grains. For this reason, some brands have within their range, food that are marked as grain free. Unfortunately, these tend to be more expensive. If yours is an allergy prone dog or one with sensitive skin, you may wish to experiment with some of these grain free alternatives to see if your dog’s condition improves.
Some dog food may use beet pulp as a source of fiber. It’s use in dog food remains controversial with proponents stating that it is a good source of fiber and probiotics supplement while detractors generally suggesting that it can cause bloat.
Fruits and Vegetables
These are always good to have but make sure they are fresh and unprocessed. Be mindful though that certain fruits like grapes (including raisins) may be toxic to dogs. Avoid pomace too, especially apple or grape pomace.
Flavouring and Preservatives
Here it is best to go natural. Avoid artificial flavouring (you don’t need them in any case, if yours is a high quality dog food) and chemical preservatives like BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin etc.
The ones usually found in dog food labels include glucosamine, calcium, chondroitin, probiotics, chelated minerals and vitamins C, E and K. These are all fine except that they may not always be of sufficient quantity to make a real difference in your dog’s diet. If supplements are needed, it’s best to give stand-alone ones in consultation with your vet.
We know that the above information can be overwhelming for the average dog owner but if you love your dogs like we do, you will want to take an active interest in their diet. Dogs after all have little choice but to eat the food we provide. It is thus our responsibility to know and understand how best to feed them.
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