Having a dog as part of your life is one of the most rewarding experiences that any human being can enjoy. Dogs are faithful and able to smooth out those little bumps that life will provide now and then through the provision of unconditional love and companionship. At the same time, a faithful canine friend will share in the joy that life also provides. They will be there for you through thick and thin.
That devotion is a two-way street. In exchange, your canine companion will rely on you to provide a loving home, shelter, and care when it comes to their health. They will also rely on you exclusively when it comes to providing a healthy and nutritious diet. However, making sure that you are living up to those expectations as far as diet is concerned can be challenging – there are just so many pet foods on the market, at so many different price points that choosing the right one can be complex and confusing.
However, there are certain ingredients that every dog food should contain in order to ensure optimal health for your pet. By making sure that you check that all-important list of ingredients on the can – or the bag can go a long way to ensuring that you are living up to your end of the bargain.
Here are some ingredients that should give you that peace-of-mind, including some ingredients that you might need to avoid if your dog has specific health issues.
Your terrier might not look it – but it descended from pack animals that subsisted almost entirely on the protein that they obtained from meat. This is why the dog food that you buy needs to be packed with meat derived ingredients (although some do contain egg protein, but on its own that is very rarely ideal). Protein derived from beef, chicken, fish, pork, rabbit and venison are all common ingredients. This protein can also be supplied in the form of meat meal – so don’t be confused if the labeling includes the ingredient ‘meal’. Nom nom Now is a brand that does protein well. We found this Nom Nom Now vs Farmer’s Dog comparison which breaks down the need for protein quite well.
Meal is usually described as a percentage of protein and fat. Amazingly, meal can actually contain a higher proportion of protein than whole meat.
Carbs and Grains
Many people are under the impression that carbohydrates and grains are in dog food as some sort of ‘filler’. In cheaper brands this can be true – the protein content cannot be sacrificed in favor of these ingredients. However, it is worth noting that wolves (and therefore dogs) need a certain amount of both carbohydrates and grains in their diets. Wolves will almost always eat the stomach contents of prey – which is where they get those essential nutrients. Carbohydrates are essential for energy production and grains assist the passage of foods through the digestive system. Higher grades of dog food will contain ingredients such as rice, barley, oats and peas, while less expensive variants will often feature soy, corn and wheat. If your dog suffers from digestive problems when eating dog food that is high in grains they may be especially sensitive – consult your vet for further advice as there alternatives available.
If there is one ingredient that wolves will not be enjoying in their natural habitat it is vegetables. However, small amounts of vegetable matter in your dog’s food can be beneficial as they can supply trace elements such as vitamins and minerals. These can include vitamin B, potassium, beta-carotene and antioxidants which combat the effects of aging and can help prevent cancer. The same applies to fruits that are included in the dog food, they are not absolutely necessary, however, they can be another source of antioxidants, as well as vitamin C and additional fiber.
As human beings, we are continually advised that an excess of fat in our diet can be detrimental to our health – and this is as true for dogs as it is for people. However, fats are essential. They aid in absorbing minerals and are a great source of energy. They also provide trace elements such as Omega Acids that keep coats in great shape. Good fats such as those supplied by fish oil, chicken fat, olive oil and canola oils are often added as supplements to the pet food mix and may appear as separate line items on the list of ingredients.
Minerals and other Nutrients
Minerals such as zinc, potassium, iron, calcium, and manganese may only be required in small amounts – but they are essential to the health of your dog. Many of these minerals will be supplied by the other ingredients in the dog food, however, they may also be added to ensure that they are present in sufficient quantities. Keep a lookout for these additions on the list of ingredients. Also important are L Carnitine, which helps transport fatty acids and assists the cells in producing energy as well as DL- Methionine, an essential amino acid. these may also be listed as additives.
Be Preservative Aware
It is inevitable that the dog food that you choose will contain preservatives. They are simply essential to ensure that the food remains fresh. Make allowance for this. Give preference to preservatives that come from natural sources such as Ascorbic Acid (it’s vitamin C in another form) and tocopherols (Vitamin E derived from vegetable oils). Try and avoid preservatives such as BHA and BHT – these have been banned for human consumption in many countries, so it’s a good bet that they are not good for your dog’s health.
Water is essential to the proper functioning of the body. Aside from always ensuring that your dog has constant access to fresh water, make sure that the dog food that you provide (especially canned) has a high moisture content – and add water to dry dog food.
By keeping these sorts of ingredients in mind and checking on the content of your dog’s food you can ensure that they enjoy a great quality of life. A little extra care will make sure that you are always greeted with love and that they will be a faithful (and healthy) companion during the time that you have with them. Be ingredient aware – it’s the right thing to do.