Although spending more for high quality food may seem a strange way to save money, it is your absolute best shot at long-term doggy health and lower vet bills. Start feeding wisely and you may see allergies, intestinal problems, joint aches and other ailments disappear. At the very least, stop feeding grocery store brands and switch from kibble to canned. Better yet, feed frozen raw or fresh cooked or raw.
While the better quality dog food may cost more, the dog can eat less of it since their bodies use more of what they are eating, producing less waste. Not to mention the vet bill if your dog develops issues from consuming a low quality food. Be sure to read the ingredients label of the dog food you are using. You may have trouble finding a good quality food at a grocery store and may have to go to your local pet store to find a higher grade food.
Determining Quality Ingredients
So how do you decipher what pet foods are truly high quality? It is often misleading when pet foods are labeled as “premium,” “super premium,” “ultra premium” or “gourmet.” What does all this really mean and is it worth the extra money? Well, mostly … the labeling is just hype. Products labeled as premium or gourmet are not required to contain any different or higher quality ingredients than any other complete and balanced product.
The first ingredient in your dog’s food should be a specified meat. Not a meat by-product, but the real thing. Puppies and adult dogs were not meant to eat corn and wheat. If the first ingredient in your dog food is a corn, wheat, meat by-product, bone meal or anything but a real specified type of meat, steer clear. By-products are the leftovers, such as the eyes, hooves, skin, feathers and feet, that are not good for human consumption (unless the dog food specifically states otherwise.) Beware of ingredients that do not list exactly what it is, such as words like “animal” and “meat” as opposed to “chicken,” “beef,” “duck,” etc.
Looking for AAFCO Approval
Look for the stamp of approval by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Every bag of pet food sold in the United States has to bear a label attesting to its compliance with the association’s standards. But there are still several levels of compliance. The highest, which should be advertised in large print on the bag, is that the product has been association-tested. This means it was fed to dogs or cats for six months under stringent conditions and was found to keep the animals in good health, maintaining proper levels of nutrients and body weight. Beware of labels such as “Formulated according to AAFCO guidelines,” as they haven’t been tested.
Feeding Less of More
The discount pet food brand is actually more expensive per serving than many of the highest priced brands. How can that be possible? Just take a look at the feeding instructions and the ingredients in the pet food itself. Based on the feeding instructions as researched and recommended by each pet food manufacturer, you will probably be surprised at the cost per serving. You pet will receive the same amount of nutrition from smaller servings of the high-quality foods when compared to the less expensive brands. For example, according to the web site of one of the most popular brands of dog food sold in the U.S., a 30-pound dog should eat about three cups of food per day, or about $.67 per cup and $2.01 worth of dog food each day. On the other hand, the feeding instructions of a high-end, all human-grade ingredient food tell you that a 30-pound dog would need to eat only 1.5 cups of food per day, or about $1.16 per cup and just $1.74 worth of dog food each day.
Likewise, according to Purina’s much promoted 14-year study of 48 Labrador Retrievers, “lean-fed” dogs (those receiving 25-percent less food than their littermates) eventually developed the same health problems as littermates as they aged, but needed treatment for ailments 2.1 years later. That is, treatment began at a mean age of 12 versus age 9.9. That’s more than two years fewer of costly vet bills. It’s not about feeding a particular brand; it’s about feeding to a healthy, lean (but not too skinny) condition. Cut out all fattening corn-laden foods. Don’t leave food out all day and don’t overfeed. Remember: fat dogs aren’t cute; they’re expensive.
When switching to a new food gradually transition him to the new food by mixing portions of both foods until you slowly phase out the old food. Your dog may experience diarrhea if his food is suddenly changed.