Choose The BEST Dog Food, Without Getting Ripped Off
We all know that a varied diet is important for human health…
… It’s how we get the nutrients we need from our food to live long, healthy lives, free of disease.
No single food provides the complete nutrition the human body needs. So we’re encouraged from a young age to “eat the rainbow,” filling our plates with a variety of fruits, vegetables, along with some dairy and protein and complex carbohydrates.
But what about our dogs? Do they need this same variety?
Is it REALLY okay to feed your dog the same brand of dog food, year after year?
This is a question that I hear often.
So I thought I’d take this opportunity to share what I’ve personally learned, after over a decade of training dogs and getting emails from tens of thousands of dog owners from around the world.
What Your Dog Eats Every Day Matters… A Lot.
It’s absolutely true that your dog, like you, has complex nutritional needs.
So this means, YES, while you might not see the difference day to day, the food you’re choosing to feed your dog is having a significant, long-term impact on his life.
It affects his health, lifespan, and overall quality of life—now and through his senior years.
Will your dog live a long, healthy life, free of disease? Or will you lose him early?
Will he develop a chronic health condition? Will he suffer? Or, will he enjoy his senior years with the youthful energy of a puppy.
Many things contribute to your dog’s overall health and well being including his breed, genetics, current age, and activity level. Plus, depending on his age, breed, size, and activity level—your dog’s dietary needs are going to change over his lifetime, too. Just like your diet will need to be adjusted as you age.
That’s the “bad” news—your concerns are justified, this choice you’re making matters a lot.
So… Is Commercial Dog Food A Good Choice, Then?
Given that what you’re feeding your dog every day obviously has a significant impact on his overall long-term quality of life, a lot of people ask the question:
Is commercial dog food really a good choice?
Should my dog be eating the SAME FOOD every day?
I asked this question, too. And here’s what I learned:
The science behind the very best brands of commercial dog foods has come a LONG WAY.
Top-shelf dog food brands … the best of the best … have been formulated by teams of veterinary nutritionists and other such experts who care a lot about making dog food that really does prolong and improve the lives of our canine best friends.
They know that most people will choose a dog food, and feed it to their dog every day.
So they take their role as gatekeepers of your dog’s long-term health seriously.
Plus—there are now regulatory bodies like the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) who set the standards for dog food labeling.
This means, even though most people still find dog food labels confusing…
… There IS somebody policing the industry and verifying claims.
Dog foods labeled “complete and balanced” must, at minimum, meet all your dog’s needs for vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
With variations in formulations for things like age (puppy, adult, and senior) and activity levels (active, sedentary, overweight).
So while it’s still up to YOU to choose a brand who delivers the best possible dog food formulation, because again, they’re not all created equal…
… This should give you a bit more confidence in making your choice.
But Wait… What About Homemade Dog Food?
Lots of folks ask me about feeding their dogs homemade dog food, raw diet, vegan diets, and other such specialty diets.
Are these BETTER ways to feed your dogs?
I won’t get into reviewing each of these specialty dog food diets here. I’ve seen enough success stories over the years to know, in the right circumstances, for the right dogs, some of these specialty feeding programs have their place.
BUT! They’re not for everyone or every dog!
If your dog is in otherwise good health, there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty feeding your dog a commercial brand of dog food.
Obviously, choose the BEST FORMULA your budget can afford.
They’re NOT all created equal!
(And we’ll talk more about brand differences in a minute.)
But for now, remember that these commercial brands are, again, formulated by teams of veterinary nutritionists, paid top dollar, to help the reputable brands produce formulations that dogs THRIVE on.
Dog owners are VERY QUICK to switch brands if a dog food isn’t working for their dog.
Bellyaches, gas, diarrhea, allergic reactions, itchy skin, and bad breath…
… These are just a few side effects that quickly cause concern, and cause dog owners to switch dog food brands. Often, complaining to family and friends while doing it!
It’s in the best interest of commercial dog food brands to produce the best possible product they can afford.
This means, again, provided you’ve done your brand research, you shouldn’t feel guilty about feeding your dog a commercial food vs. homemade dog food.
Making your own dog food can be VERY expensive, VERY time-consuming.
(You need to shop, prepare batches, keep it fresh in a separate fridge or freezer usually, make sure your dog’s next meal is thawed in time… and so on.)
It’s well documented the dog owners who feed these diets often neglect some aspect of their dog’s nutritional needs, accidentally, of course!
And this actually CAUSES health problems for their dogs.
And What About Supplements…?
I get asked a lot about supplements, too…
If you’re feeding your dog a single brand of commercial dog food, will he need supplements to make up for what he’s maybe not getting in his daily meals?
Again—if you’re feeding your dog a top-shelf brand that’s “complete and balanced,” with ingredients that work synergistically to produce the best possible health outcomes for your dog, and your dog is otherwise healthy, the no. You don’t necessarily NEED to spend the extra money on supplements.
Of course, if it is in your budget, and your dog is aging (in need of joint supplements), is susceptible to anxiety (lots of anti-anxiety options available), or has other complex needs dictated by breed, age, or illness…
… Then you may wish to consider adding a daily supplement.
And if your dog is on some version of a homemade diet, you will need to supplement, too.
But again—if that’s not you, my best advice is:
First, invest in the best brand of commercial dog food you can afford.
Then, if you can afford it, consider supplements after that.
But don’t feel guilted into the buying supplements for a dog who is otherwise healthy!
How Do I Choose The BEST Brand Of Commercial Dog Food?
Choosing a brand of commercial dog food can be daunting…
You walk into your local big box pet store, and the options are literally overwhelming. How do you choose? You try to read the bag, but the bags are heavy and the fluorescent lighting is annoying and there are other people trying to get around you.
This bag looks nice. But so what?
Maybe you stop and ask an employee…?
If you visit a smaller, locally-owned store you might be lucky enough to speak with the business owner, who is probably somewhat knowledgeable about what brands customers prefer and their reasons why.
Otherwise, your “expert” is probably going to be a college kid making minimum wage.
Not the best source of advice for your dog’s health.
So back to the question: how do you choose the BEST brand of commercial dog food?
For YOUR dog?
Step #1: Read The Label
I won’t lie to you … reading dog food labels is confusing.
But you should do it anyway.
At least scan the label to get a sense of what’s included.
All pet food labels are required to follow the same format as per the Association of American Feed Control Officials – so this will help you make sense of them a bit.
The American Kennel Club has written a good article about reading dog food labels here.
But the criteria that are MOST IMPORTANT, in my opinion, are:
1) The guaranteed analysis, which tells you how much of each nutrient a measured serving of the food contains.
2) The ingredients, which are listed in descending order by weight.
3) And, the nutritional adequacy statement, which must be back up by tests that PROVE the nutrient claims.
Something important to note, if a dog food claims to be “complete and balanced” or “100 percent nutritious” they must be able to back up their claims by meeting a very specific government standard.
It must contain the “proper amount and ratio of essential nutrients for the needs of a healthy dog.” (Source: AKC)
Again, not all dog foods are created equal, despite these regulations.
But it’s good to know there’s a minimum standard they must meet to make these claims!
Step #2: Look Into Dog Food Recalls
I highly recommend looking up dog food recalls for any brand you’re choosing to feed your dog.
There are new recalls nearly every week, frequently for issues like salmonella contamination and high levels of molds.
This is a bit disheartening to see …
… Because unless you’re checking regularly, once you’re chosen a brand, you’ll probably never know there’s been a recall.
Which means you could be putting your dog at risk of serious health issues.
This is a good argument for choosing brands that can be purchased from the manufacturer and delivered straight to your home.
So if there’s been a recall, the brand can contact you directly.
Because they have your contact information!
Step #3: Get Curious About Freshness
Another important question to ask is:
How long does it take for your dog’s food to reach your home?
It’s important to realize that when you purchase a bag of dog food from a local retail store, it may not be “fresh,” just because it’s new to you.
It could already be 6 months to a FULL YEAR OLD!
So you need to ask:
* How long did it sit on the shelf in the store?
* How long was it in transport?
* Was it stored in shipping container or tractor trailer en route? (This is common.)
* Was it ever subjected to EXTREME temperatures during shipping?
* How long did it sit in the distribution center, prior to shipping?
Again, just because you bought the dog food at TODAY doesn’t mean it’s fresh.
Ask questions about where the food is coming from!
Step #4: Look At The “Recipe” – What’s Included & What’s Missing?
There’s a science to dog food formulations that too many manufacturers overlook in favor of bigger marketing budgets and profits.
Yes, perhaps the ingredients tick the boxes for required proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
But I encourage you to look beyond the “checklist”…
… And do a little research into whether or not the ingredients included work together, synergistically, for the best overall impact on your dog’s health and well being.
A simple example of this is folic acid, vitamin B6, and B12, which work together to reduce the level of an amino acid that is thought to lead to heart attacks and strokes.
While too much calcium can cause skeletal issues in larger breed puppies.
And too much Vitamin A can harm blood vessels and cause dehydration and joint pain. (Source: Pets WebMD)
A good formulation has been studied for its overall of impact on your dog’s health.
Step #5: Use This Dog Food Comparison Tool
Choosing a brand of commercial dog food is tricky business…
… Especially once you’ve been educated.
It’s like watching a documentary, like Supersize Me, and then trying to eat at fast-food restaurants. Even if you still go, your perspective on what you’re eating and what it’s doing to your body is forever changed.
This was the dilemma I found myself in many years ago.
I wasn’t interested in feeding my dogs any of the homemade specialty diets. (I tried feeding raw—it was messy, expensive, the learning curve was steep, and I was spending more time prepping food for my dogs than my kids, which was crazy.)
But I knew there were issues with feeding many of the so-called “best brands” of commercial dog food, too. They’re not all created equal.
So I started doing my homework, looking for a dog food that checked all the boxes, with:
* High-quality proteins
* Species-specific animal fats
* Vitamins A, C & E
* Omega-3 Fatty Acids
* No wheat or wheat gluten or corn or corn gluten-based products
Plus, a dog food with a SHORT distribution chain, so it was guaranteed to FRESH and SAFE when it arrived at my home.
And that’s how I was finally introduced to Life’s Abundance Dog Food.
Too often great packaging hides inferior product. So I encourage you to take a few minutes to use Life’s Abundance FREE Dog Food Comparison Tool.
See how the biggest brands stack up against each other.
I’ve been feeding my dogs Life’s Abundance for many years now, they’re a family-owned, third-generation dog food maker. And I simply haven’t been able to find another brand that compares, both in price and formulation—and my dogs have been happy and healthy on their formulations.
All of their batches of dog food are produced in limited runs on a regular basis, so it doesn’t spend a lot of time sitting in bags, going stale, on pallets. And they ship straight from production to one of their six warehouses (strategically located around the United States to reduce shipping times). So when you order their food, it takes only 2-3 days to reach YOUR HOME.
Again, this is how they guarantee freshness.
Plus, if there’s ever an issue with a batch of food, they’re able to contact their customers directly, so you can finally stop worrying about recalls.
Of course, please don’t my word for it.
While I love that it’s also cheaper than most of the big brands (who doesn’t like save money), and it’s convenient (delivered to my door monthly), I have to say…
… What really sold me on Life’s Abundance dog food is the endless stream of new testimonials and success stories from dog owners and breeders that get added to their website almost daily.
You can read them here.
Over and over again you’ll read:
“This food was recommended to me by my breeder…”
“My dogs love the food…”
“He is growing so well…”
“His coat is full, shiny, and healthy…”
“My dog hasn’t had any mobility issues since we made the switch!”
“No more itchy skin…”
There were over 6,691 reviews as of today! Probably more now, by the time this is published. With an overall rating of 4.8 STARS with 6,691 customer reviews.
Again, I think this says something about the quality and commitment Life’s Abundance has to the happiness and health of our dogs.
So check them out. Try their FREE Dog Food Comparison Tool HERE!
And even if you don’t, please do take a few minutes to Google Search YOUR dog’s food name for recalls. And do this regularly.
If you’re not buying your dog food directly from the manufacturer, this is a risk.
P.S. By the way, I should mention that I am an affiliate of Life’s Abundance; after being a loyal customer of theirs for so many years, it only made sense to share my recommendations with you all. So yes, I do earn a commission if you happen to purchase through these links, which helps support so of the free advice and training that I give away on the rest of our website. Please let me know if you have any questions about their products. I obviously highly recommend them!