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The Best Dog Food Brands According to Veterinarians

The Best Dog Food Brands According to Veterinarians

What dog food you choose can have a big impact on your pet’s health and well-being, which makes this decision all the more important. While buying your dog’s food at the grocery store may be convenient, it’s also likely to be less nutritious than high-quality pet food made by brands and companies that focus on your dog’s dietary needs and preferences. To help you make the best choice for your four-legged family member, we asked veterinarians which brands they recommend most often and why. The results may surprise you!

Why Quality Matters

To help you find a great dog food brand, here are some of your favorite vets' opinions on what's healthy and what's not. From Mark Brownstein, VMD, PhD, of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in NYC: My first choice would be holistic brands like Holistic Select or Earthborn Holistic. Those are formulated for all life stages. For a picky eater, he suggests trying Wellness Core Grain Free Small Breed Complete Nutrition or Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Chicken Recipe Healthy Weight . If you’re struggling with an overweight dog that needs weight management, I would go with Hill’s Science Diet Healthy Metabolism , he says. It's high in protein and fat for energy.

Feeding A Large Breed

Most dogs eat from 4-8 cups of food a day, but there are exceptions. It’s important to follow your dog’s recommended daily amount—the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention suggests 2/3 cup for small breeds and 3/4 cup for large breeds. If you own a breed that tends toward obesity or if your dog is prone to overeating, talk with your vet about monitoring their portions and adjusting how much they get fed according to their weight. And be sure you’re not inadvertently encouraging overindulgence in food: For example, some dogs will beg more when getting fed out of an elevated bowl because it makes them feel like they’re up high in a social hierarchy; try serving out of a lower bowl instead.

Homemade vs Store-Bought

Both vets and dog owners alike laud homemade dog food for its freshness and safety, but there are drawbacks: Making meals from scratch is time-consuming, can be costly, and requires a certain level of culinary skill. There are just too many things that can go wrong with home cooking, says Stanley Coren, PhD, author of Sleep Thieves: An Eye-Opening Exploration into the Science and Mysteries of Sleep.

Organic vs Not Organic

It’s a common misconception that organic pet food is more expensive than non-organic brands. I was always under the impression that if it’s organic, it must be expensive, says Jim Assini, president of Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets. However, he believes cost doesn’t have to be an issue when choosing between organic and non-organic food.

Finding the Right Food for Your Dog

The American Kennel Club recommends that pet owners use a premium brand of dog food. You should select one that contains beef, poultry, lamb or liver as its primary ingredient. The organization also encourages owners to purchase dog food with no by-products, no animal digest, and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. In addition, pets require daily vitamins and access to clean water at all times.

How Much Should You Feed?

You don’t need a calculator to figure out how much you should feed your dog. Most cans or bags of pet food offer feeding instructions, and there are a few simple guidelines that’ll help you estimate how much your pet needs. First, always follow your veterinarian’s recommendations, especially if they differ from what's on the label; some dogs have unique nutritional requirements and need special diets. The most common mistake people make is overfeeding: A healthy weight for an adult dog is generally one-half his height in inches plus 10 pounds, according to Linda Permann, DVM.

What if My Puppy Is Chunky?

Many dog owners don’t consider how important supplements are when selecting their pet’s food. After all, they don’t know that certain supplements can enhance their dog’s immune system or fight off cancer cells. But if you want your furry friend around for a long time, it might be wise to invest in some nutritional support. Ask your vet which brands offer quality ingredients and what supplements would be most helpful for your pet based on his or her breed and lifestyle.

The Importance of Protein in Pet Foods

Proteins are essential for every living organism, whether it's a dog or human. That's because proteins are large, complex molecules that include building blocks known as amino acids, which can be linked together in different ways to make all sorts of shapes and sizes. Those proteins with just 20 different types of amino acids are called complete proteins and are found in foods like meat, fish, eggs, and legumes; animal sources contain all nine essential amino acids that humans need (the other 11 types can be synthesized by our bodies). By comparison, an animal protein that contains all 20 is considered perfect, although there is no evidence—yet—that such a thing exists.

Other Things to Look For on labels

Dry foods are usually listed by weight. Many brands use as fed (ADF) as a measure, which means you'll want to do a little math to see how much actual food your dog is getting. For example, say there's one cup of food with 100 calories per cup on an ADF label. If your dog eats that whole cup, he's taking in 100 calories—not such a big deal. But if he has two cups of that same food and 40 percent of his daily caloric intake (80 calories), those little cupfuls can add up fast and cause weight gain over time.

Don’t Forget Supplements!

While it’s true that pet food has come a long way in recent years, no amount of kibble can give your pup all of his nutritional needs. That’s why vets recommend dog supplements—the most common are glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health and probiotics for digestion. If you want to go above and beyond, check out salmon oil or fish oil for heart health, flaxseed oil for skin and coat health, green tea extract or ginger root powder for immune support, or cod liver oil or other essential fatty acids like Omega-3s (especially EPA) if your pup is prone to dry skin. There are also vitamin supplements on the market that contain several of these ingredients.

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