Navigating Dog Food
Updated: Nov 7, 2022
Choosing dog food can be as overwhelming as it gets. Kibble from a big box brand? Trendy raw boutique food seen on Tik Tok? Scraps off your dinner plate? A single choice appropriate for all dogs isn't realistic, but Team Buddy has some tips that may help guide your decisions.
Below are some bullet points for you to consider when choosing dog food. For a deeper dive please find the two links below of science-based resources to fortify your understanding of this topic mostly encountered as claims on labels. We feel more confident trusting science instead of dizzying marketing.
Discuss food choice with your veterinarian during visits. Discuss activity level, age, weight status, and temperament to zero in on an appropriate match for your dog.
Look on label for stamp by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), a private organization that provides nutrition standards and label regulations for pet food. Don’t buy dog food unless you see the AAFCO’s nutritional adequacy statement attesting that the food is nutritionally sound.
Like humans, dogs require carbohydrate, fat, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and water. Most dog nutrition experts recommend the majority of this energy coming from carbohydrate, around 2-5% from fiber, 5.5% from fat, and 10% from protein. Older dogs may require closer to 20% protein.
Dogs are omnivorous (unlike carnivorous cats) and can thrive on diverse foods, including a completely meatless diet.
Be weary of marketing claims of "organic" or "gourmet" as there are no regulations for these terms on pet food labels. Most of the words on dog food packaging is marketing jargon. One exception to this is the term "natural" which denotes a lack of added colors, preservatives, or flavors to dog food per the Association of American Feed Control Officials.
Match food to their life stage. Puppies require more calorically dense foods that might cause older dogs to gain weight.
Grain-free pet food has no evidence of superiority to traditional dog food. No need to pay extra unless your vet has a compelling reason to do so for your dog.
Similarly, there’s no evidence that raw-food diets are superior, and major veterinary groups oppose them because of bacterial and antibiotic resistance concerns.
A dog’s food should account for 90% of their diet, and treats can round out the remaining 10%.
A source of insight we recommend is this brochure drawn from a science-based consensus (Committee on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats) written by a committee of academic researchers. https://nap.nationalacademies.org/resource/10668/dog_nutrition_final_fix.pdf
Also see this 1-page guide (by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods), outlining wise standards to seek when choosing dog food. https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Selecting-a-pet-food-for-your-pet-updated-2021_WSAVA-Global-Nutrition-Toolkit.pdf