There are a few important things to consider when it comes to dog food. The first is that your dog food needs to be high in nutrients. It’s a mistake to think of food (dog food or human food!) as being nothing but fuel. Food is what provides the building blocks that allow the creation of muscle, bone, brain tissue, and more. When you don’t have those important nutrients, you end up becoming unhealthy. This is also true for animals, so if you don’t get dog food that meets these requirements, your pup might suffer from bad skin, fur, nails, teeth, and more. It’s also important to avoid an excess of sugar and additives. Dogs aren’t built to consume sugar in large amounts since it can cause a range of problems ranging from metabolic syndrome, to obesity, to inflammation, and even nerve damage. Here’s a list of some of the best dog foods in 2021 we’ve found on the market.
Some dogs are prone to sickness, some have digestive systems that can’t handle normal dog food, and others just need a very specific diet. Finding the best diet to suit your dog’s system, as well as its overall well-being, can take a lot of time.
There are many types of dog food out there, and finding the best option may require some trial and error. If you want, you can have your dog try a number of diets and see which they like the best.
If your dog is often sick, then you might have to check if there is something in their diet that might be causing certain allergies for your dog. A regular checkup at the vet will help identify potential allergens or reasons for illness and how to correct them.
Your dog’s diet can change the game if your dog’s health is not the greatest. Get your veterinarian involved, and stick to their recommendations. Keep focusing on the recommended diet and engaging your pup with fun games and time together.
If you’re really motivated to change your dog’s diet, here are types of dog food that may suit your dog:
RAW DOG FOOD
The raw dog food diet has sparked a few controversies around the world since it was first proposed by a veterinarian in the 90s. However, it is quite popular because it fits in with trends in what humans are eating. Many sled dogs and racing greyhounds have eaten raw food diets since puppyhood.
What to Look for in Raw Dog Foods
The raw diet has some benefits, such as a better energy level, healthier teeth, smaller stools, healthier skin, and shinier coats. On the other hand, it has some risks, too, including sickness due to the bacteria in raw meat, an unbalanced diet (which can increase the risk of sickness when given for a long amount of time), and chances of whole bones breaking the teeth of your dog or making your dog choke.
Homemade raw dog food diets often consist of some combination of these types of foods:
Celery, spinach, and broccoli
Fruits like apples and pears
Ground or whole bones
As you can see, this is why the raw dog food diet is controversial. It is seen as the “unbalanced diet” by some scientists. A homemade raw diet can be quite risky because it lacks enough nutrients like calcium and phosphorus. This is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly because a lack of these nutrients can lead to bone fractures and sometimes even dental issues. Now, the calcium and phosphorus can also a bit difficult to digest for your dog, even if there’s an appropriate amount in your dog’s food. While we love the idea behind a homemade raw dog food diet, it might not be practical for some dog owners, so there are also a good amount of options for pre-made raw dog foods.
If your dog has previously had some health issues, then you might want to see whether this diet suits them. This diet is not for dogs with liver or kidney failure, and it’s definitely not suitable for small puppies.
DRY DOG FOOD
Dry dog food is usually made from a special formula with certain ingredients. They often contain sources of protein, carbohydrates, fat, and fruits and vegetables. Often, dry dog foods are created for specific breeds, sizes of dogs, or dog age to create a blend of nutrients that best fits the needs of that kind of dog.
What to Look for in Dry Dog Food
You will see many ingredients in dry dog foods, listed by weight of the respective ingredient. A good-quality food will have an animal protein as the first ingredient, followed by other types of protein, carbohydrates, and fruits or vegetables. Look for fresh meat or beef, lamb, or chicken meal in the ingredients list, since these are the best sources of protein for your dog. Fresh vegetables and fruits contain vitamins, enzymes, and other nutrients. A dog’s tissues and muscles need a high amount of nutrients to keep them healthy!
When looking for dry dog foods, watch out for animal by-products and high amounts of fat. Usually, chicken and duck fat are considered “healthier” than other animal fats. Note that high-cost products are usually formulated and stored more carefully than low cost products. Always look for fresh meals and products. Ideally, a dog food’s expiration date should be 10 or 11 months away.
SENIOR DOG FOOD
As your dog gets old, they might need a special senior formula dog food. When you look for senior dog food, first consider their activity and weight, then consider their age. Senior dogs are less active and can gain weight much faster with high-calorie foods.
What to Look for in Food for Senior Dogs
A good balance for older dogs is a low calorie and high protein dog food. However, there are some dogs who have metabolism issues and they become skinnier as they get older. In this case, they will probably need high-calorie food that is easily digestible. This food will be beneficial for your dog to maintain muscle and weight.
There are some products that contain additional key ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin. These ingredients help senior dogs move with less pain in their joints.
Other things to look for in food for senior dogs are antioxidants, which benefit the immune system. Phosphorus helps to maintain the kidney function and makes it healthy, while a low level of sodium helps dogs’ blood pressure. Fish oil and some plants contain omega 3 fatty acids that improve inflammation and kidney performance. A food that contains fiber can help prevent digestive issues. Note that excessive amounts of fiber can be harmful, so make sure that your dog gets normal exercise.
The right food affects your dog health in many ways, so consult with your vet before choosing your older dog’s food.
HEALTHY DOG FOODS
Healthy food should not only contain high-quality protein and carbohydrates, but also ingredients like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or pomegranate seeds, which all contain antioxidants that are great for dogs. These type of foods helps to improve a dog’s immune and digestive systems. Other healthy dog foods contain omega-3 from flaxseed and omega-6 fatty acids from salmon oil.
What to Look for in a Healthy Dog Food
Growing puppies specifically need foods with healthy fat that will help them grow and also keep up their high energy levels and activity. When your puppy is a healthy adult, it’s very important to change your puppy food to prevent feeding them too many calories. Choose food according to your dog’s size, too – there is a huge difference between a small breed’s nutritional needs and a large breed’s.
DOG FOOD FOR SENSITIVE STOMACHS
If your dog has a sensitive stomach or other digestive issues, you will likely need to do some research to find a food that doesn’t bother them. Your vet can also help you identify what might be causing these issues to determine a high-quality product that will be best for your pet.
What to Look for in Dog Food for Sensitive Stomachs
If your dog has a sensitive stomach, sometimes adding extras to their usual food can help the food settle better. For example, canned pumpkin, Greek yogurt, and bland foods are often good things to help with sensitive stomachs. High-quality fiber blend foods are also helpful for keeping your dog’s stomach healthy. Some dogs might also develop sensitivities to certain proteins if fed the same food for a long time, so something as simple as switching their food to something with a different protein source might help.
Remember that not all dogs are the same, so even if a sensitive stomach food works for your friend’s dog, it might not work for yours. Ensure that the food has a good blend of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fruits and vegetables. You might also need to take your dog to the vet to determine if they have a food sensitivity or allergy. If your veterinarian does identify one of these issues, simply avoid foods that contain the ingredient your pet is sensitive to.
GRAIN-FREE DOG FOOD
You may not know that many dog foods, including wet food and dry dog food, can be grain-free. As the paleo diet and ketogenic diet took over the U.S., grain-free dog food started to gain popularity on the dog side, too. It is important to note that most dogs can eat grains without experiencing any problems, and grain-free diets are basically a fad that goes along with the fads in human diets. Any improvements seen on a grain-free diet are usually attributed to the quality of ingredients in the food rather than the absence of grain. We recommend consulting with your veterinarian to see if a grain-free diet is appropriate for your dog.
What to Look for in Grain-Free Dog Foods
When changing your dog’s diet from grain-based to straight grain-free, remember to take it slow. Slowly introduce your dog to the grain-free diet by mixing only a small portion of the food in your dog’s current food. This will make sure that your dog’s stomach gets used to the diet. After a week or two of combining the foods, your dog’s body will start to get used to the new food.
HYPOALLERGENIC DOG FOOD
Some dogs have food sensitivities or allergies that can cause itching, ear infections, bowel issues, vomiting, and other issues. If your dog experiences consistent symptoms like this, a visit to the vet is probably in order. Your veterinarian can identify common sensitivities and allergies that your dog’s breed has, as well as potential solutions. Surprisingly, dogs are commonly sensitive or allergic to different types of protein. It’s thought that this is because they are usually fed the same food for years on end—which can end up causing sensitivities to common ingredients. Other common allergens for dogs include dairy, soy, and sometimes, gluten.
What to Look for in Hypoallergenic Dog Foods
When searching for a hypoallergenic dog food, you’ll first need to know what exactly your dog is allergic to. Take your dog to the veterinarian to identify any allergies or sensitivities. Your veterinarian can provide recommendations for avoiding those ingredients and might also have a good food that meets those requirements. Of course, if you choose to find a food for your dog on your own, read the ingredients list carefully to ensure that the ingredients your pup is allergic to are not in the food. Hypoallergenic dog foods, like all other dog foods, should otherwise include a good balance of protein, carbs, and vitamins and minerals.
WET DOG FOOD
Wet dog foods are great options for dogs who have problems with their teeth or with staying hydrated. If your dog has some issues with chewing, a wet food diet might help. Because wet dog food is usually canned and has more moisture content, it may make your dog feel more full, so it might also be helpful if your dog seems to never stop eating. And, if you have an older dog that is losing sense of smell, wet dog foods tend to smell stronger, which will make the food more appealing.
What to Look for in Wet Dog Foods
Hydration plays a really important role in the wet dog food diet. If you live in a dry place or a city where the climate is often hot, then you might want to help your dog stay hydrated. You don’t have to force this: wet dog food can help!
Wet dog foods can cost more than dry or bagged dog food, so a good option might be to combine it with your dog’s dry food or some vegetables. Like with any dog food, wet dog food should have a source of protein as the first ingredient, and should contain a good amount of nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
NATURAL DOG FOOD
Natural dog foods are those that contain natural ingredients and nutrient sources. These natural foods usually are not exposed to pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones, which usually makes the foods more digestible.
What to Look for in Natural Dog Foods
Just as the name implies, a natural dog food diet is… well, all natural. It consists of nature-based products which include fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Look for labels with “holistic,” “all-natural,” “no preservatives,” and the like.
VEGAN DOG FOOD
Yes, vegan dog food exists and, while it’s not perfect for every dog, it can have some benefits. When people hear the words “vegan dog food,” the first question that pops in their mind is “Is it really healthy for a dog to try a vegan diet?” The answer is that it really depends on the dog. Because dogs require a healthy amount of protein, it can be difficult to find vegan foods that contain everything a dog needs. We recommend consulting with your vet to determine if a vegan diet is appropriate for your dog. In some cases where dogs are sensitive to meat-based proteins, vegan dog foods can be a good option; but, again, we recommend talking with your vet before changing your dog’s diet.
What to Look for in Vegan Dog Foods
If you really are committed to settling up a vegan diet for your dog, and if your vet gives the go-ahead, then you need to be careful. Ensure that your dog’s vegan food comes from a reputable source, and slowly introduce your pet to the new food by introducing it in small amounts with the old food. Eventually, your dog’s digestive system will start to get used to the vegan diet. Make sure to monitor your dog for signs of illness or weakness, and re-introduce meat-based proteins if the vegan route does not seem to meet your dog’s needs.
By Jarett Gilpin
Jarett and his vapor wake dog, Toxi, help keep the students and public safe on the University of Notre Dame’s campus. Jarett knows what equipment, food and toys to keep Toxi safe, productive and still able to have fun.