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Let’s face it. Your dog depends on you for almost everything, and that includes his food. In most cases, healthy food equals a healthy dog, which, as you’d agree, equals a happy you. It’s in your interest to make sure that your dog has a balanced and nutritious diet. It gets confusing discerning your dog’s best diet, especially when the food market is, literally, packed to the rafters with brands you’ve yet to try. The catch is that your dog is too precious to act as a products’ guinea pig. You should run over a diet plan with your vet, but here are some things that you should look for when searching for nutritionally balanced food for your precious pooch!

1.      Check The Guaranteed Analysis

This label will break down percentages of crude protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. Remember that wet and canned food is converted differently. The formula used to calculate dry matter protein is the following: (protein/dry matter) x 100 = dry matter protein. The amount of protein your dog needs depends on the size and age of your dog, but generally speaking, dogs need a moderate amount of protein, which means a minimum of 25% protein, not to exceed 50%.

2.      Choose the Right Fit

Many brands have size- and age-specific formulas. This provides the right amount of calories and also the proper nutrients to minimize size- and age-related diseases.

3.      Check Allergy Needs

Many dogs have allergies. Beef and dairy are commonly cited for causing allergies, but what tops the list is wheat. Examine ingredients to see if it can elicit an allergic reaction. If your dog is allergic to wheat, look for wheat- or gluten-free labels.

4.      Protein should Be Listed Among the First Key Ingredients

Examine ingredients. Dog food ingredients are listed in order of weight, from heaviest to lightest. Since protein is essential for development; beef, chicken, fish, and lamb should be among the first few label ingredients. If you see the word “meal,” it means that it’s a dehydrated meat, which is packed with protein. Chicken, beef, fish, and lamb meal is a rich source of protein.

5.      Examine Flavor Ingredients

Generally speaking, if high quality protein is a key ingredient, additional flavoring is superfluous. However, if the formula is grain-heavy, brands will commonly add flavoring to make an otherwise bland meal more palatable. Try to steer clear of grains, but if you opt to settle for a grain-based diet, make sure you know where the flavoring comes from. For instance, rather than buying food with “meat flavoring,” opt for “beef flavoring.”

6.      Check The Serving Size

The recommended serving size is based on active dogs. Since the average dog isn’t that active, your dog may not need that much food. The next time you visit the vet, discuss your dogs’ correct portion size, which will ultimately factor in caloric intake, weight, and physical activity.

7.      Feed Foods With the “Natural” Label

Foods labeled “natural” mean that all ingredients have not been chemically altered, according to FDA guidelines. “Holistic” food, on the other hand, is a fluffy and loosely used term, used mainly for marketing purposes. Beware of “holistic” foods because it has no legal definition. If you go organic, look for the official USDA organic seal, which ensures that the food is 95% organic. If it’s labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients,” then the food is comprised of at least 70% organic ingredients. If it simply says organic, it means the food is less than 70% organic.

8.      Determine AAFCO Nutrient Profile

Foods are marked with either one of these two AAFCO labels: “All Life Stages” or “Adult Maintenance.” Make sure that your dog eats the correct food to ensure they receive the maximum nutrients. Puppies and lactating dogs should eat the “All Life Stages” food, which has higher calories, calcium, and phosphorus. All other healthy adult dogs should be on the “Adult Maintenance” diet.

9.      Look for the Nutritional Adequacy Statement

Look for the label that says, “As fed to real pets in AAFCO defined feeding trial.” This means the food has been proven to deliver the nutrients that it is formulated to deliver.

10.   Be Careful with Supplemental Food Sources

If the food is labeled as being “supplemental,” it means that it isn’t a complete and balanced food source. Do not use it for extended periods of time unless it’s vet-approved for a specific purpose.

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