Dog Food

"Dog food needs to be comprised of 38 different components. The feeding habits of domesticated dogs reveal that they may require versatile components in feed. These may be products of animals, some parts of plants and even some synthetic components too. Feeding practices have a significant role in a dog's health and body function, thereby requiring that like humans, a dog has a complete and balanced diet. A balanced diet should include components such as water, carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, fats and vitamins in the appropriate ratio. Unlike humans, these can be found in one food. Dog foods may be home cooked or purchased commercially. For a balanced diet, commercial foods are often the best choice since there are multiple varieties and they are designed to provide dogs with the correct number of calories and nutrients they need."

Components of Canine Food:

Food must contain all the essential components listed below, which together and in the correct proportion fulfill the requirements of a healthy dog. Energy level, body weight, age and health are sometimes important factors which should be considered when considering the approviate levels of each component. Ingredients named on a dog food label must account for 95% of all ingredients in the food.

Types of Food:

Food may be a commercial food or provided via a home cooked diet. Commercial foods are further classified as dry, canned & soft moist. Home cooked diets on other hand are referred to as raw dog food, due to uncertain quality and a uncertain component ratio. Only feed a homemade diet if it has been formulated by a veterinary nutritionist. Even then, food may require vitamin supplements.

Commercial Dog Food:

Selecting dry, canned or semi-moist dog food comes down to owner choice and convenience. They all are fine for healthy dogs. Many owners like to combine the different types of food.

Home Cooked Dog Food:

Home cooked foods are considered to be an acceptable option for dogs as the quality of ingredients can be controlled by the owner. Home cooked food contains fresh, reliable and quality ingredients, but it is essential that the formulation contains the correct ratio of components. In fact, a dog requires approximately 40 different nutrients. The ratio of components, balanced feed requirements and the appropriate supply of components like minerals, vitamins (especially fat soluble vitamins) and some preservatives is never an easy job. In most cases, home cooked food recipes contain higher quantities of minerals and proteins. This may result in severe digestive problems, obesity and a dog becoming over weight.

If you would like to prepare home cooked meals, consider consulting with an animal nutritionist. You can find one certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutritionists, and additional helpful information on canine nutrition and homemade dog food at Balanceit.com or PetDiets.com.

Selecting and How to Compare Dog Food

How to Analyze Dog Food Labels - Definitions

It is difficult to sometimes tell the difference between words on food labels that actually represent what is being sold vs. those that are marketing terms to make a food sound more appetizing or better for your dog's health. Here is a guideline on what labels mean:

Named Canine Food Ingredients

Named ingredients that appear next to the name of the food, must comprise at least 25% of the product by weight. For example, this would be true if the word Beef was listed next to the words "Dinner", "Entre", "Formula", "Nuggets", "Platter", and "Recipe".

With:If a label says "with", such as "with beef", then the ingredient must be 3% or more of the named ingredient.  For example (Gourmet Fillets with Beef).

Flavor: If a food claims a specific flavor, then the food must have that flavor well represented. There is no specific criteria.

Ingredient Canine Food Analysis

Guaranteed Analysis: If a label states "guaranteed analysis" canine food, the food must contain the labeled percentages of protein, fat, fiber and moisture

Light, Lite, Low calorie: If the food is AAFCO certified, these phrases specifically mean that it meets the low calorie food standards for over weight dogs as defined by the organization.

Natural: Manufacturers that use this phase can only use few or no synthetic ingredients in the canine food. It is not clearly defined from a technical point of view.

Grain Free: This is used when the protein in the food is from non grain sources such as animal protein.

Dog Food Prescription Diet

Many diseases call for a change in diet as part of the treatment plan. A dog food prescription diet may be called for when treating food allergy, panreatitis, constipation, malabsorption, diabetes mellitus, anemia, maldigestion and fever.



Consumer Reports - Q&A Vets Weigh in on Fido's Food - March 2009

The Merck Veterinary Manual 


Ask a Vet for Free 24/7