A very Lucky Dog that compares his dog food!

While the growing health trend has been concerned with the food on our plates, pet owners often forget about the food they put in their dog’s bowl. Healthy, organic dog food promotes healthy coats, teeth, and muscles and can increase a dog’s life span and energy. It is important for dog owners to compare dog food to be sure that they are providing their pets with the best possible nutrition.

To compare dog foods, consumers should first understand the terms that dog food companies use and what guidelines they must follow.

Organic foods, whether for dogs or for humans, are produced without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers and do not use any genetically modified organisms or additives. This allows for the purest produce and meat that is available for consumption.

Dog food companies have different levels of organic ingredients in their products and are regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Dog foods that are marketed as “100% Organic” must contain 100% organically produced ingredients, aside from added water and salt. This distinction only pertains to wet foods, as according to AAFCO, dry foods must have vitamins and minerals added for nutritional value, and this precludes it from being 100% organic.

Those products marketed as “Organic” must contain 95% organic ingredients, aside from water and salt. “100% Organic” and “Organic” dog foods may display the “USDA Organic” seal on their products. Any foods that contain less than 95% organic ingredients must state that they are “Made with Organic Ingredients.” They cannot display the “USDA Organic” seal and they must identify the ingredients as organic in the ingredient list.

Protein, whether it is meat, poultry, or fish, is added under strict guidelines regarding the salt, phosphorus, calcium, and fat. The protein is then processed and condensed. This is beneficial in that it concentrates the amount of protein in the food and allows for high-protein, low-carbohydrate dry foods. Unfortunately, the protein is more processed than it would be as fresh meat.

Some products will use the term “meal” in their foods. Meal simply refers to fresh meat that has been dried to remove the moisture content, and then ground into a meal. As for its nutritional value, it contains the same, if not more, value as meat. Because it has already been dried, it is denser in protein, and potentially more nutritious.

When in the store looking for a quality dog food, there are a few things that can be noted from the ingredient lists. Ingredient lists are ordered from the most prevalent ingredient to the least prevalent ingredient. If meat is listed towards the beginning of the list, this means that the food has a high amount of meat in it. If it is listed towards the end, chances are there are fillers that are added to bulk up the food. Consumers should also check how many meat products are listed before the fat source. Those with more meat products listed before fat will be of a higher nutritional quality. Foods that list the type of meat product are also healthier, as there are strict guidelines as to the specific meats used in dog food. The most nutritious dog foods will list the specific meat product first on the ingredient list. If the food lists more than one meat product before the fat source, this indicates that the food contains more protein and is very nutritious.

It is best to steer clear of products that do not mention a specific type of meat in the ingredient list. Consumers should also avoid any dog food that lists a “by-product” as an ingredient.

It is important to compare dog food before feeding it to your dog. Whether you decide on organic or high-protein products, quality of your dog’s food is important. It will extend the life span of your pet, save on vet bills, and makes for a happier, healthy dog.

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