Ralston Purina, Alpo, Mighty Dog, ProPlan, Gravy Train, Kibbles-n-Bits, Iams, and Pedigree are just a few of the hundreds of brands of dog food on the market. Their bags line the aisles of supermarkets and stores, with colorful pictures of happy dogs and rich cuts of beef. Beneful even advertises the use of peas, carrots and other nutritious goodies in their dog food. This is an industry which pulls in $11,000,000,000 annually in the United States alone.

Wet, dry, semi-moist... chicken, beef, lamb... puppy formula, adult, senior, fit & trim... when choosing the proper dog food for your pet, you need to consider the nutritional value, taste and cost. Discuss with your veterinarian what brands would work best for you. Most prefer diets of kibble to softer, gravy-covered foods. Some breeders and vets, mine included, may even suggest using fresh foods, such as eggs and hamburger, instead of giving dogs bagged kibble. Why?

Because they know what most dog food is made of.

Of course, humans get the better cuts of meat on any animal, be it pig, cow, lamb, or chicken. The bones, blood, intestines, and organs are what's left. Those are the by-products that make up your dog's food. As if that weren't bad enough, pet food companies also purchase the grains, rendered animal fats, mycotoxins and additives that are considered unfit for human consumption.

Think about it. You're shopping for a 20 lb bag of dog food, and it's only going to cost you $10. How many quality ingredients do you think went into that $10-bag of dog food? You can bet that the cheaper the product, the cheaper the ingredients.

Why should I care? The dog sure doesn't!

For one thing, it's a health issue. To avoid the pain and larger economic burdens of serious illness later on down the line, it just makes sense to take better care of your dog now. Furthermore, higher quality dog food actually costs less in the long run. More inexpensive, poorly made foods are digested faster and provide less nutrients than their higher-quality counterparts. Less nutrients and faster digestion mean larger appetites and more eating, which means you're buying more cheap dog food than you would the expensive stuff. Although the bag may be more expensive, you'll save money per feeding. Another added bonus: higher quality means higher digestibility, which means less waste.

So how do I know which dog food is right for my dog?

Just because a brand is more expensive, does not necessarily indicate better quality although generally you get what you pay for. Become familiar with the nutritional labels on various brands of dog food. A good dog food will be low in sugar and salt, and are higher in protein and crude fat. Again, consult your veterinarian.

Once you've found a brand that seems fit, observe your dog. Does s/he look like they enjoy eating? Is their stool average in size after a week? Is your dog's coat healthy and shiny? These are all indicators of good dog food.


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