Choosing the Best Canned Dog Food

Choosing the best canned dog food for your pet will depend on the quality of ingredients in the food and the nutrients these ingredients provide. Knowing your dog's nutritional needs and how to read canned dog food labels will help determine the best food for your pet. A well-balanced food should contain protein, some carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fats, and fiber and meet AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control) guidelines for your dog's life-stage.  

Best Canned Dog Food Ingredients

The amino acids in protein are essential for a healthy and balanced diet, and should come from named meat ingredients like chicken, chicken byproducts or beef meal, rather than an unnamed source like "animal byproducts" or "animal meal." Proteins should be listed first or second in the ingredient list, which must, by law, list ingredients by weight.

While carbohydrates should not be the main ingredients in dog food, they are important parts of a balanced diet. Canned dog food contains fewer carbohydrates than dry food, and can cause digestive problems and intolerance in some dogs. A small amount of soluble carbohydrates (such as rice, wheat and barley), however, is generally acceptable in a dog's diet. 

Watch for ingredient lists that break up less healthy sources into separate ingredients, such as listing corn bran, corn gluten and ground corn. Added together, the corn ingredients may make up more of the food ingredients than proteins. 

Choose a dog food with fats from named sources like sunflower oil rather than generic ingredients like animal fat. Avoid unidentified digests, preservatives, food colorings, sweeteners and unnamed flavorings that offer little nutritional value.

Pros and Cons of Canned Dog Food

The advantages of feeding your dog canned food include a longer shelf life and improved taste that many dogs enjoy over dry food.  Canned food often contains higher levels of protein and less carbohydrates than canned food. Smaller dogs eat smaller amounts of food for each meal, so canned food may be cost-effective for owners with small dog breeds.

Disadvantages of canned food over dry or semi-moist food should also be considered before putting your dog on canned food. For example, the higher price for canned over dry food, or the high water content that causes some dogs to eat more food to get same amount of nutrients. Canned food can cause slightly more tartar and plaque build-up. However, dry food doesn't do much to clean teeth compared to good dental hygiene, no matter what type of diet is used.

Choosing the Best Canned Dog Food

Look for the phrase "complete and balanced" on the dog food to ensure it meets the highest level of AAFCO certification. A more expensive but premium-quality dog food will give your pet the nutrition he needs with smaller portions, while economy food will require larger meals to meet nutritional needs and contain inferior ingredients.

A dog with a balanced diet will have a shiny coat, plenty of energy and maintain a healthy weight, but picking the right dog food for your pet will depend on his age, health and lifestyle. Puppies need more nutrients than adult dogs, and older dogs or those with certain health issues like food allergies will have their own dietary needs. Talk to your veterinarian before starting any new diet with your dog, no matter what his age.