How to Make Dog Food Comparisons

Making dog food comparisons may seem like a complicated task, but it’s really not that difficult if you know what you’re looking for when reading the labels. Let’s look at some key concepts you’ll need to consider when comparing food brands at your local pet supply store.

High-Quality Ingredients Are Important

One of your first considerations when comparing dog foods is the quality of the ingredients used to make the food. Look for meat animals that are named by species, such as chicken, turkey or duck, instead of products that use a more generic term like poultry.

Muscle meat has a higher biological value than organ meat, which means that it provides higher levels of usable, digestible amino acids, which dogs need to maintain good health. Meat is also preferable to meat meal, which often has its fat and water removed during processing, and to by-products, which refers to relatively unusable parts like beaks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines.

Whenever possible, select dog foods with human-grade ingredients in them. This helps ensure that any grains used are whole grain, rather than the bits and pieces often referred to as the “tail of the mill” that may also include floor sweepings and other debris. Select diets with grains in them carefully since corn and wheat have been implicated as possible causes of food allergies in dogs.

Remember that dog food ingredients are listed on the label in descending order. This means that the ingredient that makes up the largest part of the food is listed first (ideally, muscle meat) and other components of the food follow in proportional order.

When reviewing labels, look out for artificial additives, such as colors, sweeteners or flavors. Your dog doesn’t really need any of these components in his diet, and they may prove to be harmful to his health over time.

Next Comes Nutritional Value

You can find basic nutritional information in the “guaranteed analysis” section of the food label. In this section, manufacturers list information about crude fat, crude protein, crude fiber and moisture found in the food. Some manufacturers also include information on various minerals and essential fatty acids your dog needs to receive from his diet.

To do a true comparison of dog foods, you’ll need to do a little math using some of the percentages found in the guaranteed analysis. To calculate protein in a given product, convert the guaranteed analysis to the dry matter basis by dividing the guaranteed analysis percentage by the dry matter percentage. If a dry dog food is 15 percent moisture, for instance, the dry matter percentage will be 85 percent. If the label lists the guaranteed analysis protein levels at 17 percent, divide this level by 85 percent to get a 20 percent dry matter basis of protein.

Taste Is Another Important Factor

The last consideration, taste, is the one that may be most difficult for you to determine, but it needs to be considered because the highest-quality, most nutritious food isn’t going to do your dog any good if he won’t eat it.

Take your dog’s taste preferences into account when selecting his food. If he seemed to like a beef-flavored food before, look for another beef-flavored product. If he turned up his nose at chicken-flavored foods, you probably don’t want to buy another chicken-based food for him in the future.