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Top Tips for Buying the Best Dry Dog Food

If you absolutely have to feed dry food, for whatever reason, then it really doesn’t matter who is making or selling your “complete” dry food of choice, as there’s so little between these brands, bar marketing budget. So here’s a few top tips for buying the best dry dog food before you hand over that hard earned cash…

1. Avoid All Wheat-Based Dry Food

Wheat is the number one antigen in dogs by FAR. Dogs are one of the most wheat gluten sensitive animals out there. They can’t digest it. If you feed it to them then, asides suffering malabsorption they are likely to end up with recurring skin, ear or gut conditions. It is the chief suspect in arthritis in dogs as well as epilepsy. Choose a wheat free dry food. That said, studies show that even

That said, studies show that even dry foods that pride themselves on being wheat-gluten free, single protein or even the magic hydrolysed stuff from the vet are found to contain antigens not listed on the label, including wheat gluten, as they’re made in the same factory, so if your dogs has a recurring skin or gut condition and you suspect wheat, all dry food is off the menu.

After wheat please make sure you avoid corn too. Pure diabetes inducing crap.

2. How Much Meat are you Actually Getting?

You want meat to be the number one ingredient. However, if that meat goes into their mix fresh you should remember that the next three or four cheap filler items (usually cereal) are going in dry. In other words, they are comparing a product full of water (meat) and comparing it to dry products (water removed) when listing their products by weight. A sly trick. It means, by the time they cook up and dry out the product, there can be very little meat in the product, despite it being the number one ingredient. Meat might actually be less than 10% of the cereal-product you buy by the time it is pelleted up. Just one of many, many sly tricks they use to reduce the amount of meat they have to include and con you out of your money.

list of dog food ingredients

3. Meat Meal is Bottom of the Barrel CRAP

Meat meal is a by-product of the charming rendering industry. It is formed when a rendering plant takes in various meat and food items, animals that couldn’t be used in the food chain (dead, diseased, dying, disabled animals), road kill, restaurant grease, among many other delectable items permitted. These are stewed up under high pressure and temperature, fat floats to the bottom and protein sinks to the bottom. This grey goo is scraped off the bottom, died (under temperature again) and sold to dry food companies as a grey flour or “meal”. Dry food manufacturers use this in their mix (again it is cooked up under high temperature and pressure) and their grey mix is coloured brown with carotene as that’s the colour you guys want to see.

rendered meat garbage

Your dry food manufacturer might be able to explain how a terribly processed meat meal powder is actually not safe for dogs but of use to them but I can’t, nor could any other independent nutritionist or dietitian.

If you have to buy a product with meal in it please make sure it names the animal they use, e.g. chicken meal, as opposed to the generic meat meal, where they can’t tell you what exactly went in there.

The same goes for “animal fat”. What animal?! They don’t know. You need the animal named.

4. Avoid Animal By-Products

If you take for example chicken byproduct, this is the bits and pieces left after the processor has removed the breast, legs, thighs and wings for use in the human food sector. Thus it is permitted to contain beaks, guts, feet, feathers, combs etc. It’s possible some higher quality bits will go in there, such as hearts or gizzards, but as the whole mix is likely to contain so much non-meat junk, you need to avoid it all together.

Image of a tooth iceberg representing the fact gum disease in dogs is more than what you see on the surface

5. You Want a High Protein Content

Good quality protein is vital for everything. It’s safe to say a cow’s toenail stewed into flour last year and cooked again during the manufacturing of a pellet is not high-quality protein. Another sly trick of manufacturers is to include meat (good) but also a heap of other nutritionally defunct, almost impossible to digest plant by-products to artificially boost the labels protein level. These ingredients include wheat and corn gluten (left over from corn processing), beet bulp (left over from wheat manufacturing).

Let’s assume a dog’s normal meal is a rabbit and rabbits, for the sake of the argument, are approximately 66% protein and 33% fat, once you suck all the water out. Most dry foods sold by vets are at the minimum required for growth, the legal floor they are permitted to include and call the product “complete” dog food. The higher this figure is, generally, the better off your dogs are shown to be. Of course, there is another argument that states this protein can of such poor quality that your dogs shouldn’t eat too much of it. So you’re in a bit of a pickle there.

Even worse you might here that dogs can have too much protein . This is a carefully established myth that even our poor old vets are now spreading. Your dog is a carnivore, a protein eating machine. They can’t have too much of it (unless you were decided to feed your dog just chicken breast for months, in which case then yes, possibly!).For more on the “too much protein myth“, please follow the link.

6. Coloured Dry Dog Food

All dry food is coloured, otherwise it would be grey. I’m talking about the red and yellow and pea like crap. Positively avoid.

7. Use Dog Food Advisor

Ever wonder why the brands of dry dog food your vet sells score so badly on dog food comparison site such as Dog Food Advisor? It’s because most are based on the awful ingredients above. Just because your vet sells it does not make it good. At all. It simple has been targetted at them and you pay more for the privellage. Go to DFA and plug in your dry dog  food of choice, they’ll tell you what’s good and bad about it!

So What is the Best Dry Dog Food?!

I’m often asked this question. Regarding dry dog food you have 2 options depending on your budget:

  • Low budget: buy the cheapest bag of rice / potato based “complete” dry food you can find and supplement with fresh ingredients, largely meat and organ, as often as possible. This will cost €2-€3/kg
  • Higher budget: go to one of the sheds (eg Maxizoo) and buy a meat-based dry food (usually on the ratio of 80:20 meat to veg type thing). I like Wilderness. This will cost upwards of €6-€7/kg. Bear in mind we have no idea what the effect of feeding an all cooked meat diet to a dog is, considering it’s not working out well for humans then we can assume it’s probably not great. Better than cereal based stuff though, that’s assumed.

There is a third option. Feed them fresh food. You can buy premade, meat-based raw dog food for €3.20/kg delivered to your door. Or you can make it yourself costing as little as €1.50/kg. Twice as nice at half the price.

There is no alternative to fresh food, in them or us.

Your Natural Dog 2017

By |February 15th, 2017|Nutrition, Tips and Tricks|

About the Author:

After a doctorate studying the effects of nutrition on the behaviour and gut morphology of animals, five years with Guide Dogs as a trainer and supervisor, some success on Dragons Den with the finest raw dog food company and the last few years both writing and speaking on canine nutrition and health, I can say with some confidence that the pet food and drug industry cares not a jot for the health of your pet.