Pet lovers will agree: Dogs are family. And just like you want to give your children the best and the most nutritious food, you must also want to give your dogs the best and the healthiest dog food.
But what is the best dry dog food? The abundance of dry dog food brands and variants means you’re spoilt for choice. While having options is a good thing, it does make choosing difficult.
This guide discusses the attributes that make a particular dry dog food superior to the rest. This should help you assess whether a specific dry dog food brand you’re considering is up to par with the best dry dog food standards.
That should dramatically narrow down your list of choices. After that, it will be easier to pick according to your and your pet’s particular preferences.
High in Protein
Protein is an essential ingredient, and it is one of the most important. Among other benefits, they supply essential amino acids.
Minimum Protein Requirement
For AAFCO or the Association of American Feed Control Officials, these are the minimum levels of crude protein content, calculated on a DRY MATTER basis, in balanced dog foods.
- 22% – for puppies as well as pregnant and lactating dogs
- 18% – for adult dogs
Again, your dry dog food must contain at least that much crude protein, computed on a dry matter basis.
Note, however, that the crude protein content guarantees on dog food labels are on an AS IS or AS FED basis. To find out how much protein your kibbles have, you have to compute the protein content after accounting for the product’s moisture content.
Computing Protein Content on a Dry Matter Basis
To compute dry matter protein content, do the following:
- Calculate the dry matter content.
To determine how much dry matter remains if the product is entirely devoid of moisture, subtract the moisture guarantee percentage listed on the label from 100%.
Example: If your dry dog food has a 12% moisture guarantee, its dry matter content is: 100%-12% = 88%.
- Compute protein content.
Divide the protein content stated on the label by the dry matter content you arrived at in the previous step. Multiply by 100 to get the percent value. The result is the dog food’s minimum protein content guarantee on a dry matter basis.
Example: If your dry dog food says it has a 35% minimum protein content guarantee, you’ll do this: ( 35%/88% ) or ( .35/.88 ) = 0.3977.
Convert this to percent by multiplying by 100 like this: .3977×100 = 39.77%. That is the dog food’s protein content on a dry matter basis.
Comparing Different Dog Food Products’ Protein Content
You should do the above dry matter conversion to compare dog food products with different minimum moisture guarantee percentages. If choosing between dog food products with the same moisture content, you can directly compare the crude protein listed on the labels.
Note that the 22% and 18% protein requirements indicated above are minimum values. As a general rule, the higher the protein content, the better the dog food is. Premium dog food would always contain more than the minimum protein content.
However, remember that you can’t feed your dog all protein. Dogs require a balanced diet, which means dog food must contain not only protein but also fats, vitamins, and minerals. You want high-protein, not all-protein.
When it comes to high-protein dog food, you’re looking for dog food that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates. To put it another way, dogs need a predominantly meat but not an all-meat diet, which naturally leads to high-protein content.
Protein quality is even more important than protein content percentage. What type of protein is included in the dog food, or what is the source of the protein indicated on the dog food label?
If a dog food has a high protein content, but it’s a protein your dog cannot digest well, it’s useless protein. Your dog is simply going to excrete it.
Essentially, you want easily digestible, whole protein sources. Such sources include chicken, eggs, whitefish, salmon, tuna, turkey, and beef. Some of the best dry dog foods in the market have meat inclusions of greater than 90%.
What to Avoid: Generic Meat Meal
Try to avoid dog foods that contain generic labels like meat meal, meat by-product meal, and meat and bone meal products.
Except for dog food manufacturers, no one can really say for sure what goes into making generic meat by-product meal. Meat meal could contain slaughterhouse waste: hooves, beaks, heads, and other meat processing leftovers. But they could also include spoiled supermarket food, roadkill, meat from diseased animals, and even euthanised animals.
However, you might have to consider dry dog foods with meat meal for practical and economic reasons. If meat meal is unavoidable, then choose a dry dog food that indicates the meat meal type.
For instance, you’d want something like chicken by-product meal or beef by-product. While you still wouldn’t know what specific parts went into the meat meal, at least you’d know from which animal they came.
Some dog food manufacturers use grains for bulk. Popular dog food grain ingredients include wheat, corn, rice, oats, rye, and barley.
While grains can and do provide dogs with extra energy, dogs don’t need grains as a source of energy. Dogs primarily get their energy from protein and fats.
On the other hand, dogs find grains difficult to digest. Over time, the accumulation of undigested cereal fibres and carbohydrates can damage the lining of the digestive system. This leads to problems like allergies, leaky gut, obesity, and bowel inflammation.
So, should your dog food have grains or not? It depends. If your dog has a grain allergy, then you should choose grain-free dog food. Otherwise, grains can also provide essential nutrients such as fatty acids and fibres.
However, dog food should contain only moderate amounts of grain. Protein should still be the predominant ingredient.
So, What’s the Best Dry Dog Food?
The best dry dog foods are high in protein. They have high-quality, easily digestible animal protein, so it’s best if they do not contain meat meal or meat by-products. They may also be grain-free, although grain – in moderation – has nutritional benefits.
If you are based in Dubai, your favourite pet shop, Dubai veterinarian, or pet nutritionist can help recommend the best dry dog food options.