How to Choose the Right Food for Your Dog
Raw. Frozen. Canned. Freeze-dried. And good, old-fashioned kibble.
When it comes to choosing the menu for your dog, there are a number of options available from a seemingly endless list of brands – and if you don’t like what they offer, you can even make your own. Off the shelf or home cooked, each option offers pros and cons that can be beneficial or potentially detrimental to your pup—and maybe your lifestyle. So, while your dog may not always be picky about what they eat, you should know as much as you can about what you’re dishing out for your pet.
If you’ve opted for full control of your dog’s diet by cooking up nutritious scratch options at home, terrific. Before the early-to-mid 20th century and the introduction of nutritional regulation for the commercial pet food industry, preparing the dog’s meals at home was standard practice. And home prep is still an option—if you have the time for it. For most pet owners, it’s hard enough to find time to roll out home-cooked fare for themselves let alone their four-legged friends.
That’s why most dog owners head to their local pet retailer to enjoy the convenience of commercial and see what’s on the shelf. Once there, though, how can owners determine which products are best for their dog? Let’s take a look.
How Commercial Food is Regulated
If you’re considering commercial foods for your dog, start with this question: is it safe and nutritious? Thankfully, with the benefit of two regulatory agencies that monitor nutritional and safety guidelines, those answers can be found by looking at the label.
The first agency, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), determines which nutrients all animal food should contain. Keeping an eye peeled for AAFCO compliance and an accompanying nutritional adequacy statement is a great place to start. This statement will often communicate standards specific to dogs at various stages of life with language like “provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs” or “puppies.” Using tried-and-true methods, AAFCO applies high standards to ensure nutritional value is present and appropriate for all types of dogs.
The second regulatory agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), measures the quality of the food’s ingredients—but to what degree? While the FDA examines whether the ingredients are safe and serve an appropriate function, the ingredients do not require “pre-market approval” and the review is capped at a certain limit. That’s where the pet parent takes over to ensure they’re purchasing a quality product from a reputable source.
Why Reading the Label is Key
Now that you’ve narrowed your list, it’s time to dive into the details.
When looking at labels remember that named animal protein should be primary. Look for whole proteins like chicken, beef, or fish listed among the top ingredients. Down the ingredient list look for whole grains, vegetables, critical nutrients, and natural preservatives. And pay
attention to other meaningful marks of quality, like certified organic products and products made in the U.S. As in food labels for people, the ingredients are listed in order of their quantity in the mixture.
Another thing to look for on labels is the questionable practice of listing supposed quality items too far down the ingredient list. For example: a company could put items like kale, blueberries and other yummy sounding health foods on the label. These items, if too far down (10th or lower) are in such miniscule quantity that they have no material health benefit to the food.
Also, you should avoid products with generic animal protein or fat sources, like “meat” or “byproducts”. Be on the lookout for split ingredients (where two or more similar foods appear (e.g. rice, brewers rice, rice bran) added sweeteners, and artificial flavors.
Finally, products originating in China or other poorly regulated countries are a big no-no. Many unregulated providers use ingredients sourced through rendering plants with nightmarish facilities with little to no regard for the contents of their products.
Long-Term Benefits of a Healthy Diet
After examining labels, manufacturers, and production practices it should be pretty clear: monitoring the quality of your dog’s food can be critical to their long-term health. Just as the right ingredients can produce a healthier dog, the wrong ones can potentially lead to recurring issues, vet visits, and more. Still, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach – your dog is unique, and they should have a personalized nutrition plan that fits their individual needs.
Yes, there are a lot of choices, and making the right one requires a fair amount of homework. But taking the time to choose the right food can help you provide a long, happy, and healthy life for your precious pup. Consult with your local retail specialist or veterinarian for advice.
Author: Nicole Kenedy, a Store Manager at DOGPerfect. Nicole has over 10 years of experience in the pet industry and is an expert when it comes to helping pet parents choose the right food for their dog. DOGPerfect is a local, independently owned pet retail store with locations in Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, and University Park. Learn more at www.dogperfect.com
Pick-up and be an eco-friendly dog owner
By Jane Bartnett
Dogs may be man’s best friend. Yet, despite all of the many wonderful things that dogs can do, one thing they can’t do is clean up after themselves. Pet owners who ignore this task are creating a growing, expensive and significant environmental problem for our waterways. Getting the word out to Siesta Key pet owners, residents and visitors alike, is an educational message about which Sheila Scolaro, Science and Outreach Coordinator, Sarasota County Stormwater, is passionate.
Most dog owners are not aware of the extent of the impact that dog waste that has been left behind has on our waterways. This is especially so in a densely populated area such as Siesta Key. “It doesn’t take a great amount of effort,” Scolaro says, “but cleaning up after Fido makes a tremendous difference in curbing dog waste “poo-llution.” Negligent dog owners are “polluting the water that seeps into our waterways and impacting our drinking water, wildlife, beaches, and native seafood,” she said. “Nitrogen is bad: it fuels algae blooms which block light from reaching the seagrasses which are an important habitat for juvenile and adult fish species.”
The message is clear: Pick up after your pooch every time, and save Siesta Key’s waters.
“Pet waste has the same kind of bacteria and parasites and viruses that human waste does,” said the City of Sarasota’s Sustainability Manager, Stevie Freeman-Montes, in an interview with SNN TV news. The fecal coliform bacteria commonly found in human and animal waste can pollute water and make it unsafe. “Human waste gets treated at our waste water treatment facility and it gets kind of dealt with. Pet waste is often just left on yards and throughout our community. When it rains it washes straight into our waterways,” Freeman-Montes stated.
A University of South Florida study found that “as storm water flows over our lawns, driveways and parking lots, it picks up fertilizers, oil, chemicals, grass clippings, litter, pet waste, and anything else in its path. The storm sewer system transports these pollutants to local lakes and streams, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico. Polluted storm water can also affect drinking water sources.”
According to environmental reports, 60% of all dog owners do pick up. An alarming 40% do not. John Ryan, of the Sarasota County Public Works Department, reports that according to the State of Florida, there are several waterways that are bacteria-impaired. “A more direct impact would be on our ability to eat locally harvested shellfish, which is very limited right now,” he told the Siesta Sand.
The good news is that pet owners can have a major impact in improving and safeguarding our waters. “When you’re out on a walk with your pup, or even in your own backyard, pick up that pet waste and reduce poo-llution,” says Scolaro. “Doing so will immediately reduce the nitrogen pollution in storm water runoff. This is an easy, cost-effective solution to a growing and expensive problem. Once the damage is done, it requires expensive, complex actions and policies. If every dog owner picks up, every single time, our water quality will benefit immediately.”
So, what’s a responsible pet owner to do? Here are a few easy steps that will make life better for everyone with two and four legs:
• Pick up after your pooch on a walk, in your own yard, and even in your neighborhood – every time!
• Use bio-degradable bags.
• Tie the bag closed.
• Don’t leave home without a bag for your pet.
• Try clipping the bags to your dog’s leash.
• Always carry extra bags.
• Throw all dog and cat pet waste in the garbage.
• Hire a pet-waste clean-up service if you are not able to pick up in your own yard.
• The Tampa Bay Estuary’s “Pooches for the Planet, Scoop the Poop” website at https://www.tbep.org/how_you_can_help-pooches_for_the_planet:_scoop_that_poop!.html has educational information for adults and children.
• Use free bio-degradable bags provided at your favorite Sarasota dog-walking parks and places.
• Visit Sarasota County’s Parks and Natural Resources Site for a list of “Paw Parks” and “Dog Friendly Parks” at: www.scgov.net.
• Remember – by law, dog owners are required to pick up after their four-legged friends.
• Put dog poop in a compost or yard waste bin – it is dangerous and unhealthy to do so.
• Flush the waste down the toilet. Cat waste may be especially dangerous to flush.
• Let pet waste sit on the ground. It can take a year or more to decompose and will enter and pollute waterways.
• Use pet waste as fertilizer.
Pick up after your pet. Help to save our waters. Clean water benefits people and pets alike!