How to Select the Best Food for Man’s Best Friend

When I go grocery shopping my list probably looks like a lot of other people’s lists. It usually contains the basic items like milk, bread, and eggs, some extras like cookies and ice cream, and non-food essentials such as shampoo and skin care products.

Even if I’m getting something that sounds like it might be unhealthy, like gooey cinnamon rolls with overly sweet, cream cheese frosting, I try to find a version that’s low fat or made with organic ingredients. If I go through these lengths to ensure the health of my human family, then you can bet that I’ll do the same for my dog!

Good Food versus Bad Food

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your dog takes just as much discipline as it does to keep up with your own healthy habits, if not more. Self-taught expert dog trainer Cesar Millan once put it best when he said that “Discipline isn’t about showing a dog who is boss. It’s about taking responsibility for a living creature that you brought into your world.”

If you aren’t familiar with all the different varieties of pet food available for dogs then you might be confused about what constitutes a “good” brand of dog food. Just because the ingredients list says it has meat parts and by-products, that doesn’t mean it’s providing your dog with the nutrients he needs to live up to his full potential.

Understanding the Labels

Some brands deliberately mislabel the foods in an attempt to look healthier. Here are some of the things to look out for when buying pet food. Consider them warning signs that these foods might not be a good choice for your pet.

  • Flavor – It’s good if a dog has flavor, but that flavor should come from the actual ingredients. If you see “liver flavored food” or food “with real lamb” then it’s likely that the main ingredients are actually fillers and the “meat” used is actually some type of meal or by-product.
  • Entrée – An entrée is something that’s on a menu in a restaurant for humans. When a pet food calls its contents a dinner, platter, formula, entrée, or any similar word, then you can consider it a red flag.
  • Natural – Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s organic, holistic, or any other word that humans consider synonymous with healthy.

Get Advice from the Professionals

When my father’s beloved Irish setter began having health issues, their neighbor talked him into buying an expensive brand of pet food. Unfortunately, my father made a common mistake in thinking that price equals quality. As with human food, just because a certain brand of pet food is the most expensive – even if the label reads certified organic – that does not mean it is the healthiest choice.

A visit to the dog’s veterinarian showed that the poor pooch had some liver trouble. Not only did a cycle of holistic treatment that included milk thistle for dogs take care of the problem, but my father was also able to transition back to the dog’s original brand of food. Now the dog is back to his old self, and my dad is a lot more at ease that his BDFF (Best Dog Friend Fur-ever) is going to be okay.

Dogs and Holistic Food Choices

While you can purchase name brand, holistic dog food over the counter at retail pet stores, these brands are often expensive – and for good reason! The ingredients list items like you’d find in foods for you at your local grocery store. De-boned chicken, fruits and berries, rice, carrots, egg whites, sweet potatoes, and even spices like rosemary and garlic…sounds delicious and your dog thinks so, too!

If you’re thinking it sounds like you could take these ingredients and make your dog’s food right in your own kitchen, then you aren’t alone. Whether it’s to maintain a greener lifestyle or just trying to avoid throwing out leftovers and save some extra money, more people than ever are making their own pet food at home.

Do Your Dog Food Homework

Before you try making your dog’s food from scratch, it’s important to know what human food items are poisonous to dogs. Avocados, peaches, grapes, raisins, caffeine, dairy products, and sugar can cause a wide range of medical issues if your dog ingests them. If you aren’t sure what foods are safe for your dog then check with your local veterinarian, groomer, trainer, or other canine professional.

When we discipline ourselves about living a healthy lifestyle that includes taking responsibility for our choices, it shows in how we feel. We lose weight, have more energy, and generally have a more positive attitude. The same results are guaranteed when you as a pet owner enforce the same level of discipline for your dog. Besides, he’s your best friend. So why wouldn’t you want him around for a long time to come?

Mark Harris and his wife live in White Rock, BC, a picturesque community on Canada’s scenic west coast. When writing a short series of articles about dogs, in addition to sites like he polled family, friends, and neighbors with dogs about issues such as healthy pet food, liver problems, and earth-friendly, chew-proof toys. When he’s not working Mark enjoys kayaking and walking on the beach with his beautiful wife.


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