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In recent years, there has been controversy surrounding the ingredients and nutritional benefits of commercial dog food. Choosing the best dog food for your pet requires a basic understanding of a dog's nutritional needs. On the right diet, your dog can perform at his best and maintain the best health possible.
Animal Protein and Fat
By nature, dogs are carnivores and do best on a meat-based diet that is full of animal protein, amino acids and animal fat. Protein contains 10 amino acids that dogs need for optimal health and can only be gained by the foods they eat. When reading a pet-food label, be aware of the difference between animal proteins and animal byproducts. If the label lists chicken as an ingredient, the healthy muscle and fat is used in the food. If the label lists chicken byproducts, the parts of the body not deemed appropriate for human consumption, such as the head and bones, are ground into a meal. Animal byproducts lack the nutritional value of the lean muscle parts and the fat needed in the diet.
Vegetable Protein and Carbohydrates
There are more vegetable proteins used in dog food today than in earlier years when meat was the primary source of protein. While dogs can survive on a vegetarian diet if missing vitamins and minerals are supplemented, research has shown that dogs fed a meat-based diet have less health problems and live longer. Carbohydrates found in vegetable matter provide a source of energy, but overall vegetable matter is not a sufficient replacement for meat. Pet foods with high grains and cereals should be avoided. Typically, the least expensive brands are high in these vegetable-based ingredients.
Additives in pet food include vitamins, minerals and chemicals used to improve the color, texture or flavor of the food. While vitamins and minerals are necessary additives to balance out kibble, other chemicals that dog-food manufactures are permitted to use have no positive effect on the health of the animals who consume them. Organic and premium dog foods tend to have less of these chemical additives than brands most commonly found at grocery stores.
Preservatives are necessary to keep dog food from spoiling. The average bag of dog food will be stored for up to 12 months from production to consumption, so natural and artificial preservatives are needed for the food to be safe. Canned dog food is preserved by the canning process itself, which means it needs less chemical preservatives than dry kibble.