This is probably the hardest question to answer correctly for any person. Even veterinarians struggle to try to give the proper advice to their clients in relation to their pups. So we are going to take a crack at this infamous question and break the internet of all dog things. I wish it was as simple as just saying brand X is the best and here is why, but unfortunately it is not that simple.
You see in order to find out what is the best dry dog food, we first have to understand a few things. Every dog has an individual dietary need that differs from the next. Every breed has their own unique scientific palate as well as their own unique dietary needs. Puppies have different dietary needs than adult dogs, and seniors have different dietary needs of their own.
This is going to require a little homework on your end, I know it sucks, but it must be done. I will give you a few steps to follow in order to help you create a chart in finding the best dry dog food for your companion. Get your screen shot fingers ready and Let’s dive in. Stay with me until the end and it will be worth it I pawmise.
Understanding my Dogs needs (specifically your dog)
You first need to ask the origin of the species of dog that you have brought into your home. Is he a small breed, medium breed, large breed, and from there what issues do these breeds particularly have. My Labrador is prone to joint issues, and my small terrier is prone to teeth issues, these two dogs have different dietary needs. Also, size determines the K cal intake that a dog must have to insure a healthy weight.
Woah! it’s not really all that complicated if you understand your own dieting needs. Let’s talk about the commonalities among dogs and humans. Both need water, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and fats. Aside from that, Humans need dairy, dogs do not. One could argue that dogs can eat dairy, and yes, some can, however this article is not about whether they can eat it, it is about finding the best dry dog food.
Adult dogs need on average about 1 gram of protein for every 1 pound that they weigh (Ohio State University. n.d.). We need to determine what the dogs resting energy requirements are before proceeding to the next section. According to Ohio State university, to determine what your dogs resting energy needs are, you take their weight in kilograms raised to the 3/4 power by 70 to determine their estimated daily requirement for rest. So my 70lb lab would go as follows.
- 70/2.2046 (keep it short) which is 31.752KG
- Then we take 31.752 and put it to the 3/4 power by 70
- so 70(31.752)^(.75) =936.2802 calories per day. A Cheat( 30 * kg) +70 (these two methods are just a starting point)
- if your dog is an active neutered adult, they need roughly 1.6 times the formula above
- not neutered 1.8 times the formula above
This gives us a starting point to keep in mind when searching for the correct dog food for your companion. At this point we want to look for something that has the protein requirement as well as the calorie intake for your companion. Most dog foods are going to label as a percentage of intake.
Not all Brands are created Equal
As the need for Dry dog food rises with the increase in ownership across America, so do the competing brands of dog foods. For this we are not going to mention brand names, but will be mentioning grades of dog food. First up, the cheap stuff, the economy brand, or private label brands (depending on the ingredients of the private label brands) When I say private label brands I am mainly referring to the store brand at whichever outlet that you shop at. Now, keep in mind that all store brands are not the same as the economy brands, some use their own formula’s, and some purchase from the same manufacturer so please read the back of the bag. Second we will be discussing the premium brands, and basic nutrition brands or common brands of dog food. Digestibility is important and to measure your dogs digestibility of a certain brand you need to properly introduce the brand to your companion (7 day introductory period), that doesn’t mean that you can’t have an arsenal of information behind you first though.
All brands must list the K cal requirements on their labels underneath the Guaranteed analysis chart on their dog food. This is a requirement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials(AAFCO) but please don’t let that confuse you. It is just the calorie intake per kilogram of feed, much like the calorie per serving on human labels.
Other labeling similarities include the crude protein, crude fiber, moisture, and crude fat percentages per serving, as well as the ingredients. This is where the main differences come into play. The ingredients can be a very intimidating section, all the tricky labels that these manufacturers use, can be deceiving, it says complete nutrition on the bag, but why does it contain corn? We’ll do another article on dog food labels later on.
Dry matter (DM)
This section will break down the actual percentage ratio’s in a pretty simplistic way. So by taking the amount of moisture as a percentage and subtracting it from 100 we get the dry matter, this is the part of the food that actually contains the nutrients. So if something has 21% protein but 12 percent moisture, we can calculate how much protein we are about to feed Lad the lab.
100-12 which is 88% dry matter
21/88 is .239 or 23.9% protein within the serving of dry matter. This formula takes into consideration that the moisture portion of the dog food does not contain nutrients, only moisture (Puotinen, C., & Straus, M).. However, your companion is consuming the moisture as well, just keep in mind, you want to find the Dry matter percentages as well. This is mainly for reference so that you don’t over feed your companion.
The evolution of dogs as a species – as far as nutrition goes
Domesticated dogs are omnivorous, they have developed the enzymes in their digestive track to digest plant materials as well as protein. However, this does not mean that they do not need protein, in fact they need more protein than carbohydrates in their diet. But carbohydrates will not harm your pet. Some dogs may have trouble digesting certain foods such as corn. This does not mean that your companion is sick, or the ingredient is harmful, you should always check with your veterinarian when choosing a diet for your companion. And of course if a certain brand makes your companion uncomfortable, we advise that you change and find one that works better for your companion.
You dog according to The VCA, the content that your animal needs basing on a 2009 study from the AAFCO is as follows:
Crude protein 22% 18% Crude fat 8% 5% Linoleic acid 1.0% 1.0% Calcium 1% 0.6% 2.5% Phosphorus 0.8% 0.5% 1.6% Potassium 0.6% 0.6% Sodium 0.3% 0.06% Copper 7.3 mg/kg 7.3 mg/kg 250 mg/kg Zinc 120 mg/kg 120 mg/kg 1,000 mg/kg Vitamin A 5,000 IU/kg 5,000 IU/kg 250,000 IU/kg Vitamin D 500 IU/kg 500 IU/kg 5,000 IU/kg Vitamin E 50 IU/kg 50 IU/kg 1,000 IU/kg Thiamine 1.0 mg/kg 1.0 mg/kg (Screen shot this)
this is also just a guide for you to determine where to start a licensed veterinarian can help you devise a dietary plan for your companion.
Digestibility (contains spoilers)
A french medical journal conducted a digestibility study enrolling 6 very cute beagles as their test subjects. Evaluating the super premium, basic nutrition, private label, and economy brands. Two males and four female beagles were housed in separate indoor housing facilities (we couldn’t get pictures, sorry) at the Nutrition and Endocrinology unit of the national College of Veterinary Medicine, in Nantes France. The results are astounding, I will spare you all the scientific jargon, and get straight to the results.
The economy and private label brands scored the lowest on the digestibility scale according to this study. And I mean really low, 30 out of 100 low. Now that’s pretty bad. That’s an F on a paper, a complete failure. I feel bad for those beagles that had to eat that for two weeks, really bad. Out of the four basic nutrition brands 2 of them scored in the 50s, Brand B scored 56 and Brand F scored 52.
Two of the Basic nutrition brands did score high enough to get at least a C, so those may be good options, unfortunately, since the brands were kept secret we cannot reveal the brands. 🙁 Brand A scored 76 and Brand E scored A 72. You say “Oh I see where this is going, you want me to buy the expensive stuff, right? Well believe it or not the super premium brands tested scored lower than the two Basic Nutrition brands.
Brand G and H are the super Premium brands and their relative scores are 60 and 62, meaning that they are only slightly better than the two worst basic nutrition brands, so why the high price? Yeah we got our eyes on you Super Premium brands, all of you now. More expensive does not necessarily mean better for your dog. Now that’s just not right, Your seriously charging more, and my companion has a harder time digesting this. Not cool. (skip to the end unless you want to talk science for a few paragraphs, but you will miss the good important stuff.:))
So what does that mean?
I’m glad you asked, because it is so much more than just how easily they can digest the food. The components of the study were energy, crude protein and fat, apparent digestibility, protein to energy ratio’s and ash content. Each section was scored on a basis. The ratio was 10-14 digestible crude protein units per metabolisable energy. We want to know what brands were used in the study also, but we don’t so idealistically we want to look for something that has the following formulas or ratio’s to feed our companions along with the proper K cal intake determined earlier.
The two that scored the best had the following similarities between the two.
- K cal 380 360
- KJ/me 1590 1420
- Ash 7.3% 7.3%
- Omega6 2.82 2.93
- omega 3 .39 .31
- Crude Fat 16.8 13.1 (Screen shot this)
This is by far not a complete guide on how to pick the perfect dry dog food bag, but does give us some insight as both of these combinations resulted in a protein to energy score of 82.5 and 84.4% efficiency. All of these data sets will show significant differences, but it does give you a starting point to look for when looking on the back of the bag, or at least to try to get to the closest ratios that you can. However, there is a little more than just finding the proper ratios, just a little.
Scientist have found that digestibility coefficients increased in correlation to the increase in crude fat (Daumas, C., Paragon, B., Thorin, C., Martin, L., Dumon, H., Ninet, S., & Nguyen, P. 2014). This is not a full-blown confirmation just a correlation between two variables, there could be other, and a lot more to this that just crude fat intake. Now before you start piling lard on top of your companions dry dog food, keep in mind that even though, it has shown in foxes (whom have similar digestive tracks), that an increase in crude fat increases the digestibility of the proteins within their diet, and a decrease in the hard to break down items, it is still unknown the actual effects of this action.
Diet A, the winning one, showed a higher level of Crude Fiber, while the lower scoring, or harder to digest diet showed a lower fiber content.
Woah! that is a lot of information.
It is so Let’s break it down. This is exactly how we are going to find the best dry dog food for your companion.
We want something that meets the k cal needs of your companion, we also want something that has a higher fat content, and higher fiber content, as well a good protein minimum. According to AAFCO we want that number around 22%, but we also want the ash number lower than 7.3 percent (if listed). K cal/me cup around 380, using a dry matter formula determine the amount of actual nutrients in the food as to (not over feed). As well as finding the appropriate amount of macro and micro nutrients within your companions dog food, most labels will list the vitamin nutrients as fed, remember to use your dry matter formula to determine the actual contents of the dry matter.
So back to Lad the lab as an example. He weighs 70lbs his k cal number is 936 I have to consider that he is a senior dog and neutered, not so active anymore. So I am going to use 1.2 as a base, his daily need is 1123kcals. He also needs 22% of that to be crude protein, (listed on the bag). Taking my Dry moisture content or DM formula, I want to look for a blend that has no less than 20% crude protein with 12% moisture. I also want a higher fat percentage, so about 10 to16% and good omega 6 and or 3’s at least 2.82 but not more than 2.93.
As far as micro nutrients he is going to need 7.3mg of copper, 120mg of zinc, .8% phosphorus, 50UI/kg of vitamin E and 1% of calcium. In addition, it may be hard to determine the other necessary micro nutrients needed for your companion as they may not be listed on the bag. And we are most likely to find the correct digestibility within the Basic Nutrition Brands of dry dog food.
Oh, and watch out for harmful ingredients, like onions and garlic, in small quantities these are not harmful, but some dogs can develop allergies to these foods, and manufacturers still use them by staying under the amount necessary to cause harm in my opinion. You also must remember to count your dogs treats as part of their diet.
Now that you have a starting point you must fine tune your search, and always talk it over with your veterinarian. We are not licensed medical professionals, nor do we claim to be. the information contained within was conducted and placed together using outside sources and should be considered an opinion. Please, and Always Please, and we can’t stress enough always discuss things with your veterinarian. We would love to hear from you, comment below.
References: (who doesn’t include these smh.! you have a right to know)
Daumas, C., Paragon, B., Thorin, C., Martin, L., Dumon, H., Ninet, S., & Nguyen, P. (2014). Evaluation of eight commercial dog diets. Journal of Nutritional Science, 3, E63. doi:10.1017/jns.2014.65For reference only
Ohio State University. (n.d.). Basic Calorie Calculator. Retrieved July 29, 2018, from https://vet.osu.edu/vmc/companion/our-services/nutrition-support-service/basic-calorie-calculator For reference only
Puotinen, C., & Straus, M. (2012, June 01). Calculating a Dog Food Diet’s Protein, Fat, Carbs, and Fiber. Retrieved July 29, 2018, from https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/15_6/features/Measuring-Nutritional-Value-in-Dog-Food_20542-1.html
Yuill, C. (n.d.). Nutrition – General Feeding Guidelines for Dogs. Retrieved July 29, 2018, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/nutrition-general-feeding-guidelines-for-dogs