How to choose the best dog food you can afford

I heard from several pet owners after publishing yesterday’s post about whether or not it is worth it to “trade down” your dog’s food. There are a lot of varying opinions about how best to feed your pet! For example, some think that brand ‘X’ is the best while others think that ‘raw’ is the way to go. While there are a large number of choices, I do think that there are some basic rules-of-thumb as they relate to food for pets:

-Understand that one size does not fit all. There are many factors to consider when choosing diet for your pet such as his or her breed, age, size, activity level, and health history.

-Do your research. Take a few minutes to educate yourself on the ingredients that are best for your pet.

-Read the labels. If you purchase (rather than make) your dog food, the ingredients are listed on the labels by quantity. If you see a questionable ingredient at the top of the list, you’ll know to steer clear.

-Consider the unit costs. For example, dog food bag sizes are not standard, so be sure to compare apples to apples (for example, price per pound). Generally, buying in bulk will lower the cost per unit.

-Consider the feeding recommendations. The amount of food you feed your dog impacts the amount of money you spend on dog food. While high quality food may cost more, fewer fillers might equal smaller meals.

-Ask an expert. When in doubt, ask your vet.

-Buy the best you can afford. You tend to get what you pay for in this space. Remember that feeding your pet high quality food can ultimately lower medical bills, as well as increase your pet's quality of life.

-Make a commitment. Switching your dog’s food can be hard on his or her digestive system; therefore, it makes sense to only switch foods when necessary. When you do make a switch, do so gradually.

-Know your dog. A healthy dog’s coat should not be oily or dry. Your pet’s eyes should be clear and bright. If you notice that your dog is backing away from his or her food, or not eating as much as normal, it is worth talking to your vet about a change.

Finally, if you are having trouble affording proper pet care, the Humane Society offers a comprehensive list of pet financial aid-related organizations.  

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.