Deciding what food to feed your best friend isn’t nearly as simple as perusing the aisles of your local grocery store for the most colorful bag with the best pictures. We all want the perfect food that will keep our basset hound happy and healthy for years to come.
But how do you know you’re choosing a high quality dog food? Do you trust what the front of the bag says? How do you read the ingredients list to know you’ll be feeding a balanced meal that will offer your favorite friend all the support his body needs?
Look For the AAFCO Seal
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary association of local, state, and federal agencies that work to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds. The bag of food you choose should include the AAFCO statement showing the diet is nutritionally adequate for your pet and their life stage. When a dog food states that their formula is “nutritionally complete”, it means it contains all essential ingredients for a healthy dog.
Puppies and seniors have different nutritional needs, so make sure the food you are choosing was created with your dog’s life stage in mind. The label should show how the adequacy statement is substantiated. It could be through nutrient profile formulation. Even better is if you have seen the food has gone through feeding trials.
Know Your Brand
Manufacturing quality control is a big part of what goes into the bag. Some dog food manufacturers own their own facilities, whereas others outsource the making of the dog food to a third party.
Another thing to think about when choosing a brand of dog food is where they source ingredients from. After catastrophes like tainted Chinese ingredients being imported and used in American dog foods, many dog food brands will now state where they source their ingredients from.
By doing some research on manufacturer websites, you’ll find that the best dog food brands that source exclusively from North America where farming and manufacturing standards are higher than many places overseas.
Dog Food Ingredients to Avoid
You can learn a lot from the dog food’s ingredient list and some things should be avoided altogether. Walk away from any diet that contains dye or food coloring. Your dog doesn’t care what color the kibble is, and some food dyes can be harmful. Sometimes you can tell just by looking at the kibble. If it’s shaped into interesting shapes with colors of green, red, yellow, or orange, stay away. Those details are only there to fool you into thinking the food is similar to your dinner.
Artificial flavors and preservatives are other dangers to watch out for.
Fillers can provide extra bulk to foods and add needed fiber to your pet’s diet, but you don’t want to see it included among the top ingredients on the listing. Avoid foods that show corn and like products in the first few ingredients. Grains should be included in your dog’s diet, just not as the main course. True grain allergies aren’t very common in dogs. If your dog has been reacting to a particular food, chances are the culprit is the protein source or one of the chemicals.
Meat meals aren’t a problem, but “byproducts” are a no-no. Clinical veterinary nutritionist Rebecca Remillard, PhD, DVM, DACVN warns that “animal byproducts” refers to what remains when muscle meat is removed. It could include blood, bone, feet, heads, lungs, kidneys, viscera, or other things. It’s like a crap shoot. You have no way of knowing if the byproducts are organ meats (which are desirable) or just feet.
There’s more than just ingredients. The correctly balanced percentages of protein and fat, fiber and moisture are essential. Look to compare dry matter to dry matter, as moisture content can skew the comparison. The food needs to contain adequate levels and combinations of vitamins and minerals to support your pet.
Growing puppies should receive a minimum of 22% protein as dry matter, while adult dogs require a minimum of 18% protein.
Calories play a role, too. Growing puppies and pregnant and lactating bitches require more calories per day. So do more active dogs in training and competition.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
Choosing the right diet for your basset is no easy task. It can be complicated when your pet has specific concerns. It’s always a good idea to have a conversation with your veterinarian. They can assess whether your pet is maintaining a good body condition (the amount of muscle and fat on his body), and whether coat and other conditions are healthy.
Pets with concerns like kidney disease, diabetes or other problems, as well as certain large breed puppies have nutritional concerns that may require a diet specially formulated for that condition. Working with your vet ensures your friend stays on track with what is best.