What is the one thing you can do for your dog in order to ensure a long and healthy life? Provide him with a wholesome, nutritious diet, of course! Many dog owners underestimate the power of good nutrition and they shop for dog food by price, not quality. You may not realize it, but many dog foods are made with ingredients that would make you cringe if you knew where they came from. Unfortunately, many dog owners do not take the time to learn where common dog food ingredients come from, let alone actually read the ingredients list on their dog food bag.
Like all living things, dogs require a balance of key nutrients in order to thrive – they need plenty of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and some digestible carbohydrates. Just as important as the ratio of those ingredients is the quality – your dog deserves a food that is made from fresh, recognizable ingredients, not by-products. If you are serious about making sure that your dog gets the quality of nutrition he needs to thrive, take the time to learn the basics about his nutritional needs and make an effort to choose a high-quality adult dog food for him.
What are the Nutritional Needs of Adult Dogs?
A nutritious diet for dogs will consist of protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins, minerals, and water. You may not think of water as a nutrient, but it is essential for healthy living – your dog needs access to fresh water at all times. In terms of vitamins and minerals, there are many that should be included in your dog’s diet and they should come from quality sources. Natural sources are always best for vitamins and minerals – they can be found in various animal products as well as certain fruits, vegetables, and grains. The main vitamins your dog needs include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and various B Vitamins. The main minerals your dog needs (called macrominerals) are Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium and Chloride. The minerals your dog needs in lesser amounts (called microminerals) include zinc, sulfur, iodine, iron, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, cobalt, fluorine, molybdenum, and silicon.
Though vitamins and minerals are essential for a balanced diet, the main nutrients your dog needs (called macronutrients) are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Protein is the primary nutritional consideration for dogs because, while they are technically omnivores, they tend to lean on the carnivorous end of the spectrum. Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are twenty different amino acids that your dog needs. Your dog is capable of synthesizing (producing) 10 of these amino acids, but the remaining 10 (called essential amino acids) must come from his diet. Animal products like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are called complete proteins because they contain all 10 essential amino acids. Animal proteins are the backbone of any quality diet for adult dogs and your dog’s diet should provide at least 18% protein.
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After protein, fat is the next most important nutrient for your dog. While you may have been raised with the idea that fat is unhealthy, it is actually a highly concentrated source of energy for your dog and it should comprise at least 5% of his diet. Like protein, fat is best when it comes from animal sources – that is what makes it the most biologically valuable for dogs. Some good options for fat include things like chicken fat, salmon oil, or other fish oils. Plant-based fats like canola oil and flaxseed can also provide the essential fatty acids your dog needs, but it is best to have at least one source of animal fat, supplemented with plant-based fats. Your dog also needs a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in his diet which can come from various animal and plant products.
While your adult dog has a minimum nutritional requirement for protein and fat, he has a limited ability to digest plant products – your dog’s diet should include no more than 3% to 5% crude fiber. Carbohydrates can provide your dog with energy as well as dietary fiber, but it needs to come from digestible sources. Dogs have fairly short digestive tracts so they are not able to digest plant foods as efficiently as animal foods. Whole grains, complex carbohydrates, and certain fruits and vegetables are the most digestible sources of carbohydrates for dogs. Things like corn, wheat, and soy, however, offer very limited nutritional value and can be hard for your dog to digest.
What are the Best Ingredients to Look for in Dog Food?
If you were to randomly pick three dog foods off the shelf at the grocery store and then compare their ingredients lists, you would find a wide assortment of ingredients. What many dog owners do not realize, is that it is possible to meet your dog’s minimum nutritional requirements with low-quality and plant-based ingredients. Long-term feeding of low-quality dog food, however, can lead to nutritional deficiencies, digestive problems, and even some serious diseases. This is why you need to analyze the information provided on the dog food package before you buy it and definitely before you feed it to your dog. Here are some of the best ingredients to look for in adult dog food:
- Fresh meat, poultry, and fish – These ingredients are all excellent sources of complete protein and you should look for them in the top one or two slots of any quality adult dog food. Keep in mind, however, that fresh meats contain up to 80% moisture so, once the product is cooked, the actual volume of protein provided by that ingredient could be lower.
- Named meat meals – Do not let the word “meal” fool you – it simply refers to a meat that has been cooked to remove moisture and it is a highly concentrated source of protein. Take chicken meal, for example – it has been cooked down to about 10% moisture and contains up to 300% more protein by volume than fresh chicken.
- Eggs – Eggs are one of the most biologically valuable sources of protein for dogs and they are an excellent addition to any adult dog food.
- Named animal fats – When looking for fats on an adult dog food label, check for named animal sources – things like chicken fat, not poultry fat. Unnamed sources of fat are not necessarily low-quality ingredients, but the source and the quality can vary significantly from one batch to another.
- Whole grains – When it comes to grains, cooked whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and cracked pearled barley are all fairly digestible for dogs.
- Complex carbohydrates – Some dogs have difficulty digesting grains, in which case you should look for alternative complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, green peas, or tapioca as the primary sources of carbohydrate and dietary fiber.
- Chelated minerals – While natural sources of vitamins and mienrals are always more biologically valuable than supplements, chelated minerals are a valuable addition to adult dog foods. Chelated minerals have been chemically bonded to protein molecules, making them easy for your dog’s body to digest and absorb.
- Dried fermentation products – These act as probiotics in dog food, helping to improve and regulate your dog’s digestion.
These are just some of the best ingredients to look for in an adult dog food. In addition to checking for quality ingredients like these, you should also pay attention to the guaranteed analysis on the label. Make sure that the values listed meet the minimum values provided in the last section.
Which Ingredients Should You Avoid?
While it is very important to read the ingredients list on an adult dog food label to make sure that the ingredients used are of high quality, you also want to pay attention to the ingredients that are NOT listed. As a general rule, if the ingredients list contains several ingredients that contain the word “by-product” or they have chemical-sounding names that you can’t identify, you shouldn’t buy that product. Here are some other ingredients that are best avoided:
- Low-quality fillers – Ingredients made with corn, wheat, or soy offer very limited nutritional value for dogs and they are generally used to add bulk to a dog food recipe by manufacturers without spending a lot of extra money.
- Rendered fats – Rendered fats are usually used to add flavor to low-quality kibbles and they can easily be contaminated or come from low-quality sources.
- Chemicals and preservatives – Things like BHA and BHT are chemicals commonly added to pet foods to increase their shelf-life. These and other chemicals and preservatives have been linked to negative side effects in dogs and cats.
- Artificial colors and flavors – These ingredients are usually used to enhance the appearance or flavor of dog food products but they do not actually offer any nutritional value. In fact, some of them have been known to cause negative reactions.
- By-products – Any ingredient that includes the word “by-product” should be regarded as potentially questionable. It is difficult to judge the quality of by-products so it is always better to include the whole, fresh ingredient.
When shopping for an adult dog food, you need to use your best judgment. If you are not able to afford the highest quality of dog food available, purchase the highest quality food you can afford. There are plenty of mid-grade adult dog foods that offer balanced nutrition with a limited number of low-quality ingredients. You can always consult your veterinarian or fellow dog owners for suggestions.
Feeding Recommendations for Adult Dogs
The amount you feed your dog will vary depending on several key factors. For one thing, the age of your dog should be taken into account. Puppies have very high needs for energy because they are still growing and developing – once your dog reaches his maximum size, his energy needs will even out and you can start feeding him a steady daily diet. In order to determine how much to feed your dog you will need to think about his activity level as well as his size. Large-breed dogs and inactive dogs have lower energy needs than small-breed and working breed dogs. Small-breed dogs have very fast metabolisms and working breeds generally require extra energy to make up for what they burn while working.
The best place to start when determining how much to feed your adult dog is the back of the dog food package. All dog foods come with feeding recommendations which give you an idea where to start. Keep in mind that different products have different calorie content, so follow the feeding recommendations of the package of the food you actually feed your dog. In most cases, these recommendations are made according to weight, so you will need to know how much your dog weighs. Stick to the feeding recommendation for a few weeks while monitoring your dog’s weight, condition, and energy level. If your dog starts to become lethargic or loses an unhealthy amount of weight, you may need to increase his daily portion. On the other hand, if your dog gains too much weight you may need to reduce it.
While your puppy is still growing it is generally a good idea to let him feed freely so he gets exactly as much energy as he needs. Once he reaches adulthood, however, you should scale back to just two meals per days – one in the morning and one in the evening. For small-breed dogs and working dogs, you may want to throw in an extra meal around midday just to be sure your dog gets a steady influx of energy throughout the day. Follow the feeding recommendations and divide your dog’s daily portion into the appropriate number of feedings. You may notice that your dog doesn’t always finish one meal before it is time for the next. You can use your judgment, then, in deciding whether to add his second meal on top of it or to wait until he finishes the first meal.
Top Recommended Adult Dog Food Brands:
If you take a stroll down the dog food aisle at your local grocery store you will notice that there is a myriad of options available to you. With dozens of different brands and hundreds of recipes to choose from, it can be difficult to choose just a single product. To help you get started with your search for the perfect adult dog food, consider the top recommended adult dog food brands reviewed below.
Acana Regionals Meadowland Formula – The Acana pet food company is produced and manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods and all of their products are described as “biologically appropriate”. This simply means that Acana pet food products are designed to mimic the natural evolutionary diet of cats and dogs. In addition to using only fresh, regional ingredients, Acana follows whole prey meat ratios in their dog foods which consists of fresh meats, organ meats, bones, and cartilage to deliver fresh, wholesome nutrient in natural ratios. All of Acana’s products are made in their regional, award-winning kitchens which are held to the highest standards for quality and safety. Simply put, Acana’s dog food products are the best of the best. They product and manufacture all of their own products in the USA and their recipes are prepared in small batches to ensure safety and nutritional integrity.
If you are looking for a high-quality adult dog food, consider Acana Regionals Meadowland Formula. This recipe is a meat-based diet designed to mirror the evolutionary diet of wild dogs. It features fresh regional ingredients like free-run poultry, freshwater fish, and nest-laid eggs, all in whole prey ratios. This recipe is made up of 70% meat, fish, and egg ingredients with 30% fruits, vegetables, and botanicals. It contains 0% grain, potato, or tapioca ingredients and it is naturally gluten-free. Some of the most notable supplementary ingredients included in this recipe are chelated minerals and dried fermentation products. Chelated minerals are those which have been chemically bound to protein molecules, making them easier for your dog’s body to digest and absorb. Dried fermentation products act as probiotics, helping to support your dog’s healthy digestion.
Earthborn Holistic Small-Breed Adult Dog Formula – The Earthborn Holistic pet food company follows a wholesome approach to pet nutrition, using the highest quality ingredients available to ensure total-body health and wellness for pets. Each and every formula is designed to offer complete and balanced nutrition that supports your pet’s physical and mental wellbeing. Earthborn Holistic is not just dedicated to creating wholesome, nutritious products for pets – they are also dedicated to keeping the earth safe and healthy. This company advocates for reducing, reusing, and recycling in all things – they even use recycled paper to make their dog food packages. When it comes to their pet food products, Earthborn Holistic offers a variety of dry food and wet food options for dogs and cats. All of their formulas are complete and balanced for dogs in various life stages and they offer several size-specific formulas as well.
If you are looking for a high-quality adult dog food for your small-breed dog, consider this Earthborn Holistic Small-Breed Adult Dog Formula. This recipe is specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of dogs weighing 20 pounds or less at maturity. It is designed to provide optimal nutrition while helping to control weight and support healthy energy levels, encouraging a long lifespan up to 20 years. This formula features premium quality proteins like chicken meal and whitefish meal, with plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. This Earthborn Holistic Small-Breed Adult Dog Formula is supplemented with l-carnitine to support lean muscle mass and easily digestible carbohydrates like oatmeal, barley, and brown rice for energy and fiber. Overall, this recipe provides 28% protein, 17% fat and 4% fiber and it contains 425 calories per cup.
Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Chicken and Potato Recipe – Though this company has a strange-sounding name, they are well-known for the quality of their products. Castor & Pollux was founded more than twenty years ago and has since then become a leader in the organic and natural pet food industry. This company seeks to provide high-quality nutrition for pets in all life stages which is why their products are all designed and formulated with input from a team of experts in animal nutrition and veterinary medicine. Castor & Pollux pet foods are made with USDA-certified organic ingredients and cooked with love in an organically certified USA kitchen. When it comes to their pet food products, Castor & Pollux offers several product lines. The Organix line comes in both traditional and grain-free recipes and the Organix with Raw Bites line consists of dry kibbles paired with freeze-dried raw bites. The Natural Ultramix line of products features premium entrees with high-quality proteins as the primary ingredient.
The Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Chicken and Potato recipe is an excellent choice for adult dogs. It is formulated to meet the nutritional needs for all breeds, and it features organic free-range chicken as the number-1 ingredient. This formula is natural grain-free, made with digestible carbohydrates like organic peas, organic tapioca and organic potatoes plus healthy fats like chicken fat and organic coconut oil. This recipe is completely free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients and it is produced in an organically certified USA kitchen. This Castor & Pollux Organix Grain-Free Chicken and Potato recipe offers 32% protein, 13.5% fat, and 5% fiber with 383 calories per cup.
Simply Nourish Large Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe – While many pet store brands offer low- to mid-quality products at best, the Simply Nourish brand sold at PetSmart stores is a notable exception. This brand uses only fresh, natural ingredients in their products and they offer a wide variety of product choices for both cats and dogs. Simply Nourish uses wholesome, recognizable ingredients and they develop their products with a “back to basics” approach to pet nutrition. A limited number of ingredients reduces the risk for food allergies and sensitives while providing pets with the nutrition they need to live a long, healthy life. Real meat is always the primary ingredient and all of their products are free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients. Simply put, Simply Nourish products deliver simple, quality nutrition your pet will love.
This Simply Nourish Large Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe is a great choice if you have a larger dog. It features both fresh chicken and chicken meal as the top two ingredients which speaks to the high protein content of this recipe – plus, the chicken meal is a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin. These two supplements are essential for strong bones and joints, especially in large-breed dogs. This recipe includes several digestible carbohydrates like brown rice and oatmeal, with several healthy fats like flaxseed and canola oil. It contains fresh fruits and vegetables to provide natural sources of key nutrients, plus plenty of powerful antioxidants. Overall, this recipe provides 25% protein, 11% fat, and 5% fiber with 340 calories per cup.
Canidae Grain-Free PURE Sea Adult Dog Formula with Fresh Salmon – The Canidae pet food company was founded out of a Southern California feed store in 1996. Since then, this brand has become known as one of the leaders in natural pet nutrition. Canidae set out to make pet food that made a difference in the lives of pets and their owners, and that is exactly what they accomplished. In the years since their founding, Canidae has grown to offer a wide selection of products but they proudly remain an independent and family-owned company. Canidae sources many of their ingredients from small, local farmers and they produce their products in the Ethos Pet Nutrition facility in Brownwood, Texas. When it comes to their product offerings, Canidae has two main product lines for dogs – All Life Stages and Grain-Free PURE. Both of these lines feature fresh, natural ingredients and they are free from artificial additives.
The Canidae Grain-Free PURE Sea Adult Dog Formula with Fresh Salmon is an excellent example of the standard to which this company holds itself. This recipe features fresh salmon as the first ingredient and it is a simple recipe made with just 8 key ingredients – this makes it not only a great choice for adult dogs in general, but also for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities. In terms of carbohydrates and dietary fiber, this recipe features grain-free options like sweet potatoes and peas. Aside from the 8 key ingredients, this Canidae Grain-Free PURE Sea Adult Dog Formula with Fresh Salmon contains vitamin supplements, chelated minerals, and dried fermentation products. The chelated minerals are bound to protein molecules, making them easier for your dog’s body to digest and absorb and the dried fermentation products act as probiotics, helping to support your dog’s healthy digestion. Overall, this recipe provides 32% protein, 18% fat, and 4% fiber with 496 calories per cup.
Choosing a high-quality dog food for your canine companion can sometimes be a challenge – especially when there are so many different options to choose from. In making your decision you need to consider your dog’s nutritional needs and select a product that not only meets, but exceeds those needs. The more time and effort you put into the task of choosing a dog food, the more likely you are to end up with a high-quality product and that is the key to ensuring that your dog enjoys a long, healthy life. If you need some help getting started with your search, try one of the top recommended brands of adult dog food reviewed above.