According to TV commercials, your best buddy will live to a ripe old age if you simply buy the pet food advertised.
You want to feel like you are doing everything possible to keep your buddy happy and in good health, but what may work for one dog may not work for another. A Labrador retriever that accompanies you on your daily three-mile run needs more calories than a Shih Tzu that sits on your sofa for hours. If your buddy is a couch potato, you may have to seek a high-fiber, low-calorie food to keep her weight down. Growing puppies require more protein than senior dogs.
As you seek out the ideal nutritional solution for your pet, consider the following.
The best ratio for a healthy diet is 50 percent meat and 50 percent vegetables. Be aware of companies using grains as cheap filler. Any grains should be in whole form, such as rolled oats, barley, quinoa, millet and brown rice. Also watch out for chemicals. Avoid pet foods that use chemical preservatives like BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, which are carcinogenic. Look instead for natural preservatives like vitamins C and E. And just as you do with packaged foods you buy for yourself, check expiration dates.
Here is an example of an ingredient list for a top-ranked dog food (Arcana Adult Small Breed dog food, rated five stars by DogFoodAdvisor.com): chicken meal, steel-cut oats, deboned chicken, whole potato, peas, chicken fat, whole egg, deboned flounder, sun-cured alfalfa, chicken liver, herring oil, pea fiber, whole apples, whole pears, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach, cranberries, blueberries, kelp, chicory root, juniper berries, angelica root, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, lavender, vitamins, minerals and proteinates.
Freeze-dried food can be stored in a low-moisture environment for a year or more and is especially great for traveling with your pet.
You might want to consider making your own dog food. This can be tricky, as the balance of vitamins and minerals is essential. Invest in a pet-food cookbook such as The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook by Barbara Taylor-Laino and Kenneth Fischer, D.V.M. (Fair Winds Press, 2013);