The Best Dog Food
Every February, The Whole Dog Journal (WDJ), www.whole-dog-journal.com, publishes findings from their research and lists their choices of the best dry dog foods available. Their 2006 list, hot off the press, includes 48 approved dry dog foods. The section entitled "How To Select The Best Foods For Your Dog," in the book Livestock Protection Dogs - Selection, Care and Training by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims (second edition published in 2004), also refers to the WDJ on how to choose a high-quality dog food. (The book is available for purchase through ASDI at www.anatoliandog.org.)
Using the WDJ selection criteria for approving and rejecting dry dog foods, I go through their approved dry dog foods list and choose what I think best fits the needs of my specific dogs. I look for specific whole meats (e.g., lamb, chicken, salmon, etc.) and specific animal meals (e.g., chicken meal), listed in the first to third ingredients. The animal source must be identified in the ingredient (reject "animal fat" or "meat meal" because the source is unidentified; accept "turkey meal," "fish meal," "chicken fat," etc.). I like to find whole grains as well as vegetables on the ingredient list, but the more "fragments" and "by-products" in the ingredient list, and the higher they appear on the list, the less desirable that dog food is. I do not choose dry dog foods that have meat or poultry by-products, sweeteners, preservatives, artificial colors, or artificial flavors listed in the ingredients.
Although the WDJ experts believe that the key to quality in dog food is the ingredient quality, they also believe a company's "ability to respond quickly and intelligently to consumer questions and concerns" is a reflection of their commitment to quality. Given the "largest mycotoxin-poisoning events . . . Nature's Recipe in 1995, Doane Pet Care in 1998, and Diamond in 2005," it pays to be careful choosing dry dog food. Especially choose with care the dry dog foods containing "corn, wheat, or barley" from "the highest-volume production facilities" where it is a challenge to inspect and test "each load of raw ingredients before the delivery is accepted at the manufacturing plant" (WDJ, Feb. 2006 issue, p. 4).
Commercial dog food has only been around for about 60 years. Dogs in the wild eat "live game . . . berries, fruits, roots, vegetables and carrion" (Dawydiak & Sims, p. 177). If you are not a canine nutrition expert or scientist, it may be hard to figure out the best raw food diet for your dog. You also may not be able to invest the money or the time to make sense of this diet. Many people, like us, will opt to feed a high-quality commercial dog food and supplement it with appropriate fresh raw foods.
After choosing the best dog food, what else can be done? Store your dry dog food in its original bag so that you have the date-code information, should there be a problem. Moisture, heat, or both can cause food to go bad. NEVER feed moldy or bad-smelling food to your dog. Also, know the signs of a bad food reaction: "vomiting, diarrhea, extreme lethargy, a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (indicating liver damage), or any neurological symptoms" (WDJ, Feb. 2006 issue, p. 8). If you have any questions or concerns about symptoms, be safe and contact your veterinarian.
Keeping abreast of news in the dog food arena is important. I find that the WDJ's monthly publication often features articles that help me to keep abreast and to make educated choices regarding dog foods. Here are examples of two past articles. WDJ's Jan. 2006 issue features their "Approved Wet Dog Foods" list. Their Oct. 2005 issue has an article on coconut oil.
Happy dog food shopping!