Best Dog Food Choices
From key ingredients and regulations to choosing dry, organic, holistic, or wet dog food, experts tell WebMD which food is best for your canine companion.
4. Which is better, dry dog food or canned?
It depends on your pet and your preferences. Dry dog food costs less per
serving than semi-moist or canned foods and its nutrients are more
concentrated, meaning you’ll need to feed less.
That’s because dry food contains less moisture. On average, the moisture
content of dog foods is 6% to 10% for dry, 15% to 30% for semi-moist, and 75%
Canned food might be better for dogs with urinary tract problems because
of its higher moisture content, Wakshlag says. Canned foods also allow feeding
a greater volume of food for the same amount of calories, which may help if
your dog is overweight. Some dry foods are designed to help clean the teeth during chewing, but dogs with severe dental
problems may do better on a moist food.
Other things to keep in mind, depending on your pet’s health condition:
Canned foods tend to be higher in fat and protein, with fewer carbohydrates;
semi-moist foods contain humectants, such as sugar, to keep it from drying out;
and dry foods will always contain some starch, Wynn says.
5. What do labels like “organic,” “holistic,” or “all-natural” mean?
There is no official definition for organic pet food.
“Holistic,” like “premium” and “super-premium,” is a marketing term. There
is no official definition of these terms. “Natural” means only that the product
contains no synthetic ingredients, says Teresa Crenshaw, interim chair of
AAFCO’s Pet Food Committee.
Because some vitamins and minerals may only be available in synthetic form,
AAFCO allows animal foods with those ingredients to carry a “natural” label,
with a disclaimer. For example, a dog food or treat that contains baking powder
cannot be labeled as natural because baking powder is a product of chemical
6. How much should I feed my dog?
One of the most common mistakes dog owners make is “feeding too much,”
Wakshlag says. About a quarter of dogs are overweight, putting them at
higher risk of arthritis and other health
Package labels often overestimate how much food is needed, but vets advise
using these as a guideline. You’ll know you’re overfeeding your dog if
you cannot feel its ribs, there are visible fat deposits on its back and at the
base of its tail, and you can’t see a waist behind the ribs when looking down
at your pet.
On the other hand, if a dog is underweight, you’ll easily be able to see his
ribs, vertebrae, and pelvic bones, and you won’t feel any fat over his
Puppies need about twice as many calories per pound as an adult dog of the
same breed. Older dogs need 20% fewer calories than middle-aged dogs because
they are less active and have slower metabolisms, according to “Nutrient
Requirements of Dogs and Cats,” a 2006 report from the National Research
Council, a scientific research unit of the nonprofit National Academies.