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ALL ABOUT DOGS: When it comes to dog food, choose nothin’ but the best.

Question: What is the best dog food for my dog?

Answer: This is a fairly controversial question, but in my world, the most pertinent issue is the longevity of our dog. We already know we’re signing on for heartache when we get a dog, because we always outlive them. For me, I want to postpone the day I get crushed as long as possible. One way to do that is by giving my dog the best food available.

When I was growing up in the ’60s we never saw dogs and cats getting cancer or tumors. Even though today there are many, much higher quality foods available for our pets, with the advent of modern food science, part of the equation is the shelf life factor. Longer shelf life means more money, but extending shelf life has a lot to do with food additives, and I’m guessing dog food companies care more about their bottom line than whether or not an ingredient is carcinogenic.

It’s more than OK to rotate the food you feed your dog. The practice of sticking with the same dog food forever most likely was originally perpetrated by pet food manufacturers themselves. Brand loyalty is second nature to us, so staying with one food forever was an easy sell. Just tell your customer base “switching foods causes digestive problems,” and v oilà , you have a loyal customer. But imagine eating the same thing, day in and day out, for the rest of your life. Since all quality dog foods have varying levels of nutrients, and nobody knows what levels are ideal, switching foods from time to time is not only more interesting for Fluffy, it also can provide a better nutrient balance over time. Just remember to introduce a new food into the old, incrementally over a period of a few days.

You want a food that actually says “complete and balanced” for a specific timeframe on the label. I tend to stick pretty much to “kibble” (dry food), but canned food is fine for a topper. Crunchy food is better for Fluffy’s teeth and digestion. Read the ingredients on dog food labels! And you might want to haul out your magnifying glass. Ingredients are listed in order of most to least, volume wise.

Look for a specific type of meat listed first, not “meat by-products” or generic labeling such as “poultry” or “meat.” Ideally you want to see the specific source of protein (i.e., chicken, beef, pork, lamb, etc.), and you want to see that listed first, as opposed to water or “broth.”

Stay away from gluten which is a gluey wheat byproduct often used as a binder for inferior ingredients. Wolves don’t eat wheat or corn. If grains or vegetables are in Fluffy’s dog food, make sure they’re whole rather than byproducts. For example, potatoes rather than potato starch. Avoid sugar, molasses or other sweeteners as well as artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

Pet food is a multimillion dollar-a-year industry. And while some companies have more of a conscience when it comes to Fluffy’s well-being than others, information on recalls of food often takes awhile to get to the consumer. Here’s a website where you can find out about your dog’s food: petful.com/recall-lists/dog-food-recalls.

Obviously a higher quality food will be more expensive, and rotating food is somewhat of a hassle. I don’t care about that though. Our dogs are with us for a fleeting window in our life. I’ll do anything to prolong the length of time it’s open. For me, no hassle is too great.

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