(BPT) - Dogs are the most common pet in America because of the love, comfort and companionship they provide to their families. According to the American Pet Products Association, 70% of U.S. households have one or more dogs, which equates to 90.5 million households. Pet adoptions specifically have surged during the pandemic. Adopting a pet is a meaningful experience full of learning moments - being a pet parent means providing affection and caring for your pet, including helping them eat well and feel their best.
No one understands this better than Marie Moody. When she adopted a dog named Stella and a sick pup named Chewy from her local animal shelter in 1997, she reached out to her veterinarian for advice on how best to care for the two. Her vet recommended feeding Chewy a raw diet featuring minimally processed foods that were primarily meat. Hopeful, Moody began the new diet and was thrilled when Chewy quickly recovered.
"With so many options available, finding the right food for your dog can be confusing," said Moody. "I learned dogs crave the raw proteins in meat and thrive physically because it mimics what their ancestors would have found in the wild. This was evident when Chewy quickly felt better and his health flourished."
Moody became so passionate about pet nutrition after helping Chewy that she started her own raw pet food business in 2003 - Stella & Chewy's, which features premium ingredients that are responsibly sourced so pets get the nutrition they need to feel their best.
Whether you've just adopted a dog or your pup has long been a part of the family, finding the right nutrition is important. As you research the many options, consider this checklist of top features of a high-quality dog food:
First ingredient is meat
Dogs require protein that comes from meat, so avoiding dog foods that use fillers like corn or soy as a primary ingredient can help assure that your dog is getting the most nutrients from their food. Look for pet foods with meat listed first, and consider the benefits of raw protein as one of the most natural ways animals process protein. If you're just starting to consider raw, an easy way to try it is in freeze-dried form, like freeze-dried raw toppers. These toppers are an easy and convenient way to add the taste of raw your pet craves along with all the great health benefits.
Fruits and vegetables
Dogs are not strictly carnivores. While meat should make up most of a dog's diet, domestic dogs can also benefit from a balanced diet including nutrients derived from grains, fruits and vegetables. These non-meat foods can be a valuable source of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber. The best dog foods contain high-quality, organic versions of these ingredients for a healthy digestive system and balanced nutrition.
Avoid artificial ingredients
Be sure to spend time reading the ingredients list and do your research. Preservatives, artificial colors, flavors and by-products should be a red flag that you are not getting 'natural' or 'wholesome' dog food. Stick to this general rule: If you can't pronounce it, it's probably not natural.
Just like in human food, not all protein is created equal. Look for brands that support grass-fed, cage-free, wild-caught, farm-raised or other responsible sourcing for their meats. This not only benefits a dog's nutrition but is also more environmentally friendly.
Meets your dog's unique needs
Because every dog is different, there is no one-size-fits-all dog food. Your dog's age and breed, as well as health considerations such as allergies or stomach sensitivities, can all impact which food is right for them. Be sure to do your own research and talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you have. Another good resource for exploring options is your local neighborhood pet food store.
"It's never too late to give your dog better nutrition. If you decide to switch up your dog's food, make sure to make any food adjustments gradually to avoid stomach upset," advises Moody. "A general rule of thumb is introducing 25% of new food to their old food for four days until they have transitioned fully."