Dog Nutrition 101

I understand how confusing and frustrating it can be when trying to decide which food to feed to your dog.  Every brand claims to be the ‘best’ and a quick google search will have your head spinning with thousands of differing opinions from who knows who (unfortunately, the internet is wrought with 'experts' and worse, with marketing spin with the sole purpose of making money).

One of the main things we do at Appalachian Tails is help people get the best food or their dogs, at a fair price. I want to feed Tuckerman great food without breaking the bank, and am proud to be able to assist others.

So, let’s start at the beginning.  Simply, the ‘brand’ does not matter.  What do I mean?  Well, some of the most well-known brands that have fancy TV commercials are very poor nutrition for our dogs.  While there are many great brands (and many poor ones), I do not want pet parents to get caught up in brands.

What truly maters is the ingredient list on the back of the bag.  The marketing team of a brand can put whatever they want on the front, to attract you (ie. Cute dogs, pictures of meat and vegetables, etc.) but the ingredients must be accurate by law, and this is the only place where you can truly tell the quality of the nutrition you are purchasing for your dog.

I could literally write a novel on this one topic (dog nutrition) and am working on it.  But, in order to make this post useful for you, let’s start with some basics:

What to avoid and why:

 When I look at the ingredients, I do not want to see (1) by-products, (2) corn nor (3) wheat.  That is precisely the formula I use to choose foods for Appalachian Tails.  If a food uses by-products, corn or wheat…we do not stock it.  Why?

·         By-products:  You will be surprised to see how many of the ‘popular’ brands use by-products.  By-products, in a nutshell, means anything that was once attached to the animal.  So, when poultry by-product is listed as an ingredient, it MIGHT contain some meat.  However, it likely contains feathers, beaks, feet, etc.  Will those things hurt your dog?  Probably not.  However, the question becomes one of nutrition.   You are spending good money on dog food.  Your dog will utilize meat (poultry meal, whole chicken, for example) in a much more healthy way than feathers and beaks!

·         Corn and Wheat:  Again, neither of these ingredients are inherently bad for your dog.  But, once again it comes down to nutritional value and what you are spending your hard-earned money on.  For example, corn is filler.  Dogs tend not to use it, so it tends to just create more waste.  There are some very popular brands that have corn as the first or second ingredient!  Think about it, that means out of a 30 pound bag of dog food, MOST of it is corn!  Most of what you purchased is going to go through your dog and he/she is not getting any nutritional value for it.  Wheat tends to aggravate many dogs (allergies, etc) and so we stay away from that also.

What to look for:

·         We want to see “meal” as the first or second ingredient.  Chicken Meal, Lamb Meal, etc.  This is a high-quality, high-nutritional value form of meat for our dogs.  We are also happy with “whole chicken” or “deboned chicken” for example.  Again, just steer clear of ‘by-product’.  We also want to see a healthy carbohydrate within the first few ingredients.  Healthy grains such as brown rice or oatmeal is great.  For dogs who need grain-free, sweet potatoes is a popular alternative.

There may be other considerations when choosing a food for you dog.  Allergies, for example, may limit what proteins or carbohydrates you can give.  However, start looking at the ingredients and do not put too much weight on the brand. 

If you have questions about this important topic I am extremely happy to assist.  We are genuinely interested in getting a food that is nutritionally sound for your dog, and financially feasible for you.  There are plenty of options that meet both requirements!

Most importantly, as new studies come out (validated studies, not marketing non-sense from big corporations) we absorb and learn the new data so that we can continue providing the best information to you.

Written by Bryan, Owner & Founder of Appalachian Tails. Please comment below or if you'd like to speak directly with Bryan feel free to contact him here.