Dog Foods - How to Choose?

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Dog Foods - How to Choose?

by: Kristen Cabe

For a list of foods that I recommend, scroll down until you see pictures of dog food bags, about halfway down the page

The topic of dog food is a heated one among dog owners. Some people believe that dog food is dog food, and buy the cheapest brand available, because, well, their dog is doing just fine, thank you! There are others that believe the most expensive brand is better because it costs more. Neither of these people are correct.

Saying "dog food is dog food" would be like saying "McDonald's food or TV dinners are equivalent to a meal at a more expensive restaurant." However, saying that "the most expensive brand is the best just because it costs more" is like saying that a $10 hamburger and fries meal at a restaurant is more nutritious than a $2.99 Happy Meal."


The key to choosing the right dog food is to know how to read the label. The most expensive food isn't always the best, but a store-brand is most certainly not as good as a holistic, all-natural brand either. In this article, I will attempt to give you some insight as to how to read a dog food label, and what to look for and avoid when making your choice.

You might be surprised to hear this, but price shouldn't be the main issue when making your choice. Why? After you've been feeding a better-quality food for a month or so, youíll begin to notice that your dog requires less of the better food to maintain an appropriate weight, since the new food is more nutritious. As a result, the amount that you end up paying for the better food usually equals out to about what you were paying for not-so-good food before. There is more on price & cost near the end of this page.

However, as I've already mentioned, just paying more for a dog food does not make it better. Take Science Diet, (or any of the Hill's brand foods) for example; Hill's foods are pretty expensive, but in reality, their foods are no better than the brands you can buy in the grocery store. Here's a comparison for you:

These are the main ingredients in Science Diet Adult Original, Iams Chunks, Pedigree Complete Nutrition Adult, and Purina ONE Total Nutrition Adult, but not in this same order. Can you tell which is which?

1. Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Chicken Fat (Preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Beet Pulp (Sugar Removed), Natural Chicken Flavor, Fish Meal, Potassium Chloride, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Flax Meal, Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Fish Oil (Preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), [vitamins & minerals].

2. Chicken (natural source of glucosamine), brewers rice, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), whole grain corn, whole grain wheat, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), non-fat yogurt, animal digest, calcium phosphate, salt, potassium chloride, caramel color, [vitamins & minerals].

3. Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Ground Whole Grain Wheat, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Corn Gluten Meal, Brewers Rice, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Dried Egg Product, Flaxseed, Potassium Chloride, Iodized Salt, [vitamins & minerals].

4. Ground Whole Corn, Meat and Bone Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat (preserved with BHA/BHT), Wheat Mill Run, Ground Wheat, Natural Poultry Flavor, Wheat Flour, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Carmel Color, Vegetable Oil (Source of Linoleic Acid), Rice, Wheat Gluten, [vitamins & minerals]

I realize that at this point you donít really know how to read and interpret dog food labels, but you should be able to see that all four of the previous foods are very similar, with almost the exact same ingredients. So why is one brand more expensive than the other? Because youíre paying for the name, thatís why.

The lesser-quality dog foods are heavily advertised, so that their names become familiar to the general public. The general public is more likely to purchase something that they recognize the name of, and trust what is said in the commercials that advertise these products. For example, a commercial for Dog Chow was released recently that said Purina did a study and found that dogs who were fed Purina Dog Chow from puppyhood lived 2 years longer. Longer than what? They donít say. They also donít say that dogs fed a better quality food with more nutrition and less fillers live, on average, 5 or more years longer than dogs fed the lesser-quality foods like Purina. The Kibbles-N-Bits commercials are also misleading, leading you to believe that dogs just love it (dogs also love rotten dead things), and that Kibbles-N-Bits is just as nutritious as the higher-quality foods, when in reality it is one of the worst foods available - down there with brands such as Alpo and Cadillac, as well as store brands. The companies that produce these dog foods can afford heavy advertising because they use cheap, low-quality ingredients in their products.

The foods that are much better for your dog, like Taste of the Wild, Canidae, Wellness, Innova, Premium Edge, Eagle Pack Holistic, and Chicken Soup for the Dog Loverís Soul, just to name a few, are not advertised like the low quality brands are because:

1) The people that purchase their products do not need to be bombarded with heavy advertising because they already know they are buying a better product,

2) They use more expensive, better-quality (often human grade) ingredients in their foods, so advertising would make the cost of their products go up as they had to compensate for the cost of advertising, and

3) Their foods are usually only available in certain pet stores or specialty stores that are not located in just about every city or town, as the low quality brands are. Advertising, therefore, simply wouldnít be worth the cost for the better-quality dog food companies. Why spend money advertising to people who cannot buy your product in the stores that are in their area?

Does all that make sense?

Now, having said all that, I will begin to tell you what to look for (and what to stay away from) on a dog food label. The first rule-of-thumb to remember is that any dog food you can buy in the grocery store, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, or Dollar-type stores should be avoided. These include foods made by Purina, Iams, Pedigree, and Alpo, as well as any "off-brand" or store brand, such as Ol' Roy or Maxximum Nutrition at Wal-Mart, for example.

Foods sold in feed stores can be even worse than store brand foods, but there are feed stores throughout the U.S. that sell higher quality dog food. If a feed store is the closest place you can buy dog food other than the grocery store or K-mart/Wal-mart, is to go in and take a look at what they are selling, armed with the information you are reading in this article. Don't let the people working at the feed store convince you that Black Gold, or whatever foods they sell (if those foods don't fit the criterion on this page for being a quality food) is/are the best dog food out there, just because it's what all the hunting dog owners buy, or whatever excuse they give! Believe me, they will try!

Now, on to the label reading!

The following is a list of ingredients to look for when purchasing dog food, and the reasons why:

Specifically named meat protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, etc. There is a debate over whether whole meat, such as 'chicken,' is better than meal, and vice versa. The difference is that whole meat can be up to 70% moisture, where meal has had all the moisture removed before being processed into kibble. This means that a pound of 'chicken meal,' for example, is made of more meat than a pound of 'chicken,' because up to 70% of the weight of the 'chicken' can be water weight. So, if you're trying to decide between two foods with the same first four ingredients, but one has chicken as the first ingredient and the other has chicken meal, I would recommend choosing the food with chicken meal as the first ingredient, because there's going to be more actual meat in the food that way. If there are several meat protein sources in the first few ingredients, then it isn't quite as important. For example, a food that has lamb as the first ingredient, followed by lamb meal, is just fine. A food that has lamb as the first ingredient, followed by rice, and then turkey/lamb/chicken/beef/fish meal is also fine.

'Good carbs', such as rice, oatmeal, millet, amaranth, and potatoes (not potato product) or sweet potatoes. The ones I've listed here are considered 'good carbs,' because they do not have unwanted 'side effects' like the 'bad carbs' I detail later in this article. However, carbohydrates are really not needed by the dog - dogs get their energy from meat protein & fat. The reason for inclusion of carbs/grains in kibble is simply because it's needed to hold the product together.

Specifically named fat sources, and preferably animal fats such as 'chicken fat.' Dogs are able to utilize animal fats better than vegetable oils, but sunflower, canola, and flaxseed oils (as long as your dog is not sensitive to them) are okay. Try to avoid foods that contain 'beef tallow,' generic 'vegetable oil,' 'poultry fat,' and 'mineral oil.'

Generally, you can get a good idea of what a food is primarily made up of by looking at all the ingredients listed before the first named fat or oil.

The following is a list of ingredients that you should try to avoid when purchasing dog food, and the reasons why:

By-products. By-products are what is left over after the processing plants remove what meat is fit for human consumption. By-products can contain anything from chicken heads and feet, to cow hooves and horns, fur, feathers, blood, skin, bone, feces, and even dirt and sawdust from the floors of the meat processing plant. By-products can also include innards, such as intestines and other organs that we do not eat. These can be very nutritious for our dogs if handled in the same manner than the human grade meats are, but by-products are not kept fresh, since they are considered unfit for human consumption, and in some cases have even been known to sit in containers for 5 days or more before being picked up from the meat plant and taken to the dog food rendering plant.

Corn in any form, including "ground yellow corn," "corn meal," and "corn gluten meal." Corn is what is known as a 'filler,' and it serves one primary purpose in pet food Ė to make the animal feel full. It also contains some protein, so many dog food manufacturers use it to help raise the protein content in their food. However, dogs and cats cannot digest corn and utilize the protein it contains, so it basically just passes right through the digestive system and you get the privilege of cleaning it up when it comes out the other end. It also can make dogs hyper, because it is a carbohydrate. Dogs do not get their usable energy from carbs like people do; they get it from protein and fat, as I mentioned earlier. Some dogs are also allergic/sensitive to corn, so if you simply avoid any foods that contain any form of corn in their ingredients listing and you'll be doing your dog and yourself a big favor.

'Generic,' unidentified ingredients like "animal fat," "animal digest," and "meat meal" or "poultry meal" Ė you have no idea what these could contain (and you donít want to know). Instead, you want to look for things that are more specific, like "chicken fat" and "chicken meal," that way you know exactly what is in the food.

Chemical preservatives such as "ethoxyquin," "BHA," "BHT," and "propylene glycol" (which is also found in antifreeze, body lotions, hair gels, perfumes, bubble bath, shampoo, smoke machines, and paint). Chemical preservatives make the food last longer than natural preservatives, but every single one of them has been proven to cause liver and kidney failure, cancer, or other life-threatening diseases in test animals. Pet food manufacturers will tell you that in small quantities, the preservatives are safe, and they probably are, but if you stop and think about it, your dog will be ingesting small quantities of these preservatives every day over his entire life span. They can then build up to toxic levels inside his body and that's when they become deadly. You want food that's been naturally preserved. "Mixed tocopherols" is a natural preservative.

Brewer's Rice. White rice or brown rice are both okay, but brewer's rice is not. Why? Brewer's rice refers to the tiny pieces of broken rice that remain after the milling process is complete. These particles are so tiny that they will pass through a sieve with a 1.4 millimeter round perforation. Look on a ruler to see how small that is. One 16th of an inch (the tiny marks between the inch marks) is very close - about 1.5 millimeters. Brewer's rice, like brewer's yeast, is a by-product of the beer making industry, and is used as another filler in dog food, and has very little nutrition, if any at all.

Soy, in any form. Soy is another filler, like corn. It's used as a protein source as well, but again, dogs are unable to utilize proteins from plant sources, and some dogs are allergic to it.

Sorghum is another filler, as well as a fiber source. Sorghum is an Old World grass that is cultivated as grain and forage. Sounds like the perfect thing for a dog to be eating, don't you think? To be fair, though, it is not an allergen, and shouldn't cause any reactions or health concerns, and it is an okay source of fiber.

Wheat Ė Wheat is really only an issue if your dog is allergic to it, but wheat also played a big part in the recent pet food recalls, so avoiding it altogether is a good idea. Often, manufacturers will use several wheat ingredients, splitting them up so that it appears that there is less of it in the food. Watch for this!

Salt, while found in many dog foods, is an unnecessary ingredient, so if the dog food you choose contains salt, make sure itís down near the bottom of the list of ingredients, as there is usually a form of sodium in the added vitamins. Too much salt in the dog's diet can cause the same problems that it does in humans.

Brewer's yeast. Brewer's yeast is a by-product of the beer making process. After the beer has fermented, it is drained out of the fermenting tank, through a filter, which catches the yeast. Then, the yeast is squeezed to get out all of the liquid that it still contains, and what's left is brewer's yeast. Again, some dogs have a problem with this ingredient and some don't, but watch for skin problems and/or ear infections if your dog food contains brewer's yeast. I, personally, do not like to feed it.

Flax is something else that some dogs do not tolerate well, though this ingredient is not one to be avoided at all costs, like most of the other ingredients in this list. Most dogs have no problem with it whatsoever, but there are those that do. Usually dogs that are sensitive to flax will have soft or loose stools, but it usually does not cause an outright allergic reaction. I am only including it here because there are a few dogs that are sensitive to it and I want to make you aware of that.

Mill run or grain fragments - These ingredients are, in a nutshell (pun intended), the shells, hulls, and tiny grain fragments that are too small to be used for anything else and would otherwise be thrown out. They are a filler and a source of fiber in dog foods, and have zero nutritional value.

Added colors or flavorings. If a food contains sufficient, high quality meat, there really is no need to add extra flavorings to it. Coloring is added for our benefit, to make the little meat-shaped pieces look more like meat, and the veggie-shaped pieces look more like veggies. Dogs don't care, and many of these colorings can be harmful when ingested over an extended period of time. Just like chemical preservatives, in small quantities, they are relatively (not completely!) harmless, but when fed over the course of a lifetime, they can build up to toxic levels.

Synthetic Vitamin K - On a dog food label, this ingredient is listed one of the following ways: "menadione sodium bisulfate," "menadione dimethylprimidinol sulfate," "menadione dimethylprimidinol sulfite" or "menadione dimethylpyrimidinol bisulfite." It can also be listed without the word 'menadione,' but is nearly always classified as a "source of vitamin K activity." Not only is the addition of vitamin K into dog food unnecessary, because dogs manufacture their own vitamin K (much like they manufacture their own vitamin C), but this ingredient is very toxic. For more information on this ingredient, which can be found in MANY pet foods, not only low quality ones, visit The Dog Food Project.

Onion - In any form, whether it's onion powder, whole onions, etc. If you see this ingredient on a dog food label, RUN from that product and don't look back! Onions are very toxic to dogs and can cause anemia and even death. There is NO reason for onion to be put in dog food, but some manufacturers do!

One important point that is worth mentioning, is that if the dog food you are looking at contains fish meal, you want to make sure that the fish meal is ethoxyquin free. Fish that is destined to be made into meal for animal feed is required by US Coast Guard regulations to be preserved with ethoxyquin. That means that when the dog food manufacturer buys it, it already contains the chemical.

Dog food manufacturers are only required by law to list the ingredients and preservatives that they, themselves, put into the food. Since they did not put ethoxyquin in the fish meal, they do not have to list ethoxyquin on the ingredients label; so, even though a food claims to be preserved naturally, it may still contain ethoxyquin!

If the label or the website does not specifically say that all the meat sources in the food were human grade, OR that their meats were from ethoxyquin-free sources, then you should be wary. Find a customer service number or e-mail address, and contact them and ask! If they simply tell you that their sources are proprietary, or that they do not use ethoxyquin in their foods, but will not actually say that their meats are ethoxyquin free, politely thank them for their time, let them know that they have helped you make the decision NOT to use their product, wish them good day, and hang up.

I know this seems like a lot, but if you want the best for your dog, you just arenít going to be giving it to him if the food you feed him is made using the 15 ingredients I named above. Again, there are a few of those ingredients that are okay as long as your dog is not sensitive to them (like flax, brewer's yeast, and wheat, for example), but do your best to pick a food without these 15 things in it, if you can. The four ingredients listings I gave you near the beginning of this post will help you when looking at and comparing labels in the store, because all four are low quality foods to avoid. Below are three ingredients listings from foods that I not only have used, but that I recommend to those wanting to switch to something better for their dog. I have included pictures to help you in the stores, and you can click on the name of each food to visit their website:

Taste of the Wild - TotW is manufactured by the Diamond company, like Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul and Premium Edge. This is their 'top of the line' food. There are three formulas, each of which are grain-free, and have several high quality meats in them. Just like all foods manufactured by Diamond, it does contain ethoxyquin in its fish meal, but if you want to feed a grain free food and are on a tight budget, Taste of the Wild might be worth looking into. This is the ingredients list for the 'High Prairie' formula.

Bison, venison, lamb meal, chicken meal, egg product, sweet potatoes, peas, potatoes, canola oil, roasted bison, roasted venison, natural flavor, tomato pomace, ocean fish meal, choline chloride, dried chicory root, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, yucca schidigera extract, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Saccharomyces cerevesiae fermentation solubles, dried Aspergillus oryzae fermentation extract, vitamin E supplement, iron proteinate, zinc proteinate, copper proteinate, ferrous sulfate, zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide, thiamine mononitrate (vitamin B1), manganese proteinate, manganous oxide, ascorbic acid, vitamin A supplement, biotin, calcium pantothenate, manganese sulfate, sodium selenite, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), vitamin B12 supplement, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin D supplement, folic acid.

Artemis - Their "Natural 6 Mix" food is very similar to Canidae. Please note that, although some of their foods DO contain a couple of ingredients on the 'avoid' list above, I still do recommend it because their meats are human grade, and the food does seem to be high quality. These are the ingredients in "Natural 6 Mix."

Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Lamb Meal, Oatmeal, Chicken fat (preserved with Vitamin E, C & Rosemary Extract). Dried Beet Pulp, Dried Eggs, Fish Meal, Natural Flavoring, Canola Oil, Flaxseed, Fresh Potatoes, Fresh Carrots, Fresh Peas, Whole Fresh Apples, Cranberries, Salt, Potassium, Chloride, Lecithin, Garlic, DL-Methionine, Vitamin A Acetate, D-Activated Animal Sterol (Source of Vitamin D-3) Vitamin E Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Choline Chloride, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Folic Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Biotin, Inositol, Dehydrated Kelp, Chelates of Zinc, Iron, Manganese, Copper and Cobalt, Potassium Iodate, Sodium Selenite, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Sage Extract, Aspergillus Oryzae Fermantation Solubles (Digestive Enzyme), Enterococcus Faecium and Lactobacillus Acidophilus (Probiotics).

Innova - Natura makes four different dog foods, all of which can be found by clicking on Innova, above. Below is just the ingredients listing for Innova. On the web site you can click on each ingredient for a description. NOTE: Natura was bought out by Proctor & Gamble, the makers of IAMS. This likely means that the quality of the Natura brands is going to decline, and be advised that they have up to 6 months to change the labels after making a change to the formulas. I will be following this acquisition closely, and unfortunately may have to remove Natura brands from my list of recommended foods.

Turkey, chicken, chicken meal, ground barley, ground brown rice, potatoes, natural flavors, ground white rice, chicken fat, herring, apples, carrots, cottage cheese, sunflower oil, alfalfa sprouts, egg, garlic, taurine, vitamins/minerals, Viable Naturally Occurring Microorganisms

For a list of other foods that I recommend, click

To go back to the price factor, because that's one of the things that most people just can't seem to get past when they start looking at premium dog foods, I want to tell you a little story.

I did the math once for a young man who was feeding Purina Beneful to his 60-pound golden retriever. He just could not believe that paying almost twice the amount he was currently paying per bag was going to equal out. "Prove it!" he said. So I did.

First, I asked him what he was paying for a bag of dog food. In order to calculate how much we were spending on dog food over the course of a year, I needed to know how long one bag of Beneful would last him, and how long one bag of Canidae would last me. He said that one bag of Beneful lasted about 4 1/2 weeks. One bag of Canidae lasted exactly 6 weeks, and I, too, was feeding a 60-pound dog (which made doing this comparison super easy!). Over the course of a year, our cost ended up being within just a few dollars of one another.

Even though he was paying less per bag for Purina Beneful, he was having to buy it 11 1/2 times a year. I was only having to buy Canidae 8 1/2 times a year. There wasn't that big a difference between his cost and my cost, but the difference in the quality of the two foods is vastly different. Canidae is made with human grade ingredients, meaning that the ingredients they use to make their dog food are the exact same things that we buy in the grocery store for ourselves, rather than being 'feed quality' ingredients. In addition, it did not contain by-products*, corn, wheat, soy, chemicals, added flavors or colors, grain fragments*, un-named source ingredients, salt, yeast or synthetic vitamin K, and it has never been involved in a recall. So this young man could have been feeding a premium food, but as it was, he was feeding junk food, essentially, for almost the same price!

I decided to take a look at prices the last time I was at the pet store, since I don't normally pay any attention to the prices of the lower quality foods. I was very surprised to see that many of the lower quality foods were nearly as expensive as the premium ones! Here's a short list of the foods that are available at the store I was in, and their respective prices, from cheapest to most expensive. The prices in bold all represent the price of a 40 pound bag of each food:

NOTE: I have updated the prices below to reflect pricing as of July 2008, since the prices for just about everything have gone up. Notice that the bag sizes of most of the foods has decreased, while the price has increased.

Gravy Train is $0.35 per pound. 40 pounds costs $13.98

Purina Dog Chow was $20.98 for 44.1lbs. That makes it $0.48 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $19.20

Pedigree is $0.52 per pound. 40 pounds costs $20.98

Kibbles n Bits was $18.98 for 35lbs. It is $0.54 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $21.60

Diamond is $0.55 per pound. 40 pounds costs $21.98

Purina Dog Chow Naturally Complete was $18.98 for 31.1lbs. It is $0.61 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $24.40

Diamond Naturals is $0.67 per pound. 40 pounds costs $26.99

Beneful was $25.98 for 35.2lbs. It is $0.74 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $29.60

Purina ONE was $28.98 for 37.5lbs. It is $0.77 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $30.80

Nutro Max was $27.99 for 35lbs. It is $0.80 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $32.00

Iams is $0.85 per pound. A 40 pound bag costs $33.98

Premium Edge was $29.97 for 35lbs. It is $0.86 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $34.40

Goodlife Recipe was $27.98 for 31.1lbs. It is $0.90 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $36.00

Nature's Recipe is $0.92 per pound. 40 pounds costs $36.99

Iams Healthy Naturals was $33.98 for 35lbs. It is $0.97 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $38.80

Nutro Natural Choice was $34.99 for 35lbs. It is $1.00 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $39.98

Science Diet is $1.00 per pound. 40 pounds costs $39.99

Purina ONE Natural Blend was $36.98 for 34lbs. It is $1.08 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $43.20

Chicken Soup was $37.98 for 35lbs. It is $1.09 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $43.60

Eagle Pack Holistic was $37.98 for 33lbs. It is $1.15 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $46.00

Canidae was $41.98 for 35lbs. It is $1.20 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $48.00 ($41.98 used to be the price of their 40 pound bag)

Royal Canin was $42.98 for 35lbs. It is $1.23 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $49.20

Merrick was $39.99 for 30lbs. It is $1.33 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $53.20

Solid Gold was $44.98 for 33lbs. It is $1.36 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $54.40

Nature's Variety Prairie was $41.98 for 30lbs. It is $1.40 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $56.00

Wellness was $43.98 for 30lbs. It is $1.47 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $58.80

Innova was $53.98 for 33lbs. It is $1.64 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $65.60

Nature's Variety Instinct (grain free) was $44.98 for 25.3lbs. It is $1.78 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $71.20

Solid Gold Barking at the Moon (grain free) was $58.98 for 33lbs. It is $1.79 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $71.60

Wellness CORE (grain free) was $46.98 for 26lbs. It is $1.81 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $72.40

EVO (grain free) was $52.98 for 28.6lbs. It is $1.85 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $74.00

Merrick Before Grain (grain free) was $46.80 for 25.3lbs. It is $1.85 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $74.00

Timberwolf Organics was $61.69 for 33lbs. It is $1.87 per pound. A 40 pound bag would cost $74.80

Yes, some of the premium brands are a little on the expensive side, and I will admit that I can't afford to feed several of them as a result of their prices. On the other hand, though, a 40 pound bag of Eagle Pack Holistic, for example, is going to last longer than a 40 pound bag of, say, Diamond or Science Diet, because you aren't going to be feeding quite as much of the Eagle Pack Holistic at each meal to maintain your dog's weight. So even though the price per pound might be a little more for the better foods, in the long run, you would end up paying about the same for the better food as you would for the cheaper-per-bag lower quality food. The grain free foods, especially, will last longer that foods that contain grains, because they are so 'concentrated.'

Just for fun, let's use this pricing from 2008, and see what kind of comparison we come up with between Beneful and Canidae, since it's been several years since I did the comparison for the young man with the Golden.

In 2008, Beneful cost $25.98 and Canidae cost $41.98. Canidae comes in a 44lb bag, but for this comparison, I'm going to use the smaller size of 35lbs. Beneful comes in a 35.2lb bag. I used the formulas from the chart located at The Dog Food Project web site this time, since it gives a more precise answer based upon the numbers given by the manufacturer. According to that chart, a 35lb bag of Canidae lasts 46.7 days. I would be buying Canidae about 7.8 times a year, making my yearly cost $328.72. A 35.2lb bag of Beneful lasts 38.1 days, which means 9.6 bags per year, and makes the yearly cost $249.80. The cost difference between Canidae and Beneful is $78.92 a year. The difference in quality is non-comparable.

At first thought, an extra $79-$80 a year for dog food may sound like a lot. But if you break it down, what's an extra $6.50 a month? Not to mention factoring in the cost of probable vet visits due to the multitude of cheap, low quality ingredients in Beneful. **wink**

If you would like me to do a specific comparison of two or more foods of your choosing, send me an e-mail and I will be happy to.

Of course, you might also consider the raw food diet. Given raw, even bones are safe Ė it is only when you cook them that they can become dangerous for dogs. Even raw chicken bones are okay, but you should never give your dog any bone unless you can supervise, just in case the dog tries to swallow a bone whole and chokes or something. Iíve never had it happen, but it is possible, especially with a dog that is not used to eating bones and doesn't understand that he needs to chew them. WolvesIf youíre interested in going completely raw, The Raw Dog Ranch is a good place to start, as is the Yahoo Rawfeeding List.

I am a proponent of a diet that does not contain grains, and is minimal in the fruits and veggies department, because if you look at the anatomy of the dog, it is no different than the anatomy of the wolf, from which dogs are descended. Yes, dogs and wolves can survive as scavengers, eating whatever they are able to eat, but their bodies do better on a meat & bone rich diet since that is what it is designed to consume.

There are pre-packaged raw diets being sold now, if you are interested in trying raw, but are uncomfortable trying to put your own diet together. They are rather expensive, but can help get you and your dog transitioned to and comfortable with an all-raw diet. I will include a short list of the ones that I am aware of below. You can click on the name to visit their web site:

Nature's Variety
Oma's Pride
Aunt Jeni's Homemade
Steve's Real Food
The Honest Kitchen
Raw Advantage
Primal Pet Foods
Paw Naturaw
Northwest Naturals
Granddad's Pet Foods
Pets By Nature

I hope this isnít too much information all at once. If you have any more questions, or if you come across a food in the store that you are unsure about, please donít hesitate to ask. You may e-mail me by clicking on my name at the end of this article. Iíll do my very best to answer any question you may have. I have been studying canine nutrition and dog foods for more than 5 years.

I also recommend that you take a look at This is a pretty good web site for people who aren't that good at reading labels. It places dog foods in 6 categories, with the lowest quality foods having a 1-star rating, and the highest quality foods having a 6-star rating. I do not agree with every rating on the site, but, for the most part, it's a great place to start.

Donít forget to introduce a new food gradually to avoid tummy upset!

I want to touch briefly on the subject of obesity in dogs. Nowadays, many pets are overweight, and even obese! How do you know if your dog is one of them? Click

Has this information been helpful to you? If so, consider making a small donation of any amount to the author's rescue organization, Hominy Valley German Shepherd Rescue. Any amount you would like to give would be very much appreciated.

© 2005-2009, Kristen Cabe

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