Our animals are essentially our fur babies. And, if you're anything like me, you treat your pups like you would a child — which often means scouring the pet food aisle for the best kibble out there.
It can be hard to sift through what is and isn't beneficial for your four-legged friend. We spoke with Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinarian at New York's Animal Medical Center, to find out what really matters when it comes to pet nutrition.
"First things first, look for the AAFCO label," said Hohenhaus. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials, which gives recommendations for what your dog or cat should be eating. "They determine what's in a balanced diet for pets, so that label means that food meets those standards."
Hohenhaus also recommends feeding your dog food that correlates with their life stage. "Don't give puppy food to your adult dog," she said.
But despite all that, Hohenhaus said the ultimate factor in choosing a food should be how well your pet does on it. "And by that I mean, are they throwing the food up or refusing to eat it? Are they maintaining their weight with a shiny coat?"
THE BEST EVERYDAY DOG FOOD
- Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Dog Food, $16, Chewy
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Dog Food
"Not every food is right for every pet," said Hohenhaus. "Shop around and try a few different options until your pet starts to do well on one."
Reduce Stress. Dr. Becker notes, “The key is to reduce anxiety triggers.” If you have a vet visit, “don’t get the carrier out the night before,” give them a few days to get prepared. If they’re nervous alone or travelling, play soothing music, or draw the shades. The less stimulus pets receive from the outside world, the less anxiety they’ll have about events outside their control.
THE BEST CANNED DOG FOOD
- Taste of the Wild Canned Dog Food, $27, Chewy
Taste of the Wild Canned Dog Food
"Grain-free is the new fad lately," said Hohenhaus. "I know it sounds really good to say that dogs evolved from wolves so we should be feeding our dogs what their ancestors ate, but that's not healthy for them at all." Dogs need carbs, but Hohenhaus recommends supplementing your pet's usual diet with protein-packed foods like this one by Taste of the Wild.
THE BEST DOG FOOD FOR LARGE DOGS
- Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Dog Food, $20, Chewy
Royal Canin Size Health Nutrition Dog Food
"Most animals won't be on the same food their entire life, so adjust their food based off their needs," Hohenhaus said.
THE BEST DOG FOOD FOR SMALL DOGS
- Hill's Science Diet Adult Small & Toy Breed Dog Food, $31, Chewy
Hill's Science Diet Adult Small & Toy Breed Dog Food
"There are also a lot of dog food brands that offer breed-specific foods that are tailored for that specific dog and its needs," Hohenhaus noted.
THE BEST DOG FOOD FOR SENSITIVE STOMACHS
- Hill's Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Recipe, $14, Chewy
Don’t Let Your Dog Ride in the Back of Your Truck Unrestrained. An estimated 100,000 dogs die each year from riding in pickup beds each year, and that doesn’t take into account all of the injuries seen each year. Dogs in pickup beds are also at risk of being hit with debris that can cause injuries.
Hill's Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Recipe
"On an everyday type of situation for healthy, normal dogs, there's no nutritional 'something' to avoid," Hohenhaus said. "People want for their pets what they want for themselves, but that's not always the best option."