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Three years ago, I made what has become a life altering decision: to acquire a pet. I knew I wanted a dog because I grew up with dogs, preferably an American Cocker Spaniel. So I got a red cocker named Miles when he was six weeks old, and despite his broken leg at eight weeks old and his bout with ear infections all of his life thus far, he has truly become the center of attention in my house. From the dog toys scattered about the house to Miles’ attitude that he can do anything (almost anything), it is clear that my dog is spoiled rotten and very content being so. Being the pushover I am when it comes to animals, I am constantly looking for new pet products that might make life for my dog a little more enjoyable, if it is possible. The most important responsibility of any pet owner is to keep the animal healthy, and choosing the proper pet food is very important yet confusing to say the least. The best way to assure quality is to read the labels, and then ask questions.
The breeder I got Miles from fed him dry Pedigree Puppy brand dog food once he was of age to eat solid food, so I continued feeding him this brand for about a year or so, until he was becoming an adult dog. Seeing that he liked Pedigree, I began feeding him one of the adult dog formulas that Pedigree makes, which he liked as well. But the more I read about the “designer” pet foods such as Iams or Science Diet, and the more questions I asked the veterinarian on our occasional visits, I began to learn what ingredients make up a quality dog food. In my opinion, Pedigree was not the highest quality dog food on the market despite the persuasive commercials, and I was willing to pay more to ensure my dog had the best food available.
The vet assured me that every dog is different in its own needs from a food. Some dogs love Purina brand foods and live very healthy lives on them, while some dogs prefer the taste and texture of another brand. The vet also brought up the unpleasant topic of canine stool, which can be a determining factor in choosing the proper diet for Rover. I noticed that my dog had a bowel movement about seven or eight times a day, which I felt was too many considering the amount of food he ate. The doctor then enlightened me on what sets expensive dog foods apart from cheap ones, and how changing the dog’s brand of food can affect even the amount of stool.
Cheaper dog foods are full of corn meal or ground wheat, which act as fillers in the place of a high protein source such as meat. Dogs are traditionally carnivores, and primarily need a meat based diet to stay healthy and active. But when they are fed a dog food where the main ingredient is corn meal, they are not getting as much protein as they need and will tend to eat more of the food to satisfy their appetite. Many foods are also full of animal bi-products, which are not as protein rich as the real meat of the animal, and will cause the dog to eat larger quantities as well. A meat rich food is highly digestible, so more of the food is absorbed by the dog rather than expelled as waste. Simply put, more food equals more stool for the dog and more to clean up for you. All dog foods will contain a certain amount of corn meal or ground wheat, but the important point is that the food contains more meat than filler. Dogs also need a certain amount of fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals in a food to keep the skin and coat healthy, and most brands will fortify the food usually with vitamins E, A, and B-12.
The brands of food that my dog has enjoyed eating and that have kept him healthy, active, and produced significantly less stool are Nutro Max and Pro Plan. He has been eating Pro Plan exclusively for about six months, and I think we have both enjoyed the benefits of this high quality dog food. It is important when changing a dog’s food to gradually introduce the new brand by mixing it with the old. This will make it easier for the dog to digest the new food, and will not upset the dog’s stomach by acting as a completely new diet. If you are serious about your dog’s health, ask your veterinarian about a quality food or read the ingredients labels of some other foods to find a healthy, high protein diet for your dog. These products may be more expensive, but when it comes to my pet’s wellness, only the best will do.