Take a good long look at your dog. No, really… for just a few seconds, lock eyes with your furry pal.
Now, who smiled first?
Owning a dog can instantly put a smile on any pet owner's face. After all, they’re more than your pet. They’re your best friend, faithful defender, and loyal companion.
They have this superpower to comfort you without having to say a word. They’re never judgy, they never lie, and they will be faithfully yours until the last beat of their little heart.
With such undeserving devotion, as pet owners we want nothing more than to have our canine friends live forever.
In reality, dogs don’t live nearly as long as we do.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t do everything in our power to stack the deck in their favor…
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, feeding your dog the right “appropriate food” is one of the top four requirements in their Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership.
Which means choosing premium, healthy dog foods not only maintains proper balance for your furry pal’s overall health, but these foods have distinct health advantages for helping them live longer, happier lives.
That said… What is the best dog food for a longer life?
To answer that, we first need to look at…
Proper dog nutrition
Scientists and veterinarians have been studying dog nutrition and digestion for decades. What they’ve discovered is that our canine friends need several different kinds of nutrients to survive.
In a nutshell, these nutrients include:
- Amino acids from high-quality proteins
- Fatty acids
- Healthy carbohydrates
- And of course, water
Research suggests that protein should make up 10% - 50% of your dog's diet. But because our canine friends are omnivorous animals, they don’t need to eat strictly meat to achieve their protein intake (though they’d likely choose meat over a plant-based diet, if given the choice).
That said, it’s important to remember that each dog is unique, and their nutritional requirements will vary depending on their breed, size, age, and other biological factors.
Checking the nutrition panel on the back of your dog's food is a great start to choosing the best food for your canine friend. But there are a few things you should know before we go any further…
FDA and dog food
While more and more pet food companies are making the right improvements to create a balanced diet that helps to extend our dogs’ lifespans, not all dog foods are created equal.
In fact, even the most popular and veterinarian-approved dog foods have been recalled by the Food and Drug Administration.
And to make matters more confusing, the way in which a can or bag of dog food label reads has a lot to do with what's actually in the food itself.
Let us explain…
According to the FDA, there are a few basic rules that standardize the naming process of dog foods:
- The 95% rule
- The 25% rule
- The “With” rule
- The “Flavor” rule
Here’s what these mean…
The 95% rule means that the named ingredient (what's written on the front of the label) must be at least 95% of the total product.
For example: If a dog food is called “Turkey for dogs”, then at least 95% of its ingredients must actually come from turkey.
It’s the same for dog foods that have two animal ingredients listed on the label, such as “Chicken and Liver Dog Food”. In this case, the two named ingredients must make up 95% of the total weight, with the predominant named ingredient listed first.
The other 5% is mostly made up of vitamins and minerals, though some companies may use it for other ingredients.
The 25% rule, also known as the “Dinner” rule, is when the named ingredient falls below 95%.
In this case, the dog food product must include a descriptive term, like “Dinner”, “Formula”, “Platter”, “Nuggets”, or “Entree” on the front of the label. It also means that the named ingredient, or ingredients, must comprise at least 25% of the total product.
The issue here is that since the named ingredient, like “Lamb Formula for Dogs”, only requires one fourth of the volume to be comprised of lamb. So in effect, the main ingredient may not actually be lamb at all, but a less nutritive ingredient like corn.
The “With” rule, also known as the 3% rule, dramatically changes what is actually in your dog food.
For example: Do you see the difference between “Beef Dog Food” and “Dog Food with Beef”?
Without knowing this rule, it’s easy to assume they’re the same. But the truth is, the “Dog Food with Beef” is only required to have 3% of the named ingredient, beef. Whereas, “Beef Dog Food” actually contains 95% of the named ingredient. Huge difference!
The “Flavor” rule doesn’t require a specific percentage.
Instead, a product labeled “Savory Beef Flavor” doesn’t actually have to have any measurable amount of beef. Instead, it just needs to contain something that can trace to the “Beef Flavoring”.
This also means that the word “Flavor” should appear on the bag in the same font size, style, and color of the word “Beef”.
Believe it or not, these rules are important for all pet owners to know. Not only do they help inform you about what’s actually in your dog's food, but they illustrate how some dog food companies can be a bit deceitful.
The good news is, the pet food industry is highly regulated. And without these rules, we may never know what’s actually in our dog's food.
So rather than asking, “Which dog food helps dogs live longer?”
We need to ask…
What is the healthiest dog food?
Proper dog nutrition is achieved through whole foods and high quality sources of protein.
This means the healthiest dog foods will NOT include ingredients like:
- Corn –– Turns directly into sugar in a dog's body
- Wheat –– Considered a top food dog allergy
- Soy –– Known to cause endocrine disorders
- Melamine –– A type of plastic that contains nitrogen
- Food dyes or corn syrup –– High glycemic index, adds no nutritional value
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) –– A flavor enhancer that adds no nutritional value
- Sodium Hexametaphosphate –– May cause adverse effects
- Propylene Glycol –– Artificial additive
- Carrageenan –– Can cause inflammation and toxicity
- BHA, BHT –– Artificial preservatives
- Ethoxyquin — Artificial preservative, also utilized as a pesticide
Other ingredients that raise a few eyebrows are meat byproducts, or “Meat Meal”. This is where manufacturers will render mammal tissues like blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach, and rumen contents into their dog food. What’s worse, manufacturers don’t have to disclose the other mammals they might use in their “meat meal”.
Truth be told, meat meal does contain protein, but manufacturers will often use diseased animals in their rendering process.
However, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, “The rendering process is designed to destroy disease-causing bacteria, leaving an ingredient high in protein that, while unappetizing to people, appeals to the carnivore's palate.”
Nevertheless, it’s terrifying to think that your dog may be eating what was once a sick cow.
So is there really a dog food that makes dogs live longer and heather?
How to help your dog live longer
If you’re anything like us, you may be wondering: Is there really a best dog food on the market?
The truth is, the “Best Dog Food” is a relative phrase.
We know, we were bummed too… until we realized, like humans, each dog is unique and requires certain nutrients to fit their biological needs.
The key here is to look for dog foods that don’t contain the unnecessary, unhealthy ingredients listed above—like fillers, preservatives, flavor enhancers, and so forth.
The best dog foods will be almost entirely made up of high quality meats, whole fruits, and vegetables, along with vitamins and minerals.
Consult with your veterinarian to see if your dog has specific dietary needs or deficiencies. While there are guidelines we need to follow to ensure our canine friends are getting the proper nutrition they need to survive, some dogs may need a little more fat, or a little more vitamins and minerals than others.
Also, try speaking with someone who works at a specialty boutique pet store. These folks are usually very passionate about animal health, and are quite knowledgeable about the different brands they offer.
It all boils down to finding the healthiest dog food or the most nutritious dog food that offers your pet a proper and balanced diet.
That said, here is a list of ways you can help your dog live longer:
- Provide good, clean water
- Avoid putting chemicals on your dog (e.g. toxic grooming products, unnecessary flea and tick topicals, etc.)
- Avoid antibiotics (unless they’re absolutely necessary)
- Practice good dog dental hygiene
- Maintain your dog’s weight (keep them lean with daily exercise)
- Don’t over-vaccinate
- Provide joint support (e.g. glucosamine, Omega fatty acids, high-quality CBD oil, etc.)
But the most important way you can keep your furry pal around is through a clean and healthy diet.
After reading this article, we have total confidence that you are now fully equipped to venture out to your nearest pet store and find the “Best Dog Food” that fits your sweet canine friend's nutritional needs.
Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions. We’d love to hear from you!