Monday, April 4, 2016

Changing dog food brands? Do these 4 things first

Liam the pug waiting for a person to put food in his bowl
For Liam the pug, meal time is the best time of day. And I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about what goes into that little dog food bowl of his. That effort must show, as I often get email messages from readers with questions about dog food brands and flavors. Should they choose this dog food manufacturer? Or this one? Or this one?

I do my part to answer, and I find that I end up dispensing the same advice each time. I thought it might be helpful to have those ideas all in one spot. Don't you think?

So, if you were to write to me and ask about switching dog food brands, here are the four things I'd tell you to do before you put anything new in your pup's bowl.

Step 1: Examine your dog food budget. 

It's sad but true: Dog food can be remarkably expensive. That is especially true if you have a large-breed dog. My two, coming in at less than 30 pounds combined, can eat the most expensive food on the market without eating me out of house and home. But if I had a 120-pound Great Dane, my options might be a little more limited.

I believe in purchasing at the top of your budgeting power. And that means I often advocate for expensive dog foods sold at specialty stores. But I've seen far too many cats and dogs roll into my local animal shelter due to budget concerns. And the news is filled with stories of communities hit hard by layoffs and downsizing.

I want animals to stay in their homes. And if that means you need to buy a food that's a touch less expensive in order to make rent, I think you should do that. Whatever you can afford that lets you feed your pets AND keep your home is the right option, in my mind.

Step 2: Visit your local dog food shop. 

With your budget firmly in mind, it's time to visit your local shop and do some browsing. Check out the brands on offer and do some comparisons. Pay attention to:
  • The ingredients: Is the first item meat? 
  • The bite size: Is it appropriate for your pet's mouth? (That's especially true for those of us with little pets. We can't handle raw foods with bones or kibble with huge chunks.) 
  • The amount to feed: How much does the manufacturer say you should give with each meal?
  • The comprehensibility: How many ingredients do you struggle to pronounce?
Smaller, high-end shops often have clerks that can tell you about different types of food you're considering. Take advantage of that expertise! Ask questions about the food's manufacturer, and find out how well it sells in your community. If you feel a little bold, ask for a sample of the food. Many times, you'll walk away with a little can or a little bag of the stuff to try on your pet. If not, check out the smallest meal size available. Is there a tiny bag you can try? Or can you get single cans?

Step 3: Research the brand.

Once you've done your homework, let the experts step in. I like This site lists a ton of information about dog foods sold in the marketplace, and the team even keeps track of things like recall alerts. Head over, type in the manufacturer name and the pet food name, and you'll be amazed at what you find out.

Liam the pug and a dog cookie

Step 4: Let your dog sample the food you're considering.

A well-crafted food will be palatable to your dog, and it should go down smooth. Liam and Sinead eat all sorts of different food in an average week, because I believe in giving them some food variety. Plus, I like to sample new foods with them. But, there have been times when a food I tried came with some nasty side effects, like gassy stomachs or drooling mouths from nausea. I'd be furious if I planned to feed something exclusively and I found out on Day 2 that it wouldn't work for my dogs. It's better to do a trial first, long before you make a commitment.

If you feed your dogs 2 or 3 times per day, replace one meal with the sample of food you're considering. And then watch for the results. After a day or two of replacements, you should have a good idea of how well this will work for your dog. 

So those are my tips! Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment and let me know. And keep those email messages coming! I love hearing from you guys directly.


  1. Very useful post. Pet food should be selected according to the need and health status of your pet. Our pet food is unique in that case that it is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, contains no harmful products and suitable for all pets.