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?
Step 3: Research the brand.Once you've done your homework, let the experts step in. I like DogFoodAdvisor.com. 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.
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.