My 8 year old dog, Kerry, a mini-poodle, was suddenly acting strangely. He was coughing and bringing up bile or having dry heaves. I know that bringing up bile wasn't unusual but he had been doing this for a more than a few days so I became concerned. I called the vet and described what was happening. The receptionist told me to bring him in. When the vet examined Kerry, she felt no internal problems and said it was probably an upset stomach and she asked me what I was feeding him. I got two dogs and I feed them the cheapest stuff I can afford. I really couldn't afford the vet visit or the medicine she gave me, either. My budget was real tight with both myself and my husband out of work. Originally, we both had jobs when we got our second dog.
Since I figured one dog food was the same as another, we started feeding them a generic store dry food. I was wrong! The vet suggested that even though my dogs were sustained on this diet for several months, Kerry, my older dog, could have developed a sensitive stomach. Kerry now needed easily digestible food.
She sold me four 13 oz. cans of Hills IE, at $2.00 a can! This was bland food to calm Kerry's stomach. The vet told me to dump the old food I had at home and then mix the last can in with a good, quality dry food. She also gave me two prescriptions to help Kerry's digestion. Unfortunately, they were in pill form, which was not always easy to shove down a dog's throat. One thing she emphasized was that an expensive bag of good food was worth much more than the many trips to the vet plus the cost of medicine. Also, she warned me, that a digestive problem could become chronic. Of course, I didn't want that to happen to Kerry. And that office visit alone, including the food and medicine was $71.50!
I left the vet's office and headed out to the grocery store. With my cell phone in hand, I called the vet and named the products that were on the shelf. She told me the best dry food to get was Purina One Chicken with Rice but the store didn't have it. We went to another store and we were just going to purchase it when I saw Purina One for Sensitive Systems. I called the vet back and she said that one was even better.
Ever since I've retired Kerry's old food, his digestive problems have vanished. He didn't even need the rest of the medicine. Both Kerry and Angel, my 2 1/2 year old toy poodle, love the food.
To help you find a good, quality dry food, look at some of these dog food label regulations: Product name, The guaranteed analysis, Ingredients, Feeding instructions, The AAFCO and Other label claims.
Product name can influence you what to buy from the start - but does it live up to it's description?
The guaranteed analysis is the best way to know what you are getting. It shows the minimum or maximum percentage of ingredients in the food. For example: Crude Protein (25% min) means there is at least 25% protein in the food. The other three required to be listed on pet food labels are: Crude Fiber (% max) Crude Fat (% max) and Moisture (% max).
Ingredients legally have to be listed by weight, the highest being the first. It is important to find out what that 25% of Crude Protein consists of. Dogs, being carnivorous, need meat, fish, poultry - protein, then veggies and grains - carbs. This means fresh meat, fish and poultry should be on top of the list. But beware, after the meat is cooked, fat and water are removed and 70-75% of the nutritional value is lost. The meat would now be equivalent to being the 4th or 5th ingredient on the list. Other good first ingredients for sensitive stomachs are bone meal, fish meal and meat meal. Meal is cooked fresh meat, fish and poultry after the water and fat have been removed. Never have generic meat meal as an ingredient which I will explain later.
As previously stated, dogs also need a mix of vegetables and grain. The most digestible grains are rice, oats, oat meal, barley and other natural grains. They should be listed as the second ingredients, third, etc. Watch out for any protein fillers like soy, corn or wheat - They are the most indigestible ingredients!
For any good dog food, there should be no by-products (leftovers unfit for human consumption like beaks, feet and feathers), fillers and especially generic meat meal which consists of the 4-D's: diseased, dying, disabled or dead on the way to the slaughter house.
Feeding instructions need to take into account the dog's age, body type (overweight?), health, history, performance and your dog's preference when buying easily digestible food, especially if you are giving your dog new food. Once you find a quality food that your dog likes, don't switch because that alone will upset their digestive systems.
The AAFCO(Association Of American Feed Control Officials) is a statement of nutritional adequacy and feeding guidelines. This may tell you the food is formulated (manufactured to AAFCO Nutritional Guidelines) but not tested. Or it may state, tested which means the food was tested on animals for proper growth. You want the food to be tested. This statement is even better: on the Purina One Sensitive Systems bag, it states, AAFCO procedures substantiate that Purina One Sensitive Systems Provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of adult dogs.
Other label claims Purina One Sensitive Systems provides the addition of vitamins and Omega -3's. The label states, no supplement necessary - they provide 100% complete and balanced nutrition for adult dogs and not to add any extra supplements, unless specified by a veterinarian. I would look for this in a product. However, watch words such as premium, super premium, ultra premium or gourmet because these products are not required to contain superior ingredients to regular dog food. Natural means no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Artificial colors (unless put in for human eye-ball taste) and flavors are usually not put into the food. However, preservatives are necessary so the food doesn't spoil. Organic means in what manner plants and animals were grown and raised.
To sum it up, the first ingredients in a good dry dog food for the sensitive stomach is meat, fish, poultry (weighed after the fat and water is removed), or bone, fish and meat meal. NEVER generic meat meal! Then secondly, look for grains like rice, oats, oat meal, barley and other natural ingredients - NEVER soy, corn or wheat as fillers! Don't pay attention only to the product name. Compare the the guaranteed analysis to the ingredients. Understand the feeding instructions and be wary of some other label claims. Don't buy food with by-products and verify the AAFCO tells you the food is tested; or better yet, it states that the product provides complete and balanced nutrition for maintenance of the dog.
Even though Purina One Sensitive Systems works great for my dogs and my budget ($20 for an 18 lb. bag that lasts for approximately 3 months), I am not their spokesperson. Though I primarily used Purina One Sensitive Systems to illustrate some examples, there are plenty of other quality dog foods out there. Dry or Wet. Besides looking in the grocery stores, visit pet stores or health stores. Another good place to look is on-line. Do a search on dog food for sensitive stomachs and dog treats for sensitive stomachs. Below are two sites that lists dog foods for sensitive stomachs and compares prices. Happy shopping and your dog will love you for it!