Dog food can be a pretty complicated topic, and there is a longer article on this site that details HOW to choose the best dry dog food for your dog, so for more precise information, please refer to that article.
I personally believe that dogs do best on a home cooked or raw diet, but I understand that many people do not have time to feed their dog this way and still want to feed their dog the best diet they can. Dog food companies know this about dog owners and so they have come up with all sorts of gimmicks and advertising (Can you say Beneful?) to sway your pocketbook their way.
Let’s make your life easier, shall we? Here are a few rules of thumb that will help you choose a good quality dog food for your Weim!
0) Has the FDA’s investigation into the potential link between diet and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) freaked you out, and now you really don’t know what to feed? The issue is very complicated and is not only about grain free foods. Diet wise, there seems to be a relationship between taurine deficiency and DCM. Taurine is an amino acid that is in protein which can lead to heart problems in humans, cats and dogs. In the report, the FDA listed the brands named most frequently in DCM cases reported. Just because there are some grain free foods on the list does not mean that you should add grains to your dog’s diet. You should add better protein sources. The likely issue with the diets are that for whatever reason some dogs are not absorbing enough taurine in the diet-related DCM cases. Adding grain will not help in this case! (See this article from Tufts University, published in the AVMA: https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.253.11.1390)
1) Find a dog food that is manufactured in the US or Canada. You’ll find that this exercise eliminates a lot of brands immediately! Most boutique brands and small companies source ingredients locally. Some, like Fromm, also use their own facilities and kitchens, unlike many of the other big brands that are owned by global conglomerates that outsource.
2) Can you recognize the first five ingredients of your dog food as FOOD? (For instance, what kind of food is “by-product” or “natural flavor” ? If it isn’t FOOD, then it really shouldn’t be in the top five!)
3) Look for ingredients in this order: named meat, named meat or meat meal, grain or grain substitute (like potatoes), vitamins and minerals.
4) The first ingredient on the ingredient list should be a named meat. (“Chicken” or “beef” is named. “Meat” or “poultry” is not. We want specificity here, so “chicken” is better than “poultry” which is better than “animal.”)
5) “Meals” are okay but “by-products” are not.
6) No BHA, BHT or ethoxyquin!
7) It’s best if there is a date on the bag, whether an expiration date or best-by date. Dog food does go bad and can make your dog sick. Don’t buy food on sale when it is close to expiring! Dry dog food is usually stable for about 12 months or less if it’s a fish-based food.
BONUS POINTS – Brands that discloses a total nutrient analysis or an actual nutrient analysis tested by a lab on their website.
For healthy dogs, I recommend switching foods or even mixing foods to avoid nutritional imbalances and also to keep the digestive system robust. Rotate protein sources, switch formulas, and switch brands as well.