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Pet care accounts for about one percent of total household spending. This includes the purchase of a pet and the associated supplies, food, and medicine. The amount spent on food alone has been steadily increasing over the past decade; 2014 to 2015 noticed a jump from 37% to 44% of average household spending on pets. In the United States, dog food accounts for 71% of total pet food sales. Those figures are expected to increase as consumers become more educated and demand higher quality ingredients from more humane sources. Premium brands such as Taste of the Wild aim to produce an array of foods to meet all your pet's needs.

With so many dog food formulations on the market with natural flavors, it can be difficult to know exactly what you are purchasing. It's a good idea to learn what nutrients your dog needs so you can understand labels and discern which brand is most appropriate. You should know the difference between canned food and kibble so you can decide which form will work best for you. After you've decided on your brand and form it becomes important to change Fido's food without causing stomach problems.

Basics of Canine Nutrition

Dogs, like humans, benefit from a balanced diet of nutritious foods with natural flavors. They're omnivores that can use plant and animal sources of food. From this food, they acquire six major nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, water, vitamins, and minerals. Each nutrient has a specific function in that body.

  • Carbohydrates – Carbohydrates serve three major purposes: energy, fiber, and satiety (feeling full). They're broken down into glucose that is then used by the cells to make energy. Unused glucose then converts into fat and is stored for later use. Carbohydrates also contain fiber that helps pets feel full and keeps their circulatory and digestive systems functioning properly.
  • Fats – Dogs use fat as their primary energy source; it's broken down for energy before other nutrients. Fats also help with the absorption of some vitamins and are used to build cells and nerves.
  • Protein – It's well-known that protein is used to build muscle; but it's also used for enzymes, hormones, and antibodies. Insulin, a hormone used to control blood sugar, is made up of proteins. Likewise, so are enzymes such as amylase that breaks down starches. Antibodies that fight infection are also composed of proteins.
  • Water – Water is usually considered the most important nutrient because you can't live long without it and because it's instrumental in so many functions. It regulates body temperature, aids in digestion, transports nutrients and waste, and lubricates joints and delicate tissues.
  • Vitamins and Minerals – Vitamins and minerals are needed so that other reactions can take place. For example, hormones can't be built from proteins unless certain vitamins and minerals are also present. Generally, they're only needed in very small amounts.

Pets need a different ratio of each nutrient depending on their health condition, age, and activity level. The National Research Council (NRC) and the Merck Veterinary Manual published reports that detail the nutrient requirements of companion pets at various stages of life (puppies, adults, seniors, and maintenance).

Choosing the Right Dog Food

Choosing a good food can feel overwhelming because so many brands and formulas are available. Fortunately, the commercial pet food industry is safe and manufacturers have to follow strict protocols. Additionally, brands have undergone scientific testing to show that they contain safe ingredients. Still, it's important to understand how to read individual labels so you know exactly what you’re purchasing.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates most of the information found on pet food labels to make important facts easy to find and understand. The most visible parts of food packaging are the product’s name and ingredient list; both can quickly be used to determine what you're feeding your pet. Some of the AAFCO packaging guidelines are explained below.​

  • 95% Rule – This rule applies to products with names like Fancy Fixin's Lamb Dog Food, Doggo's Chicken Dog Food, or Pal's Beef and Potato Pupper Meal. Named ingredients must constitute at least 95% of the product by weight, not counting water for processing AND 70% of the total weight. In the case of Pal's, the weight of beef and potato would be combined.
  • 25% Rule – The rule applies to products with names such as Fido's Chicken Dinner or Doggo's Veggie Beef Entrée. These named ingredients must make up at least 10% of the total product by weight AND at least 25% of the product by weight, not including water added for processing.
  • “With” Rule – This rule applies to products like Super Spot Dog Food with Chicken or Pupper's Best Pet Food With Bison and Peas. Named ingredients must constitute 3% of the product. In cases like the Pupper's Best example each named ingredient would constitute 3%.

Kibble versus Canned

A common question is whether it's better to feed your dog canned or kibble. Nutritionally, they're pretty much the same so it really depends on your budget and preference.

Wet foods tend to have a stronger odor that appeals to sick or old pets that have a diminished sense of smell. Canned is also a good choice for pets with jaw problems or missing teeth.

Introducing Taste of the Wild

Taste of the Wild is a relatively new pet food choice. It’s a private, family-owned business created in 2007 by the Schell and Kampeter families, and is manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods, Inc.

Diamond is owned by the same family and has been involved in the feed industry since the 1970s when Schell and Kampeter, Inc. purchased a local livestock feed producer.

Their Product Line

Taste of the Wild offers a variety of dry and canned foods for adults and puppies. According to its website, Taste of the Wild goal is a “premium, complete, grain-free pet food based on your pet’s ancestral diet.”

Most of the formulas are issued simply as Taste of the Wild, though the company recently created the Prey line. Prey formulas are marketed as limited ingredient diets containing four ingredients or less.

Taste of the Wild advertises protein sources such as venison, quail, beef, and bison. All are certified hormone and antibiotic-free. Each recipe also includes probiotics for digestive health and tomato pomace as an antioxidant and fiber supplement.

Tomato pomace is a somewhat controversial ingredient. It's a mixture of crushed and dried skin, seeds, and pulp left over from the juice and ketchup industry. Proponents claim it’s a good source is fiber and antioxidants while opponents claim it's nothing more than a cheap filler.

Many Taste of the Wild recipes utilize meat meal products such as lamb meal and ocean fish meal. Such ingredients have been used in pet foods for decades but have recently come under scrutiny as consumers press companies to disclose the sources of their products.

It's impossible to know what parts of the animal have been included in these meat meals; often though it's a rendering of meats that were deemed unfit for human consumption. Some opponents claim that sick and diseased meats are processed into these meals, though that accusation has largely been disproved.​

In terms of nutrition, these meals do boost the protein content of the overall recipe. Unfortunately, it's not always a form of protein that can be easily used by the body. There are better sources of protein, but the meat meals are affordable.

Popular Products

High Prairie Canine Formula with Bison in Gravy

Like dry dog food and other product variants, the canned version of Taste of the Wild's High Prairie recipe is formulated for growth and maintenance including large-sized dogs making it suitable for puppy and adult dogs, though its calorie count is lower than the dry versions of this formula.

high prairie canine formula image

This recipe features three main protein sources: beef, lamb liver, and “dried egg product.” They're common reputable sources found in lots of dog foods. “Dried egg product” is just a way of saying dehydrated shell-free eggs; eggs are highly digestible but may be an allergen to some pets.​

Bison is included, but not as a major protein source. The recipe also includes venison, lamb, and ocean fish.

Carbohydrates in this recipe come mainly from potato starch and peas. These are easily digestible and provide essential vitamins as well as energy. Tomatoes, blueberries, and sweet potatoes are also added for flavor and antioxidants.

High Prairie Formula with Bison in Gravy is a good quality canned food. Owners report high satisfaction and would recommend it to others.

High Protein Natural Dry Dog Food – Pacific Stream with Smoked Salmon

Pacific Stream Canine Formula with Smoked Salmon is formulated for the normally active adult dog. This recipe features fish proteins and carbohydrate from potato.

Salmon and ocean fish meal are the leading ingredients. Salmon comes from whole meat; ocean fish meal is a concentrated form of protein derived from fish. Ocean fish meal doesn't specify which species of fish are present.

high protein natural dry dog food image

Sweet potatoes, potatoes, and peas appear as the primary carbohydrate sources. These are clean easily digestible nutrients known to cause few allergies. Additionally, lentils are added to the recipe. Lentils are a good source of fiber and several minerals.

The overall recipe is nutritionally sound and above-average quality. Owners report that it's easily accepted by pets and gives little to no digestive upset.

Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula with Venison & Garbanzo Beans

Appalachian Valley Small Breed Canine Formula with Venison & Garbanzo Beans is formulated for a normally active adult dog. Taste of the Wild tailored the recipe to small dogs by keeping the kibble size small.

appalachian valley small breed canine formula image

The Appalachian Valley recipe features more novel proteins and carbohydrates than some other Taste of the Wild recipes. Listed first on the ingredient list are venison, lamb meal, garbanzo beans, peas, and lentils. This is a good balance of plant and animal proteins plus beneficial fiber and minerals.

High Protein Natural Wet Canned Stew Dog Food – Southwest Canyon Canine Formula with Wild Boar

Southwest Canyon Canine with Wild Boar is suitable for all life stages so it can be used for puppies, lactating bitches, and adult dogs.

high protein natural wet canned stew dog food image

Its primary ingredients are beef, peas, garbanzo beans, lamb meal, and canola oil. For the most part, this recipe is a good mixture of plant and animal sources. The use of lamb meal increases the protein calculation but isn't necessarily easy to digest.

Nonetheless, owners report that they're pleased with this formula and would recommend it to others. Further, the recipe appears to cause little to no digestive upset such as loose stools and flatulence.

Changing From Other Brands

Once you've decided to change your dog’s food it's important to do it slowly, unless you're advised differently from your veterinarian. Gradually changing the food allows your dog to adjust to the new taste and consistency; it also helps the digestive system adjust to the change in nutrients. Your veterinarian may advise you to immediately change your pet's food in some cases of kidney or heart disease, as well as a number of other conditions.

Changing a dog’s food usually takes about 7 to 10 days, but dogs with sensitive stomachs could take as long as six weeks. The most important thing to remember is patience because every dog is different.

Following the steps below will help you safely transition to a new food:

  1. Measure how much of the old food you normally feed your dog.
  2. Replace ¼ of the amount with new food then mix the old and new foods together.
  3. Feed this mixture for a few days and watch out for signs of a stomach upset such as flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea. If your dog experiences these you may have to decrease the amount of new food in the mixture.
  4. If there are no problems then increase the amount of new food to half. The new mixture will be half old food and half new food. Remember to mix the foods so that your pet can't easily eat only one food.
  5. Feed your pet this mix for a few days to make sure there are no stomach issues.
  6. Change the food mixture to ¾ new food and ¼ old food.
  7. Feed this mixture for a few days. If your pet experiences no problems then begin feeding 100% of the new food.​