When it comes to breeding, we all want the best for our dogs. This can start with day to day care, what vitamins we give our dogs and how they are housed. But for many people, it comes down to what are the best dog foods for breeding dogs.
If you have wondered about that, I want to say, first and foremost, that every breeder you talk to will disagree with the answer. Everyone has their favorite dog foods and I am not alone. I have tried a bunch of different ones...okay, more than a bunch...and there are some that I feel are excellent, while others are okay.
I will look at the best dog foods I recommend for breeding dogs. In addition, I'll take you through some does and don'ts of choosing a dog food and also what to look for in your dog food for your breeding dogs.
The Dos and Don'ts of Selecting the Best Dog Foods
Okay, before we look at the best dog foods for breeding dogs, let's go over a few does and don't that you will want to consider when you are selecting your dog food for breeding. These are good tips, even when you aren't looking for the best dog foods for your kennel.
Do get Advice from a Mentor or Vet
If you are getting into breeding, I strongly recommend getting a mentor in your breed of choice. This really helps you in many ways and in what food to choose.
Before you choose your dog food, talk to your mentor about the best dog foods for your breed. If you don't have a mentor, talk to your vet, but be aware that many vets have partnerships with dog food companies and may try to push one brand over another.
Do Stay Informed
This is a big do for me because information is constantly updating and science changes how we feed our dogs constantly. For instance, for several years, grain-free was a common suggestion for breeders. It had less fillers and it was often suggested that dogs don't need grains.
Unfortunately, new studies have seen a link between grain-free foods and heart problems in dogs. A study out of the University of California found that dogs that ate grain-free foods had an increase risk of congenital heart failure.
In addition to learning about important studies as outlined, staying informed keeps you up-to-date on dog food recalls and other issues that may arise with your brand. And this helps you as a breeder in two ways.
First, you will be able to keep your breeding dogs at their best health by knowing what is going on with their foods and second, you can keep your puppy buyers in the know, which builds your reputation as a breeder.
Do Consider Your Breed
While there are a lot of different dog foods that cater to all breeds during all life stages, it isn't always the best dog food for your kennel. Instead, you should really look at your breed and consider their dietary needs for their energy level, size, age, breeding status and overall health.
Although you don't need a breed specific dog food, you may need different nutritional needs. For instance, a protein level of 25 to 27% is often recommended for Mastiffs, with at least needing 18% but that nutritional level can be different depending on your breed.
In addition, your pregnant bitch will need at least 22% protein in her food while she is pregnant and nursing.
Don't Bounce Around
While you may want to try out the different foods, I recommend that you don't. Instead, read up on the best dog foods for your breeding kennel and eliminate on your research.
A great place to start for research is fellow breeders in your breed, going back to having a mentor, but you can also learn of recalls and other information from feeding groups and the internet.
Until then, keep your dogs on their regular food. Bouncing around from food to food can cause a lot of gastrointestinal problems for your dogs.
Don't Choose Because of Perks
There are a lot of brands out there that offer perks to breeders and it can be very tempting to choose a brand because of it. These perks can be anything from discounts to products and while it can help with cost, it shouldn't be the first thing you check.
Instead, look at the nutrition and quality of the dog food and then ask about the perks. A good quality dog food stands on its own merit but it is nice to get some savings.
Don't Worry About Price
When you are breeding, many think about the overall price of dog food would be one of the top concerns but I always tell people to not worry about food. Yes, food can be quite expensive when you are feeding a larger number of dogs, however, by feeding a better quality of food, you will see a number of things with your dogs, including:
- Less food consumption: Dogs who have a high quality dog food don't need to eat as much.
- Less output: Better the food, the more it breaks down in your dog's body, which means that it won't produce as much waste.
- Better health: Better food, better health as your dog is getting all his nutritional needs from the dog food. This often means fewer health problems that are food related, which equates to lower vet bills.
Finally, if you are breeding and submitting your earnings, you do get to claim dog food as a kennel expense, (note: this varies depending on where you leave, as does the percentage you can claim) so that helps reduce the cost of dog food completely.
The Nutrition Behind the Best Dog Foods
Now that we have looked at the does and don'ts of choosing the best dog foods for your kennel, let's get down to some of the science. Understanding the nutrition is very important to ensure that you are selecting the best dog food.
So what do you want with dog food nutrition? The answer is different depending on your dog so I'm not going to break down nutritional values. Understanding the nutritional values and how they apply to your specific breed is something that you should research and/or discuss with your mentor or vet.
However, I will say that you want to ensure five nutritional elements are in the food. These are:
When you are choosing a dog food, think about whether it offers options for breeding adults, puppies and pregnant dams. Some dog foods are for all life stages but, in general, pregnant females need more nutrition and should go onto a puppy food for part of her pregnancy.
At the very least, she should have a protein level of 22% and the calories should be 1600 kcal per pound of food.
Puppies should have similar nutritional values and I always recommend starting puppies off with a high quality puppy food.
So now that we've looked at nutrition, let's look at the top 5 best dog foods for breeders.
#1 Wellness Complete Health
This is a great dog food that has received a lot of praise from dog food experts, vets and breeders alike. The food has a well balanced formula that promotes health and well-being in any dog, including breeding dogs.
There are a number of formulas that breeders can choose from; 14 to be exact, so you are sure to find a formula that meets your breed's needs.
In addition to the high quality ingerdients and balanced formula, the food is great for breeds with sensitive stomachs. In fact, it is often recommended for breeds that tend to have stomach issues with food.
Like the other dog foods in our list, meat is the main ingredient and it doesn't have a lot of fillers. It isn't grain free but avoids a lot of the garbage grains that aren't digested by dogs.
Having a range of formulas allows you to have the same food for all of the life stages in your kennel. High quality puppy food for your puppies and pregnant bitches, high quality for your adults and high quality for your senior dogs that you've retired from the breeding program.
Cost wise, Wellness Complete Health is a mid-range for cost. You can get a 30lb bag of dog food for $60. Depending on the number of dogs you have in your breeding program, their size and the number of litters, the cost is often affordable. In fact, you could be looking at only a few dollars per meal, per dog.
#2 Iams ProActive Health
When it comes to a quality dog food, most breeders don't think of the dog foods that are usually cheaper. However, Iams ProActive Health is a very good dog food that has earned a ton of great reviews from breeders and pet owners alike.
One of the biggest pros to this dog food is that it has a variety of choices. Similar to number one, ProActive Health has 14 different dog foods. That means that you are covered for all your breeding needs from weaning puppies to your retired seniors. They even have a high protein food that is excellent for your pregnant and nursing bitches.
The food uses high quality ingredients and proteins and meat is the top ingredient. It has a great balance of nutrients and many find that the dogs digest the food easily, which means less waste from undigested fillers.
With cost, the dog food is very inexpensive and is less than $40 for a 30lb bag. It is probably one of the cheapest foods out there that has a good quality to meet the needs of your breeding dogs. You will see their overall health improving and good health is often seen in litter size and health, which is important as a breeder.
Depending on your breed, the cost can mean only a few dollars a day to feed your dogs, sometimes even less if you breed smaller dogs and take full advantage of the savings, which you can get from retailers (usually it is a free bag after you purchase 11 or 12 bags). So if you are looking at budget as well as food quality, this is a great place to start.
Although it may not be a very well known dog food, the Farmer's Dog is gaining a lot of popularity with breeders, especially smaller kennels that don't have a large overhead. To start, it is a fresh, dog food that is delivered right to your kennel, which makes it convenient and one less chore you need to do.
The food itself is a high quality dog food that is all natural and really good for dogs of all different sizes and energy levels. This makes it excellent to fit into the needs of each individual dog in your breeding program.
You can get a food for your puppies, a different formula for your pregnant and nursing bitches and another formula for your competing adults.
It is not a RAW meal but is a home-cooked dog food with human grade ingredients. It is delivered to your door on a weekly basis.
It is available in three flavors: beef, pork and turkey, and has tons of healthy ingredients like fish oil, carrots and more, which will only increase the overall health and beauty of your dogs, another bonus if you are competing in shows.
Overall, cost is a bit up there. On average, you are looking at about 9 dollars a day per 55lb dog, but the health benefits of a high quality dog food, cooked to meet your dog's individual needs, is worth the investment.
#4 Diamond's Natural
While Diamond's is not in the premium dog food category, it is actually a very good dog food that is above average when we look at quality. This means that it does very well at giving your breeding dogs the nutrition they need to help maintain their health and overall well being.
So why is it on the list if it isn't in the premium dog food category, it's because of the price of the dog food. Diamond is very cost effective, which is excellent for breeding kennels with a lot of breeding dogs.
In addition, the dog food has 13 different formulas and even has wet formulas and Diamond Naturals treats, which means you can meet a wide range of needs for your dogs.
With cost, you are looking at about $60 for a 40lb bag, which is another bonus. Their large sized bags are larger than most dog foods that we have listed here, meaning you don't have to purchase as often as you do with other dog foods.
That they have a blend for puppies, as well as blends for all-life stages, makes it an excellent dog food to raise your breeding dogs on.
#5 Acana Wholesome Grains (Red Meat Recipe)
When I was making this list, I was debating on whether or not to choose Orijen or Acana in it. Both are made by the same company and they don't outsource so they are very consistent when it comes to the quality and ingredients in the food.
Both are excellent dog food and are ideal for breeding dogs, however, both were grain-free and with the studies on heart problems due to grain-free options, I decided that Acana was the better choice simply because they now have a grain-inclusive option.
And it is considered one of the best foods for lactating bitches, which is perfect for when you have a nursing litter. The reason for this is that Acana has a high level of protein in it. In addition, the company believes in using only human-grade ingredients, which means better ingredients for your breeding dogs. This also means better health for them overall.
Acana does have a range of products, but if you are looking at just the grain-inclusive, they are a bit limited in what they offer. They have 6 formulas, based on the protein, which is the first ingredient in their dog foods and all of them are all-life stages.
Which means that you can choose one type of dog food for all of the dogs in your breeding kennel from puppies to retired seniors.
For price, Acana is a bit on the more expensive side and is usually about $75 for a 25lb bag. For breeds that need more food, this can become a bit pricey as your breeding kennel grows. However, it is a good choice for your lactating females if you want to use it for just them.
In the end, the dog food you decide to use in your kennel is really up to you. Everyone has had success and problems with every type of dog food out there. Many breeders and breed clubs choose Royal Canin, others love Purina Pro Plan. In fact, some kennel clubs have discounts with Purina Pro Plan for breeders who are members in their kennel club, such as the CKC.
In the end, what you choose is really a matter of what you are looking for. Will it be cost? Will it be variety of formulas? Will it be for the overall health effects? And will it even be a commercial dog food.
There are many breeders who choose a RAW diet that they build on their own with the use of human grade ingredients. Really, there is no wrong answer, however, better nutrition means healthier dogs, which often translates into larger litters and healthier puppies.
In the end, when you focus on the needs of your dogs, you will definitely pick the best dog food for them.