If you have tried to adopt a dog from us you are probably thinking to yourselves, why are these nutty Camp Cocker people so concerned about what food I use?
- "I buy food at the grocery store that has pretty pictures on the bag and the label says it is healthy"
- "I've been feeding my dogs the same food for years, why change something that seems to be working?"
- "I buy food from the vet and it is prescription so it must be the best!"
- "My dog has a medical condition and can only eat a certain kind of food from the vet"
- My dog is overweight and eats the food that is specifically designed for weight loss"
Those are all valid points! In fact, before we learned how to read ingredients, we were all feeding our dogs the very same way. But here is the truth: if you don't know how to read ingredients and what to look for and what to avoid, then you are at the mercy of dog food manufacturers who are competing for your business through fancy packaging with pretty pictures of healthy ingredients flying all over the front of the bag, heart-warming tv commercials, ad campaigns to promote how healthy or organic their food is, and even labeling the food as "prescription" or "diet".
Forget the brand name of the food, ignore any marketing or packaging claims, it is all about the ingredients. Ingredients are EVERYTHING, all else means nothing!
INGREDIENTS ARE THE ONLY THING THAT YOU SHOULD BE BASING YOUR FOOD CHOICES ON.
Oops, sorry to be so loud about this, but it is really THAT important. People often want to just know "what brand should I feed" and the problem with just recommending a brand is that ingredients can change. The only way to find the food that is healthy for your cocker is to learn to read the ingredients.
There are a few ingredients that can lead to allergic reactions, We found an informative link here
The first three ingredients on the label is equal to eighty percent of what you are feeding your dog. What you want to look for in the first three ingredients is a WHOLE source of protein. For example, Lamb, Chicken, Turkey, Beef (and not "meal" or "by-products" added to the protein name). It is okay if a label says Lamb, Lamb meal - because at least it is one source of protein (the Lamb) followed by the diluted source of protein (the meal). But if there is no single source of pure protein on the label, don't buy it. Another thing you want to avoid is any generic labeling of protein sources; you want to look for Chicken, not "Poultry". And never ever feed your dog anything that has the words"animal protein" in it or "animal by-products". You can google this to read the horrors of what kinds of "animals" this protein source can be. Some cockers are allergic to chicken, so if you find that you are having some allergy problems with your cocker, try switching to a protein source that is less likely to be contributing, such as Venison or Buffalo (Taste of the Wild has these two protein sources).
Now, what do you want to avoid in the first three to five ingredients of the food label? Anything with corn. No corn, no corn meal, no corn by-products, no corn, no way, no how. Corn is very cheap and a common filler used by a lot of commercial dog food manufacturers. In fact, there is a "prescription" vet diet marketed as a weight loss food that is nearly all corn. The thing is, corn is not easy to digest, it makes the dogs poop a lot but they are not getting any source of nutrition from a corn based diet. What begins to happen is they will not only gain weight but they will lose energy and vitality, their coats will get dull and dry and they will definitely be more prone to skin problems than dogs on a grain-free food. Some dogs are allergic to white rice, some to brown rice, some to oats, some to barley, some to other grains. Every dog is different and what we recommend is to just stay away from grains entirely and buy a grain-free food.
What are some good grain-free foods that have a good source of protein? Depending on where you live, you are going to have to do a bit of research on a local level. You will not likely find a good quality food like this in a major pet store chain. Look for a smaller mom and pop pet store or look online to see if you can order it and have it shipped to you. Some brands that we like to feed the Camp Cocker dogs are the Low Fat Evo (for chubby cockers) or Taste of the Wild (this has yummy Buffalo and Venison meat). Instead of adding canned food for flavoring, try adding some steamed broccoli or carrots or some low-fat cottage cheese. Stir it up, your dog will think they are being served a five-star meal! If you steam up some broccoli or carrots, add just a pinch of minced garlic (this helps keep the fleas away) and see your dogs flip out over how delicious their meals are! And this is especially helpful with dogs on a weight loss plan; you can reduce their dry food but replace it with lots of veggies to fill them up and then they don't feel hungry.
First step is to go to DogFoodProject.com. Camp Cocker has no affiliation with them whatsoever, this is simply the most comprehensive resource online for learning how to read ingredients. You can research different brands of dog food here and it will tell you the ingredients. But basically, what you want to learn from this website is how to read ingredients. Once you have that knowledge in your head, then you are prepared to go out there and start shopping for the right food.