Contrary to what they would have you believe based on their chewing habits, dogs do actually require particular dietary care. Whether it be due to their breed, age, or health status, or whether it be due to fussy tastes, there is always more to dog food than the packet with the healthiest looking dog on it. It’s also very important to consult with your vet about feeding your furry best friend, as every dog is different. Read on for a brief overview of some of the major pet food brands available in Australia, before going into further detail about how to choose the right food for your dog.
We love our dogs, which is why it’s no surprise that there’s an incredibly long list of different dog food brands available in Australia. Here, we cover the most prominent and widely available brands, but any brand’s exclusion from this list doesn’t indicate that it’s not worth looking in to.
Many brands are produced by the same company, so we’ve divided up the list by parent company. There’s quite a lot of diversity within each group, so each brand should be weighed up individually on its own terms
One of the biggest players in the pet food market, Purina manufactures a lot of different pet food brands. Below are the dog food brands manufactured by Purina:
Keeping things cheap and easy, Woolworth’s own brand offerings for your pooch are a simple choice of two dry food flavours (chicken & vegetable or beef & vegetable), and two large canned flavours (beef or lamb). You can check the full ingredients list online to see if it’s the right fit for your furry friend.
Your local Coles can offer some food types you might not find in every name-brand line – in addition to the expected dry food offerings, Coles covers tinned meals as well as chewy treats and even dog roll. There’s plenty of flavour variety among these wet food options, with a number of different casserole and loaf recipes. Buying dog food on a budget doesn’t have to be boring for your best bud!
Taking a simplicity-focussed approach, Applaws dog food is grain-free, and claims to use a minimum 50% animal protein in every product. Applaws is free from artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and promises to never use cheap and unnecessary fillers. The independent company produces a pretty diverse range of recipes, in single-serve tins and pouches, as well as dry food. Recipes range from simple chicken breast pieces, to more complex dishes such as chicken with salmon and kelp.
Started by a breeder to produce a pet food solution that uses only nutritionally beneficial ingredients, Black Hawk is part of the ‘real food movement’. The brand was founded in Australia and is locally made without the use of wheat, corn, soy, gluten, artificial preservatives, colours, and flavours, or unnecessary fillers. Uniquely, Black Hawk contains emu oil which provides omega 3, 6 and 9. The brand is claimed to help pets become happier, healthier, and grow shinier coats. The product range covers both puppy and adult dog food. Black Hawk can be purchased from pet retail stores.
While they’re best known for their chocolate (which is definitely not appropriate dog food), international corporation Mars owns a huge range of pet food brands. Some of the bigger names in dog food owned by Mars include the following:
Founded by a vet in New Jersey, USA, to help provide better nutrition to guide dogs suffering from severe kidney problems, Hills now is a major producer of specialised pet food for those suffering from injury or ailment. Hills started with its Prescription Diet product line, followed by the Science Diet brand and later on the Ideal Balance line.
Not all dog food is the same – there can be a drastic difference between different brands and product lines. Unfortunately it can be the case that cheaper is riskier, as it may use more cheap nutritionally deficit fillers or it may not be compliant with Australian standards. This can also happen at the top end of the price range, which is why it’s so important to read the label.
The Australian pet food industry is largely self-regulated. In 2011, industry representatives, the RSPCA and other relevant stakeholders developed the Australian Standard for the Manufacturing and Marketing of Pet Food (AS 5812-2011) which sets base standards for pet food nutrition, safety, and marketing. However, adherence to this standard is voluntary – check the packaging to see whether or not it states to be compliant with AS 5812-2011. Also, according to the RSPCA, the regulation of ‘pet meat’ products is seriously lacking.
One longstanding issue with pet food safety in Australia is the use of sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite, and potassium sulphite as preservatives. These can cause potentially fatal thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiencies in cats and dogs. AS 5812 includes a requirement that any pet food product containing any of these preservatives must contain sufficient thiamine, to prevent a deficiency.
How do I choose the best dog food?
Dogs have different dietary needs at different stages in their life – that’s why you’ll see different foods labelled for different kinds of dogs.
There are also specialised food products available for special needs dogs. If your dog has any chronic health issues, you should consult your vet about the appropriate diet to keep them healthy and happy.
The following ingredients should be avoided in dog food products:
Unlike with cats, ‘fillers’ in dog food aren’t automatically bad – in fact, they’re nutritionally important (depending of course on the ingredients). For example, corn and rice are good, but corn syrup and MSG are bad. It’s also important to note that product names can be misleading. A product ‘with chicken’, for example, may contain chicken fat but no actual chicken meat. Reading the ingredients list critically is important to make the best choice for your dog. One useful thing to remember is that ingredients must be listed in order of the proportion present in the product – so look for dogs foods with filler ingredients lower down on the list and real meat or other healthy ingredients listed first.
Wet food is commonly viewed as a treat, yet it’s not so well known exactly how good wet food is for dogs. In some circumstances wet food can actually be a greater source of nutrition for dogs. The most common approach is to provide a mix of both wet and dry dog food – keeping dry food as the staple, and feeding wet food for a special meal once or twice per week. The ideal balance between the two varies depending on your dog’s age, health status, and preferences. Consult your vet for specific advice.
The two biggest draws of dry dog food are price and convenience. Generally, dry dog food is cheaper than wet dog foods, which can mean more money in the budget to buy treats and toys. It’s also convenient because it stores well and can be more easily purchased in bulk. Unlike wet food, which spoils quickly after opening, dry food can be left out all day without compromising safety. It can also be used with a timed automatic feeder device, handy for dog parents who sometimes aren’t home for every meal. Dry food is also good for teeth, as the shapes are designed to help clean the teeth as they’re chewed up.
Sometimes dogs can get fussy. That’s where wet food can come in handy. Dogs that are unwell, ageing, or can’t smell very well may need a little extra help to get an appetite for dinner. Wet foods have a stronger smell (a very tasty smell to dogs) which can create a greater inducement to eat. It’s also easier to eat for dogs with teeth or jaw problems. In terms of nutrition, wet food can be a source of hydration for dogs that aren’t quite drinking enough water. It can also contain a higher proportion of animal protect and lower carbohydrate content.
However, wet food isn’t great for dogs prone to dental problems unless they’re given alternative dental care – such as cleaning those chompers yourself with a toothbrush. Wet food spoils very quickly once opened, is generally more expensive than dry food, and must be purchased in smaller quantities.
Dogs are actually omnivores, not carnivores – so it is possible for dogs to be vegetarian or vegan. That being said, as they have different dietary needs to humans, you should take particular care to make sure that you meet their nutritional needs. It can be tricky, and not all dogs will take to it.
The easiest way to feed your dog a plant-based diet is by purchasing a commercially produced vegetarian or vegan dog food. Be careful, however, that you choose a reputable brand that is vet-approved and compliant with nutrition standards. One example is Australian brand ‘Veganpet’, which meets AAFCO standards. You can also feed your dog food prepared yourself from vegetables – just make sure you choose suitably nutritious and safe veggies.
If your dog isn’t suited to a fully vegan diet, you may need to compromise by offering a mix of vegan and meat-based meals. At the end of the day, regardless of your moral concerns you’re responsible for ensuring the health and wellbeing of your precious pup.
While the supermarket may naturally be considered the go-to for feeding your precious pet, as it is for humans, you should consider beyond supermarket shelves. As with many products, supermarkets don’t necessarily stock the highest end or even the greatest range, although it is convenient to do your dog’s grocery shopping at the same time as the human grocery shopping.
Dog food can be purchased from pet supply stores, online retailers, and sometimes direct from the manufacturers themselves. It can be cheaper in the long term to buy bulk dog food online, particularly if you’re buying the higher end stuff. Just make sure that you’re buying a reputable brand – do your research. If you’re considering an unfamiliar brand, it’s well worth your time looking for reviews and pet care forums to see what other dog carers’ experience has been with the product. Your pup’s health and wellbeing is well worth your time.