With so many different dog foods on the market today, it can be hard to find the right food for your dog. Everyone seems to have a different opinion about what the best dog food is and how you should feed dog. Rather than saying that one food is the best food out there, I follow strict guidelines of what I look for in food for my huskies. Several different brands and types of food can match these guidelines, so it gives you several options of what to get.
1. Protein and Fat content
Siberian Huskies are very active and high energy dogs, but they can still become overweight if you do not feed them correctly or do not exercise them enough. To help keep my huskies at a good weight and have the appropriate nutrients in their diet, I look for a protein level over 30% and a fat level of at least under 20%, preferably under 18%, in dry dog food. This does not apply to all breeds of dogs. This is specifically geared towards high energy working breeds. However, if you were running your Siberian Husky on sled team, you would want a higher fat percentage since they would be burning it off. Most pet Siberian Huskies do not run over 10 miles or get over 2 hours of exercise though. I like for my Sibes to get around an hour of physical exercise a day, more if possible. You can find the protein and fat percentages of your dog food under the guaranteed analysis on the bag. If you are looking at canned or raw food, these percentages will be different because both of those foods have high water contents. High water content is a good thing since your dog will be getting more moisture in their diet, which helps with digestion and helps prevent bloat. When comparing raw and canned to kibble, you have to figure out what the protein and fat is without the moisture. This is where some math comes in. You first subtract the moisture percentage from 100. So, if your moisture is 60%, 100 minus 60 is 40. Then you take the protein or fat percentage and divide by the number you just found (so, using the previous example, it would be protein/40 or fat/40) then multiply it by 100 to turn that number into a percentage. You will then have the protein percentage based on dry matter and can accurately compare dog foods. If you don’t want to do all this math, typically raw food is the way to go. Raw tend to be higher protein and lower fat. In the case of the sled dog above, you could add more fat or feed a meat that is naturally higher in fat, like duck.
2. The meat ingredients
I like for the first three ingredients of my dry dog food to be some sort of meat and for it to always be a named meat. I avoid anything that does not state what animal the meat is coming from. Nobody wants to eat mystery meat, and when it comes to feeding your Siberian Husky the right way, mystery meat is not the way to go. Ingredients like Animal Meal, Blood Meal, Bone Meal, Animal By-Product, etc should always be avoided. However, “meal” is fine if the type of animal is listed, such as Turkey Meal or Lamb Meal. Meal is simply the meat with the moisture removed and ground down. By-products, on the other hand, should be avoided. By-product is basically the parts and meat that is left over after all the meat for human consumption has been removed. In other words, its the stuff that we wouldn’t want to eat, such as feathers, organs, feet, fur, heads, etc. I do not have a certain type of meat that I prefer to feed my Sibes. I like to mix up for them and give them a different flavor with every bag. If I had to pick some of my favorites, I’d pick Game Birds (quail, duck, pheasant), Salmon, Beef, and Lamb.
3. No artificial ingredients
Artificial colors are added to make the dog food bright colors, such as red, yellow, and green, that make humans feel that the food is healthier because it looks like the colors of fresh vegetables and meats. It is just a marketing scheme. Your dog does not care if his kibble is green or brown. However, many artificial colors and dyes are listed as possible carcinogens (cancer causing agents) or can create issues with your dog’s immune system.
Artificial preservatives are commonly used in lower quality dog foods. However, many people do not recognize them on the ingredient list because they do not know what they are. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), tert-butyl hydroquinone (TBHQ), propyl gallate, and ethoxyquin are some of the most commonly used artificial preservatives used. Artificial preservatives can have a negative impact on your dog’s liver and BHA and BHT have both been linked to causing cancer in lab animals. These two preservatives are banned in many countries, including all of the European Union, but are allowed in the US in both human and dog food.
When talking about artificial ingredients in particular, I often hear people say that they have fed their dogs x brand for years and that their dogs have all been fine. My opinion is that you do not know what could have been had you been feeding your dog a healthier option that did not put such strain on your dog’s liver or had a chance of causing tumors or cancer. A dog that lived 12 years, could live 15 and be active and healthy for longer. Even a dog that lived 18 years, may have been physically healthier during their senior years. My senior Siberian Husky, Gracie, will be 11 this year. I used to feed her a food with artificial ingredients before I knew all of this information. My mom switched her dogs to something better and I started using that food too when she was about 4 or 5 years old. Even just feeding her better the last 6 years, I see a big difference between her and other Siberian Huskies her age. Gracie did not come from a great breeder that health tested their dogs or had great show dog or anything. She has genetic epilepsy. Genetics are not on her side. However, because of her healthy diet she looks and acts like Siberian Huskies three years younger. I had her bloodwork done recently at our vet and he said if he did not know her age, he would think her results were of Siberian Husky much younger than her. Her joints are healthy and her teeth are white.
4. No corn, wheat, or soy
I avoid any dog food with these three ingredients. Dogs thrive off meat protein and fat. You may look at the protein on a dog food bag and it seems good, but if that protein is coming from vegetables, it is not necessarily good. Soy ingredients often boost the protein level of the food and is cheaper than meat. Some dog foods will add in soy ingredients because of this. Wheat is one of the most common allergies for dogs and can cause symptoms such as hot spots, ear infections, and itchy dry skin. Corn is also a common allergy (my Echo is allergic to corn), but it is mostly used a source of carbs and vegetable protein. Dogs do need carbs and corn is a source of carbs, however dogs do not digest corn very well, which can lead to stomach troubles and put them at risk of bloat. This is especially important if your dog is over 50 pounds, lives in a warmer climate, or eats quickly, as both of these things also add to the risk of bloat.
The four above points are my absolute requirements when picking out dog food for my huskies. However, I do have a few other things that I prefer in dog food. While corn, wheat, and soy are an absolute no for me, I do prefer grain free over grain inclusive. However, if I did get a grain inclusive food, I would prefer oats, brown rice, and barley over other grains. Typically foods that are grain free have more peas and potatoes, which not all dogs do well with. Based on this, my ideal food for my dog is either raw or homemade. Grains, peas and potatoes are not necessary for a dog to have a balanced diet, but kibble needs them for carbs and to bind the food together. An advantage to kibble is the price and convenience. Raw can be pricier and takes up room in the freezer. I have gotten a second refrigerator just for the dogs for whenever I do have raw food. As I have mentioned in previous reviews of raw dog food, raw nutrients are healthier and easier for your dog to absorb than cooked nutrients in kibble. I would say my last preference in dog food is small batch made kibble over large batch. This means that the kibble itself was cooked and created in smaller groups rather than a bunch of kibble all at once. This means that the quality can be monitored more closely and any defects or issues are easier to detect.
I would encourage you on your journey to find the right food for your Siberian Husky to use this list and knowledge to compare different brands of kibble on the market. I always tell people that there is not one perfect kibble that works for every single dog ever. Different dogs have different needs.
UPDATE 9/5/2019: I just wanted to add a little blurb concerning the new FDA updates since I originally posted this. I still recommend avoiding peas and potatoes like I mentioned under “my preferences” above. Siberian Huskies are not a breed prone to the heart issues in the study, however peas and potatoes are not needed in their diet. I still believe raw or homemade to be the best option, but it is not something every owner can do. Talk to your vet and find a food that works for you and your dog.
Do you have any other questions about what to feed your Siberian Husky or want to know about a specific food? Leave me a comment below! Be sure to visit our reviews page and check out some of the dog food reviews I have done in the past.
Thanks for reading,
Katie, Gracie, Echo, and Yoshi
Are you new to owning a Siberian Husky or thinking about getting one? Check out my post on Advice from Husky Owners!