The Importance of High-Quality Dog Food

Since most dogs seem to enjoy eating just about anything they can get their mouths on, some people think all dog food equal. As long as they’re being fed enough food and getting some exercise, they should be fine! After all, stray dogs survive on nothing but scraps and trash, right? Unfortunately, this is far from true. Feeding your dog the cheaper, low-quality brands such a Beneful and Kibbles n’ Bits is basically the equivalent of feeding your child candy and chips for every meal of the day. Sure, it will make them full and happy for a few minutes, but they will be lacking major nutrients which will cause severe health issues in the long run. That dog eating McDonalds leftovers on the street might be surviving, but they won’t be happy and healthy for long. So, before you go out and buy your next bag of Science Diet, read up on the following tips and concerns.

This sad dog is not happy with his cheap bowl of food.

Foods to Avoid

The ingredients of your dog’s food are the main thing you should be looking at while purchasing a new bag. In their post entitled  Best Dog Food Reviews, notes that some ingredients in cheap, low quality dog food provide little to no nutrients, and they can even make the food “unsafe and unhealthy.” Some of the worst ingredients include the terms “meat” or “meat-meal”. also explains that “in California, manufacturers have given them the appetizing name of ‘dry rendered tankage.’ So why avoid them? It’s almost impossible to tell what’s being rendered: It can be roadkill, zoo animals, and sometimes even spoiled meat from the grocery store that’s still wrapped in plastic.”

If your dog’s food is full of artificial colors like this, that is yet another sign of danger.

Other ingredients can also be hazardous to your dog’s health. Ingredients like corn, wheat, onions, and garlic should be avoided at all costs. provided a handy little infographic explaining some ingredients that should be avoided, and their healthier alternatives.

Finally, also explains that, “Digestive problems, including bloat and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), are symptomatic of poor ingredients that don’t contain enough whole, unprocessed foods. Food allergies can also lead to digestive issues — many of the experts we reached out to have seen evidence that dogs are sensitive to wheat and corn, both popular fillers.” While not every dog will have these issues with low quality dog food, all of the combined possible side effects should be enough to cause any dog owner to reconsider their choices.

Healthier Options

First, you must decide what type of food you’d like to feed your dog. While dry dog food is typically considered the best option all the way around, some dogs require a different option such as wet food, dehydrated food, raw food, or homemade food. If you have a senior dog, they will probably require a softer food than a younger dog because they may have more sensitive teeth, or they may have lost teeth or chewing power throughout the years.

This older gal might need a little bit of help with some softer food options.

If you have a relatively healthy, young to middle aged dog, they will probably be okay with dry food, perhaps topped with some canned food as an extra treat. Always keep an eye out for any signs of allergies that your dog could be having toward the food, especially if you make a change in their diet. For example, my Staffordshire Terrier mix is extremely allergic to any type of grain and potatoes. She also has many environmental allergies, but changing her food to a high-quality, grain-free and potato-free diet made a huge change. For more information about dog allergies, read my article My Dog Has Allergies: Now What?

In order to find the very best foods, used a “funnel” to sort out the brands that don’t pass their test. They started by removing the products that don’t have any kind of meat listed as the first ingredient. Then they removed products that contain grain, wheat, or flour, then they removed the ones with beet pulp or sugar. They also removed products that contained “by-products or sauces.” Finally, they “reviewed brands for recalls, ingredient sources, history, and customer satisfaction” and they “reviewed the remaining formulas based on the best ratio of protein, fat, and carbs, as well as the source of protein.”

“I smell good food!”

After going through this rigorous process, they found a total of 29 brands that fit their strict protocols. The top 13 brands are Orijen, ACANA, Earthborn, Ziwipeak, Eagle Peak, Fromm, Addiction New Zealand, The Honest Kitchen, AvoDerm, Horizon Legacy, and Pinnacle. Of these brands, our local pet food store, Better Life Natural Pet Foods carries Earthborn, Fromm, The Honest Kitchen, AvoDerm, and Pinnacle along with a variety of other high quality dry, canned, dehydrated, and raw dog food brands.

The Right Option for You

Because there are still a large number of brands that you can choose from, you’ll get to have the chance to pick the right brand for you and your dog. Price is of course one of the first things you’ll have to consider when looking at a higher quality dog food brand. explains, “We understand that the price points of our top-rated choices may be higher than the average unit price in the industry, and might be simply too costly for many consumers. Still, our goal was to surface other key considerations — like ingredients and history of handling recalls — when deciding which formula is best for your dog. Moving forward, we also hope to provide more clarity around affordability, as well.” If you feed your dog good food from the start, the price of your vet bills will go down drastically throughout the years. Paying more for good food now means a healthier, happier life for your pup down the line.

If these pups start eating good food now, they’ll live long, happy lives.

All this being said, I find it important to note that, even though I feed my dog a very high-quality dog food called Zignature, it is not mentioned among the list of top brands. It may not have met some of’s strict standards, or it simply may not have been among the 115 brands they looked at. This leads me to believe that, even though this is a very well-comprised and highly detailed list, there might be some exceptions. I do still believe that Zignature is a very good brand, so if you would like information about a particular dog food, I would suggest talking to our local professionals at Better Life Natural Pet Foods. provided an excellent starting point for those who are reconsidering their dog food brand, but there is always more to learn. Feeding your dog a high-quality, healthy food should be as important as feeding your kids fruits and veggies, so I believe that thirty minutes of research to find the best food brand available for your pal is worth its weight in gold.

For additional insight into healthier food options for your dog, check out my previous article, Feeding Dogs Human Food: How to Change Your Ways.

Jessica Smith, Managing Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her two goldfish, Carrot Cake and Winchester. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at

Budgie Buddies: The Tales of Budgerigar, the Common Parakeet- Part II

Re-Cap of Part I

Budgerigars, more commonly known as parakeets or budgies, are very popular and a highly recommended beginner pet bird. Due to their small size, easy care, and vibrant personalities, these birds have become well known in many pet stores. As a very small parrot, budgies have a noticeable intelligence as well as being interesting and easy to train. We went over the origins, how to pick your new budgie, the colors available, health, age, and gender in Part I of this series. In Part II we will discuss essentials, diet, cleaning, and toys! Read Part I before reading this segment to gain the most knowledge possible!

An example of a “fancy budgie” from Part I!


Budgies need an area that can be described as “theirs.” A horizontally barred cage with different levels of perches is the number one item you will absolutely need. Investing early in a large, decent cage will definitely be worth it in the long run. The cage and perches will most likely be the most expensive items in the beginning, but it is better to purchase one nice cage early on as a bird owner instead of continually purchasing lower quality cages every few years.

The appropriate cage size for a budgie should be considered to be about 24 inches long by 24 inches wide and a minimum of 24 inches high. This size is adequate for two budgies and can be expanded if more birds will be sharing the space. The most important feature in the cage are the horizontal bars. The maximum space between bars that is safe for budgies is 1/2 an inch apart. Any more space than this and the birds would possibly be able to escape or manage to become stuck between the bars which will definitely cause great trauma, stress, and harm to the bird.

An example of a fully assembled budgie habitat.

Budgies often love to climb up the sides of the cage, and they would love plenty of smooth or natural perches (not made of sand paper or similar coarse textures which may injure their feet) to climb and explore vertically. Because of the exploratory curiosity of these birds, it is best to avoid cages with a lot of decoration and architectural variation because a little bird toe may easily become caught in places one does not expect. Keep it basic and the birds will become the happiest and most beautiful feature in their cage!

Price ranges for the birds themselves run from $15 to $25 per bird from pet stores, and breeders may establish various prices depending on each bird’s unique characteristics. There are some varieties of budgie such as the crested budgerigars, a popular variant breed that may change the actual price of the bird. Crested budgies are often seen at bird shows along with other breeds.

A crested budgie with its unique crown of feathers.


The best way to keep your bird healthy is to feed them a diet similar to what they would find in the wild and to mimic some of their natural foraging habits. Components to a Budgerigar diet include seed, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and occasional treats. The seed can be a store bought pre-made blend made specifically for budgies or small parrots. It is best to look for blends that contain canary seed (this is the actual name of a seed, not specifically related to the bird of the same name), millet, and just a small amount of oats. It is very important to keep an eye on the fat content of your bird’s overall diet. Foods such as oats and sunflower seeds have a certain percentile of fat which, depending on the birds exercise levels, can lead to pudgy budgie buddies. These fattier foods can be given as occasional treats.

There are also a wide variety of fresh food items that are safe and fun to offer to your budgies as a major portion of their diets, or as treats. Some favorites that I personally find fascinating are broccoli, zucchini, fennel seed, hard-boiled eggs, apples, and even lemons. Budgies can be a little hesitant when trying new foods, but when offered consistently and mixed with some known foods, your bird will have a variety of treats to enjoy. When offering food, don’t always place it in a food bowl. Provide food in a way to promote activity and encourage mental exercise. A good example is to place spray millet in the top or side of the cage to promote acrobatic acts of the bird while they stretch, hang, and cling in order to reach and enjoy the food.

Enjoying a healthy treat in a fun way.


As with most pets, aspects of maintenance need to become routine. Some items, like food dishes and water bowls, need to be cleaned and sanitized daily while others, such as the entire cage and perches may only need monthly or weekly cleaning depending on how many birds share the space. Items that should be cleaned daily include dishes, cage liners, bird baths, and areas surrounding the cage (birds like to be messy and throw seed hulls and other debris outside the cage area). When doing these daily cleaning tasks, it is best to look to see if there are any changes in the bird’s habits such as normal waste, amount of food eaten, and the condition and cleanliness of toys. Things that need to be cleaned weekly or monthly include the cage and the perches themselves. Allow a few hours for this task because you will need to disassemble the cage and remove all toys and accessories in order to do a thorough scrubbing of bars and perches with animal friendly disinfectants that are still strong enough to prevent bacteria.

During that intensive cleaning process, it is a good time to allow your budgie to have its daily out-of-cage exercise. Budgies are nomadic birds and need time outside of their confined space. Whether you choose to let your budgie’s wings stay long or would prefer to have their wings clipped (consult and discuss with your vet about wing clipping procedures), budgies will need time outside to explore and play in a safe environment where you can easily supervise them. Constructing a fun enrichment area (which can include a jungle gym with lots of toys that are easy to interchange) provides a stimulating out-of-cage experience for your bird.

A fun play area constructed for time outside the cage and easy to adapt and interchange.


When picking out toys for your budgie, a variety will keep your bird physically and mentally active. Changing the toys around often also prevents birds from becoming bored. Factors to consider when picking out toys are color, texture, safe material, interactivity, and how exciting they are. As you get to know your bird(s), you will find out what types of toys are their favorites. Warning: some toys may cause noise and may want to be limited to daytime play only. For example, your budgie may really love ringing and jingling bells. Noises appropriate during the day may be disturbing to the rest of the household at night! It is also possible to incorporate treats with their toys, like a challenge or a test, to stimulate foraging habits and exercise.

A budgie with a Ferris wheel toy that is colorful, spins, dangles, and jingles.


Budgerigars are amazing and fun little avian buddies filled with just as much personality as the colors of their feathers indicate. Very intelligent and fun to be with, budgies are excellent little parrots to have as a companion either as a first-time bird owner or a veteran bird lover.

Ashley Gurnea, our Avian Editor, is a certified bird feeding specialist at Wild Birds Unlimited. A graduate from New Mexico State University, Ashley earned her bachelor degree in the field of Animal Science. She completed an internship at an exotic animal park, working with animals ranging from camels to porcupines and a variety of birds such as parrots and cockatoos. This love and curiosity of aviary has led her to her current position at Wild Birds Unlimited in Las Cruces where she remains up to date with local wild feeder birds. Growing up in a home where animals have always been present, Ashley is now a self-proclaimed “Corgi Countess” due to her love and adoration for her tricolor Pembroke welsh corgi, Colin.  Bring up anything corgi or bird related in a conversation and Ashley will be happy to share her many photos. Feel free to ask her about pet birds, and visit Wild Birds Unlimited for questions on wild birds! Ashley can be reached at