Don’t Be Fooled: Here is What Dog Food Should Contain

A white dog laying on the floor next to a bowl of dog food.

Walking up and down the aisles of the dog food section at pet stores can be exhausting. Everything from organic to holistic to raw and high-protein foods are staring you in the face. With such a large variety of foods and price points to choose from, how do you know what is best for your dog? They all claim to be healthy or superior to the other brands. Every bag touts the benefits of healthy ingredients inside, and if you were to just base your decision on the big lettering on the bag, you might assume what you are buying is a relatively healthy mid-priced dog food. Well that assumption is very likely wrong. If you really want to know if what you are purchasing is a good choice for your dog, it’s time to do a little more digging.

Here are a few simple rules to help determine what dog food should contain:

Just say not to carbs. A carbohydrate should never be the first ingredient. If the first item listed is something like ground whole corn or the healthy sounding rolled oats, it’s not a good food choice. Dogs are carnivores by nature and while incorporating vegetables and carbohydrates into their diet is ok, you’ll want the majority of their diet to be comprised of meat proteins.

Related: Barklyn Organics Is Starting a ‘Dog Food Revolution’

Related: 6 Tips on How to Care for Your Senior Dog

Be aware of possible cancer-causing substances. Your dog food should be preserved with mixed tocopherols, which is a vitamin E supplement. Low-quality dog foods use BHA as a preservation agent, a substance that reported to cause cancer over long periods of time.

Shun huge words. If you see ingredients with more syllables than you can count, it is sign you should probably pass. The more ingredients you can’t recognize, the worse it is. Just like human food, if the dog food has a number of unrecognizable chemical names, it is not natural and generally not that healthy for your dog.

Avoid the soy. Refrain from foods with high soy content. Soy is estrogenic and not good for a dog’s endocrine system.

Ingredients in quality dog good

The ingredients you find in healthy dog food varies from brand to brand, but just as with the easy tips above, there are certain things to look for when picking a high quality dog food. Pay special attention to the first five or six ingredients as they are the most abundant in that food. A really healthy ingredient listed as number 13 or 14 shouldn’t be that impressive to you as that means they really didn’t add much of it, they just wanted it on the label. There are some exceptions to that advice including vitamins and minerals that only require small amounts.

Focus on the first ingredients. The main protein should be first and an actual meat source like chicken, duck or lamb. The second ingredient should be another meat source, generally a clearly labeled meal such as lamb meal or duck meal. What you don’t want to see is something ambiguous like chicken meal by product or animal meal, as they are considered low quality and include a lot of useless or unhealthy ingredients. Keep in mind that raw meat — ingredient you are hoping to be first – is weighed before it becomes dehydrated (obviously, all dry dog food has dehydrated meat). Once it gets dried out, it will be much lighter. So, if you see grains in the number two or three position, your dog food will not be as high protein as you probably assumed.

Related: 7 Deadly Sins: The People Food You Should Never Feed Your Dog

Look at the fat. Check the fat and protein levels as well. As you can guess you’ll want a lower fat level for older or obese dogs, while younger, more active dogs can consume more fat.

Remember good carbs are still carbs. Avoid foods heavy in carbohydrates, even if they are quality-sounding carbs like organic barley or organic oats. Remember dogs are naturally carnivores and you want their food to reflect that.

Related: This Dog Can’t Catch a Break (Or Food)

Stock up on veggies and fruit. The next ingredient after meat should be a vegetable or fruit. Once again avoid starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes. They are just cheap fillers. The majority of a dogs diet should consist of protein, but fruits and vegetables like beet pulp, pea protein, blueberries, raspberries, kelp, herbs, pumpkin, flax seed and carrots are all nutritious additions for their fiber, antioxidant, or vitamin content.

Recognize that moisture matters. Good quality foods have high moisture content. And while canned food has higher moisture content, it isn’t great for dogs’ teeth. Dry dog food usually has a moisture content between 6 percent and 10 percent. So finding a food with 9 percent or 10 percent is best. People can also mix some high-quality canned food with the dry kibble to achieve a higher moisture content.

These are some simple tips that can help you pick out a quality pet food for your dog. If you follow these guidelines and don’t fall for all of the advertising hype you see on dog food bags, you can easily find a great quality food that doesn’t break the bank.

Related: Purina Gets Slapped With Lawsuit Over Claims Food Is Poisoning Dogs

Featured image via Flickr/BuzzFarmers

By Brett Dvoretz

A lifelong dog owner and former professional trainer, Brett has dealt with many dog related situations from training issues to learning to cope with the loss of a beloved pet. Recently he brought along his 130-pound mastiff to live with him in Cambodia and now spends his days freelance writing with his dog Ikelos, proofreading his every word for accuracy. For more, please visit his blog at

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