5 Best way to choose a Healthy Dog Food: A Buyer’s Guide

Last Updated on March 7, 2023 by Woody Pet

Always check the label and the ingredients of the dog food of your choice. Learn how to choose dog food by knowing which components are beneficial for your dog and which ones can prove to be harmful! 

How to Choose Dog Food

how to choose dog food
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When picking out the best dog food, there are many other factors to take into account aside from just the flavor. Although taste is one of the deciding elements in dog food, just like for us, it’s still secondary to other aspects such as their age, size, and their specific physical needs such as having sensitive stomachs. 

To gauge whether or not dog food is worth your money and would be essential for your dog’s health, the first and most important thing you want to do is check the ingredients. Just like in any food, its components can either make or break the entire dish no matter how good it may seem at first glance. Both good and bad ingredients are often overlooked. Below is the list of ingredients that you should look out for! 

Best Ingredients in Dog Food

No. 1 Meat

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The first thing you should look out for in good dog food is meat. Make sure it says “meat” and not “meat meal” though! The difference between the two is that the former refers to animal muscle tissue which contains 60-75% water, making it more effective as a source of protein and essential amino acids. Meat meal, on the other hand, is just composed of moisture and fat. 

When the most abundant ingredient, or the “first ingredient,” of dog food is real meat, you’ll find that it is a good choice. Animal protein is one important part of complete and balanced nutrition, along with plant sources. Dogs need 22 different amino acids that can only come from meat proteins, the best of which come from fresh, raw meats. 

No. 2 Additional fresh ingredients

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Plant sources such as vegetables and fruits also pose plenty of benefits for your dog. For example, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are great sources of fiber, whereas berries, bananas, apples, and pears are great sources of antioxidants. Some of these also help with urinary tract infections as well as your dog’s dental hygiene by eliminating particular bacteria. These are just some of the accessible plant-based sources that you can easily integrate into your dog’s diet. 

No. 3 Essential Fatty Acids

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Dogs cannot produce these essential fatty acids which makes it all the more important that you include this component in their diet. They’re necessary for the standard progression of growth and functioning of every system and organ, as well as the production of prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that are important to many processes. Essential fatty acids are categorized into two groups: Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-3s can make drastic improvements to your dog’s skin and coat, improve their cardiovascular health, fight inflammatory diseases, and more!

A lack of essential fatty acids poses a variety of health problems, some of which include heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Stay vigilant, though! Although many dog food manufacturers include essential fatty acids in their recipes and formulas, they may not be in sufficient amounts, enough to make a difference to their health and diet.

No. 4 Carbohydrates

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Over the years, there have been discussions and debates on whether or not carbohydrates are good for your dog’s diet. Depending on the type of dog food, carbohydrates play a different role in each. Sources of carbohydrates come from all grains, fruits, and vegetables. 

Commercial Dog Food

All commercial dog food contains carbohydrates in one way or another. These are mostly used to add longer shelf life to dry foods while also being inexpensive as an ingredient. However, they also have disadvantages for your dogs. Carbohydrates make your dog’s stools bigger and more pungent. Plus, they also offer less nutritional value. When you’re shopping for commercial dog food, as much as possible, choose the one with the lowest levels of carbohydrates. 

Home Cooked Diets

Even when you customize your dog food, carbohydrates can still be integrated into them as they are a source of fiber. When using plant-based sources, always cook them as dogs are incapable of digesting vegetables or grains that aren’t entirely cooked or pureed. Dogs are not capable of breaking down carbohydrates or digesting them properly because of the structure of their digestive tracts. 

Ingredients in Dog Food You Should Avoid

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Similarly, some ingredients pose harmful effects on your dogs should these be added to their diet. Although there aren’t as many components to avoid as compared to the ones you should look out for, it’s still just as important to take mental note of, especially when shopping for dog food. 

Artificial preservatives

Many artificial preservatives cause more harm than good – their intended purpose is outweighed by the disadvantages it poses. Some chemicals used include the following:

Ethoxyquin causes damage to your dog’s liver as studies have proven. Although small doses of this artificial preservative do not pose a health risk to your dogs, cumulative exposure to such can lead to serious complications. 

Propylene Glycol is an artificial preservative that dogs are not able to digest. Along with the serious digestive issues it brings, studies have also shown that it can cause nervous system damage with continuous exposure.

BHA/BHT have both been connected to the possibility or the contraction of cancer by the WHO or World Health Organization. It can also worsen food intolerances and allergies as dogs cannot digest this artificial preservative as well.
TBHQ has been shown to cause stomach cancer and damage to cellular DNA. Overexposure to this artificial preservative can also poison your dog. 

Sodium Metabisulphite triggers severe allergic reactions in dogs. Such chemicals and exposure to them cause damage to the nervous system and circulation. 

Nonessential additives

Most of these additives are used for longevity, appearance, and other unnecessary factors in dog food. Below are some unnecessary additives that you should avoid:

Artificial colors are not only unnecessary but they can also cause many health complications in dogs. 

Sweeteners are additives that dogs cannot digest and process properly. Sweeteners include sugar, corn syrup, and xylitol, which are all shown to be the leading cause of dog obesity. Dog treats mostly have this component so always be vigilant when shopping for both dog food and dog treats.

Sodium Selenite is not a great source of selenium, an essential nutrient for dogs’ heart health. Too much of this additive can poison your dog. 

Copper Sulfate is added as a supplement to copper, the mineral that helps support your dog’s brain, heart, kidneys, and bone health. However, it can accumulate in your dog’s liver and lead to an overdose. 

Carrageenan is used to maintain the moisture in your dog’s food but it is shown to possibly cause cancer and inflammation. 

With this scientifically-proven information, you now know how to choose a dog food that will best suit your dog most safely and effectively possible! 


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