It might seem obvious, but we choose our dog food by examining the ingredients.
Dog food ingredients are listed by quantity. That means the first listed ingredient is what the manufacturer used the most. Knowing the quantity, we can then examine the quality of these ingredients. Here is what we are considering:
Protein is an essential part of your dog's diet. We look for a majority of a healthy dog's diet to be made up of whole meat proteins. Chicken, de-boned chicken, lamb, turkey, and salmon are some examples of healthy whole meat protein sources that should be listed early and often in an ingredient list. Whole meats are the cleanest source of protein for your dog.
Sometimes you see ingredients like 'chicken meal' or 'pork meal' early on in the ingredients list. Meals are not whole meats and vary widely in quality. Meals are regularly a mix of byproduct from discarded meats, or sometimes whole meats, which are then cooked to create a concentrated protein powder. Meals are added to supplement the amount of protein in your dog's food. However, we look to see that meals are not the primary source of protein. No meal product can be healthier than the raw materials that were used to make it.
You may also see alternative protein sources like peas, lentils, and chickpeas listed. A similar logic applies to plant-based proteins as it does with meat meals. We don't want plant-based protein to make up for lack of meat-based protein.
First ten ingredients of a poor quality dog food:
Corn, soybean meal, beef & bone meal, whole wheat, animal fat, corn syrup, wheat middlings, propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride.
What we don't like about it:
Corn is the first ingredient, meaning it is what the manufacturer used most. Corn is not a significant source of protein. Additionally, we don't see any whole meats in this dog food. The primary protein source comes from soybean meal rather than a whole meat. We see ingredients like corn syrup (a sweetener) and hydrochloric acid (a corrosive acid added to help your dog digest this food).
First ten ingredients of excellent dog food:
Grass-fed lamb, duck, whole eggs, lamb meat meal, whole herring meal, turkey meal, green peas, red lentils, whole chickpeas, fresh wild-caught northern pike.
What we like about it:
This is an example of excellent dry dog food. The first two ingredients are whole meats. We see examples of meals and plant-based proteins used as supplements rather than the primary source of protein. Overall, this dog food uses high-quality ingredients and cuts down on byproducts and fillers.
There are many things to consider when choosing healthy food for our pets. Not every dog is the same. Like us, they have unique stomachs and personal preference. Let's do our best for our besties.
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