How To Choose Dog Food – Complete Guide

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There are more and more options available when choosing a dog food capable of covering all the nutritional needs of our dog. We are surrounded by an endless number of premade food or croquettes, whatever you prefer to call it, and all of them claim to be of good quality.

However, there are many aspects that we must know in order to determine if they really are of as good quality as they want us to believe, since most simply invest in advertising and design, leaving aside what is really important, quality.

If you have a few free minutes and you really want to find out what is the most appropriate food for your dog, we will show you everything you need to know to know how to distinguish between good food for your dog and one that is not so good. Believe us, you will not regret having read all this information.

Index of contents

  • 1 Where does the dog food come from?
  • 2 Good Dog Food: Label Ingredients
  • 3 The importance of calories in dog food
  • 4 The role of cereals among the ingredients of dog food
    • 4.1 So…. Why do manufacturers add cereals to dog food?
  • 5 Other ingredients to consider in dog food
  • 6 Analyzing the analytical components of dog food
    • 6.1 Optimal protein level for a dog
    • 6.2 What is ash or mineral residue?
    • 6.3 Optimal fat level in a dog food
    • 6.4 Fiber in dog food
    • 6.5 Carbohydrates in dog food
    • 6.6 Vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and probiotics in dog food
  • 7 What are the best brands of feed for a dog?
  • 8 What else do you need to know before buying a dog food?

Where does the dog food come from?

Before starting to learn how you should analyze a feed and what you should really look to know if it is good or not for your dog or puppy, you must understand how the dog food came about.

The companies that make dog food arose from the brilliant idea of ​​great politicians who decided that it was cheaper to use animal waste than to incinerate it. In our case, it was the European Union that projected and favored companies in this sector.

dog food factory

Imagine how much meat all humans living simply in Europe can eat, and how much money it would cost to burn all meat waste to prevent rot and thereby create pests and infections … The easiest solution is to let others use that waste and thus money is saved.

That’s right, in the beginning and in reality even today, most brands of dog food simply use meat waste to manufacture their feed. And if this wasn’t disgusting enough, they also add incredible amounts of totally unnecessary cereals to make the process of making them even cheaper.

Now that you know where the idea came from to feed dogs with feed, that is, with pre-made food from animal waste…. We can begin to explain how to select a good feed for your dog.

Good Dog Food: Label Ingredients

The law requires manufacturers of dog food to list the ingredients used in their ranges in order of highest to lowest quantity. So by looking at the label of the feed ingredients, we can know with a simple glance whether or not it is a good product.

Obviously the best ingredients that a brand of dog food can use are meat products, but not all are of the same quality. As an example, it is not the same as the label “chicken meat” that “meat by-products”.


The first ingredients on the label should always be of animal origin, because dogs are non-vegetarian carnivores. If the first ingredient on a label is a cereal or simply not specific what type of meat it is, rest assured that this dog food is of poor quality.

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Manufacturers who use good ingredients for making dog food are not afraid to clearly specify what type of meat they use or in what percentages they use it. The best meats are:

  • Fresh meat of chicken, veal, lamb, horse, duck, etc….
  • Dehydrated meat of chicken, beef, lamb, horse, duck, etc …
  • Hydrolyzed chicken, veal, lamb, horse, duck, etc …

Any of these three types of meat ingredients serve us, since they specify that it is “meat” and not “by-products”. They also clarify the animal of origin, to know what type of meat it is.

Just as important as putting the type of meat used as the first ingredient on the label, is knowing the percentage used of it. Since for example a kilo of fresh chicken meat is similar to about three hundred grams of dehydrated meat of the same chicken once the water has evaporated.

Hydrolyzate is a very expensive process used by very few manufacturers. It consists of a process in which the molecules are separated from the meat, making them much more digestible for dogs. That is why meat hydrolyzates (eye, meat, not meat by-products) are of high quality both for healthy dogs and for dogs with digestive sensitivity.

Another type of meat ingredient used is meat meal, for example chicken, lamb, beef, etc … It is a poorer quality ingredient than those mentioned above and obviously does not guarantee that it is meat meal, but rather a mixture of meat and leftovers … by-products such as heads, legs, intestines, etc …

So remember, the first ingredient (s) on the label should always be meat products, specifying that it is meat from that animal. Discard any feed that doesn’t start with these ingredients.

The importance of calories in dog food

The best dog feeds always specify the energy value of their products. Feeding a dog that exercises a lot daily is not the same as feeding a dog that only walks two or three times a day.

The level of calories is super important to avoid obesity in our dog, feeding it with a feed with excess calories is as harmful as feeding it with a feed of terrible quality.

Dog food usually contains between three and four hundred calories per one hundred grams of product. If your dog does not have high physical activity, a feed closer to three hundred calories than to four hundred will suffice.

We must also use our common sense, if our dog begins to lose weight, perhaps we should increase the amount of food we give him on a daily basis or replace his feed with another with a higher number of calories.

cereal free dog food

Many feed manufacturers dip kibble in animal fat to give dogs a more appealing smell and taste. Obviously dogs love it, but those fats will seriously harm their health and make them fat. Do not get carried away by the marketing of the feed brands or by the smell of your dog and focus on the labeling.

The role of cereals among the ingredients of dog food

Most manufacturers of dog food use cereals such as wheat, corn or derivatives among their main ingredients. Even to avoid having to put them as the first ingredient, they cheat and divide them into by-products.

For example, a dog food that contains the following label: 20% fresh chicken meat, 15% corn, 13% peas, 10% cornstarch, 9% fruit, 8% corn grits, etc…. It is a very poor quality feed.

Look at the trap, corn has been divided into by-products to avoid having to say that their feed contains a total of 33% corn. Do you know a vegetarian dog of your own free will? Do you know a dog that wants to eat corn if you offer it to them in grain instead of mixed with animal fat?

Dogs do not need to eat cereals as they are fully carnivorous animals. The only cereal that can be admitted and in very small amounts can be rice, since it is highly digestible. We recommend you read: Can a dog eat rice?

Avoid at all costs choosing feed containing cereals as they are not necessary for your dog. And above all, avoid feed that has been removed from cereals but has added incredibly absurd amounts of potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes or legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, beans…. Because if they take out something bad to replace it with something just as bad but with another name / category…. bad come on

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So…. Why do manufacturers add cereals to dog food?

Obviously to reduce costs. It is not the same to make a dog food with 90% meat than to do it with 20% meat and 70% cereal. Cereal is much, much cheaper than meat, so the manufacturing process saves and the brand makes more profit.

What will really surprise you, is that most brands of dog food that claim to be high quality, premium or super premium are actually fraud. Look at their list of ingredients and you can verify for yourself what they are made of.

When you see that perhaps you are feeding your dog 70% cereal, you will understand that this is by no means the best diet you can give him.

Other ingredients to consider in dog food

To make the croquettes, it is necessary to have carbohydrate-rich material, such as cereals, tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc …) or legumes (lentils, chickpeas, etc …). This is due to the manufacturing process, the stripping.

But that the dog food you choose must contain a small part of potato, legumes or rice, does not mean that you must accept corn or wheat for example. Not much less that the quantities of potato, rice or legumes suppose not even half of the composition of the feed.

There are many brands of feed for puppies or adult dogs that include such absurd things as green mussels, seaweed or East Texas apples…. Obviously the contribution of fruits and vegetables is good, but do not be fooled by the exotic products that your dog would never eat if they were not mixed with the meat.

We insist, focus on the quantity of meat and its quality, it is the most important thing and by far, of the feed that you are going to give your dog. Products like chicory root and other nonsense are practically unnecessary.


Analyzing the analytical components of dog food

Once we have reviewed the ingredients on the label, we must look at the analytical components that the feed offers. These components are the result of various laboratory tests that indicate the properties of the feed.

And obviously, looking at these properties we can also see the quality of the food. The percentage of proteins, fats, ashes, hydrates and fiber…. they are as important as knowing that the main ingredients are meat.

Optimal protein level for a dog

As these are carnivorous animals, the protein level must be high, however, we should not only look at the percentage of proteins but also on their quality. Protein obtained from animal meat is not the same as protein obtained from the collagen of an animal (tendons and bones).

A poor quality feed can have a high level of protein, because they will not specify if they are animal, vegetable or waste protein. Therefore, in addition to having a good level of protein, the feed must be made with meat as the main ingredient.

Many urban legends indicate that excess protein can be harmful and blah blah blah…. Dogs naturally dump excess protein they don’t assimilate, so don’t worry about these false rumors.

An acceptable level of protein for a feed, provided it is of animal origin and of good quality, is between 20% and 40%.

What is ash or mineral residue?

Suppose we take a quantity of feed and completely carbonize it, everything that has not been burned is considered ash or mineral residue and obviously the higher the percentage of ash or mineral residue in a feed, the worse its quality.

Matter that is not burned is also not digested by the dog, it is not nutritious. So the lower the percentage of ash or mineral residue, the better the quality of the feed. Always checking and as a priority, the ingredients of it.

The residues or ashes are normally the remains of feathers, bones and other animal waste that are not burned at a certain temperature. Including artificial chemical additives such as vitamins and / or certain preservatives.

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animal fat in dog food

Optimal fat level in a dog food

Fat is important for dogs as they use it as an energy source, however the fat used in feed is added for other purposes. The use of animal fat is normally to flavor the kibble of the feed.

Imagine that you take meat, rice, fruits and vegetables and mix them all into a dough. Then you put the dough in a machine that heats the dough to high temperatures, completely evaporating the water, and as a result it gives you some kibble for dogs.

Those kibbles are not palatable to a dog, because they won’t even smell good. However, if you add animal fat you can fool the dog’s sense of smell and taste, making them very palatable.

Unfortunately, this is the fat used in dog food, unfortunately necessary for dogs to eat the food. The adequate levels of fat range between 7% and 20%, with feed with a lower percentage of fat being called “Light” since they fatten less (as long as they are not full of carbohydrates).

Fiber in dog food

The fiber found in dog food is always of vegetable origin, the most common being that obtained from the pea. It is not essential but it is beneficial to favor the intestinal transit of the dog.

An adequate percentage of fiber is between 1% and 4% on the analytical label of the feed. Higher levels can cause our dog to suffer from intestinal incontinence.


Carbohydrates in dog food

Dogs do not need carbohydrates in their diet, do not be fooled by the advertising campaigns of the main feed brands. However, carbohydrates are necessary to make the croquettes.

Given the choice, the lower the percentage of carbohydrates the higher the quality of the feed. Always trying to choose carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes or legumes.

Vitamins, minerals, prebiotics and probiotics in dog food

The small amount of fruits and vegetables that are used is usually sufficient to meet the minimum or adequate vitamin and mineral needs that a dog needs. In addition we must not forget that meat also contains a good amount of them.

However, the manufacturing process often destroys them, since since the “mass” of food is subjected to high temperatures, it is irremediable not to destroy them. For this reason they are sometimes added artificially and although they are obviously not of such good quality as the natural ones, they do their job.

Prebiotics and probiotics for dogs They are increasingly used by feed manufacturers, as there are many scientific studies that demonstrate their health benefits for any animal. In the right amounts they are even recommended.

What are the best brands of feed for a dog?

The best thing is that you choose a few brands and ranges of dog food and make a feed comparison. Now that you know how to value their labels, you will be able to distinguish immediately and effortlessly which are the most recommended brands for your dog or puppy.

Puppy feed usually contains an extra calcium and condoprotectors, something to keep in mind since they effectively require that extra due to its rapid growth.

Well-known feed brands such as Orijen or NFNatcane are undoubtedly great references in the world of dog food thanks to the quality of the ingredients they use. To his compositions and ranges.

What else do you need to know before buying a dog food?

Packaging is an important aspect, being plastic or aluminum bags the best ones to preserve dog food. On the contrary, the paper containers allow the humidity of the feed to be lost more easily.

The size of the kibble is also essential, if you have a small breed dog you should buy a feed that makes small kibbles. The manufacturers indicate in their ranges if they are intended for large, medium, small or mini dogs.

The feed for puppies is also specific, you can not or rather should not feed your puppy with a feed for adult dogs, because it will not cover all their nutritional needs.

And practically this is it. Now you have the necessary knowledge in canine nutrition to know how to identify a high quality feed versus a low quality one. Surely from now on, you will feed your beloved dog much better.