Deciding on Dog food

Yesterday I highlighted some red-flags to avoid in dog food and addressed some of the myths around popular dog foods.  Today let’s talk about what to look for in a quality dog food.  Again, I’m not going to name-names but I will tell you what I look for in kibble.  Like I said, my Rio and Shayne eat raw but Bandit, my fosters, and the cats all eat kibble (*the cats also get a wet food).  The list of ingredients in image is the food I’m currently feeding my fosters.  It’s one of the least expensive grain-free premium kibbles on the market so it’s my choice for my fosters.  Although I just found another really inexpensive grain-free kibble that looks like it has pretty good ingredients that is available at a wholesale store–I want to see where it’s manufactured and who the parent company is BUT if it checks out, that will be the new foster food.

Protein a go-go!

When I’m evaluating protein, I always look for whole named proteins or named protein meals.  I try to avoid by-products and by-product meals since the majority of those by-products are not packed with nutrients (with the exception of some organs that may fall into this category).  When I’m choosing a dog food, there are three things I will accept to show that the food is a protein heavy food not a grain/carb heavy food… one thing is ideal the other two are totally acceptable.

Ideally–I want the first two ingredients to be a named meat source followed by a named meat-meal and then one other meat meal within the top 5 ingredients.

Acceptable–The first ingredient a named meat source, followed by a named meat-meal OR the first ingredient a meat meal and another meat meal within the top 5 ingredients

Grains a no-no!

In every kibble there has to be some starchy carbohydrate used to bind the mixture all together.  That starchy carbohydrate could be grains or it could be a potato-like starch (like tapioca).  I believe dogs are opportunistic carnivores (I will probably get flack for that comment but oh well), I think that they are capable of eating, digesting, and getting nutrients from non-meat sources but that they are carnivores at heart (which makes them so incredibly adaptable).  That being said if  there is a quality whole grain (in moderation) in a food, it is not a deal breaker for me personally–though I do prefer feeding grain-free.

Grain-Free–Even grain-free foods can be heavy in starch so it’s important to keep an eye on the quality and quantity of potato-like ingredients.  Personally I prefer no more than one starch in the first 5 ingredients and 2 in the top 8.  That being said, it’s not a deal breaker if there is, for example, sweet potato as ingredient 4 and potato as ingredient 5.

Grain-incarcerated (LOL)–So, you have found a food but it has grains… well, I’m not going to be much help.  If I were to feed something with grains, I’d only want to see two whole grains in the top 5… maybe 3 if the first two ingredients are meat meals.  Either way, if there are grains, I want them to be as whole as possible not just piecemeal (the splitting ingredient concept I wrote about yesterday).

A little bit fruity!

I am a huge fan of having fruits and veggies in my dogs food.  Dogs cannot effectively get nutrients from veggies so they must be really ground into a mush which is what happens when making kibble so it works out.  One of the things to look out for, again, is to make sure the fruits and vegetables are whole.  Some dog foods may include ingredients like “tomato pomace” which is ground up tomato remnants (whatever is left over from the human consumption product)… in the presence of other whole fruits and veggies, pomace isn’t a bad thing but if it’s the only type of fruit/veggie listed it’s not so beneficial.  As a side note I LOVE giving the dogs fruits and veggies!!  Just so much fun and they love them, especially apples!

Digestive Aids

Although not mandatory, I do look for probiotics and digestive enzymes added into the foods.  Lactobacillus acidophilus is one such probiotic.  These little organisms are good bacteria that add the body in digestion.  They can combat minor GI upset and can allow for better, more complete digestion of kibble.  They are just added bonuses in some of the more high-end kibble.

The Nitty-Gritty

Lastly, I like to check out the parent company of the dog food (if one exists) and I also like to find out where the food is processed and where it’s manufactured.  Given the manufacturing and health standard variations from across the globe, there are some places where I’d prefer my food not be manufactured OR where I would need extra reassurance to feel safe.

There you have it… those are the main things I look for when evaluating a kibble…


About Success Just Clicks

I'm a dog trainer and enthusiast who moonlights as a blogger and custom tug-toy maker.
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6 Responses to Deciding on Dog food

  1. Kristine says:

    I know you don’t want to name names but I am really curious what brand is responsible for the ingredient list you posted above. That looks pretty impressive if you ask me!

    I also agree with the idea of checking out the parent company and looking into the manufacturing process. In a lot of ways that is more important to me than anything else. It’s one of the reasons I try to look for products made in my own country as they tend to be from smaller companies that put more thought and consideration into their product. They also tend to be more natural. However, that said, my husband used to work as a QA in a food production company. This company produced and tested a very well-known, mass-marketed international dog food, as well as many other brands. My husband was actually impressed with the vast number of invasive tests demanded by the gigantic company to make sure their food was safe. As opposed to the other companies who generally accepted the standard. It’s not a food I would think of buying myself but it is reassuring to know that a big company does have dog health and safety in mind, that it’s not always just about just making it as cheaply as possible.

    Great discussion, though, thanks!

    • That’s actually Taste of The Wild …it’s one of the least expensive grain free foods available and it DOES have good ingredients. This is the “high plains” variety (or something… it’s in the yellow bag LOL) but their other varieties are equally as good looking.

      There are certainly benefits from purchasing from a small company and benefits from buying from a large company. Large companies have the money to pay for some pretty extensive testing of their foods and are probably faster to catch any problems becasue more dogs eat the food and complaints would come in more quickly… BUT the smaller companies tend to have much more control over the food and have an understanding that what is keeping their company afloat is their food quality so they don’t risk that (err, or try not to). It really is a personal decision (and why i’ve tried to be informative and not pushy LOL) but I do feel the quality of ingredients in the smaller brands are safer even if the big box brands have the extensive testing–but again, that’s just me.

  2. lexy3587 says:

    very informative. I’ve had the website for my brand open to the ingredients page for each of this series of articles, and, though it isn’t a grain-free dog food, it seems to be decent. It was nice to see that they didn’t split any of the grains into parts to lower them on the ingredients list 🙂 it would never have occured to me to look before reading these posts.

    • Glad you learned something new LOL! My goal from this series was really for people to do just what you did.. LOOK at the food they are feeding and evaluate it. So, well done and thanks!

  3. Interesting information. Thanks for sharing the product name.

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