What to Look For in Dog Food

By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. March 31, 2021
What to Look For in Dog Food

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Good nutrition is essential for the health of our dogs. Although, dry feed is the most widespread due to its ease of use and long life, there are many options on the market. In fact, there is often so much variety that it is not always easy to choose the right one. Add to this the option more and more dog guardians are taking in the form of making homemade dog food, and it can be quite confusing.

In this AnimalWised article, we provide advice on what to look for in dog food. We explain the different types of dog food and what qualities to look for in order to make the best choice for your animal.

You may also be interested in: Organic Food for Dogs

Types of dog food

The dog food most generally recognized is the type manufactured by subjecting the ingredients to an extrusion process in which they lose water. Also called kibble, the resulting feed is ball-shaped and can be preserved in good condition for long periods of time. Nowadays, feed is also available in the form of pellets, where the ingredients are subjected to cold-pressing which preserves more nutrients than the extrusion process.

There are, however, other classifications to consider when choosing a good dog food. In particular, the quality of ingredients used. Distinctions are therefore made between natural and holistic feeds, which differ in that they do not contain artificial ingredients, but top quality raw materials. Often this is to such an extent the meat used is fit for human consumption.

In these cases, the meat is supplied by animals kept according to certain conditions and whose welfare is guaranteed. That being said, organic dog feeds are available that are even more demanding in terms of the origin of the raw materials. These are usually free of pesticides and artificial additives.

Moreover, dog feed that doesn't contain cereals has recently become fashionable. It is more difficult for dogs to digest carbohydrates and so they are replaced with those from legumes, e.g. peas. Similarly, there are specific feeds for dogs with allergies or food intolerances. These are generally made with a single protein source and non-standard ingredients. This is important because dogs which suffer from such disorders should be given food that they have not previously consumed such as feeds based on salmon, deer or duck meat, usually accompanied by sweet potato or potato.

Also available are varieties of feed that are specially formulated for dogs suffering from different diseases. Common disease requiring a diet change include renal or liver problems, diabetes, mobility issues, heart problems, urinary tract problems, etc. In these cases, the feed is considered a fundamental part of the treatment, with more attention given to its effects than to the list of ingredients.

Our article on the best food for a dog with arthritis will help provide some more specifics.

Different types of dog food are available depending on the different characteristics of the dog, which include:

  • Age: for puppies, adults and senior dogs, sometimes differentiating between older adult and very old dogs. There are also feeds available which are valid for all ages.
  • Activity: for very active or working dogs, as opposed to companion animals.
  • Weight: for obese or overweight dogs in an effort to maintain an ideal weight.
  • Size: the size of the kibble can be adapted to the size of the dog, with feeds available for toy, small, medium, large or very large dogs.
  • Physique: for dogs with more athletic or, alternatively, more robust shapes.
  • Breed: special feeds for dogs according to their breed, with a kibble shape and a composition adapted to their specific needs, such as Boxer, French Bulldog, Golden Retriever, Labrador, etc.

What should a good dog food contain?

We have already covered some of the things to consider when choosing a good feed for dogs. In this section we will delve into the ideal composition of dog feed. As dogs are carnivorous animals, the principal ingredient should be protein of animal origin, that is meat or fish. For this reason, when selecting a dog food, in addition to making sure that it is the right range for the characteristics of our dog, we have to look at the list of ingredients.

The problem with dog food composition is that poor legislation means that details of some components or processes are not as specific as we would like. For example, feed may be made from animal by-products, but we may not know their exact contents. Moreover, even this composition can vary from one bag to another in white range feeds, which are of a lower quality.

In any case, we should look for the first ingredient to be meat or fish. Preferably it should be dehydrated since fresh ingredients added during the extrusion process will lose moisture. The resultant product is reduced to approximately half of the declared amount when it reaches the dog. Of course, feed with the highest percentage of meat will be better and the quality will increase depending on the origin of that meat. As we have said, not all the information is going to be reflected in the list of ingredients but we can review the manufacturer's website or even contact the manufacturer to resolve any doubts.

Recently, there is a tendency to consider grain-free feeds to be better. This is largely due to the fact that dogs are considered to have difficulty digesting them. However, the truth is that grains can be included in their diet, although they should always be in smaller quantities than meat.

The remainder of the dog food ingredients will vary and should include: legumes (such as peas or lentils), vegetables (e.g. carrots or pumpkin), fruits (e.g. apples or blueberries), as well as essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. The important thing is that we understand the composition, i.e., that they are easily recognizable natural products and not long lists of artificial additives- These can include dyes which do not provide any nutritional benefit.

Finally, in addition to these recommendations, it is essential that you observe your dog. The food you choose should not only be to their liking, but you should also notice that that they are at the ideal weight, in good health, lively, with compact stools that are well formed and with little odor, and they have a healthy and shiny coat. All these factors are indicative that your dog food is of good quality and good for their organism.

If, on the other hand, the stools are very soft or very hard, there is a stronger odor than usual, their coat lacks vitality, they have put on or lost weight, etc., you should check their diet and visit your veterinarian.

What to Look For in Dog Food - What should a good dog food contain?

Where to buy good dog food?

Now that you know how to choose a good dog food, you should have an idea of where you can find it. Supermarket or other commercial feeds do not usually meet the parameters that we have indicated. Many of them have an excess of cereals that lead to the dog needing to consume more quantity, also eliminating more stools due to its poor digestive effects.

The best way to find out the best food for your dog is to ask your veterinarian. Not only should they have a better idea of what food is available in your region, but they will know the particular health requirements of your dog. They may not suggest a specific brand, but simply let you know what type of feed they need. While your local pet store should also have good quality feed, you can go online to find good quality product. The advantage of this is you can research reviews and other information regarding how good is its quality.

If you want to read similar articles to What to Look For in Dog Food, we recommend you visit our Healthy diets category.


Carlson, & Giffin. (2002). Practical manual of canine veterinary medicine. Madrid. Editorial el Drac.

Sagarra, & Natalia. (2018). New concepts of nutrition. Ateuves, 73, 14-16.

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