Healthy diets

What to Look for in Dog Food

María Besteiros
By María Besteiros, Expert veterinary assistant and canine/feline hairdresser.. March 20, 2024
What to Look for in Dog Food

See files for Dogs

Dry dog food is a type of compound food known as kibble. It is an economical way to provide nutrition and cover the dietary needs of our dog. Not all kibble is the same. It can vary greatly in terms of quality and composition, something that is often reflected in the price. However, price is not the best way to know if a dog food is of good quality. Checking kibble quality requires studying the ingredients and other information to ensure it is the right feed for our dog. Let AnimalWised help you in the process as we share what to look for in dog food.

You may also be interested in: Organic Food for Dogs


  1. What does it mean for dog food to be good?
  2. What does a good feed have to have?
  3. How to know if dog food is good quality

What does it mean for dog food to be good?

The commercial dog food industry is a multi-national industry that produces various products which are sold all over the world. Different companies sell in different markets and not all markets are regulated the same. Products include both dry and wet dog food, as well as snacks and other food products for consumption.

Numerous brands have different types of dog food product to offer. Some may focus on a certain type of food preparation, such as including more raw ingredients or vegetables. Others diversify their products to a greater degree. They differ in terms of ingredients, production processes, price, availability and quality.

Quality can depend a lot on regulation. In the United States, the commercial dog food industry is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). While there is regulation, such regulations are generally not as strict as for human food products. Other countries may also differ in their rigor on dog food controls.

This means a lot of the decision is still left to the consumer. We purchase our food for our dogs, so we should choose one that is quality. This means choosing one that is based mainly on animal protein. Using other ingredients such as cereals can help to pad out the feed and keep the cost down without harming our dog's nutrition. However, a low-meat content generally means it is low quality.

Some companies market dry kibble which has no meat content. These are based on cereals and vegetables, but have added protein and supplements to meet the dog's dietary requirements. Whether a dog can eat vegetarian or vegan kibble will largely depend on the individual. They need protein and some dogs may not get enough if they eat vegetarian kibble.

Learn more about a dog's overall dietary requirements in our related guide to the best food for dogs.

What does a good feed have to have?

As we have pointed out, a good feed for dogs should be based on animal protein, usually from meat or fish. The intake of proteins from animal tissue is essential in the diet of these animals. This means that meat or fish must be the component that appears first in the list of ingredients. With this in mind, a quality dry dog food should have the following ingredients:

  • Quality protein: while the meat used should be from animals or fish, it should also be good quality. Ideally, we should choose a feed which is made with human-grade ingredients. When kibble is made, the ingredients are compounded and dried. This means the resultant kibble can have different percentages than the initial ingredients. After being processed, the kibble should be a minimum of 50% protein.
  • Other ingredients: in addition to meat, a quality dog food can have ingredients such as legumes, vegetables or even some fruits, although the sugar content needs to be low. It may also have supplemented amounts of pre- and probiotics, essential fatty acids or chondroprotectors. The latter are nutrients that contribute to digestive, joint and immune system health, among others. Vitamins and minerals must be natural.

While these are the main ingredients we need to look for in dog food, there are other important considerations to make when choosing what is right for our companion. Different dogs will have different dietary requirements. These requirements are based on factors such as:

  • Breed
  • Size
  • Age
  • Health status
  • Allergies

Each dog has their own specific needs when it comes to the best dog food for them. For example, puppies are developing at a fast rate with a higher metabolism than older dogs. They will need more energy to carry out their development and various behaviors. Brands will often create specific products marketed for these needs, such as special kibble for diabetic dogs or food for dogs prone to obesity.

A controversial ingredient in kibble is cereals. Cereals are not essential for dogs. This does not mean that a feed with cereals is necessarily bad, as long as they do not constitute the main ingredient. They should also be cereals with a low glycemic index. For some individuals, cereals can make digestion difficult, especially wheat.

The origin of the dog food ingredients can help us determine its quality. If they are fresh and natural, without the use of artificial additives, sugars, flavorings or coloring, these can act as indicators that will help us know if a feed is of good quality.

What to Look for in Dog Food - What does a good feed have to have?

How to know if dog food is good quality

Everything we have explained above will help us to know what to look for in dog food to tell if it is a quality product. Even if the product is quality, it doesn't necessarily mean it is the best food for our dog. This is because there are other considerations to make based on the factors we explained above.

For example, if our dog is a puppy, they must consume a specific feed for this rapid growth phase. Otherwise, nutritional deficiencies could appear. Different dog food products are formulated for dogs which are adult, elderly, sterilized, have high energy requirements, are overweight, etc. Feeds are even marketed to help treat different diseases, such as kidney or liver failure. These can only be prescribed by veterinarians.

Learn about the best food for a German Shepherd puppy in our related guide.

When choosing the right food for your dog, you will need to carry out the following:

  • Examine the ingredients list carefully: the highest quality feed usually has a reduced number of ingredients that are also easily recognizable, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, peas or potatoes. These are foods that we can easily find in any market and not a list of compounds from a laboratory.

  • Check the order of the ingredients: meat should always appear at the top of the list. If it is also suitable for human consumption, it implies the best parts of the animals are used. If it is dehydrated or hydrolyzed, we need to make sure that the percentage indicated on the label corresponds to what is found in the final food. Remember that much is lost in the form of water during processing. For this reason, if the feed includes fresh meat, it is important to indicate whether the percentage declared is before or after the dehydration process. In addition to meat, the rest of the ingredients should be in a lower proportion, as an accompaniment to the protein of animal origin. We must avoid by-products and low-quality flour. They come from what is discarded for human consumption and may include feathers, hooves, beaks, etc. For example, if it says the feed contains ‘chicken and rice’, it is likely a better quality feed than one that says it contains ‘animal and/or vegetable’ products. Since the animal feed industry is not regulated as tightly as human food, it does not always have to be specific on its labeling.

  • Check the amount of ash and fat: you must also monitor the amount of ash, as it may indicate a high content of by-products. The fats present in the feed must be of animal origin. In low quality feeds, fats can be added to enhance the flavor, but will provide poor nutrition for the dog.

  • Avoid artificial components: similarly, sugars and artificial components should be avoided. Synthetic supplements can be fine, but it will depend on the company standards.

  • Check consumer reviews: we cannot always believe everything that is said on the label of a commercial feed. We should check with consumer reviews to see how the dog food is generally accepted and find out if there are any reports of poor quality.

If you still have doubts about what to look for in dog food and whether a feed is right for your dog, you should consult your veterinarian. During their checkups, your veterinarian will assess their needs and may determine they need a specific type of feed. This is especially the case if they have a particular medical condition. They can also recommend quality brands which are sold in your market.

When we decide to provide our dog with a new type of food, it is important to know that sudden changes can cause problems such as vomiting or diarrhea in dogs. We need to change from one feed to another gradually. We can do this using our guide to switching dog food step by step.

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

Write a comment
Add an image
Click to attach a photo related to your comment
What did you think of this article?
1 of 2
What to Look for in Dog Food