How to Get The Best Dog Food – Nutrition vs Ingredients

Select the best dog food because good health begins with proper nutrition!

best dog food

How do you make the decision of what is the best dog food for your dog? The sheer amount of food choices available leave most dog owners confused and more than a little frustrated. Many dog owners use one or more of these sources in their decision-making. Do you?

  • Dog food marketing ads.
  • Your budget and what you can afford.
  • Internet forums.
  • Your personal beliefs and philosophies.
  • A friend’s advice.
  • Your dog’s preference.
  • Availability.
  • The internet.
  • Your own research.
  • Your vet’s advice.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there, so we’re going to help you out with the hard facts.


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Commercial Dog Food

best food for dogs

The pet food industry is worth nearly US$25 billion in the United States. They have a considerable marketing budget aimed at convincing you to buy a particular dog food. However, to be fair, there are now also many millions being spent on research and development.

We can assume that dog nutrition knowledge has improved over time. We should now be in a better position than ever to select the best dog food.

But are we?

What is the Best Dog Food?

best dog food

It’s a more complicated question than it used to be. It’s also more important to base dog food choices on good solid factual data and information.

In this article we will show you the TWO critical considerations for selecting the best dog food. You will be surprised at how easy it is make the best choice once you understand what you are looking for.

A lot has been written about commercial dog food, so we’re not going to rehash it here. Instead, we will concentrate on the basic information you need to make good choices for your dog. So let’s get started with the FACTS!


Fact 1: What Does The Genome of the Dog Tell Us?

best dog food

It tells us that dogs digestion has changed since they were domesticated from wolves. Dogs have evolved to better be able to digest starches than wolves, which is important for this discussion. This is according to recent (2013) science-based research of whole-genome re-sequencing of dogs and wolves. If you want more detail, you can read more on this research at


Fact 2: What Does the Biology of the Dog Tell Us?

best dog food

Dogs are classified as carnivores from a biological perspective, but we now know that dogs are metabolically unable to adapt to a diet that is only animal flesh.

We also know that dogs require lower amino acids and proteins than true carnivores, and they are able to utilise Vitamin A and D from plants. Dogs are metabolically different to carnivores and are actually closer to omnivores, so a meat-only diet won’t work.


FACT 3: The Ingredient Labelling of Dog Food Looks Like a Chemical Experiment

Pet food labelling is regulated at two governmental levels in the U.S. The purpose of the regulation is to provide factual information on pet food labels. Beware; there are traps!

Federal Regulations

The federal regulations, under the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), set standards for all animal feed. These regulations require all of the following labelling requirements to be met.

Proper identification of product.

Net quantity statement.

Manufacturer’s name and address.

Proper listing of ingredients.

State Regulations

Some states also enforce their own, more specific, labeling regulations. Many states use the model pet food regulations established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which cover:

Product name.

Guaranteed Analysis.

Nutritional Adequacy Statement.

Feeding directions.

Calorie statements.

For more complete details and information on pet food labelling refer to

In summary, factual information must be provided on pet food labels. However, it is important to be aware that the label is also a promotional tool for the manufacturer. This means that much of the information provided is of little practical value in assisting nutritional assessment. Source: WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee.

Do you know what the commonly used and unregulated terms such as ‘holistic’; ‘premium’ or ‘human grade’ mean? Because they are unregulated, they can mean whatever the manufacturer chooses.


Fact 4: Ingredients Are Not Nutrients

best food for dogs

Ingredient lists provide little information on the quality of the ingredients. They don’t say if those ingredients are in the right proportions to provide nutritional value and they don’t give the overall quality of a dog food.

The FDA provide this example in their explanation of meeting the FDA’s own “Proper listing of ingredients” requirement. (Take the time to read this as it’s quite scary).

For example, one pet food may list “meat” as its first ingredient, and “corn” as the second ingredient. The manufacturer doesn’t hesitate to point out that its competitor lists “corn” first (“meat meal” is second), suggesting the competitor’s product has less animal-source protein than its own.

However, meat is very high in moisture (approximately 75% water). On the other hand, water and fat are removed from meat meal, so it is only 10% moisture (what’s left is mostly protein and minerals). If we could compare both products on a dry matter basis (mathematically “remove” the water from both ingredients), one could see that the second product had more animal-source protein from meat meal than the first product had from meat, even though the ingredient list suggests otherwise.

That is not to say that the second product has more “meat” than the first, or in fact, any meat at all. 

What? The second product’s “Proper listing of ingredients” lists “meat meal” which the FDA advises may OR may not have ANY meat? But it’s called “meat” meal so how can it not contain meat?

We looked up the definition of proper in the dictionary. “Denoting something that is truly what it is said or regarded to be; genuine”.  So meat means meat, or it should…


Fact 5: The “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” Is The Key

The “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” or the “AAFCO statement” is your key to quality information. This is based on the nutritional profiles the ‘AFFCO’ publishes annually  It spells out the THREE most IMPORTANT considerations for choosing the best dog food for your dog.

  1. Is the food within the packaging is complete and balanced?
  2. If the food is complete and balanced, what age of dog is it right for?
  3. Finally, how did the manufacturer determine these things? Did the company use “analysis of food” or a “feeding trial evaluation of the food”.


Fact 6: You Should Use The Manufacturer’s Contact Information

The manufacturer’s experience, knowledge, and quality control procedures are critical. Their quality dictates how much confidence you can have that your dog is eating a nutritious, and safe food. Use the manufacturer’s contact information to ask them some very important questions.

The WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee has compiled the questions for you, and we will send you a FREE copy of their “Recommendations on Selecting Pet Food”  when you enter your name and email address below.  We will also include a BONUS 16 Page Guide “Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs – A Science Based Guide For Dog Owners”. 


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Fact 7: The Importance of the Dog Food Manufacturer

The Clinical Nutrition Service Team at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (Tufts University) highlight the importance of the pet food manufacturer in the process of delivering a dog food product. It made sense to us, so we’ll repeat it here.

“It’s critical to have high quality ingredients and to have a company that has the expertise to put them together in a way that meets all your pet’s nutritional needs. However, this isn’t something you can tell from the ingredient list. Think of it this way – a terrible cook can make even the most expensive ingredients inedible, while an excellent cook can work magic with basic ingredients.”


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Fact 8: Why Not Just Make Your Own Dog Food?

best dog food

You may be thinking by now that the best dog food might be what you can make at home. However, how does DIY dog food compare to commercial dog foods in terms of health and cost? “Not very well”, according to the Clinical Nutrition Service at Tufts’ University ‘Cummins Veterinary Medical Centre’. Unlike home-cooked or home supplied food, manufacturers must test their commercial diets for safety and nutritional adequacy.

Because you won’t know if you are meeting your dog’s nutrition needs, your annual visit to the vet will become vital so you can keep a check your dog’s health. Your vet may need to recommend adjustments to your dog’s diet.

Food for Thought

Good health begins with proper nutrition so it is important to select the best dog food that you can afford. And make sure that you schedule regular vet visits to keep a check on your dog’s health.

We hope we have given you some ‘food for thought’ in this article. Join our mailing list so we can provide you with regular updates on topics of interest to dog owners. 

Here’s a short clip video on the 2016 documentary “Pet Fooled”. We hope this inspires you to read the ONLY two critical items on dog food labels in your quest for the best dog food.

  1. The Nutritional Adequacy statement.
  2. The Manufacturers name and contact details.



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