In the world today, it is normal to look at the list of ingredients in your food before purchasing.  Pet owners need to be doing the same thing for their dog’s food.  It is just as important to see what your dog is eating.  Some pet foods have a high amount of filler foods that are cheap and add no nutritional value to your dog’s food.  Many have preservatives in them to help them last longer.  Dietary choices for your pet can lead to them developing heart disease, cancer, obesity, digestion issues, diabetes, exposure to toxins and overall poor health. 


Nutritional Needs

A good dog food will contain meat, vegetables, fruit and grains.  An excellent dog food will contain high quality ingredients.  The nutritional needs of your dog will not be the same as your best friend’s dog.  Nutritional needs are dependent on breed, age, and size.  A puppy will need a completely different diet, than a dog that is considered a senior, which is over the age of seven.  Puppy foods or senior foods will also have variations for size of dog.  Small or large breed dogs will need different amounts of calories as well as nutritional needs. 


How to Read Dog Food Labels

There are certain things you can find on the dog food label that you will want to take a look at.  First the product name.  If the name contains just the name of the protein such as beef, then it contains about 70% beef.  If the product name says beef dinner, beef entree, beef platter then it only contains 10% beef.  Product name says with beef it only contains 3% of beef.  And the saying beef flavor means that the product contains less than 3%.  This goes with other proteins as well like chicken. 

The net weight of the product will be listed.  Ingredients will be listed out.  Ingredients will tell you what is in the food, but not the quality of the ingredients. 

Name and address of the manufacturer can be found on the label. 

Guaranteed analysis will show that the food has the necessary minimum amounts of nutrients for dogs. 

Intended animal species will be listed.  This will also be where the manufacturer may list what stage of life their food is best for, such as puppy, or senior. 

You can also find the feeding guidelines of the food to help you not overfeed your pet.  Your veterinarian will be able to help you find a suitable food for your dog if you have questions for a specific breed.  


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Harmful Ingredients To Avoid

There are some ingredients that you want to make sure your dog food does not have.  They can be harmful to your dog or lead to poor health, or health conditions like cancer, obesity, and diabetes. 

Melamine is a toxic ingredient.  It is a type of plastic that contains nitrogen.  It is used in dog food to help the companies reach the required protein amounts.  In high doses though it can be very toxic to your dog. 

Another ingredient you should watch out for are BHA, butylated hydroxyanisole, and BHT.  These are artificial preservatives.  BHA and BHT are carcinogens.  High doses can have adverse effects on your dog’s kidney, liver, and skin.  

White flour is a simple carbohydrate that gives no nutritional value to your pet.  It is used as a binder, or filler.  White flour can increase or decrease a dog’s blood sugar.  It also won’t make them feel full for very long.  Too much of white flour can lead to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes. 

Meat meal is put on the ingredient list when the company doesn’t want to specify what meat is used.  Meat meal is usually processed meat sometimes containing ingredients from diseased, dead animals, and expired meat from the grocery store.  It is difficult to digest.  Usually a filler in foods to boost the protein percentage but does not give your dog good protein. 

Artificial food colors are unnecessary for a dog.  They don’t care what color their food is.  These are usually used to entice the dog owners more than the dog.  Artificial food colors are linked to hyperactivity, and allergic reactions. 

Corn syrup can be used in dog food, or dog treats.  It is very addictive to dog’s which can make them come back for more and more.  Corn syrup can spike blood sugar and can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and diabetes. 

Farmed salmon is another ingredient to steer clear of.  Farmed salmon is completely different from wild salmon.  Farmed salmon does not have nearly the nutritional value that wild salmon does.  Farmed salmon can also have added Mercury, PCBs, and fat-soluble toxins.  Toxins are almost 10 times higher in farmed salmon than in wild salmon.  

Nitrates can be found in people’s food as well as in dog food.  They are common in prepared meats such as sausage and bacon.  Nitrates are used as a preservative.  High doses can cause cancer, and methemoglobin which is a blood disorder in dogs. 



What our dog’s eat can be crucial to their overall health.  Understanding how to read dog food labels can help you pick a food that is best for your breed, age, and size of dog.  Nutritional needs vary between dogs.  Talk with your vet on nutritional needs for your own dog if you have questions.