The number of dog food brands available is overwhelming. Have you ever been standing in an aisle of dog food, looking over the available brands, and feeling like you don’t even know where to start? Our dogs are members of our family, and we want what’s best for them, including the food we give them. Sometimes, however, it can be challenging to read colorful labels and determine which brands are healthy and which ones simply have grand marketing schemes. If you’re tired of sifting through the propaganda, here are tips for buying healthy dog food.

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Tips For Buying Healthy Dog Food

We’re going to give you tips on buying healthy dog food, but by far, the best resource for picking healthy dog food is Dog Food Advisor. They rate dog food brands on a letter scale and provide up-to-date information on recalls. Another essential thing to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all best dog food. Dogs vary drastically from one another, and, as a result, their dietary requirements do too. Age, size, and breed are just a few contributing factors to what kind of food your dog needs. Here are a few tips to determine if a particular dog food is a healthy option for your canine. 

Look for the AAFCO label on your dog’s food

What the heck is AAFCO? AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials. They are responsible for certifying that your dog’s food “provides complete and balanced nutrition.” There should be a statement saying something similar right on the food bag’s label. If it doesn’t, put it down.

Dissect the “healthy” product name

Is the product called beef or chicken ______? Or is it some term like “beef-flavored” or “with beef?” These terms can seem the same, but they mean something wildly different in terms of your dog’s food content. For example, a (fake) product called Fido’s Beef Dog Food must have at least 70% beef. If the name were something like “beef entree” or “beef dinner,” beef makes up less than 10% of the actual food. “With beef” or “beef-flavored” might mean there’s less than 3% beef in the product. While dogs can survive without meat, they cannot thrive. That means that you want a dog food with a high percentage of meat, not a bunch of vague fillers.

Check the ingredients

When considering a dog food brand, read the ingredient list. First off, the first ingredient (which comprises the highest percentage of the food) should be a kind of meat. Ingredients are listed in order by weight, from the highest weight percentage to the lowest. Here are a few more ingredients to pay special attention to. 

How’s the corn?

Corn is a sugary additive that you might not find right at the top of the list because brands are allowed to list ingredients like flaked corn, kibble corn, and ground corn separately.

Meat meal or meat?

There is a common misconception that “meat meal” isn’t as good for your dog as meat. A meat ingredient such as chicken includes water weight, which usually comprises about 75% of the total weight. On the other hand, meat meal has had most of the fat and water removed, so it is a more concentrated protein. The meal also adds a flavor that your dog will love.

Healthy dog food: Meat by-products

Meat by-products are the other non-meat parts of a slaughtered animal. By-products include things like organs, bone, blood, and fatty tissue. What it doesn’t include, despite much misinformation to the contrary, is hair, hooves, beaks, teeth, etc. Meat by-products get a bad rap, but organs like liver and kidney are some of the best and nutrient-dense foods for your dog.

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What Is the Best Kind of Commercial Healthy Dog Food?

Dog food is usually divided into 3 types: moist, semi-moist, and dry kibble. Which is healthiest?


Moist dog food is usually available in a can. Its wet, mushy consistency easily identifies it. This type of puppy food is easy to digest and more palatable, but it is also more costly than dry dog food, spoils faster once opened, and requires refrigeration. Most canned dog foods are about ¾ water, so they contain fewer nutrients than the alternatives. Due to its soft consistency, moist food is usually worse for your dog’s teeth as well. 


Semi-moist dog food is an alternative option to moist and dry dog foods. It is easy to digest and practical to use since it does not require refrigeration. This option is still more expensive than dry kibble and lacks the dental benefits of hard food. Semi-moist dog food is linked to obesity and hyperactivity due to high salt, preservative, and sugar concentrations.

Dry Kibble

Dry kibble is generally the healthiest dog food option. This dog food option has no added water and, as a result, has higher concentrations of protein and other essential nutrients. Dry kibble is by far the most practical type of dog food because it requires no refrigeration. Dry kibble is the most cost-effective option, still easy to digest, and helps clean your dog’s teeth.

Compromises for Healthy Dog Food

Sometimes choosing just one kind of dog food doesn’t work best for your dog. Every dog is different, with different tastes and additional requirements. Maybe your dog refuses to eat kibble, and you need to mix in a little moist food to make it more appealing. There are plenty of cases where mixing two options is your best alternative. Some dog owners take things one step further and feed a raw dog food diet to their dogs. You can buy commercial raw dog food or even make your own at home

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Here are a few more articles you might be interested in:

5 Irresistible Dog Ice Cream Recipes

Dog Vomiting: Is It Serious?

What To Do If Your Dog Has Diarrhea

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