This post may contain affiliate links. We are compensated for referring customers to our affiliate partners.
When it comes to choosing a commercial dog food for your pet it is very easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available to you. If you take a walk down the dog food aisle at your local pet store you might be faced with dozens of different brands, each offering several different formulas or flavors. So how do you choose a high-quality dog food? In order to select a high-quality commercial food for your pet you need to understand the basics of a dog’s nutritional needs – you also need to know how to separate the high-quality dog foods from the low-quality dog foods. In this article you will receive an introduction to the nutritional needs of dogs as well as some general tips for selecting a high-quality dog food. You will also receive recommendations for some of the top dog food brands.
Nutritional Needs for Dogs
As is true for all living things, dogs require a balance of nutrients in their diet – these nutrients include protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. Protein is made up of amino acids and proteins are the building blocks for tissues, cells, organs, and more. Protein can come from a variety of sources, both plant and animal, but animal-based protein sources are the more biologically valuable for your dog. Amino acids are divided into two categories: essential and non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are those that your dog’s body is capable of producing. Essential amino acids are those that must come from the dog’s diet – some important amino acids include leucine, arginine, and phenylalanine.
Fats are the most highly concentrated form of energy so they play an important role in your dog’s diet. Fats also form the structure of cells and they play a role in hormone production as well. Your dog requires a balance of different kinds of fats in his diet, primarily omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids for your dog’s diet is between 5 and 10 to 1. Carbohydrates are another source of energy for your dog and it also helps to support healthy digestion. Your dog has no minimum requirement for carbohydrate in his diet and he only needs a moderate amount of it. Dietary fiber comes from digestible carbohydrates like whole grain brown rice and whole grain oats.
In addition to protein, fat and carbohydrates your dog also requires certain vitamins and minerals in his diet. Vitamins act as catalysts for various enzyme reactions in the body and they are a requirement for normal metabolic function. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in your dog’s body so they must be found in your dog’s diet. Some of the most important vitamins for dogs include Vitamin A, E, B-12 and Vitamin C. Minerals are inorganic compounds that your dog’s body cannot metabolism and they do not provide any energy. Their primary function is to act as structural constituents for teeth and bones – they are also involved in metabolic reactions. The most important minerals for your dog include calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium.
How to Choose a High-Quality Dog Food
When it comes to choosing a high-quality commercial food for your dog you have several factors to consider. First, you should look for an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy to be sure that the product provides for your dog’s basic nutritional needs. The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is responsible for setting forth a nutritional profile for dogs in various life stages and if a commercial dog food product meet those requirements, it will carry a statement of nutritional adequacy that reads something like:
“This product is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO dog food nutrient profiles for all life stages.”
If the product doesn’t carry an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy you should keep shopping. After you’ve determined that the produce meets the minimum nutritional requirements for dogs you should then evaluate the ingredients list. Reading the top five ingredients on the list will give you a pretty good idea whether or not the product is of high-quality. Ideally, you should find at least one, possibly two or three, sources of animal-based protein listed within the top five ingredients – it is even better if it is the first ingredient on the list. High-quality dog foods may also have complex carbohydrates like whole-grain oats or brown rice listed within the top five ingredients as well as an animal-based fat like chicken fat or fish oil. If low-quality carbohydrates or inexpensive fillers (like corn or wheat products) are listed within the top 5 ingredients, especially in spot #1, the product is best avoided.
Top Recommended Dog Food Brands
Now that you understand the basics about nutritional needs for dogs and have received tips for selecting a health dog food you may be curious to see some examples of products that are good for dogs. Below you will find several recommendations for commercial dry dog food products that are made with high-quality ingredients:
Nutro Natural Choice High-Protein Grain-Free
Nutro Natural offers several different dry food formulas for dogs and they are all rich in protein and grain-free. Four of the top high-protein formulas utilize duck, chicken, salmon, or venison as the primary sources of protein with dried potatoes and dehydrated alfalfa meal for grain-free carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Most Nutro Natural Choice formulas contain several high-quality protein sources listed within the top five ingredients including both fresh meats and meat meals. Meat meals have already been cooked down to a moisture content around 10% which means that they contain up to 300% more protein then fresh meat. Other valuable ingredients included in these dog food formulas are chicken fat, pea protein, and chelated minerals.
Blue Buffalo Wilderness
Blue Buffalo has several lines of dog and cat foods, but the Blue Wilderness line is particularly rich in meat and it is 100% grain-free. This line of dog foods is made with top-quality ingredients exclusive of chicken, poultry, by-product meals, artificial preservatives, wheat, corn, and soy. The Blue Buffalo Blue Wilderness line is available in three different formulas divided by life stage – puppy, adult, and senior. The puppy line is high in protein and fortified with nutrients that growing puppies need while the adult formula is balanced with high-quality protein sources and digestible carbohydrates. The senior dog food line is also rich in protein to support healthy muscle mass and fortified with ingredients that aging dogs need to maintain joint and bone health as well as immune system health.
Canidae Grain-Free Pure
The Canidae Grain-Free Pure line of dog foods is made with fresh, wholesome ingredients without unnecessary extras. This formula is made with fresh lamb for high-quality protein and flavor as well as digestible carbohydrates in the form of sweet potatoes and peas. This line of dog foods is made with just 10 key ingredients to limit food sensitivities and there are no fillers, by-product meals or wheat, corn, or soy ingredients. The top five ingredients for the Canidae Grain-Free Pure Elements Made with Fresh Lamb formula are lamb, turkey meal, chicken meal, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas. Just looking at these five ingredients you can tell that this formula is rich in animal-based protein.
Earthborn Holistic Grain-Free
At Earthborn Holistic, dog food is designed using a wholesome approach to nutrition and it is made only with the highest quality ingredients. Every holistic dog food recipe is made to provide balanced nutrition to support your dog’s overall health and wellbeing. Earthborn Holistic dog food comes in a variety of recipes formulated for different life stages including puppy advantage and adult advantage formulas – there is also a small-breed and a large-breed formula as well as a primitive natural formula which imitates the ancestral diet of wild dogs. Earthborn Holistic offers six different grain-free dry foods and five grain-free moist foods in a variety of different flavors made with meats like fish, bison, lamb, chicken and more.
Innova Nature’s Table
The Innova Nature’s Table line of dog foods is made with novel protein options and it is gluten-free, and grain-free. These dog food formulas are made with high-quality protein sources like bison, venison, turkey, and salmon as well as digestible carbohydrates like split peas, green lentils, and carrots. Only the best ingredients are used to make these Innova Nature’s Table dog food formulas to ensure that they are nutrient dense, wholesome, and biologically valuable for your dog. Choose from a variety of adult dog food formulas as well as puppy, large-breed puppy, large-breed adult, senior, and weight-management formulas.
The dog food formula you choose for your dog is completely up to you but, if you want your dog to remain healthy, it is essential that you choose a dog food that provides for his nutritional needs. After reading this article you should have a firm understanding of the nutritional needs for dogs, how to select a high-quality dog food, and a few recommendations for high-quality dog food formulas.