There are more than 2,200 varieties of dog food in the U.S. alone, which can make the process of finding the healthiest option difficult for even a trained animal nutritionist. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the typical consumer is unsure whether they are feeding high quality food to their beloved pet.

Fortunately, there are several ways to narrow the crowded dog food market so that you can make a wise choice. By educating yourself about vital topics such as quality ingredients and proper meal sizes, you can give your dog the best possible nutrition for his or her age group and size.

What to Look for in Dog Food

There are two primary things to keep in mind when you are selecting dog food: quality ingredients and ease of storage. Be sure to look for the following indicators of quality.

  • A named meat should be ingredient number one, instead of the word ‘meat.’
  • Whole grains, vegetables and fruits.
  • Additional animal protein in the form of a named animal meal. For example, chicken meal instead of ‘meat meal.’

From a storage standpoint, you will want a bag that’s easy to seal and store. It is also vital to check the Best By date to ensure the food is not already stale. Avoid purchasing food with a Best By date that is less than six months away. When possible, select a ‘best by’ date approximately one year in the future for added freshness.

When portioning food from a can, be sure to use an airtight dog food lid to keep the food safe. You will also need to put it in the refrigerator after it’s been opened.

What to Avoid

Imagine you have found a solid looking bag that is easy to seal and store. It also has a Best By date that is 12 months away. You’re all set, right? Not so fast. Taking a few minutes to examine the ingredients list will help you steer clear of an unhealthy dog food.

Keep in mind that labels that read ‘all natural‘ or ‘healthy’ are nothing more than marketing pitches that need to be fact checked. Lower quality products and filler ingredients have flooded the market. Here are a few things you should always avoid:

  • Poultry or meat by-products.
  • Added sugar and other sweeteners.
  • A non-named meat source.
  • Artificial preservatives, flavors and colors.
  • Avoid all dented cans.

How Much to Feed Your Dog

Dogs can suffer from under or overeating just like humans. In other words, they can be malnourished or obese. Dogs that are overweight are also more susceptible to developing health issues such as congestive heart failure, osteoarthritis and even some forms of cancer.

The exact amount of food that each dog needs will depend on their age and activity levels. In most cases, adult dogs need to have two meals per day, and puppies need three meals. The feeding chart on the food you have selected is typically intended to tell you how much to feed them throughout the entire day.

Let’s take the example of a feeding chart that specifies a dog weighing between 40 and 59 pounds should receive 230 to 305 grams per day. A dog on the lower end of that weight range is most likely going to need closer to 230 grams. However, if the dog is hyperactive and is not obese, 305 grams may be more appropriate.

Additionally, you will need to split the food appropriately. An adult dog that requires 230 grams of food per day should receive two meals with 115 grams in each. A puppy should get the same quantity split into three meals of 77 grams each.

Dog Food Nutrition Myths

There are myths about the nutrition needs of every species, ranging from dogs to humans. Discarding these myths is a vital part of ensuring your dog has a healthy diet. Here are a few of the most prevalent myths that have been debunked:

  1. MYTH – Grain is bad for dogs. FACT – Most dogs have no problem digesting grains.
  2. MYTH – Kidney failure is caused by a high protein diet. FACT – There is no evidence to prove this. It is recommended to feed dogs a moderate level of protein daily unless your vet advises otherwise.
  3. MYTH – Lamb is a hypoallergenic dog food ingredient. FACT – No meat is hypoallergenic. It is possible for a dog to have an allergic reaction to lamb, but it’s uncommon.

What Is the Best Dog Food?

There are many ways to assess the quality of dry and canned dog food. A comprehensive analysis of more than 2,200 varieties was performed in 2015, which accounted for all the high and low-quality ingredient markers listed above. Based on the findings of this study, we have compiled a list of suggestions to help you take care of your four-legged companion’s nutritional needs. You can also easily select an appropriate alternative dog food based on your budget and any specific dietary needs, including allergies, by applying the guidelines listed above.

Best Dog Food for Large Dogs

  • Dry food – Fromm Gold Nutritionals Large Breed Dog Food
  • Canned food – Eagle Pack Natural Wet Canned Food

Best Dog Food for Small Dogs

  • Dry food – Fromm Gold Adult Dog Food Small Breed
  • Canned food – Evanger’s Heritage Classic

Best Dog Food for Puppies

  • Dry food – Horizon Legacy Puppy
  • Canned food – Canidae Life Stages Canned Dog Food for Puppies