How to Choose Dog Food and What Ingredients to Avoid

Many people view their dogs as members of their families. With that in mind, feeding them the most nutritious and healthy dog food is a top priority in order to ensure a long and healthy lifestyle. Therefore, it’s important to check the ingredients of the dog food you are buying for your furry best friend.

Even though the most popular and well-known dog food brands advertise their food products as healthy and sometimes even organic, they can be misleading their consumers. Therefore, it’s important to know which ingredients to stay away from. This might seem overwhelming, but in the long run, it’s worth it since it will help benefit your dog!

Image via alkir_dep/depositphotos

Ingredients to Avoid

Regardless of the size or breed of your dog, the following ingredients shouldn’t be in the food you are buying.

  1. 4-D Meat Products: Canines all need protein and why not give it to them in the form of meat? However, the word “meat” in the 4-D meat ingredient is very misleading. They stand for diseased, disabled, dying, and dead. Dog food companies take meat scraps that are not fit for human consumption and salvage them into dog food. 
    Unfortunately, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has not banned 4-D meat in dog food, but it has acknowledged the harmful effects it can have on dogs. In the past, dogs have gotten sick after eating foods containing this product. Some have even developed chronic diseases and decreased cognitive function because of the detrimental, low-quality fats in these products. 
  2. Grains: Dog food companies add grains to their foods in order to change the texture of the food and make it seem like there is more food in the packaging. The grains themselves do not add any nutritional value to the food, nor do they serve as protein for your dog. In fact, certain dogs actually have grain-allergies or sensitive stomachs. If they are exposed to this product, it can be detrimental to their health.
  3. Corn: Another filler ingredient, that’s used to falsely increase the volume of the dog food. Like grain additives, corn also has little to no nutritional substance. The few vitamins and minerals that corn does contain don’t make up for the fact that it’s a poor source of energy, and therefore, it doesn’t belong in dog food.
    Corn is also hard for dogs to digest. It has high glycemic concentrations to begin with, which can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels for your dog. The only way to make corn more easily digestible for dogs is by creating a processed version of it. However, the glycemic concentrations only increase with processed corn, making it even more dangerous for your dog to eat.
  4. Dyes: Dog foods containing dyes, including Red 40, Blue 2, and Yellows 5 and 6 are linked to health issues in dogs including allergic reactions, changes in behavior, and even cancers. Even though these are the most common dyes, do not buy dog foods with other dyes as a precaution.
  5. Preservatives: The preservative Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a well-known ingredient with many harmful side effects. On tests done with rats, this preservative was shown to cause liver and kidney disease. Another preservative to avoid is ethoxyquin, which is illegal if used for human consumption, but not for pet foods.
Photo by Julian Dutton on Unsplash

What Dog Food is Healthy?

Look out for dog foods that have an Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement which shows that the brand has detailed all of their ingredients and nutrition on the packaging. This also includes what life stage the food is most suitable for (puppies, adult dogs, senior dogs). Feeding your dog the proper food based on their age is important because like people, dogs need different ingredients at each stage of their lives.

Reading the labels on dog foods is key to understanding which food to choose. Since the ingredients are in order by weight, that is something to take into consideration. A downside to this is that ingredients contain large amounts of water weight, making them heavier and thus, making them seem more prominent. For example, dog foods that have meat as a first ingredient may not seem like a bad thing. But, when taking a closer look, the food can come out to be 75% water weight. Buying food with meat meal as an ingredient instead of meat indicates that there is more protein in the meat product because it has less water content. 

Protein is also listed on dog food. This is because dogs do not usually digest all the protein found in their food. Therefore, look for foods with high amounts of protein so that your dog is getting the most nutritional value out of his or her food.

Make the Informed Decision

Consulting with your vet is the best way to understand the unhealthy ingredients in dog foods and to find out the nutritional needs of your canine. Also, reading articles from credible sources and comparing different brands will provide you with the nutritional facts from the dog food companies.

After understanding which ingredients to avoid in dog food, you may be wondering if you can afford healthier dog food options. To get the most for your money look for coupons and deals online.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here