How to Choose a Dog Food

There are so many different things you should consider when choosing food for your dog. Not only should you consider your dog’s own individual needs – but you should also research the food itself, looking into company standards and practices to make sure that the food is to as high of standards as possible.

What I have done for you is put together a series of blog posts to work as your dog nutrition guide on how to choose a dog food.

First we start by evaluating your dog’s individual needs, then we learn how to compare different dog foods based on their packaging to see if they meet your dogs needs based on composition, ingredients, caloric density, etc. Finally once we’ve narrowed down our choices to foods that are appropriate for our dogs we contact the manufacturers and ask them a series of questions about their manufacturing practices, formulation and quality control.

I know this process is LONG, and it can feel overwhelming when you’re a new pet parent. But know if you need help or can’t choose between two or three foods (or can’t find a food that meets your dog’s needs!)- you are always free to reach out and schedule a consultation where I can walk you through the process, make suggestions, and direct you towards options.

Life-stage Nutrition: Puppy vs. Adult vs. Senior

The first aspect of choosing a dog food that we need to consider is going to be the life stage of your dog! Are they a senior, a puppy or an adult.? Each life stage has different nutritional needs, and considerations for optimal health. Breed also does play a role as well – especially when we consider large vs. small breed puppy nutritional needs.

Puppy Nutrition Basics

We know through countless research studies that puppies have significantly different nutritional needs than that of adult dogs. We know they need MORE protein, fat, vitamins and minerals within their diet in order to provide nutrients for developing bones, muscles, ligaments and organs. But we also know several nutrients need to be kept in specific ratios in order to make sure those bones, joints or organs develop correctly.

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Transitioning to Adult Dog Food

When to Transition your Puppy to Adult Dog Food

I think at some point in your puppy’s first year every puppy owner starts to wonder when they should transition to adult dog food, and some even wonder if they should transition their pup to adult food at all. And they answer is actually more complicated than you might think. First you need to understand…

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The Best Dog Food for Active Dogs

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing an ideal food for your dog is their activity level. The dog who gets a less than 15 minute walk each day has significantly different nutritional needs than that of a canine athlete. And even the nutritional needs of canine athletes change depending on the type and duration of activity.

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Medical Conditions:

The next consideration to make when choosing a food for your pup is if they have any medical conditions or breed predispositions. Many medical conditions we see in dogs can be supported using nutrition, some can be managed primarily with just dietary intervention. Some of these conditions include: gastrointestinal disease (with signs like vomiting and diarrhea), allergies (with signs like itching), liver disease, kidney disease, arthritis (aka joint disease), urinary disease, and more.

Gastrointestinal Diseases

The hardest part about gastrointestinal diseases in dogs can be fairly simple – like internal parasites – all the way up to being more complicated – like in the case of inflammatory bowel disease. Each type of gastrointestinal disease can require different types of testing (diagnostics), and may be easily treated or may only be […]

Skin Conditions

There are many different types of skin conditions that dogs can have – some are genetic, whereas others may be due to environmental factors. There is also a subset of conditions (allergies) and are believed to be both genetic, and have some type of environmental trigger. Depending on the condition these conditions may be relatively […]

Nutritional Management of Joint Disease in Dogs

There are many different factors that go into choosing a diet for a dog with arthritis or joint disease – from the right types of fats to fight inflammation, to the amount of protein to support lean muscle mass. Learn about the key nutritional factors that go into making the best dog foods for joint disease.

The Best Dog Food For Dogs with Kidney Disease

The most important nutritional considerations for dog food for dogs with kidney disease to extend and improve quality of life are protein content, moisture content, phosphorus, sodium, and omega 3 fatty acids. The goal of choosing the best diet for dogs with kidney disease is alleviate symptoms, and help our dogs live comfortably with this chronic disease.

Evaluating Dog Food: Guaranteed Analysis, Ingredients, AAFCO Statements

In this section we start to look and compare dog foods: looking at the bag to find information about general composition, the ingredients, the AAFCO statement, the caloric density – all while ignoring all the marking marketing statements on the bag, and website.

How to Compare Ingredient Lists in Dog Food

Looking at ingredients lists to compare dog foods is probably one of the most difficult ways to compare foods. Though it can be simple to glance at ingredients lists to see if foods contain potential allergens if your dog has food allergies or if it contains potentially toxin ingredients – it can be very difficult…

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How much food should I feed my dog?

The age-old question of how much dog food should I feed my dog is actually both rather simple and complicated. What you need to understand to start out is that just like each person has a different metabolism and activity level – dogs are similar. With the added complexity that dogs also come in a…

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Evaluating the Company: Quality Control, Formulation, Feeding Trials

After you have found several foods that are appropriate for your dog’s needs, now it is time to “interview” the companies and brands to see which one is the best choice for your pet. Basically what this involves is asking the company a series of questions about their products, then evaluating their answers and comparing them against each other.

9 Questions to Ask your Pet Food Company

Before you run to the pet store to purchase your dog’s next food it’s important for you to realize that the pet food bag gives you very limited information about the actual quality and safety of the food. A pet food label can give you some information about the general composition, the ingredients within…

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Dog Food Feeding Trials

There are many different ways that a company might test food to make sure that it meets nutrient adequacy. The first of which is simply testing the food to check that it meets AAFCO nutrient standards by laboratory analysis, another is by feeding the foods to staff dogs and monitoring their health. Both of…

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Online Animal Nutrition Courses & Certificates

You should know that the term “Animal Nutritionist” doesn’t actually mean that much. The term is not protected, and anyone with an interest in nutrition for animals can call themselves an “Animal Nutritionist”. Generally speaking though, most job positions require a bachelors in a related field – such as Biology, Animal Science, Animal Nutrition,…

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About the Author: Nikki is a Registered Veterinary Technician (Veterinary Nurse) and Dog Mom with over a decade of experience with dogs and cats. Since graduation from college (BS Biology, AS Animal Health -2013) she has adopted two mixed breed dogs – Ranger and Ash, and has focused her time learning about pet food and nutrition.

Nikki shares information on a range of dog nutrition topics: from how to create a homemade complete and balanced dog food recipes, to how to choose a dog food. Nikki strives to give dog parents the information they need in order to make the best nutrition decisions for their pup!

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