Dog Food Information

No one, not even your dog wishes to eat the same food at every meal. Unless dictated by a specific health requirement it's good to feed your dog a variety of foods. Rotating foods every two to three months can do more then add to our dog's enjoyment of his food, it may help to avoid the development of particular food sensitivity and food allergies.  If your dog is sensitive to food changes, change gradually over one or two weeks.  Slowly blend in the new food and replace the same quantity of the old food each time.

I am often asked what food I recommend so I’m providing this information as a general resource. Since the majority of people feed kibble, the numbers listed for “Guaranteed Analysis” is for kibble. There is no shortage of chooses when it comes to feeding your dog, nor is there a shortage of opinions on the type of food we should be feeding. Our understanding of nutrition is always subject to change as new discoveries are made. The information contained here has been obtained from a variety of sources. Noted here is what I take into consideration when I evaluate dog food. Each dog is an individual and the information here is not meant to be complete or appropriate for all dogs.

Adult dogs can get by on one meal a day but there are advantages to two scheduled feedings. In addition to reducing hunger between meals, one of the best reasons to feed your dog twice a day is that it gives you one more opportunity to provide them with something of great value provided what you are feeding them something they enjoy. These opportunities to provide your dog something of value goes a long way toward gaining his cooperation. 

If your dog is sensitive to food changes, change gradually over one or even two weeks. Slowly blend in the new food and replace the same quantify of the old food each time. Changing foods gradually will provide the digestive tract time to adjust to a different food. 

Review each of the following on the label.

·       AAFCO – Nutritional Statement

  • “Complete and balanced” for Life stage:  “All Life Stages”,  “Adult Maintenance” or,
  • Growth/reproduction (Whatever you choose to feed your dog be certain that it is a balanced diet for your dog.)

·       Guaranteed Analysis

  • Protein, Fat, Fiber, and Moisture

Ingredient List

The first 3-5 items provide the majority of the ingredients in the food. Ingredients on dog food labels are listed in descending order according to weight. Whether you are feeding a raw, canned, or a dry dog food diet, look for quality ingredients. Start by avoiding the ingredients on the Ingredient To Avoid list. 

The AAFCO has Nutrient Profiles that establish the minimum nutrient levels that are used as a standard for dog and cat food. The goal of the AAFCO standards is to establish a pet food is nutritionally adequate. But even this is no guarantee that you are getting a quality food for your dog. The AAFCO protocols is not a guarantee that the food will prevent long-term nutrition or health problems, nor is it designed to ensure optimal growth.

Be wary of commercial pet food that lists ingredients in generic terms like, meat, animal or poultry by-products. Look for named sources such as; lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, etc… or lamb meal, turkey meal, beef meal, chicken meal, etc… A named animal protein generally indicates a higher quality product than generic meats or plant-source proteins. Feeding your dog poor-quality ingredients can lead to nutrient imbalances. Higher quality ingredients have higher digestibilities and are nutrient dense. High-quality foods can have an ingredient list that is almost identical to that of lower quality foods with low digestibility. Many popular brands of pet food contain ingredients that are of moderate quality and have lower digestibilities than most premium brands. The problem is that the protein quality of the ingredients varies greatly and dog food companies are not required to report any measures of food digestibility or protein quality. Companies will make claims that their foods are highly digestible or have superior digestibility but these claims are meaningless without being backed by an actual measure reflecting digestibility in percentage points.  

Digestibility of Protein        

75% or less poor quality

75% - 82% moderate quality

82% and above high quality

Highly digestible food will produce well-formed, firm feces and low feces volume. With a quality food your dog should not defecate more than the number of feeding per day. Additionally foods low in digestibility can be the cause of gas (flatulence), loose stools, and occasionally diarrhea. Low cost foods may reflect the low-quality ingredients that are used. Poor quality foods that are low in digestibility will require the dog to eat more to get the nutrition it needs. One adult dry dog food will recommend feeding approximately 2 cups daily for a 50 lb dog, while another brand will recommend approximately 4 ½ cups. I think it would reason the brand recommending 4 ½ cups to be made up of low quality ingredients.

One of the biggest challenges when searching for dog food for a dog with a moderate activity level is finding one that has a percentage of fat that is no more than 50% of the protein listed. Higher fat diets are a great energy source for active dogs but most dogs will get more calories than they can burn on a high fat diet. For dogs that are overweight I would avoid foods marketed for the “less active” dogs. If you checked the label you may find that this food has the same calories or more than the food you are feeding now. Many of these foods contain a high fiber content which can reduce the overall digestibility and insoluble fiber like cellulose can reduce mineral adsorption. High fiber can lead to increased need to defecate and a larger volume of feces. Instead I would limit treats and slightly reduce the amount of food feed, and increase their daily exercise. There’s an old saying, if your dog is fat you’re not getting enough exercise!

If you are looking for a list of recommended pet foods there are two published that I recommend.

Whole Dog Journal    List is available to subscribers.

Truth About Pet Food   Cost is $10


Food Intolerance & Sensitivity

Dogs can experience allergic reactions the same as people.  But food intolerance or sensitivity is more common than a food allergy. Food intolerances/sensitivities can manifest in gastrointestinal issues, chronic itching, chronic gas, chronic skin, ear and foot infections, especially with the presence of yeast.

 NutriScan Test Kit

NutriScan Test Kit

Food allergies reflect a more immediate immunological response whereas food intolerances/sensitivities build up over time with exposure to offending ingredient(s).  Rotating foods every two to three months can do more then add to our dog's enjoyment of his food, it may help to avoid the development of particular food sensitivity and food allergies. The greater the length of time and frequency a particular food is consumed the greater likelihood an intolerance/sensitivity can develop over time. 

Allergy reactions show up in allergy blood test as antibodies (IgE and IgG). Testing a dog’s saliva for a differing set of antibodies (IgA and IgM) is recommended for testing for the food sensitivity & intolerance.  I have used and now recommend food sensitivity & intolerance test from NutriScan.  With the NutriScan kit you collect saliva with a small cotton dental rope. You can do this at home or at the vet’s office. Then ship the kit back to Hemopet for testing.   (Homeskooling affiliate link - affiliate links helps support our work at no extra cost)

Dodds, W. Jean; Laverdure, Diana. CANINE NUTRIGENOMICS: THE NEW SCIENCE OF FEEDING YOUR DOG FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH     Dogwise Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The Safety Reporting Portal

The Safety Reporting Portal (SRP) streamlines the process of reporting product safety issues to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet: Healthier Dog Food the ABC Way  Brown, Steve. Dogwise Publishing

Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals.  Case, Linda P.  Elsevier Health.

 Dog Food Logic - Making Smart Decisions For Your Dog In An Age Of Too Many Choices   Case, Linda. Dogwise


 Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition   Wiley

 Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 5th Edition  – 2010