CHOOSING what to feed
What is the best type of food?
How to evaluate?
Large Breed Puppy Foods
Transitioning To A New Food
Food Intolerance & Sensitivity
Overweight & Obese Dogs
If your dog stops eating
Safe foods to share with your dog
Dog food storage
Breed Specific Foods
Variety & Rotation
How to compare foods
Pet Food Recalls & Alerts
Reporting Product Safety Issues
The two senses that are fully developed in the dog at birth are touch and taste. Dogs have about 1700 taste buds on their tongue, while humans have about 9000. This does not mean that dogs don’t get as much enjoyment from their food as humans. Just as in humans the sense of flavor is the result of both taste and smell.  Humans have about 5 million scent receptors while dogs average about 220 million. A dog’s choice of foods first is based on the smell, then texture, and taste. Dogs can have a preference for a certain size and texture of foods. While we cannot fully appreciate how dogs experience the world, I think it is safe to say not even your dog wishes to eat the same food at every meal for months or years. Unless dictated by a specific health requirement it would be thoughtful to not feed your dog the same boring food all the time considering your dog’s sophisticated nose that allows her to appreciate the scent of each individual ingredient. Variety can also serve a practical purpose for your dog which is covered below.
Many believe their dog enjoys its food because they quickly inhale the same food for years and eats it in record time. In reality it may be that he is not so much enjoying his food, as much as he is eating everything as fast as he can because he doesn’t want to go hungry nor does he understand there is not a food shortage. This behavior can be developed before 8-weeks of age and is often learned due to how they were fed. It would be far better they learned at an early age that there is no reason to eat like a vacuum, be defensive, or guard your food bowl.
Adult dogs can do well on one meal a day but there are more advantages then trying to minimize bloat to feeding them twice a day. In addition to reducing hunger between meals especially when you are eating in front of them, 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 value provided that you are feeding them something they enjoy. Free feeding is leaving a food bowl filled with a surplus of food available for the dog all day. (For health reasons this is not recommended) Two possible problems with this type of unregulated feeding is first it requires the dog to self-regulate the amount of food it eats. Second you likely will not notice a change in the amount of food your dog is eating or other problems your dog encounters during eating as soon as you would with scheduled feedings. (lack of hunger, tooth problems causing pain which limits the amount of food the dog will eat, etc…) This could result in the delay of a medical diagnosis.
There is no shortage of choices when it comes to feeding your dog, nor is there a shortage of opinions on the 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 are many of the things I take into consideration when evaluating dog food for healthy dogs. Each dog is an individual and the information here is not meant to be complete or appropriate for all dogs.
Pet owners have two primary options with regards to what they feed their pets. They can feed a home prepared food, or purchase a commercially prepared food for their pets.
Generally speaking your choices are:
Dry dog food (extruded kibble)
Baked kibble (less common)
Commercial Fresh and lightly cooked
What is best?
Which of these options is best to feed is dependent on who is providing the answers. Some will say to feed a food that meets minimum standards according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which has established the minimum nutrient levels (Nutritional Adequacy) that are used as a standard for dog and cat food. "Nutritional Adequacy statement" (AAFCO statement) Almost every pet food label will state the food is formulated to meet the minimum nutritional levels established by AAFCO from low quality foods to premium expensive foods. The question is do we wish to feed an adequate food or choose optimal nutrition.
Others go further and say “that the ingredient list is one of the most useless aspects of the pet food label!” In addition to the nutritional adequacy statement they state even more important is whether the manufacturer employs ““at least” one “full-time” qualified nutritionist”, and that the manufacturer own the plant(s) where their food is manufactured. You will also be advised to stay away from raw or fresh foods. After reviewing the history of contaminated foods, seriously ill dogs, deaths, and pet food recalls from large and small companies with and without a nutritionist employed full-time I would not make my decision based on those recommendations.
At the other end of the spectrum is animal nutritionist Dr. Richard Patton and many others who advocate for a balanced raw diet or home cooked foods and to avoid dry kibble due to high soluble carbohydrates. This is especially important for dogs battling cancer since carbohydrates will feed cancer.
What to feed nutritionally, best to worst. (Dr. Richard Patton)
What to feed based on lowest cost to highest. (Dr. Richard Patton)
“Most commercial pet foods are based on high-glycemic, genetically engineered (GE) corn, wheat, rice or potato — grains and starches that have no place in your pet's diet, creating metabolically stressful insulin, glucagon and cortisol spikes throughout the day.
Carbs also break down into sugar, which fuels degenerative conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Low-quality proteins and fats (not fit for human consumption) are combined with the starches, processed at high temperatures, a process that creates cancerous byproducts, like heterocyclic amines, and then supplemented with a synthetic vitamin/mineral blend, usually from China.” 
Feed The Best You Can You Afford
To start, just select the best food you can afford. Make your best selection and we will offer guidance on how to improve whatever type of food under HOW TO MAKE THE FOOD YOU FEED BETTER! Choose convenience, price, or quality. Choose two because you cannot have all three. Kibble is convenient and is the lowest price to feed, but you cannot have optimal nutrition. Purchasing commercial raw is convenient and can provide optimal nutrition if formulated correctly but it comes at a high price. You can feed raw or fresh food more economically by making and purchasing all the ingredients yourself. But in order not to induce nutritional deficiencies you will need supplements and or a professional nutritionist to provide you exact recipes. “Owners of several big dogs could rapidly go broke feeding a fresh or raw diet, but to the extent that the dry kibble can be reduced, or lowered as a percentage of the diet, nutrition will be better.” “The solution is to feed as much raw, frozen, canned or freeze dried pet food as your budget will allow.”
To compare costs of differing foods you will need to first determine the number of calories your dog needs each day. Start by looking at the amount of food they are currently eating to determine the calories. Most commercial pet foods list the calorie content on the label. Calories on pet foods are generally listed as “kcal” which is the same as a “calorie” on human food labels. Calories will usually be listed as kcal/kg which the number of calories per kg which is 2.2lbs. (e.g. 3678 kcal/kg) Additionally calories will be noted for calories per cup (419kcal/cup), or for fresh frozen per oz (8 oz.: 422 kcal/patty) Like people all dogs are different and will have differing calorie needs. The feeding guides on pet food labels are just a starting point and the recommendations may not be appropriate for your dog.
With dry food determining the cost to feed per day and how long a bag of dry food will last can be a bit complicated because dry foods have differing densities and weights. The typical dry food is close to 4 oz per cup and has about 4 cups per pound. But foods can vary widely. One food can have close to 3 oz a cup (5 ¼ cups/lb) and another about 5 ¾ oz a cup (2 ¾ cups/lb). With the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet you can determine the ounces per cup and cups per pound of food using the calorie content of the food.
Raw foods formulated for pets are available from commercial manufactures and sold in pet stores as either frozen or freeze-dried. Foods that are dehydrated with heat can be excellent quality but they would rank below foods not exposed to heat like in freeze-drying. But just as with other types of pet foods some are excellent while others are poorly formulated. For specific information on how to evaluate a commercial raw food here is an excellent article: Guidelines for evaluating commercial “complete and balanced” raw diets. “If one does not see specific foods or supplements for iodine, manganese, and vitamin E, the foods likely will not meet the definition of complete and balanced, and may not be healthy. Note that while some manufacturers claim that spirulina is a source of manganese and/or iodine in their foods, it’s not likely to provide enough to meet the recommended amounts.” 
You can always make your own pet food by following directions from a nutritionist or veterinarian. Professionals will often caution pet owners on preparing home prepared foods due to the risk of illness resulting from salmonella. Healthy dogs are resistant to the effects of salmonella infection. In fact salmonella is present in the digestive tracts of many dogs. Handling raw foods while preparing meals for your pets is really no more risk than handling raw food for humans. Whether preparing food for humans or animals it is recommended to thoroughly wash your hands and clean all surfaces that have come into contact with raw meat or pet foods.
Many professionals recommend against pet owners preparing their dogs meals due to nutritional imbalances that can occur. Books like the “Small Animal Clinical Nutrition” recommend feeding a commercially prepared food for consistency and better nutritional balance. But after stating all the challenges of formulating a home prepared food for your dog even this book concedes it is possible to make nutrient balanced food for your dog at home and it provides recipes to make complete and balanced meals for both dogs and cats. The book lists homemade recipes for healthy dogs and cats, and recipes for those suffering with a urinary, gastrointestinal, heart disease, kidney disease, or just overweight issues.
No one food or diet is great for every dog. Dogs can thrive on a raw or home-cooked diets. The key is that home prepared meals need to have the proper ingredients in the proper ratios to include vitamins and minerals for the food to be nutritionally complete. If you include vegetables in home prepared foods lightly cooking them can increase digestibility, but cooking too long may increase vitamin loss. When adding vitamin and mineral supplements they can be destroyed by heat so they should be kept separate from the food and not added until just before serving.
“Many (and I would say most) homemade and prey-model diets and even some commercially available raw diets are nutritionally unbalanced. This can cause dogs to become deficient in antioxidants, or the correct amounts of trace minerals and vitamins, or the right fatty acid balance for appropriate and balanced skeletal growth, and organ and immune health. Just because nutritional deficiencies aren't obvious in your dog doesn't mean they don't exist.
Although fresh meat is a good source of protein and some minerals, it doesn't represent a balanced diet. Wild canines eat nearly all the parts of their prey, including small bones, internal organs, blood, brain, glands, hair, skin, teeth, eyes, tongue and other tasty treats. Many of these parts of prey animals provide important nutrients, and in fact, this is how carnivores in the wild nutritionally balance their diets.
There are only two options for assuring nutritional adequacy in homemade diets: feeding a more expensive, whole food recipe that contains a significant number of diversified ingredients necessary to meet nutrient requirements, or using supplements. Most homemade diets lack the correct calcium and phosphorus balance as well as essential fatty acid balance.” 
When Raw is not Appropriate to Feed
"Although raw diets represent the most nutritionally bio-available and natural diet for dogs, there are times when dogs should not be fed raw animal proteins. Dogs with bowel problems such as gastroenteritis, which might include bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, constipation or all of the above, should not be fed a raw diet during flare-ups. When the bowel is not moving at its normal rate, there is increased risk for bacteria present in raw meat to incubate and multiply in the bowel pockets and then to enter the bile duct and damage the liver." 
Can my dog eat this diet while on chemo or radiation?
“Yes, they can. As a matter of fact, a ketogenic diet can improve the outcome of these treatments as well as mitigate the harsh side effects often associated with standard of care therapies. Please see our “Scientific Articles” section to read journals associated with these findings.“
How to evaluate?
Dog and cat foods will have on the label a “Guaranteed Analysis” and a “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” which will indicate what type of pet and what stage of life the product is suited for. Start with the “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” which will state whether the food is “Complete and Balanced”.
“Complete and balanced” for:
All Life Stages”
Growth/reproduction (Puppies, gestation/lactation)
A food that is “Complete and Balanced” for “All Life Stages” is designed to meet adequate nutritional levels established by the AAFCO for pregnant dogs, nursing dogs, growing puppies, and mature dogs. A food “Complete and Balanced” for “Adult Maintenance” is designed to meet the nutritional levels for adult dogs but not pregnant, nursing dogs, or puppies.
It the label states the food “is intended for intermittent or supplemental feeding only” it does not contain the necessary vitamins and minerals to provide complete nutrition so it is not “Complete and Balanced”.
The “Nutritional Adequacy Statement” is determined in one of two ways. This can be accomplished generally with either feeding trails or formulating a food to meet the nutrient profiles established by AAFCO for nutritional adequacy.
AAFCO feeding trials are generally considered a better standard to determine a food meets the minimum guaranteed analysis because the food is actually fed to dogs. But this is no guarantee that you are getting a quality food for your dog. A feeding trial for adult dog food typically uses eight dogs over one year of age. These dogs are tested on the food for six months and during that time they will undergo limited blood tests. For the feeding trial to be valid, only six of the dogs need to complete the test without losing more than 15 percent of their body weight while eating the food. This is not exactly a gold standard for determining quality foods. “trials do have limitations with respect to catching long-term nutritional problems”  The AAFCO testing protocols is not a guarantee that a food will prevent long-term nutrition or health problems, nor is it “intended to ensure optimal growth or maximize physical activity.”  “This type of protocol will usually detect the vast majority of nutrient deficiencies but might not detect some nutrient excesses that may be harmful when fed over a longer period.” 
Growing puppies generally need twice the number of calories per day as an adult dog weighing the same. Foods for puppies and growing small or medium size dogs typical will have over 400 kcals/cup and often have calcium levels that are over 1.1 %. When puppies are young and growing rapidly they should be feed up to 4 times a day to meet their nutritional needs.  (Do not free feed)
Large Breed Puppies
Knowledge of nutrition is always growing and research supports feeding large breed puppies a reduced calorie and calcium diet (comparatively speaking) to support a moderate, and not maximal rate of growth. Choose a food formulated for large breed puppies "Brand X "Puppy Large Breed is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages, including for growth of large size dogs (70 lb or more as an adult)."
The most important considerations in feeding a large breed puppy is finding the right balance of calories and dietary calcium levels to control the rate of growth to prevent orthopedic diseases such as dysplasia, osteoarthritis and chronic pain. “Typically, a large breed growth (puppy) food provides between 300 and 340 kcals/cup of food and contains between 0.8 and 1.0 % calcium.” 
It is recommended that large breed puppies maintain a "body condition score" (BCS) of 4 on a 9 point scale. With large breed puppies I highly recommend you work with a nutritionist to help evaluate any food you feed.
Is the food working for growing puppies and dog?
A puppy is growing fast and they can develop nutritional deficiencies in a short period of time if not feed a quality diet. Once the puppy’s growth plates close (14-18 months of age) the nutritional damage is permanent. Puppies should be kept lean (not plump) throughout growth. The goal would be a "body condition score" (BCS) of 4 on a 9 point scale. You won’t limit their growth by keeping them lean. “Adult size is genetically determined; feeding for a lean body condition simply slows down rate of growth, it does not stunt growth. Dogs attain adult size at a gradual and healthy rate if fed with careful attention to their body condition." 
Puppies should be alert, active, and inquisitive. If the food is working you should see:
Tight feet (Not splayed feet)
Straight legs and pasterns (unless breed standard is different)
Full coat & healthy
Supple, smooth skin
No inflamed or irritated membranes (e.g. ears, feet)
Stool (Poop) is moist and firm, and has a mild odor.
Transitioning To A New Food
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.
Once you have selected a category of food you can afford to feed and determined it’s appropriate for your dog’s life stage, check out the ingredients. Whether you are feeding a raw, canned, or a dry dog food, look for quality ingredients. Start by avoiding the ingredients on the "Ingredient To Avoid" list.
Be wary of commercial pet food that lists ingredients in generic terms like, meat (mystery meats), animal or poultry by-products. Look for named sources such as; lamb, turkey, beef, chicken, etc… or dehydrated chicken, dehydrated beef, 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.
“When evaluating dry dog foods, a general rule of thumb is that the first five ingredients that you see in the list provide 80 % or more of the food’s nutrients.” 
“As with human foods, federal law requires that pet food companies report all included ingredients in decreasing preponderance by weight on their product’s label. This means that ingredients that are listed first are present in the highest amount in a given product. However, and here is the catch, the weight of each ingredient includes the moisture (amount of water) present in the ingredient at the time of processing. This makes interpretation a bit tricky because some ingredients contain a lot of water (up to 70 %) while others contain very little water (12 % or less). The result is that an ingredient that is listed first on the list may appear to be the most important component of the food, when in effect it contributed a lot of water and much less in the way of essential nutrients. When evaluating dry dog foods, a general rule of thumb is that the first five ingredients that you see in the list provide 80 % or more of the food’s nutrients.” 
Healthy Fruits & Vegetables
When you see "healthy" fruits and vegetables look to see where they land in the mix. “our rule of thumb is that any ingredient that follows salt on the list must make up less than 1 percent of the diet.”  “One good example of adding ingredients to a diet solely to make the diet sound more appealing is ingredient lists that have fruits and vegetables or other whole foods listed after the salt or other vitamin and mineral supplements. These ingredients may be present in the diet in amounts less than a few grams per pound of food (amounts that we call “fairy dust”) and are often contributing no measurable nutrients, yet the food looks more appealing to pet owners because it has fruits and vegetables.”
I'm neither a nutritionist nor a veterinarian; I'm a dog owner and trainer who read’s labels and the ingredient list. On the puppy and adult food ingredient labels below "Apples, Broccoli, Carrots, Cranberries, Green Peas" are located at the bottom of the ingredient list more than twenty places below salt. It would appear these were added for marketing reasons not for any real nutrition in these amounts. Interesting to note, both these foods are manufactured by a large pet food company that employs multiple veterinarians and nutritionists. I’m not a nutritionist but I will make the leap and say I think the ingredients in these amounts are less than a few grams per pound of food and are contributing no measurable nutrients. I would call this “fairy dust”. And expensive “fairy dust” at that!
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an alert about reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating pet foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes as main ingredients. “These reports are unusual because DCM is occurring in breeds not typically genetically prone to the disease.” DCM is a disease of the heart muscle and results in an enlarged heart that often results in congestive heart failure.
“Breeds that are typically more frequently affected by DCM include large and giant breed dogs, such as Great Danes, Boxers, Newfoundlands, Irish Wolfhounds, Saint Bernards and Doberman Pinschers. It is less common in small and medium breed dogs, except American and English Cocker Spaniels. However, the cases that have been reported to the FDA have included Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Whippets, a Shih Tzu, a Bulldog and Miniature Schnauzers, as well as mixed breeds.”
“Taurine deficiency is well-documented as potentially leading to DCM.” This was a problem with cats in the 1980s. Cats require taurine in their food and it is considered essential in their diet. Taurine has not been considered essential for dogs since they can synthesize taurine from the amino acids cysteine and methionine. The FDA issued their alert after a significant number of dogs developed DCM that were on foods containing high levels of peas, lentils, legumes, or potatoes. These dogs were found to have low levels of taurine in their blood. The exact cause is not known and is currently being studied. It may be that certain dogs have a higher requirement for taurine in their diets. The cause may be low or poor quality proteins in the diet, or be caused by ingredient interactions. DCM in dogs has been studied for years although the cause is not certain there have been low taurine levels in dogs that are associated with lamb meal and rice foods, rice bran, cellulose, beet pulp, and high fiber diets.
“Unfortunately, some processed pet food advocates are using the link between grain-free dog foods and DCM to try to push pet parents back in the direction of grain-based diets. Don't be fooled. The problem with grain-free formulas isn't the lack of grains!”
“Mycotoxin contamination in pet food poses a serious health threat to pets. Cereal grains and nuts are used as ingredients in commercial pet food for companion animals such as cats, dogs, birds, fish, reptiles and rodents. Cereal by-products may be diverted to animal feed even though they can contain mycotoxins at concentrations greater than raw cereals due to processing (Moss, 1996; Brera et al., 2006).”
“Given what we do know, a recommendation is to feed a food that contains sufficient levels high quality, animal-source protein, does not include plant-source proteins as its primary protein source, and does not contain high levels of dietary fiber.”
I would not be feeding any foods containing peas, lentils, other legume seeds, or potatoes that are listed in the first 5 ingredients.
“The most commonly employed technique to change the ingredient declaration order is referred to as “ingredient splitting.” In this method, an ingredient that may be perceived by the consumer as less desirable (such as corn) is “fractionated” into different components such as corn, corn meal, or corn gluten, in part so that the individual inclusion levels are less than the more desirable animal protein source”  “In fact, a large portion of the protein in cereal-based dry pet foods typically comes from grains, including rice, corn, wheat and barley.”  Ingredient Splitting
"This same principle is used in dry pet foods in which "fresh" meats are highlighted. The ingredient list may look like this for a lamb and rice dog food that claims to provide "real lamb meat." Lamb, brewers rice, ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, oat groats, poultry by-product meal, beef tallow....Lamb appears first on ingredient list because its moisture content is higher than that of the other dry ingredients. The predominant portion of the food contains a mixture of grains (rice, corn, oats) rather than "real meat." - Small Animal Clinical Nutrition 5th Edition
“Dogs have no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates (Association of American Feed Control Officials, 2016) and have evolved to thrive on a diet high in animal protein and fat (Buffington, 2008; Verbrugghe et al., 2012). However, dogs can tolerate low levels of carbohydrates and are therefore classed as omnivorous carnivores (Swanson et al., 2011).” 
Dogs have “no minimum dietary requirement for simple carbohydrates or starches”  and “do not need carbohydrates, as long as they are eating a high protein diet.” (Protein covered below) The standard dry dog food (kibble) requires starch (carbohydrates) which is processed into uniform pieces of kibble through a process call extrusion using heat and high pressure to make essentially an air-popped kibble. Much the same way human cereals and other high starch products are made. The dry kibble is than sprayed with fats and other flavoring to make the food palatable.
Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that “Moderate amounts (up to one-third by weight of the recipe) of high protein, mineral rich carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, yams, and low gluten grains such as oats and rice, are healthy for most adult dogs, as long as the fats in the recipe are balanced and the meats lean.” “I think a strong argument can be made that moderate levels of carbohydrates from nutrient rich sources are healthier for most adult dogs than diets high in saturated fats (typical raw beef products) or polyunsaturated fats (typical chicken products).” (See fats below)
As noted above the goal would be to avoid dry kibble due to high soluble carbohydrates (starch). The majority of dry kibble dog foods have between 30-50% or more of the calories coming from carbohydrates which is high. Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that the gold standard for carbohydrates would be 6% of the calories would come from carbohydrates. Note that the percentage of calories is not the same as the "guaranteed analysis" %. You can use the Pet Food Math Cheat to determine the percentage of calories from carbohydrates, fat, and protein.
“Carbohydrates provide a significantly less expensive source of energy than protein and most fats”, so many people purchase foods with “considerable amounts of carbohydrates to reduce the cost of the dog food” . The goal when feeding carbohydrates is to feed “the correct type of carbohydrates. Not all carbohydrates are the same. “Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate—it is primarily plant cell walls resistant to digestion.“
“many human athletes engage in a strategy called “carbohydrate loading” or “carbo-loading.” Although this has been shown to work well for many human athletes competing in endurance events, we now know that carbo-loading is not an effective strategy for our canine athletes, who have been shown to be a different animal altogether.” 
“Carbo-loading is not an effective nutritional strategy with canine athletes because metabolically dogs are naturally more efficient at using fat as a fuel for exercising muscles than carbohydrate (glycogen), even when exercising at relatively high intensities.” 
“Although the majority of these studies have been conducted with pulling dogs and hunting dogs, Shay Hill, of Massey University in New Zealand, recently studied the importance of fat versus carbohydrate in the diets of sheep-herding dogs in her PhD dissertation research. Her results were in agreement with previous studies—she found that a diet that was high in both fat and protein and low in digestible carbohydrate supported the best running and working performance in her group of hard-working herding dogs.” 
Functional carbohydrates include cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and bok choy and fresh, whole fruits, such as apples, bananas, berries, cantaloupe and watermelon. Functional carbohydrates are packed with health-promoting vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) that promote health at the cellular level.”
"animals do not have a requirement for protein per se but have an amino acid requirement."  Proteins are made up of amino acids and dogs have a requirement for 22 amino acids like other animals. 12 are considered non-essential since their body can make these, and 10 are essential and must be provided in their diet. “Protein from animals, unlike protein from most plants, contains balanced amino acids and a complete range of protein-type nutrients, including taurine and carnitine."  "Proteins that provide optimal proportions of all essential amino acids are referred to as high quality proteins." 
“Most plant proteins do not contain taurine, an essential amino acid for cats, and under some circumstances possibly a conditionally essential amino acid in dogs. Animal-based protein sources are recommended for both dogs and cats due to their pattern of essential amino acids.”  Foods formulated to derive protein from plants often add synthetic amino acids to make up for deficiencies. "Synthetic amino acids currently added to some pet foods include L-methionine or D, L-methionine, L-lysine, L-arginine and taurine."  Protein excess (toxicity) is not a practical problem unless; "synthetic amino acids mistakenly added to foods at very high levels can cause toxicity." 
My goal is to choose foods that derived their nutrition from whole foods and natural ingredients. I prefer to avoid foods that add synthetic vitamins like menadione sodium bisulfite a synthetic vitamin K, and synthetic amino acids like DL-Methionine, L-Lysine, L-Carnitine, and Taurine.
"In commercial pet foods, the protein quality of ingredients varies tremendously."  Quality proteins are highly digestible and provide usable essential amino acids. Protein quality and digestibility can be affected by ash content, cooking time, temperature, and fiber content.  “Proteins of plant origin generally have lower digestibility than animal proteins because plant fiber and carbohydrates lower digestion, due to a reduced degradation rate of nutrients in the gut and increase bacterial activity”  “a large portion of protein in cereal-based dry pet foods typically comes from grains, including rice, corn, wheat and barley. Some plant products (e.g. soybean meal and corn gluten meal) are concentrated sources of plant protein.” 
“Take Away for Dog Folks: In this study, steamed chicken was evaluated as the highest protein quality, followed closely by raw chicken. Retorted chicken was of moderate quality, while the chicken meal, the form of chicken that is included in almost all dry, extruded dog foods, lagged dramatically behind and was found to be an incomplete protein source for both adult and growing dogs. 
“Poor quality proteins can lead to profound nutritive failure, accompanied by a rapid decline in weight, loss of appetite”  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.
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 (poop) 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.
Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that the gold standard is 49% of the calories would come from protein. Dr. Richard Patton states you need at minimum 18% protein on a dry matter basis, and there is no need to go beyond 50-60%. Note that dry matter basis and the percentage of calories is not the same as the "guaranteed analysis" %. We will show you how to determine the percentage of calories later with the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet.
“some older dogs may have reduced digestive efficiency, the quality of the protein that is in the food is very important” 
“not only should we not reduce protein for healthy older dogs, research has shown that healthy aging animals benefit from slightly higher levels of dietary protein. They need this to help to support lean body tissue and possibly also to support a healthy immune system.” 
"There is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding optimum protein intake for senior dogs (Case et al., 2011; Wannemacher & McCoy, 1966). Many people believe that protein overworks older kidneys and that protein should automatically be decreased in an older dog’s diet. This is false. Dietary protein does not stress or harm the kidneys of otherwise healthy senior dogs. On the contrary, healthy older dogs require slightly more protein. Protein minimizes loss of lean body mass that accompanies the aging process. 
“Protein reserves are also important because the body mobilizes protein as a natural part of its response to stress, including disease, infection and injury; therefore, loss of protein reserves inhibits an animal’s ability to respond to stress. In direct opposition to common recommendations, senior dogs actually benefit from moderate to high levels of high quality, readily bioavailable dietary protein” (Case et al., 2011)." 
Fats provide needed energy (calories) for dogs but it should also provide a good balance of fatty acids beneficial to dogs. Balanced fats are comprised of saturated fats (30-40% of total fat), monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, omega-6, omega-3’s, LA/ALA, EPA & DHA.
“Most dogs do not eat balanced fat diets, and consume little, if any, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), probably the most important fat for the brain and eyes. Even most dogs fed homemade diets do not eat the proper balance of fats because modern feedlot animals have different amounts and balance of fats than do wild prey animals. Poorly balanced fats are one of the major weaknesses of almost all commercial and most homemade dog foods." 
Some companies include fish oils which is a primary source of omega-3’s (DHA). “Although the original DHA content of the food is listed on the bag, it is not necessarily the amount of DHA that is in the food when you feed it to your dog. Extrusion processing (where the food is quickly cooked under high pressure, the way most dog foods are processed) and long-term storage make oxidation of the DHA likely.”  DHA is fragile and will oxidize, which means it will turn rancid. No DHA in the diet is better than rancid DHA. “Rancid fats reduce the nutritive value of the protein, degrade vitamins and antioxidants, and can cause diarrhea, liver and heart problems, macular degeneration, cell damage, cancer, arthritis, and death." 
“the best way for dry and frozen food feeders to ensure the proper balance of fats and to avoid rancid fats is by feeding a properly stored (see Chapter 7), recently made, basic food without added fish oils or EPA and DHA. Instead add these fragile fats yourself” 
Fats should be in the proper balance and proportion to protein and carbohydrates. Whereas endurance sled dogs in extreme racing conditions will consume over 10,000 calories and day on a high fat diet, the average dog will be better served on a diet with far fewer calories and fat. Pet food formulator Steve Brown states that the gold standard is 44% of the calories would come from fat. We will show you how to determine the percentage of calories later with the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet.
Food Intolerance & Sensitivity
Feeding the best food and ingredients is great unless your dog or cat has an intolerance or sensitivity to them. Food intolerances/sensitivities can manifest in (GI) gastrointestinal issues, chronic itching, gas rumblings, chronic gas, chronic burping, chronic skin, ear and foot infections, especially with the presence of yeast. I have found that a small amount of an offending ingredient causes issues. Reactions can be cause by the differing proteins, or oats, millet, quinoa, lentils, barley, salmon oil, herring oil, etc. Dogs can experience allergic reactions the same as people. But food intolerance or sensitivity is more common than a food allergy. NUTRISCAN: Salivary Diagnostic Test for Food Intolerance
If your dog or cat has itchy skin, diarrhea, gas, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease your dog or cat likely has a food sensitivity or intolerance. Does your dog lick obsessively? It may be due to a food sensitivity or intolerance. Having been down this road more than once the first place I start is with a food intolerance/sensitivity test by NutriScan since food intolerance/sensitivity it is more common than a food allergy. NutriScan helped eliminate the guesswork without putting my dogs through weeks/months of food trails and continually going to the vet to manage symptoms.
Does your dog eat grass regularly? Some grass eating is normal but excessive grass eating can be due to illness or gastrointestinal issue like a food intolerance. After running a NutriScan food intolerance test on each of my own dogs and then eliminating several foods from their diet their grass eating reduced about 95%.
Food intolerances/sensitivities can 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.
“dogs and cats may develop food allergies after prolonged exposure to one brand, type or form of food. In contrast, adverse reactions due to food intolerance may occur after a single exposure to a food ingredient because immune amplification is unnecessary.” 
Allergy reactions show up in allergy blood test as antibodies (IgE and IgG), but food sensitivity & intolerances are tested with a dog’s saliva for a differing set of antibodies (IgA and IgM). 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.
Lean dogs have longer lives
Median life span was significantly longer for dogs in which food was restricted. 
Lean dogs have healthier lives
“diet restriction also was associated with a longer median time to first treatment of osteoarthritis (the most common chronic disease among dogs in this study) and a longer median time to first treatment of any chronic condition.” 
Overweight dogs and cats have an increased risk for urinary stone formations. 
The problem with dry dog and cat foods are the high carbohydrates. Many veterinarians and nutritionist recommend if your dog or cat is overweight cut the carbs!
"Calorie restriction—but not protein restriction should be pursued in overweight animals to achieve a slow rate of weight loss of 0.5% to 1% weekly." ... "Diets high in protein appear superior to those with moderate amounts of protein"
Using the gold standard pet food formulator Steve Brown recommends carbohydrates would be 6% of calories. (Dry kibble ranges from 20% to 60%+) The ideal remaining calorie breakdown would be 49% of the calories would come from protein, and 44% from fat. Remember that the percentage of calories is not the same as the "guaranteed analysis" %. We will show you how to determine the percentage of calories later with the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet.
“Limiting dietary carbohydrate is an important component of metabolic control for weight loss. There are three key advantages to limiting dietary carbohydrate to 20% (DM) or less: 1) lower glycemic index, 2) metabolic shift from energy storage to energy usage and 3) increased satiety.” 
One challenge 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 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. “A dry food that reports a crude fiber content that is higher than 5 or 6% has added fiber.”  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!
Thyroid Disease (Dr. Jean Dodds)
Hypothyroidism is the most common endocrine disorder of dogs. Nearly 90% of cases result from autoimmune thyroiditis, the heritable autoimmune disease that progressively destroys the thyroid gland. Classical clinical signs of hypothyroidism only appear once >70% of the gland is damaged. Thyroid Testing
Certain foods contain naturally occurring substances called goitrogens that can interfere with the thyroid gland’s production of hormone. “The two main groups of goitrogen-containing foods are cruciferous vegetables and soy products.” “The grain millet is also mildly goitrogenic. Limit feeding of these foods if your dog displays signs of thyroid imbalance.” 
Non Cruciferous Vegetables
AVOID if issues with thyroid
The KetoPet Sanctuary offers a free “KetoPet Calculator” that you can use to create a diet for dogs with cancer or seizures. The recipes are simple and easy to prepare. http://www.ketopetsanctuary.com/
“Dogs prone to seizures should not consume any potentially inflammatory ingredients, including foods that trigger allergies or intolerances/sensitivities”. (NutriScan test) (Dr. Jean Dodds) https://drjeandoddspethealthresource.tumblr.com/post/132332401041/seizures-epilepsy-dog#.W6QVZ_lRfgc
AVOID foods containing glutamate and aspartate.
Glutamate and aspartate are two excitatory non-essential amino acids.
Grains - wheat, barley, and oats
All cow’s milk products (opt instead for goat’s milk, which is much lower)
Beans, especially soy, pinto, lima, black, navy, lentils
Nuts, especially peanuts, cashews and pistachios
Seeds, including sunflower and pumpkin
Foods sweetened with aspartame, such as NutraSweet and Equal;
MSG monosodium glutamate
MSG can appear on pet food labels under a number of pseudonyms, including “hydrolyzed vegetable protein”, “soy protein extract” and “textured vegetable protein”
AVOID high glycemic index (GI) foods
Calcium-Oxalate Cyrstals (Stones & “Leaky gut Syndrome”)
Dogs with “leaky gut syndrome” or issues with calcium-oxalate crystals potentially forming into kidney stones may need to avoid high oxalates foods; (Dr. Jean Dodds)
“opt instead for lower oxalate choices” “And, of course, feed in moderation.” 
AVOID if issues with calcium-oxalate cyrstals
Beans - Green beans (black beans, white beans, great northern beans, navy beans and pink beans)
Wheat & Wheat germ
Yogurt, milk, & cheese
“To reduce urine pH, which is the goal for most pets with struvite crystals, I recommend feeding a low-carb, grain-free, starch-free, potato-free, preferably fresh food diet. “My second choice is canned food or a dehydrated or freeze-dried diet that has been reconstituted with lots of water.” One of the best things you can do for a pet struggling to maintain a healthy urine pH is reduce the amount of carbohydrates or starches in her diet.” “When you look at the ingredient list on your pet's processed food, you'll see things like corn, wheat, rice and soy, as well as perhaps oatmeal, chickpea, sweet potato, potato and tapioca. All of those carbohydrates alkalize your pet's urine.” https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2017/07/09/struvite-stones-in-pets.aspx
If Your Dog Stops Eating!
If your dog or cats stops eating the food you have been feeding don't add or mix in anything to make the food more appetizing. They may have refused to eat due to an infestation of mites, or the presence of bacteria, mold, or rancid fats. Improper food storage can result in bacteria and mold growth, and fats going rancid. Consuming this food can contribute to chronic health problems.
Offer your dog something else to eat. If they eat the new food you offered, there may be a problem with the food you've been feeding. If your dog is refusing something else tasty you offered, they may not be feeling well. For a healthy adult dog there is no harm in them fasting, in fact it is recommended by many veterinarians. But if you have a puppy, diabetic dog, or senior dog contact your veterinarian.
Safe Foods To Share With Your Dog
The dogs I share my life with are companion dog's. "'Companion' comes from 'panis', the Latin word for bread. Originally, the word was used to describe someone with whom you shared a meal." I share almost everything I eat with my dogs' as long as it is safe and they do not have a food intolerance / sensitivity to it. Since I adopted them I treat them like family. Dogs are not our peers, but we should be their best friend.
"The occasional feeding of table foods should not be of concern for healthy pets unless the food composes more than 10% of the daily dry matter intake"  "Dry matter" can be determined with the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet.
Breed Specific Foods
Royal Canin, IAMS, and Eukanuba all make breeds specific foods for dogs as small as Chihuahua’s to German Shepherds. The big question is does it matter?
Reviewing the three companies Chihuahua dog foods show similar ingredients in differing quantities. One thing it appears all three have in common is that they appear to be low on meat protein since all three foods have listed at least one synthetic amino acid in the ingredients. Nor do all three foods match with regards to the “Guaranteed Analysis” with respect to a minimum level of protein, fat, and fiber. The calories range from 323 up to 407 per cup.
It is similar for the Labrador Retriever foods. All three appear to be low on meat protein; one has added taurine and L-carnitine, and another has DL-Methionime, and L-Carnitine, with the third listing L-Lysine, L-Tryptophan, and DL-Methionime. Nor do any of the three match on minimums for protein (23%, 25%, & 28%), or fat. The calories range from 276 - 348 per cup.
It is the same story with the German Shepherd foods. All three add synthetic amino acids and the calories range from 314-365 per cup. One thing all three companies appear to agree on is that German Shepherds need less protein than Chihuahua’s. (22%, 23%, & 24%)
What also stands out is these breed specific foods appear no different than many other adult dog foods on the market. What makes all this even more interesting is that at the time of this review (September 2018) Royal Canin, IAMS, and Eukanuba are all owned by the worlds largest pet food company, Mars Petcare. Working with breeders of the most popular registered breeds seems to be a smart marketing strategy to have the best chance of capturing customers early. To answer the questions of does it matter, I believe canine nutritionist Linda Case sums it up well. “These foods (obviously) target owners of specific breeds who wish to believe that significant (and scientifically proven) differences in nutrient needs exist among dog breeds (they do not).”
“comparisons of these foods often expose a distinction without a difference” - Linda Linda. Dog Food Logic
The Myth: Kibble Is Good for Your Pet’s Teeth
“Dry pet food is promoted as helping to keep pets’ teeth clean, but it’s complete nonsense. Kibble is no better for your dog’s or cat’s teeth than crunchy human food is for your teeth.” (Healthypets.com)
Variety & Rotation are Important
It is frequently recommended to feed a variety of proteins and brands of foods and to rotate them often for several reasons.
Dogs fed the same food over time are more likely to develop particular food sensitivity and food allergies.
If a food is imbalanced, has an excess of a nutrient, or is deficient in an ingredient, rotating foods will limit long term exposure.
Your dog will likely enjoy variety.
“dogs and cats may develop food allergies after prolonged exposure to one brand, type or form of food. In contrast, adverse reactions due to food intolerance may occur after a single exposure to a food ingredient because immune amplification is unnecessary.” 
The goal is to rotate and feed a variety of differing proteins and brands of food over time to help correct for any excesses, insufficiencies, or imbalances. Select several quality foods with a with a similar protein, fat, and calorie content to compare and make a decision on what to feed. With the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet you can run the math to analyze and compare any type of pet food. Dry kibble, canned food, baked kibble, freeze-dried, raw, etc. You can get a copy of the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet here.
How To Compare Foods
We cannot compare foods based on the "Guaranteed Analysis" alone since these numbers do not represent the full nutrient profile of the food. Differing types of foods (dry, canned, dehydrated, raw, etc…) have different amounts of moisture (water) so they will have great differences in the percentage of protein and fat listed on the label. Just subtracting the moisture content and comparing foods on a dry matter basis is not sufficient. Two foods with the same moisture content, and percentage of protein can provide differing amounts of total protein.
To compare foods we need to know what percentage of calories come from protein, fat, and carbohydrates, and how many grams (g) of protein per 1,000 calories the food provides. To determine this we need to run the math using the "Guaranteed Analysis" and the "Calorie Content".
Steve Brown pet food formulator states the gold standard for the food calories breakdown would be:
Calorie Breakdown (Not “Guaranteed Analysis”)
Note that the percentage of calories is not the same as the "guaranteed analysis" %. To determine the percentage of calories we have created the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet which you can use to analyze and compare any type of pet food. Dry kibble, canned food, baked kibble, freeze-dried, raw, etc.
Just enter the information from the "Guaranteed Analysis" and the "Calorie Content" on the food label and the cheat sheet will do the math so you can compare any type of food. Don't worry the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet that will do the math for you.
Since the goal is to rotate and feed a variety of differing proteins and brands of food over time to help correct for any excesses, insufficiencies, or imbalances. Select several quality foods with a similar protein, fat, fiber, and calorie content to compare and make a decision on what to feed. With the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet you can run the math to analyze and compare any type of pet food. Dry kibble, canned food, baked kibble, freeze-dried, raw, etc. Get your copy of the Pet Food Math Cheat Sheet here.
“No One Method Is Best for Feeding Dogs or Cats Pets can flourish eating just about any foods (with a few caveats). In mulling over this conclusion, we realize that we should not have been surprised to make this discovery. After all, we know perfectly well that humans grow, reproduce, and live to ripe old age on diets that differ enormously in what is considered normal and acceptable to eat. As long as the diet includes sufficient amounts of a variety of minimally processed foods—meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, grains (or their substitutes)—the needs for essential nutrients and energy will be met. The same goes for dogs and cats. As we have said, it is extremely difficult to induce a nutrient deficiency in a person or animal eating enough of a variety of foods. This means that you have lots of options for feeding pets healthfully. You can choose a feeding method that not only meets the nutritional needs and preferences of your particular animal, but also—and we think this is an important consideration— one that fits comfortably with the way you live and with your personal dietary beliefs and preferences. If this concept seems as surprising to you as it did to us, it is because nobody would ever know this from surveying current books on how to care for pets. The books that are out there tend to cite every bit of research or experience they can muster to argue that you must feed your pet only one kind of diet—only commercial pet food, only one or another alternative pet food, only meat, only grains and vegetables, only raw foods, or only home-cooked foods. Humans don’t eat only one way. Pets don’t need to either. Any or all of those methods, singly or together, can promote excellent health in a dog or cat.” Nestle, Marion. Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat). Atria Books.
Pet Food Companies
I'm not a nutritionist nor a veterinarian, I'm a dog owner and trainer who is working to do the best for my animals. After reviewing differing opinions on how to choose and what to feed I've come to the conclusion that i think its reasonable to read the ingredient list and I have not limited my choices to only the manufacturers who employs a full-time nutritionist, or just the ones who own their own plants where the food is manufactured. After reviewing the history of pet food recalls large companies as well as small have had their share of recalls involving contaminated foods. Many smaller companies use co-packers and I don't disqualify them from consideration. "I will be the first to tell you that some of the best manufacturers are Indeed private label manufacturers. These manufacturers make products for many companies In the marketplace today. If this type of manufacturer does not meet specifications, then the product doesn't enter the marketplace. It Is easier for a company using a private label manufacturer to reject what Is produced because It doesn't Impact their bottom line (companies do not own the Inventory until they accept It). As a result, private label manufacturers generally have a higher threshold of product quality demands, whether It's nutrient requirements, kibble size, water activity, etc., because they want to make their clients the best product and not have them reject it.” PetfoodIndustry.com Debunking Pet Food Myths and Misconceptions April 3, 2018
My Healthy Dog, the hub for the canine nutrition courses created by global dog nutrition experts Dr. Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure-Dunetz, MS. The self-paced online canine nutrition courses will enable you to take control of your dog's diet once and for all. From the basics of your dog's nutrient requirements to creating cooked or raw diets with confidence to selecting the absolute best commercial foods, you'll learn everything you need to know to ditch the doggy diet stress and ROCK your dog's diet! Proper nutrition is essential to a long, healthy life, so let's get started optimizing your dog's diet and health today.
Reporting Product Safety Issues
If your pet has become sick or has died and you believe it is linked to a pet food:
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).
If you are looking for a list of recommended pet foods here are two that I recommend to use as a starting point. Evaluate each food recommendation for yourself and don’t accept any recommendations blindly.
Whole Dog Journal https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/topics/dog_food.html List is available to subscribers.