Choosing a Good Dog Food Guide

What is a Dog, Herbivore, Omnivore or Carnivore?

Dogs are omnivores so they eat both meat  and vegetables. It’s sometimes presumed that a dog's natural diet is meat, but that’s not true. A meat only diet would be unbalanced, dogs need a mix of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water.

Who makes our dog food?

Like a lot of the foods we buy, much of it comes out of the same factories, and their are some big names involved in selling and marketing these foods to you. Mars, Nestle, Colgate Palmolive all have substantial investment in dog food brands, but when you look at the ingredients there are only really a few key formulations, which will probably make up 80 - 100% of the ingredients of the food. I guess, our advice would be, judge how good your dogs food is by the ingredient not the brand, price or how much you're saving (If you're saving a lot, its probably a marketing strategy often used by the big Supermarket Manufactures, where the food is cheap to produce but goes onto regularly on promotion and the discounts are built into the price.) So, don't get swayed by the big multinationals marketing, read the label and choose the food based on ingredient and read between the lines as there's lots of information on a label, some is obvious, some not so, like ingredients like maize and rice being split, so it appears further down and looks more technical.

Some of the Brands / Manufacturers

Bakers (Nestle), Royal Canin (Mars), James Wellbeloved (Mars), Nutro (Mars), Beta (Nestle), Ceasar (Mars), Omega (Nestle), Chappie (Mars), Pedigree (Mars), Hills (Colgate Palmolive), Pro Plan (Nestle), Misfits (Mar), Pal(Nestle) Winalot(Nestle) Hills (Colgate Palmolive).

You need to pick a balanced food for your dog. How are dog foods formulated?

A simple way to look at food is concentrating on the main source of proteins and carbohydrates.

Sources of Protein

Meat & Animal Derivatives

This is the very cheapest protein source, it’s a legal term and means it is the by-products of any animal. The big downside of feeding this food is that you don’t know what you are feeding your dog as its a generic term, it will contain the cheapest animals bits (Beef by-products, Horse, Chicken Feathers anyone?). The problem is, you can’t control the dog’s diet and proteins is one of the big area’s that causes allergies. What's more, buying this category of product doesn't always mean, the manufacturers pass the saving of using this cheap protein source, as products like Bakers, Pedigree and Beta’s, price's don’t reflect the cheap ingredients in the bag.

Specific proteins (Chicken, Lamb, Beef, Salmon, Venison, Turkey, Duck, etc)

This may be described as Meal, Fresh, Dried but will always specify the type of protein e.g. Lamb Meal. So you’re starting to know what protein you're feeding e.g. lamb meat meal basically means you're feeding lamb. There are difference benefits of the ingredient being Meal, Fresh or Dried but the main advantage is you understand what you're feeding your dog and this is really helpful when dealing with allergies and intolerances. It's also generally easier for your dog to digest one protein source (single source protein) than multiple protein sources, which can cause upset stomachs or loose stools. This is also probably the most expensive ingredient, in the food, so a food containing 75% Lamb will cost more than a food containing 14%.

Dehydrated Poultry Protein

You don't know the exact animal, but it's definitely some type of bird. Generally when you see a named species it indicates that the food is of a higher quality / costs more (or at least a better regulated product.). Dogs can also have intolerances or allergies to a species so again you're losing control over your dog's diet.

Sources of Carbohydrates


This is again a generic term, so you don’t know what’s in your dog's food. This will be used in the cheapest foods. Some foods will show individual Maize and Wheat again this is the cheapest ingredient. It will sometimes be used in more expensive (expensive to the consumer) foods, but is definitely a cheap ingredient. While cereals do the job, they also can cause some dogs problems. A dog's natural diet would be based on complex carbohydrates, which would normally be fruit and vegetable. Most dogs bodies will digest complex carbohydrates much better.

Rice and Oats based foods will quite often be described as hypo-allergenic (hypo-allergenic is a marketing word much like optistart, and is used on some products that contain meat and animal derivatives???). Rice and oats foods are seen as a better source of carbohydrate, some products will contain rice and oats but also wheat or maize, which to my mind is to reduce their production cost but also undoes some of the good of using rice and oats. So if buying a rice and oats based food, look for a product that does not contain wheat or maize, unless you're saving a lot of money in doing so.

Grain Free

Grain Free / Vegetables, this is seen as most expensive of the carbohydrates that are used in dog food and this is reflected in the price to consumers, it will be used in high end dog foods and probably marketed as Grain Free. When buying a grain free you will be looking at the level of meat balance of one with 20% meat will be cheaper (to produce and should be cheaper to the consumer) than one with 60%.

Protein Levels

You will probably know if you have a breed that needs a certain level of protein, but some dogs require certain protein level. Protein can also cause hyperactive so reducing the protein level can have a calming effect on a dog.

Recipes v Nutrients

Special mention needs to be made for Mars’s, Royal Canin who use nutrients not ingredients to create a food, so they focus their foods on the nutritional values. Pretty much all their foods will contain Dehydrated Poultry Protein, Maize, Maize Flour, Maize Gluten, Wheat, Animal Fats. So as a standard maintenance food it will almost most certainly will have more Maize in it as it’s split into 3 parts, definitely have more Cereals in it than anything else. If you have a special requirement (I don’t mean allergy or intolerance as they contain lots of things, multiply proteins, loads of lower cost ingredients that may cause skin or bowel irritations)

What we feed

I personally don’t feed our dog products that contain meat and animal derivatives, but many dogs can do well on these products, if my dog developed an intolerance or what comes out the other end isn’t very well formed the first thing I would do is change from foods containing this ingredient. I also dont feed my dog any products containing wheat or maize. We try and stick to grain free but some of her treats will contain rice. Hope this all helps, read your label as that's what you're feeding, that ingredients list.

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