How to Choose the Healthiest Dog Food

Doesn't he deserve the healthiest dog food you can find?

Doesn’t he deserve the healthiest dog food you can find?

Finding the healthiest dog food is a lot harder then you may think.  First off you need to sort through all the advertisements out there.  The fact is dog food manufacturers spend millions of dollars every year on advertising campaigns designed to make their dog food look appetizing to us, regardless of whether or not it’s actually nutritious for our furry friends.  Here are some common ingredients that should be avoided when looking to buy the best, healthiest dog food possible.

The healthiest dog food will NOT contain the following ingredients

Proteins We all know protein is good for dogs, but here are some questionable sources that should be avoided.

Let’s look at all the ingredients out there that aren’t the healthiest things to have in dog food.  Many of these are dangerous to you dog and should be avoided.

  • Beef & bone meal, this is ground up remains of the cow, used to increase the protein percentage of the dog food.
  • Blood meal is clean animal blood, unfortunately you don’t know what animal it came from or if it was sick or on medication before it died.
  • Chicken byproduct meal, which is everything from the chicken minus the real meat, such as the head, bones, etc.  this is another cheap filler to up the protein percentage.
  • Meat and bone meal is rendered product from animal tissue, this can be from any source including dead, diseased, dying or disabled animals, can include road kill or even shelter animals! this may even contain cancerous or spoiled tissue.  The healthiest dog food will not contain these!

Binders Cheap inexpensive fillers to up the mass of cheap dog food

Feed him the healthiest dog food right from the start!

Feed him the healthiest dog food right from the start!

  • Corn and Wheat gluten are cheap binders used in inexpensive dog food.  Although these aren’t harmful, they should be avoided if only for their near non-existent nutritional value.

The healthiest dog foods out there will limit binders to a minimum, so look at where these appear in the ingredient list, the higher up it is, the more of it there it.

Food coloring off all food colorings out there Yellow-6 was shown, in industry sponsored testing, to cause tumors in the adrenal gland and kidney. Personally I would never buy a dog food with this in it, in fact, the healthiest dog foods just wont have this in it.
  • Animal and Poultry fat; the food industry is not required to disclose the type of animal or how it obtained this fat.  Keep in mind that the four ‘D’s are common here. diseased, dying, dead and disabled This also includes road kill, shelter animals and restaurant refuse! ugh!!
I would never feed my pup anything with undisclosed meat or poultry sources in it!  The healthiest dog food will fully disclose the exact animal source right on the label, if it doesn’t, assume it’s in the 4D category.

Fiber Here are some fiber sources which are inexpensive fillers with little to no nutritional value.

  • Corn bran, oat hulls, peanut hulls, rice hulls, corn cellulose, soybean and wheat mill run, which is also known as floor sweepings.

The big no-no is cellulose which is usually dried, bleached and powdered wood! Argh!!  Would you feed your dog wood??

Flavorings There are flavoring additives known as animal digest,  for the most part this is made from an enzymatic hydrolysis of clean, undecomposed animal tissue. If the animal is listed that’s almost ok. If it is not, and it doesn’t have to be, assume it’s part of the dreaded ‘4Ds’  Again, can be from anything including rats or euthenized shelter animals!

This is certainly not the kind of dog food I would consider the healthiest.  Do you want your little friend eating this? Look for good, healthy, high quality dog food.

Fruits Some no-no’s here include apple pomace, which is a byproduct with little nutritional value.  A huge no-no is grape pomace, and, as most of us know (or should), grapes are bad for dogs in the first place.  A good healthy dog food would not include this.


Preservatives Stay away from BHA and BHT, they are banned in many countries but still allowed in the USA.

  • Ethoxyquin, this was originally developed as a rubber stabilizer! This has been linked to thyroid, kidney, immune, and reproductive illnesses and also cancer. This is being studied again and may be banned. Don’t buy any dog food containing these substances, it’s not healthiest thing you can feed your dog.


  • Salt should be in low quantities.
  • Yeast is also sometimes added to boost the flavor of low quality dog foods.
  • Mineral oil is sometimes added as a laxative and stool softener.

Sweeteners Stay away from all sweeteners period.

  • Sorbitol, fructose, corn syrup and cane molasses.

These can cause hypoglycemia, nervousness, tooth decay, cataracts, obesity, arthritis and even allergies. A Dog can even get ‘addicted’ to sweet food and not want to eat anything else.

Now I know what the healthiest dog foods shouldn’t have in them, what do I do now?

So there you have it, a list of all the things you should avoid.  I know it seems like a huge list and there are so many things to look for.  Once you read the labels of some of the healthiest dog foods out there it’ll become clear to you what to look for.  If you see lots of chemicals and un-named animal proteins a big red flag should go off in your head.

Make sure to read the labels and only give your dog the healthiest foods you can find, after all, they depend on you and certainly they deserve the best.  Even better you could make your own dog food or treats, that way you know exactly what your little buddy is eating, check these out.

The Healthy Dog Cookbook: 50 Nutritious & Delicious Recipes Your Dog Will Love
Feed Your Best Friend Better: Easy, Nutritious Meals and Treats for Dogs
You Bake ‘em Dog Biscuits Cookbook

Filed Under: For your Pets

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About the Author

Hi there!, My name is Norm. I am a college grad, a veteran, a pet owner and a family man. I started writing articles both to make a little extra money, and to share my knowledge with others. I currently work in the IT department of a major NY hospital.
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