One quick note: the higher up on a list an ingredient is, the more it makes up that food. Most of your dog’s food will be composed of the first few ingredients on the list. This is important to keep in mind if you see any of the below undesirable ingredients.
The number one ingredient to avoid is something labeled “by-products” or “by-product meals.” These are ingredients created from waste parts in the butchering process. These parts contain no muscle tissue, and are classified as unfit for human consumption. Meat by-products are things like lungs, spleen, liver, stomach, and even bone. If a dog food lists any kind of by-product as one of the first ingredients, avoid it. Instead, look for dog food that lists actual meat as an ingredient. Do not confuse an ingredient like plain “chicken meal” for chicken by-product meal.
Anything artificial is best to avoid as well. Many dog foods use artificial colors and flavors. These synthetic additives are unnecessary, since color has little importance for your dog and there are many natural ways to improve flavor. Some artificial dyes, such as FD&C Red #40, can even impact you; they can be so strong that if vomited, they can stain carpets and fabrics.
Dog foods also often contain fillers; that is, parts with little to no nutritional value that are added to food to increase volume or weight. Almost all dog food is sold by weight, so bulking up food with inexpensive ingredients can save companies money. The issue is that your dog gets absolutely nothing from these ingredients, and in most cases their body ca not even break them down. Common fillers include soybean meal and flour, as well as wheat middlings, wheat gluten, and corn meal gluten.
Try to get a dog food that little to no sweeteners or sugar as well. Excess sugar in your dog’s diet can lead to health problems like obesity and diabetes. The sugar on the ingredients list can appear in a number of different ways including cane sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
On the other hand there are some ingredients that it is good to have in your dog’s food. Look for dog foods that name natural ingredients and boast no preservatives or by-products. Fruit such as apples, blueberries, carrots, and cranberries all have benefits for your dog - and they add a more natural flavor and sweetness than many other additives. Certain vegetables and tubers are great for your dog too, such as sweet potato, yucca, and spinach.
Some more ingredients that are good to have in dog food include:
* DHA - an Omega-3 fatty acid that boosts the development of your dog’s brain
* Flaxseed - promotes a healthy digestive system
* Kelp - provides fiber and iodine
* Probiotics - strengthen the digestive system and provide natural antibiotics to boost your dog’s immune system
When you go out to find the perfect dog food, keep this list in mind.