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What's for dinner?

The dog food aisle at the pet store can be overwhelming.  Dog food manufacturers use glossy pictures and flashy buzz words to pull you in and get you to buy their food; Grain-free, Organic, Healthy-weight, Low Fat and All Natural to name a few. Ignore the flashy buzz words and flip the bag over to read the ingredients.

The first ingredient should be a top quality animal protein, such as beef, chicken, duck, etc.  If the first ingredient is listed as “meat” that is not a good sign.  Don’t buy mystery meats. Many dog foods list Chicken Meal or Beef Meal as one of the top ingredients. This is not to be confused with chicken or beef by-product.  Chicken Meal is actually chicken which has been ground or otherwise reduced to particle size.  Chicken meal is a dry solid material that can be made into kibble.  Chicken by-product is something you are probably going to want to avoid as it includes parts such as necks, feet, embryo's and intestines.

Look for the words like complete and balanced.  This indicates that the dog food contains all of the nutritional elements your pet needs on a daily basis.

Avoid foods that contain:

  • Chemical preservatives
  • Artificial coloring
  • Artificial flavors
  • BHA, BHT or Ethoxyquin (used to extend shelf life)
  • Added sweeteners
  • Propylene glycol
  • Corn gluten meal or wheat gluten meal (both are inexpensive sources of low-quality protein used in poor quality dog food)    


Look for foods that contain:

  • A top quality animal protein as the first ingredient.
  • A named animal protein source.
  • Whole fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • A “best by” date that is at least six months away.
  • A high amount of protein and a moderate amount of fat.
  • Statement of nutritional adequacy.


Grain-free has been the latest trend to hit the dog food industry. Many consumers choose to cut grains if their dog exhibits signs of an allergy.  While food allergies do occur in pets, corn and other grains are not among the most common allergens found in foods. In fact, according to some of the available research on canine allergies, corn is actually one of the least likely sources of food allergens. Beef was the most common allergen, with dairy coming in second.


Grain-free diets have recently been in the news as the FDA announced that they continue to investigate reports of canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs eating certain pet foods, many labeled as “grain-free,” which contained a high percentage of peas, lentils, other legume seeds and/or potatoes in various forms as main ingredients. Many of these case reports included breeds of dogs not previously known to have a genetic predisposition to the disease.  Based on the research done so far, the FDA believes that potential association between diet and DCM in dogs is a complex scientific issue involving multiple factors.  If you are feeding a grain-free diet and have concerns about DCM, please talk to your vet about your dog’s diet.


Ultimately the “best” dog food will depend on your dog’s individual needs, taking into consideration age, breed and overall condition. Your vet can be a great resource for recommending specific brands that would be best suited to your dog.