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How to Choose a Dog Food: Vet Answer for Picking the Superior Option

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By Dr. Iulia Mihai

Image Credit: dogboxstudio, Shutterstock

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Written by

Dr. Iulia Mihai

DVM MSc (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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“How do I choose the best food for my pup?” and “What is the best food brand for my dog?” are two of the most popular questions that dog owners ask when it comes to the nutrition of their beloved four-legged friends.

In an ideal world, all dogs would eat the same food. Unfortunately, the owners are presented with an overwhelming range of diets and brands, all claiming to be or make the best food on the market. As a result, finding a healthy, affordable, yet appealing dog diet for your pet is often difficult and frustrating.

When shopping for pet food, you should keep these aspects in mind: your dog’s age, breed, weight, and health status.

In this article are a few tips that will help you choose a superior food for your pup.

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The 4 Vet Essential Tips on How to Choose a Dog Food

1. Product Name

For food made by a respected company, the name will include information about what’s in the package. For example, when you buy “Chicken Dog Food,” the name tells you that the product contains chicken meat (and byproducts). This ingredient must also constitute at least 70% of the entire composition. If the product is called “Beef plate” or “Entrée with chicken meat,” it means that the package contains animal protein (beef or chicken, in this case) in a proportion of 10%. Products named “Dog Food With X Meat” contain 3% of the specified meat, while the products with the flavor of a certain type of meat (e.g., “Dog Food With Beef Flavor”) contain less than 3% of that meat (to give the product its flavor).

In conclusion, if you are looking for a diet with a high percentage of animal protein, choose the foods labeled “[X] Type of [Meat] Dog Food.

caucasian shepherd puppy dog eating food from a metal bowl
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

2. Ingredients List

The list of ingredients on the back of dog food packaging will only tell you what the respective food contains, not the quality of the ingredients. For example, corn can be added to dog food under different types (ground, flakes, or kibbled), which can be marked on the list as separate ingredients. This can mislead you and make you think that the respective food contains less corn than it really does. Also, whole meat contains a high percentage of water, and meat meal is richer in meat because it has no water.

The order of the ingredients is vital because it tells you which ingredient has the heaviest weight. For example, if chicken is the first ingredient, the respective food is rich in chicken.

The list of ingredients is important to see what your dog will consume, especially if they have food allergies or you want to feed your four-legged friend certain proteins, carbs, or fibers.

3. “Complete and Balanced”

What is a complete and balanced dog food? A dog food that is named this way means it was designed to serve as your dog’s only diet. In other words, you don’t have to add anything else to your dog’s meals because this food has all the essential nutrients that your pet needs. “Complete and Balanced” is not written just to advertise. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) ensures that pet food meets certain requirements. AAFCO-approved diets must contain the minimum amount of essential nutrients for dogs (proteins, carbs, vitamins, minerals, fibers, water, etc.).

4. Wet or Dry Food

So, wet or dry food? Which is better for your dog? The most important thing about dog food is not the form of the food, but rather the content. Any dog food, wet or dry, can provide your four-legged friend with all the important nutrients, vitamins, and minerals—provided that the ingredients are of high quality and the composition is appropriate. Both types of dog food have their advantages and disadvantages. So, it’s ultimately about your personal preferences and your pet’s nutritional requirements.

That said, if your dog suffers from an oral problem or has just undergone a surgical intervention, for example, you will need to adapt to their requirements and give only wet food to your dog for a while.

labrador dog eating from the feeding bowl
Image Credit: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

The Benefits of Both

Dry food has a high-calorie content, and your dog should only need to consume small amounts to keep themselves full. This type of food is also considered the most economical solution, unlike wet food.

That said, wet food can have several advantages for your dog. Most dogs prefer wet food because it has a more intense taste and smell. Also, it has a high water content, which has an additional benefit for your dog’s health. This type of food could be the ideal solution even for overweight dogs that like to eat. They can eat more wet food without exceeding their caloric needs due to its low energy content.

Semi-moist Dog Food?

Semi-moist dog food is a combined form of wet and dry food. It has a moisture content of 15–30% as opposed to >65% in wet food and <20% in dry food.

It contains a higher percentage of meat and many natural nutrients. Also, the higher water content makes the kibble soft and juicy, which helps maintain its texture and taste.

Many dogs love semi-moist food. It can also be easily digested, and the texture of the kibble can help senior dogs with dental problems, as they can chew it without difficulties.

cute puppy eating raw dog food in a white bowl
Image Credit: Jan Dix

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do I Know If My Puppy Food Is Good?

A good food for your puppy should contain meat, fat, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Also, all the ingredients must be of good quality and suitable for your puppy’s digestive system. As a general guide, when looking for a food for your dog, focus on those that contain at least 30% animal protein and 8–9% fat.

Does It Matter What Dog Food I Get?

Your dog’s nutrition should be just as important as yours and your family members’. A diet that has low concentrations of essential nutrients and low-quality ingredients can make your dog sick. Therefore, choosing the right diet for your pet can be one of the most important decisions that you make regarding your dog.

When choosing your dog’s food, you must consider the following aspects: their breed (each breed has different nutritional requirements), age (each age also has different nutritional requirements), weight, health status (a sick dog will need to consume special veterinary diets), and the ingredients (high-quality ingredients do make a difference).



There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the perfect type of dog food. Every individual is unique and needs a suitable type of food. Age, weight, breed, activity level, and health status are individual factors that should be considered when looking for the right diet for your pup. It is recommended to feed your dog a proportion of about 70% high-quality meat and about 30% vegetables and fruits, along with high-quality fats and oils. Excess grains, artificial flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners should have no place in your pet’s diet because they can make your dog sick in the long run.

Therefore, no matter what type of food you choose for your furry friend, take a good look at the label first.

Featured Image Credit: dogboxstudio, Shutterstock

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