Dog Food Nutrition 101

We have all heard the expression “You are what you eat”. The same thing applies to our beloved dogs and the type of dog food they eat.  Below are some tips on what to look for when reviewing the ingredients on your dog food bag:

Ingredients – Just as with human food labels, the list of ingredients on your dog food is listed in order of volume by weight.  Therefore, the most prevalent ingredients are listed first so make sure they are quality ingredients.   See example below

Brand X                                                       Brand Y
$27 for 31 lb bag                                         $50 for 30 lb bag
333kcal/cup                                                 395 kcal/cup
Ground Yellow corn                                    Chicken
Chicken By-Product Meal                          Chicken Meal
Corn Gluten Meal                                        Oatmeal

Brand X has corn listed as two of the first three ingredients and Brand Y has Chicken listed. You will pay more for Brand Y, but also keep in mind that although the bag of food will cost more, it will last you longer because you will not need to feed your dog as much of it. In this example a 20 – 40 pound dog would eat about a cup less of Brand Y each day.

Another thing to watch for are artificial colors and preservatives which are present in Brand X but not in Brand Y.

Protein Source – What does it mean when the label says “Chicken”, “Chicken By-Products”, “Chick Meal” or “Meat Meal”? According to, “by-products” can include lungs, spleens, kindeys, brains, blood, bone, fatty tissue and stomach/intestines.  In order to make “meal”, the mixture of the above-mentioned parts is cooked or “rendered” and then the dried solids left over makes up the “meal”.  If something is labeled “Chicken Meal” then it is parts and pieces of Chickens.  If the label says “Meat Meal” then it is a mix of different types of animal sources.

Resources – Obviously Google is your friend but you can also visit your local pet store.  I have found the folks at Concord Pets to be very knowledgable and helpful if you are in the local DE/PA/NJ area. You can also check out Dog Food Advisor website for reviews and ratings on dog foods and you can even sign up for their list of dog food recalls.

When you feed your dog a healthy food selection, you will notice it in their eyes, skin and attitude!