Not All Pet Foods Are Created Equal
As a pet parent, you want to do right by your furry friend. Providing your dog with real food that’s nourishing, balanced, and delicious is a great way to show them how much you care. The right dog food will give your pup the nutrition they need to thrive for many years to come.
With so many formulas on the market, it can be challenging to find one that’s perfect for your pet. Unfortunately, some dog food brands formulate with less-than-healthy ingredients. These include fillers like corn and soy, empty calories, and nutrient-poor animal by-product meals. Many of these ingredients aren’t ideal for your dog’s digestive system, especially if they have sensitive stomachs or food allergies. Others simply offer no nutritional value to your dog’s diet.
Fortunately, there are plenty of dog food ingredients that are wonderfully nourishing to pets, and because they’re made of whole foods, they’re easy to spot on the ingredient list.
We’ve created this guide to the best ingredients to look for in dog food so that you can shop confidently, knowing that you’re giving your pet the best care you can at all life stages from puppy dog to adult dog.
Read on to learn about the benefits of high-quality dog food ingredients, just what those ingredients are, and how the best food is a lot closer than you think.
Why Choosing a High-Quality Dog Food Is Worth It
Complete and Balanced Nutrition
Unlike humans, dogs don’t consume a varied diet. The dog food you provide them with is breakfast, lunch, and dinner rolled into one meal. This means that your dog’s food must fill every one of their nutritional needs.
A high-quality dog food will contain a variety of ingredients, ensuring that your pet gets all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that they need. Carefully-formulated recipes contain all of your dog’s necessary ingredients in the appropriate amounts, making each bowl a complete and nourishing meal.
A dog food that contains a variety of fresh, high-quality ingredients will deliver a healthy portion of vitamins and minerals to your pet’s system. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E are important for directly supporting immune function, and they’re most potent in dry dog food and wet dog food alike that are minimally processed and made with real ingredients.
Prevent Canine Obesity
Canine obesity has become a significant problem in America, where more than half of all dogs are overweight. Luckily, this is simple to prevent in your own pet. By feeding your pet nutritionally dense food and giving them intentional portion sizes, you can ensure that your dog maintains a healthy weight.
Certain ingredients in dog food may put pets at a higher risk of weight gain. This includes corn and soy fillers, which are dense in calories while not offering the same nutritional benefits as other veggies, legumes, and grains like peas, brown rice, and sweet potato. These fillers can cause your pet to overeat yet still lack much-needed nutrients.
What Are the Best Ingredients To Look For in Dog Food?
We humans are at our best both physically and mentally when we eat well. Our pets are no different! Dog food with high-quality ingredients and thoughtful formulation can have a major positive impact on your pet’s quality of life. Take steps to keep your furry friend happy and healthy by looking for the nutritious ingredients listed below in the next dog food you purchase.
#1) Real Meat (as the First Ingredient)
Though dogs can eat a variety of foods as omnivores, they lean closer to being carnivores by nature, just like their wolf ancestors.
A good dog food should have real meat as its first ingredient — chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, salmon, duck, and pork are all viable options. Just make sure they are whole meats, not by-products or meals, which are lower quality versions that many old school dog food brands use to cut costs. Your pup will thrive on the proteins and fats that are found in real, whole meats. Plus, quality protein sources gives dog food a taste that’s irresistible to your pup!
Bonus points go to organ meats like liver and hearts, which are not typically first on the list but are nutrient treasure chests worth keeping an eye out for.
#2) A Variety of Whole Vegetables, Fruits, and the Right Grains
Whole fruits, veggies, and the right grains are ultra-nutritious and are a great way to get essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber in your pup’s diet. A few common veggies you’ll see in a lot of recipes include carrots, spinach, and even pumpkin.
The best dog foods will contain these types of ingredients high up on the ingredients list, especially as a title ingredient, like in our Turkey & Oatmeal puppy formula or our Salmon & Brown Rice recipe for toy breeds.
The fiber these ingredients provide will help support your dog’s digestive system while the essential vitamins and minerals will help support everything else from vision, to joint mobility, to skin, coat, and more.
#3) Prebiotics and Probiotics
You might be familiar with probiotics, the live and active “good bacteria” found in some foods that can help keep our digestive systems healthy. Pets need gut support just like we do, so choosing a pet food with probiotics can be very beneficial for their GI health.
Prebiotics are another important part of a gut-healthy diet, and are often overlooked. Prebiotics are the food that feed and fuel the gut’s good bacteria. Even if your pet is regularly consuming probiotics, their gut won’t be at its best unless you ensure they get enough prebiotics, too.
A dog food with prebiotics, which might appear on the ingredients list as FOS (short for fructooligosaccharide, a kind of bacteria-friendly carbohydrate) can help keep your pet’s gut thriving.
#4) Healthy Fats
When you think of dog food, your mind might not immediately go to seeds. Surprisingly, however, flaxseed is a supremely beneficial ingredient when found in dog food. Flaxseed is just one food source that offers omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are important for your dog’s immunity and growth, while also helping them maintain a shiny, healthy coat.
Not to mention, fats are crucial for your pup to both absorb fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, E, and K, while also providing your dog with a vital energy source alongside carbs and protein.
Another super-fat to look for in your dog’s food is salmon oil. Salmon oil is known to support joint health, immune health, and skin and coat health. This ingredient doesn’t need to be present in a large amount to work its magic; in fact, a 50-pound dog should only have a maximum of about three grams of fish oil on a daily basis.
Choosing the Right Dog Food Can Be Easy
Ultimately, the secret to selecting a nourishing dog food is seeking out options with a variety of whole, fresh ingredients. When the food contains meat as the first ingredient, has plenty of fruits and veggies, and no corn or soy, you know you’re on the right track!
We’re proud to say that our formulas here at Optimeal check all the boxes when it comes to what to look for in an ingredient list.
Our quality meats and variety of whole, minimally processed ingredients provide the support your pet needs in both energy and replenishment. With the right assortment of premium, natural ingredients, you can support your pet’s wellness the right way and enjoy each other for many years to come.
Now, armed with background knowledge, you’re ready to select the perfect food for your pup, whether that’s wet food or dry food, for large breeds and toy breeds — we have a range of foods specifically formulated for your best friend.
Explore Optimeal’s range of Immunity Support dog food here, and see how quality, natural dog food can provide the support your pup needs to thrive.
What You Need To Know About Antioxidants For Dogs | Veterinarians.org
Best Dog Food: How to Know What's Right for Your Dog | American Kennel Club