The principles of selecting a suitable food for your dog

With so many dog and cat food products on the market, it can be quite confusing knowing what to purchase. I therefore thought that it might be useful to have a thread on the principles of selecting a decent dog food.

First of all, I am keeping this quite brief because having just come across this website: Dog Food: What to Feed and Why I see that it provides us with most of the information we need to help us in our quest to find a suitable dog food. It seems to be very helpful, particularly the videos on raw feeding. The specific urls of these are included in this thread. There is some excellent advice on there so do take a few minutes to look at it. Of course we also have lots of information on this website to help us in our decision making. For dog owners, experienced or new who have never given the subject of dog food much thought, I would highly recommend that they spend a little time reading up. It seems very complex at first but actually it is not as difficult as it looks as long as you think of the basic principles:

Here is a very brief summary and I hope that members will add to it:

  • The meat source should be single and named.
  • The food should be clearly and accurately labelled so you know exactly what is in it.
  • Food with meat and meat derivatives is not so good because you can never be sure what it consists of.
  • The list shows the weight of the ingredients, heaviest first and the better quality foods will show the meat source at the top. Basically, the higher the meat content, the better the food.
  • Dry dog food: Check out some dog food recipes and you will see high quantities of cereal and fillers - sometimes as much as 60/65% or more. Dogs can handle some carbohydrate but such large quantities are not thought to be useful nutritionally.
  • Fillers: Kibble has to contain these to give it its structure. They are either grains (oats/rice/maize etc), potato, pea products or sweet potato. Sometimes they contain a combination of both carbs. It is worth deciding what filler you would prefer to have. I understand that sweet potato is thought to be a good one.
  • If you are unsure about anything on the list, do an Internet search for it. Most ingredients are well documented.

Variety is good
just as it is for us, variety can be good. No need to change food though if your dog is doing well on his current product. Practically speaking, this can consist of using more than one variety of your chosen dog food and mixing the two or using an occasional nutritious topper. Don’t forget to decrease the amount of kibble when using a topper so that your pet does not put on excess weight.

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Good stuff.I would like to point out that the website Dottie links to is to a US website and refers to US manufactured dog food - this is unhelpful as the ingredients, labeling, claims and legal requirements for US food is totally different to the EU, with the EU being, in my opinion, very much more advanced than the US. It would be better to read what David has written about food ingredients in UK food. Also, the author of the website is in the business of promoting her books on raw feeding, so is hardly going to give a fair and balanced view.
In terms of choosing a dog food, advice I would offer is to ask 3 questions - what is right for my dog (ingredients etc), what is right for me (the food needs to meet your lifestyle requirements ie do you need the convenience of a bought food over the time needed for raw feeding, do you have the storage space for frozen etc) and what is right for your pocket - it is a case of pick two from the three - all too often dog owners pick the what’s right for me (pick it up once a week at the supermarket) and what’s right for my pocket (cheap supermarket food) and thus compromises the third - what’s right for my dog (low quality supermarket food)


I realised that it was American and take your point about that fact. However, I was looking at the more generic advice on it and some of it seemed to be of use. For instance, the section on Food Facts is quite basic but is as applicable to us in the UK as it is in the USA.

I like your three question approach but for the first question to be relevant to unknowing consumers we have to get the message out that the ingredient list needs to be read and understood. Unfortunately, we know only too well that people sometimes have problems in making sense of it and certain manufacturers don’t make it any easier. :frowning:

To be fair, Dr Karen Becker is rather more than just an author of books on raw feeding, she is a highly qualified holistic vet who has devoted her life to improving the health and welfare of animals:

Dr Becker works extremely hard to educate pet owners on all sorts of subjects relating to animal health, not least the dangers of over vaccination, and often via media that make her no money at all such as you tube; she is certainly not a one-subject wonder.

This website does make it a whole lot easier though.

Agree that info is king - if you take the three question approach, many people will take the ‘what’s right for my dog’ as , the advertisers, vets say it’s good, so it must be good!
I think we should primarily follow UK & EU (is FInland in the EU?) websites on dog food because a) the rules on EU food and labelling are different from elsewhere worldwide and b) Amercians have a propensity for ‘made up’ qualifications and letters after their names (my cynicism I’m afraid)

I was referring to the dogs4dogs website and author who is Jan Rasmusen - a quick look at her CV on the website refers to her background in sales and marketing

I actually think manufacturers make it easier with the way they label, but only after you have had a little education from a good website like this one. It is easy to identify a bad dog food - as soon as you see words like ‘EU permitted additives’ ‘derivatives’ and ‘Propylene glycol’ - run a mile from those foods! Choosing a good dog food is more tricky and I agree, manufacturers do use smoke and mirrors to sell foods.

A really good thread. I would have been grateful for some similar guidance when I was first choosing a food. I heard lots of different opinions most of them conflicting. All I knew was that I didn’t want to feed baked kibble as somewhere in my head I recalled reading how treating food at high temperatures could cause loss of nutrients and possibly change to chemical composition.

With the help of this very useful site, I finally decided that cold pressed would be best for us. I did then start to feel that her diet lacked variety and interest. I had been thinking about raw for a while but like others was a bit scared . After Dottie tried it, I took the plunge. She is now very much enjoying her varied diet. I have been lucky that she doesn’t appear to react to any food we have tried and seems to have a strong stomach.

I think I would have been totally lost without this website and would have just hoped for the best. Even then I put in a considerable amount of time researching and reading various articles I still have loads more to learn and there does not seem to be any right or wrong answers.

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There seems to be some disagreement over whether a single meat source is best or mixed/varied is ok; I’m sure that David has said somewhere on this website that it is better that the meat is from good quality sources (and named obviously) than that it is actually better to have only one meat source.

Just to compare some 5* ranked foods: Aatu has a single meat source (Chicken), Akela and Orijen have 4 meat sources (chicken, herring, salmon and turkey) and Eden has 5 (Chicken, salmon, herring, duck and white fish).

So is it important to have just one meat source or is it the quality that’s important (obviously the 2 aren’t mutually exclusive!).

also confusing the thought above not all 5* are 80/20 as I pointed out other day MWH turkey and veg single sourced is 75/25
i guess its great to have such a choice over the last few years its getting better dont you think?
but i guess even the rated best dog foods on the market may not suit some dogs I have chosen a food that fits my dogs needs it may not be the best rated by some but its best rated by my dog condition health and well being which i will monitor and if needs be change as my dogs needs do

From looking at the recipes of the foods that have more than one meat source, they seem to me to be the better ones anyway. If I am right, it may be possible that you are right - the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

These days I feel that a change is good so foods that have several varieties in their range seem to be useful because the dog can have another flavour without changing the entire food product. It’s one of the reasons why I quite like ranges such as Wainwright’s Grain Free because there are different varieties. I’ve noticed that if a lifestage food is used, very often there is very limited choice.

I agree with Louise that choice is good. The star system on here is a great tool but IMHO the dog’s needs should be uppermost in choosing a suitable product. The food that I give my lot contains chicken, duck and fish. I also top up with a little bit of extra cooked meat such as chicken, fish or sardines although I think it’s probably not needed. All dogs are different and what suits one may not suit another.

Single meat source may be important for dogs with intolerances or sensitive digestion. Multiple meat sources is generally better as it gives a wider variation in the diet, as would have been the case in the wild.

Eden has a single source (fish) variety in catch of the day, and 2 different multi,-source varieties.

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I must say Dottie your post all be it american in part is so helpful, I have never researched and been so interested in ingredients before as a lady of a certain age my dogs over the years ate what ever I fed I thought our floss was one on her own till I began to search for answers.

So now as I read more I get to understand and see the light as such.

best food is the food that your dog is happy on and fits its needs it may not be a 5* food floss is not a wolf she couldnt survive in the wild neither do wolves hunt down dried meats and I think wolves hunt then sleep for days and do a lot less exercise than a dog IMO anywho I think theres a massive thread debating this on the forum but my eyes are tired.

This article may be helpful to members when they are looking to select a dog food product:

Considerations to help you find the perfect (for you) pet food….
World Small Animal Veterinary Association Toolkit may also be useful.

Who are the WSAVA sponsors? The big 3 pet food manufacturers… Check their reviews and ratings, and those of their subsidiary brands on here. This makes me wonder about impartiality.

“Global Nutrition Committee:
Hill’s Pet Nutrition
Nestle Purina
Royal Canin”


First of all, I would like to say thanks for this amazingly useful thread for pets owners. I here share one important article which tells about all those human foods that should not be given to our pets. I hope you will find it worth reading.

Glad that you find the thread helpful and thank you for the link. So that members can access it it more easily I have converted it to a hyperlink - see here.

Since the thread was started many new, grain free products have come onto the market. As can be seen on the Dog Food Directory, some products that contain grain score very highly and conversely, there are grain free ones that have lower scores. I have been asked about this and I am wondering if assumptions are being made that grain free is better for the dog.

Certainly there are some grains that are questionable but there are others that have nutritional value for the dog. Equally, there are grain free products that contain a lot of white potato and pea flour which has less nutritional value than some grains. It goes back to the first post in this thread i.e. read the label and check out the ingredients. For more information, please check out the website list of ingredients here.

Seaweed has just drawn my attention to The Forthglade Houndsley Brother Clean Eating for Dogs leaflet. It deals very nicely with what to look for when choosing a dog food product and is well worth reading.

Interesting thread and plenty of info for people to consider both sides of the Atlantic.

Single protein source or multiple protein source it doesn’t matter. What matters is how digestible they are. Beef is less digestible than chicken or fish; an old or stressed animal will produce poorer meat quality. Beef/Lamb/Duck/Chicken/Fish generally in that order. Protein is simply a chain of amino acids which when put together undertake a task, if the balance is wrong then the diet is unbalanced. Tripe is less digestible than meat and contains more fat so good for a greedy underweight dog as an add on. Feather protein is 0% digestible. Excess protein is expelled through urine so too much is pointless and is excessive pressure on the digestive system.

Fats are an energy source and source of soluble vitamins. Good in appropriate quantities and qualities but like protein bad in excess.

Carbohydrates are one of the first energy sources to be used especially in anaerobic activities. Each has a function. Wheat is slow digestion so excess will pass through and can cause allergies but will aid a dog feeling fuller for longer. Rice is hi GI so quick and easy so gentler to digest. The issue with plant proteins is that dogs don’t find them as attractive as meat proteins so in order that dogs get this in their diet hydrolysed coatings are used to make them more attractive. That is basically a fat which has no protein so won’t cause potential intolerances. Also called gravy or digest.

Dogs (domestic, village and wild) and wolves are omnivores so source fibre and carbohydrates from their environment. In the wild it would be ruminant faeces but domestically would be from commercial foods. Although not essential will promote a healthy gut and longer life; not something wild animals care for as they don’t have poop bags.

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