Dog Food Labels: What Should You Be Looking For?

For the longest time, dog food companies have been able to skate by with poor quality ingredients and cheap tactics. These days, however, pet owners are becoming increasingly more cognizant about their dogs’ health and how diet plays a role. If you are also taking a closer look at labels and want to learn more about what to look for, keep reading: 

Which Ingredients Should You Avoid? 

Most pet owners these days are aware that fillers, preservatives, and food additives are a no-go for dogs. However, this doesn’t outline which components you should be actively avoiding. Here is a comprehensive list of ingredients that you should steer clear of: 

  • Animal byproducts 
  • Animal fats 
  • Cellulose 
  • Sodium Hexametaphosphate
  • Carrageenan
  • Caramel color 
  • Food dyes
  • Vegetable oil
  • Taurine 

In addition to this, it is a good idea to stay away from other carb-based fillers such as corn, cereal by-products, oat hulls, soybean hulls, rice hulls, and peanut hulls. These don’t serve any nutritious function; they simply bulk up the food.  

Which Protein Source is Best? 

Most owners know that protein is an important part of their dog’s diet. With so many options to choose from, which protein source is best for your dog? Beef, chicken, turkey, venison, and fish are all excellent sources of protein. At the same time, you need to be aware of how these ingredients are farmed and sourced. 

As you know, most livestock are aggressively farmed, fed poor diets and reared in cramped conditions. These animals don’t produce meat that is as nutritionally balanced as free range or organic animals. If you want your dog to be as healthy as possible, look for dog food brands that have their own farms or source their food ethically.  

What Is Grain-Free Food? 

Grain-free food typically refers to dog food that is free from wheat, corn, soy, and other cereal-based foods. These ingredients are replaced with more wholesome carbohydrates such as sweet potato. 

Grains have traditionally been seen as fillers, but this isn’t always the case. Your dog needs grains, but whole grains instead of processed. There is research being done into how nutritious grain-free foods are, and evidence has shown that it may cause heart issues in dogs. 

Unless your dog has grain allergies, it is a good idea to stick to dog foods with whole grains or ask your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet.  

What Does Holistic Refer To?  

You may have come across the occasional brand with the term holistic dry dog food on the label and wondered what it meant. 

This descriptor is used to inform consumers that the brand offers a higher quality dog food. This includes high-quality protein, carbs, and ingredients free of fillers and preservatives. Such brands also have a greater variety to cater to various tastes and health requirements. 

The presence of this term doesn’t automatically mean that a dog food is reputable. Make sure to go through each ingredient and do your research on a brand before making a decision. 

Pay Attention to Language 

Most dog brands will try to distract you with terms such as “beef flavor”. This simply means that a flavoring ingredient has been added, and there may be no beef at all. 

You might also see a slogan such as “dog food with” or “doggie dinner with” a certain ingredient. The “with” is a heavily loaded term as, by law, the company only needs to have 3% of that ingredient. If words like beef or chicken are followed by terms such as dinner, platter, or entree, the brand is only legally required to provide 25% of that ingredient. 

You need to look for names such as beef dog food or chicken for dogs. Legally, dog foods with this title must contain at least 95% of the mentioned ingredient. 

These points should help you gain a better understanding of dog food labels and what they mean. Now that you know what to watch out for, you can make a smarter choice.