Dog Food Nutrition- The Importance of Quality Ingredients

Dog nutrition is essential for your dog to remain healthy on the inside and out. With the overwhelming number of dog food choices on the shelves today, how do you know which ones are considered quality and which ones are not?

The dog food trends appear to consist of diets that are all natural, grain-free, raw foods, and gluten-free. Some pet parents are opting for homemade dog food instead of commercial brands. Organic seems to be a buzz word among canines as well. The good news is that with all the quality foods available to you today, it is difficult for your dog to have a nutritional deficiency.

What’s In Quality Dog Food?

Quality food contains vitamins and minerals, fats, and carbohydrates. The main ingredient in quality food should be protein. Protein can be in the form of beef, chicken, lamb, fish or turkey.

The easiest way to know if the food you are feeding your dog is high-quality, complete and balanced, is to look for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) information on the bag. The AAFCO is responsible for safeguarding the health of our pets and establishing a baseline of dog nutritional requirements so all foods can be evaluated using the same standards.

A complete and balanced diet means that your dog is getting the proper nutrients he needs for strong bones, a sharp mind, bright eyes, shiny coat, and support for his joints. When your dog eats a nutritious diet found in quality dog food, he will be strong and remain healthy.

The Role of Nutrition in your Dog’s Health

Dogs can live healthy lives by eating a variety of foods. They enjoy eating meats, fruits, vegetables and grains just like we do.
The bulk of your dog’s diet should come from a nutritionally complete and balanced dog food. Treats should only comprise five to ten percent of your pet’s diet.

Green beans are a healthy snack for dogs

Green beans are a healthy snack for dogs

If you are interested in giving human foods as treats to your pet, some safe and healthy options may include Green Beans, Carrot Sticks, and Cucumber Slices.

Make sure that all treats are bite-sized pieces that are easy for your pet to chew and swallow. If you notice any digestive upset, be sure to discontinue those foods causing discomfort.

There are also some foods that you should never feed your pet including Avocados, Grapes, Raisins, and Macadamia Nuts. View more veggies on our list of the best & worst food for your dogs.

Ingredients In A Complete and Balanced Diet

  • Proteins make up the tissues of your dog’s body. Your dog can naturally produce 13 of the 23 amino acids (building blocks of protein). He must consume the other ten from outside sources such as plants and meats, so what you feed your dog does matter in keeping him healthy.
  • Fats such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 will give your dog energy and help keep his skin and coat healthy. A deficiency in Omega 6 may lead to a dull, flaky coat.
  • Vitamins & Minerals help to keep bones & teeth strong, improve metabolism and help to satisfy your overall dog’s nutritional needs
  • Water is essential in your dog’s diet because 60 – 70% of an adult dog’s weight is comprised of water. Make sure they have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
  • Carbohydrates will help keep your dog’s intestines healthy and prevent diarrhea and constipation. With the right amount of healthy carbohydrates, there will be less waste in your backyard. In quality food, your dog is using more of the nutrients that his body needs instead of creating piles of unused nutrient poop. While some believe that dogs do not need carbohydrates in their diet, the expert’s at and many others still consider carbs to be an important part of your pup’s overall diet.
The key ingredients in a quality dog food are the same foods that are important in our own diet.

Most of the key ingredients in a quality dog food are the same foods that are important in our own diet.

The Role of Nutrition in Treating Disease

If you are feeding your dog too much food, they will likely become overweight. This will put them at a higher risk for certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

Dogs with Diabetes

Nearly 40% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight. Like humans, losing weight and staying trim is key when your dog has diabetes. When your dog loses those extra pounds, he will be better able to regulate his insulin levels, which will make it easier for his body to turn food into energy.

Your veterinarian will help you determine how many calories your dog needs every day. He will make recommendations based on your dog’s current weight and activity level. It will be your responsibility when you get home to monitor his food intake.

Most vets recommend a high-fiber, low-fat diet for dogs with diabetes. Fiber slows the speed at which glucose enters the bloodstream and helps your dog feel full longer. Low-fat diets have fewer calories so giving your dog a diet that combines both high-fiber and low-fat can help him eat less and lose weight.

Dogs with Heart Disease

The omega-3 fatty acids are known to help to reduce inflammation, so they are effective in dogs with heart disease. Studies in Boxers and other breeds have shown positive results with fish oil. The use of Vitamin C and E also helps increase circulation and blood flow throughout the heart.

If your dog is currently taking medications to treat their heart disease, they may have lower levels of potassium and magnesium. This can lead to heart arrhythmias and weaker heart muscles.

Dogs with Allergies and other Skin Conditions

If your dog starts to lick and scratch excessively or is always shaking their head, they may be showing signs of an allergy. In food allergies, your dog may be allergic to a particular ingredient, which may mean a series of feeding trials to determine which ingredient may be the culprit.

Symptoms of food allergies in your dog may include chronic ear inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, chronic diarrhea or gas, excessive licking of their feet or an itchy rear end.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids have anti-inflammatory effects, so they are beneficial for dogs suffering from allergies and other inflammatory skin conditions.

How Nutrition Can Influence Your Dog’s Behavior

When dogs are feeling happy and healthy, they will want to be active with you. They will want to go for walks and play fetch outside. Exercise is good for dogs. Not only does it help keep them at an ideal weight, it is good for their joints, keeps their bones strong, and helps them burn excess energy. Excess energy may lead to destructive behaviors that we may not find as adorable as our four-legged friends.

When your dog is suffering from food allergies, skin conditions, arthritis, diabetes or joint discomfort, they are more likely to show aggression and may withdraw from the family. They may not like to be touched or combed as they once did, and may no longer enjoy some of the same activities that used to bring them joy.

How Important Is The Quality Of Your Dog’s Food?

The quality of our dog’s food is just as important as the quality of your own. As a valued and loved member of the family, your dog deserves the same amount of due diligence in making sure their food is of high quality. A good quality food that meets a dog’s nutritional requirements will supply them with everything they need to maintain a healthy and happy lifestyle. After all – we are what we eat!

Want to see what veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker thinks of the commercially available dog foods? Watch the following video to find out.

VIDEO: The Quality of Pet Food Ingredients

Dr. Karen Becker walks us through the importance of choosing a good quality dog food. And what makes up a quality food? Quality ingredients, of course?

First and foremost, when evaluating a packaged food, look for the AFCO Approval. AFCO is the American Association Food Control Officers. This means the food is balanced nutritionally and a good choice for your dog.

Also review the Veggie, Protein & Fat Content. Most healthy dogs require a high protein diet. The ingredients should be in order of importance: Protein, Veggies and Fruits should be first.

She explains that some of the most healthy foods come from the freezer section of the upscale pet boutiques. She recommends raw food first. If you can’t or don’t want to feed raw, then canned food is the next best thing. Dehydrated Foods are also a good choice. They serve as a good transition point when changing your dog’s food from a dry food to raw.

Dry food is last on the list since they are normally high in carbohydrates.

Source: YouTube/MercolaHealthyPets

Proactive veterinarian Dr. Karen Becker visits an upscale pet boutique to evaluate the quality of the different types of pet food.

CalgaryBoys - May 3, 2011

I love this – finally someone (with impeccable credentials) willing to
speak in everyday terms about which pet foods to look at and those to run
away from. Of course since I reside in Canada it might have been nice to
have been mentioned as a possible source for some of these products as well
BUT hey, that’s my problem. Thanks Dr. Becker

catloversonly - May 10, 2011

@CalgaryBoys That last dry food she’s looking at appears to be Orijen, a
Canadian manufacturer of high quality dry pet food.

lcoffey4 - May 10, 2011

@catloversonly You are right. It’s Orijen’s 6 Fresh Fish blend. A very good
food (and very popular in my pet boutique). My dogs also give it two paws

CalgaryBoys - May 11, 2011

@catloversonly My bad! Thanks so much for mentioning that – was an obvious
oversight on my part. I will get right on trying to find some of that for
our dog :)

scetestuser5 - May 12, 2011

Only thing I didn’t like about the video, she stated that when looking for
canned food options you are going to find “water sufficient for processing”
on the label, when in actuality there are many brands that do not add extra
water to their mixes and therefor have more substance to their foods.

tbayguy - May 15, 2011

@catloversonly Plus Acana which was behind her next to the Orijen is also
Canadian. I will always buy top quality Canadian dog food over American
because our standards are higher and the quality is higher as well. I mean,
look what happened to Iamms a few years ago when PG bought it and lied to
the consumers. They have since bought a Washington State based high quality
dog food company Natura which makes Evo, Innova, California Natural and a
few others which might mean they will wreck them

RedDogRae - May 17, 2011


mobymagg - May 20, 2011

Thank you Dr. Becker! You are helping many innocent pets get their owner’s
educated.Good work! And keep it coming, too. Thanks!

jahill99 - October 15, 2011

Hello! I am having a very hard time finding a well balanced food for my 4 &
a half year old Golden Retriever puppy. Right now we have her on Taste Of
The Wild dry only because it was simply the easiest for us at the time.. It
seems to be giving her loose stool. I heard a raw diet isn’t good for
puppies.. Any advice out there?

Luke Smith - November 10, 2011

raw food is the best way to go my little jack russell had bad itchy skin it
was red she was pulling her fure out all the vet did was give her shots
more poison in her body and omega 3 oil to put in her food still nothing
did not work i put her on all natural meats chicken beef pork all with the
bones also friuts and vege and 5 weeks laters allergies all gone eyes much
brighter crystyl clear much better stools no stinky breath i would never go
back to comercial dog food its all poison

A Rabbit - December 7, 2011

Any dog food sold at the supermarket is bound to be loaded with corn, fat,
and fillers. Better food may cost more, but in the long run your pet will
be healthier. Raw is best, but if that is not possible, always check the
ingredients on the bag or can of food you plan to buy.

Corinna S - January 13, 2012

@marshaisme in my experience, it’s not a bad thing to do but it’s
definitely not the same as can food. And the reason being is by how it’s
been cooked. Another thing to consider is if you do poor water into the dry
food, make sure you are using a ceramic bowl or a stainless steel bowl.
Plastic bowls tend to have pores in them and bacterias can get caught in it
and cause problems. But of course make sure you wash the bowls after
feeding every time. Hoped that helped

Mark Gailmor - March 6, 2012

There are also some good, grain free, dehydrated foods from New Zealand
that shouldn’t be overlooked. The thing that i like about dehydrated, raw
foods is convenience. If I decide to go camping with my family I can’t take
a half of a side of beef with me for several, giant breed dogs. I can
package enough food for a week across several backpacks though, and that’s
why I do like dehydrated, raw foods. They have their place.

Jordan James - March 9, 2012

Hi Dr.Becker, I enjoyed this video and all of the information you provided
about “dog foods”. My question is, why didn’t you talk about foods such as
Hills, and Royal Canine? Ive looked at many Vet prescribed foods, and they
seem to be just as low quality as soon of the foods that you talked about
in your video. Vets should be ashamed to be selling a product that will
only mask the problem that is affecting the particular dog or cat.

nayoungkkim - March 17, 2012

Hi doctor! I have a question! I have a friend that tells me stories about
how she feeds her cat human processed tuna (in water). I know cats like
fish and all, but I was wondering if that would be healthy for the cat? I
also have another question. I read online that feeding your cat boiled
carrots, or vegetables (so their soft) is something healthy for them to
digest, is that correct?? thank you!!

Jan Hansen - June 23, 2012

i give my dog taste of the wild

jdmac44 - August 15, 2012

Guess what, in the real world, we all eat each other. Protein is protein.

susan holmes - August 19, 2012

science diet is low quality food

shaelikestaquitos - September 19, 2012

At the pet boutique I work at, we suggest Ziwi Peak (not dry food, but it’s
like been air dried, so the nutrients haven’t been destroyed), or we
suggest Orijen or Acana. Orijen and Acana are cooked at a lower temp. so
the nutrients aren’t destroyed as much during the cooking process. But we
really try to push them towards wet food if they’re not down for raw,

FitnessCoachMark - September 27, 2012

My guess is to avoid lawsuits perhaps? Someone in the public eye speaking
out on specific brands could be dicey, sadly

Robert Pierce - August 18, 2013

First off, Hills pays for the education of most of the vets you have seen
their products in (look it up), the vets that did not have their education
paid for by hills you see their product in, are taking a huge kickback on
recommending their product as a “cure”. “Low residue”, “Kidney”, “Low Sugar
(not sure why sugar is in the food to start with)”, most, if not ALL hills
start with CORN as their main ingredient, find anyone else that says this
is important in a dog diet.

Your Dog's Life - October 23, 2013

The videos you produce are amazing! I’m laser focused on the screen
listening to every word because I can tell that your really know what
you’re doing. Thanks for all the education. My black lab, Jake, thanks you.

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