Seven Secrets to Choosing A Safe, Healthy Dog Food 

Healthy Dog Food By Ramya Suresh   |Updated 04-07-2024

Having pets at home is not an easy task, for them to stay healthy and to thrive without complications, pet owners have to concentrate on several different things from kennel to vaccination and from food to hygiene essentials. 

Of all these activities feeding the pet with a safe, healthy, and a nutritious meal is of tremendous importance.

A healthy and timely meal results in a healthy and active pet. But how to pick the food for nourishment? 

Dog foodHow to Choose a Safe, Healthy Dog Food

There are ample varieties of dog foods to choose from. There are canned foods and dry sustenance from different brands and in different shapes and sizes.

The journey to selecting the right nourishment can be tricky, and we are here to delineate some tips and tricks in choosing canine food.

Major Secrets Behind Healthy Dog Food

1. Do Not be Fooled by the Label on the Pet Food Brand:

Most of the pet food brands use descriptions such as premium, choice, user preferences, and quality ingredients in their foodstuff.

But the truth is that no brand can make any promises or print references on their label as top quality or as a brand that features quality components of a healthy dog food.

When we see the word premium on the label of the pet food, it does not mean that the ingredients in the product are premium.

It is mere marketing tactics, and there are regulations set by the industry for pet meals, and no food is regarded superior over others just because its labels say so.

2. Investigate the Pet Food Composition:  How Good is the Nutrition in Your Dog Food?

If we compare the food of humans with that of pet food, we all know that there are distinctive differences, unless we are preparing our own homemade dog food.

The ingredients of the different meals are varied, and so is their nutritive value. It is essential to pay attention to the nutritive values of the food the pet eats. 

Even humans, when feasting on a fast foods diet can develop cholesterol, hypertension, and other metabolic problems. The same happens in the case of pets as well. 

Even the best dry healthy dog food is made with the same manufacturing protocols which means that the food is extruded at high temperatures, which robs the food of nutrients. 

Added vitamins and minerals need to be reintroduced after the process, which is not the best solution as some of the vitamins added are synthetic and may be inferior to those found in fresh foods. 

The same thing happens when people ingest a diet of highly processed foods rather than fresh foods. Many of the essential vitamins and minerals are lost in the manufacturing process.

As a rule of thumb, healthy dog foods should contain at least 18 percent proteins, and the pet food labels do not have to inform the public of where they resourced the protein.  It is vital for pet parents to explore its ingredients and sources before feeding it to their pets.

How do we do this? Learn to read dog food labels.

The best protein sources are animal based such as found in beef, chicken, turkey, salmon, and other named animal sources. 

Some cheap dog food brands can create food that includes 18 percent of proteins by adding corn, peas, or other non-animal sources to boost the protein percentage. 

Dogs do require meat even though they may not be 100 percent carnivores and the majority of the protein in a healthy dog food product should come from animal sources.

3. Watch for Chemical Additives in the Food

Human meals are required to satisfy individual USDA and FDA recommendations. But the same is not true for pet foods. Pet foods can include unauthorized foodstuff, which has no dietary value and, in some cases, perilous to consume. 

It is essential to know the elements that are utilized in building pet food before feeding them to the pets.

Even the famous food brands make use of discarded and “leftovers” from the human food market such as euthanized cows, discarded heads and intestines of animals, and plenty of other unsavory ingredients. These can be listed on the label as animal by-products.

According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), animal by-products in pet food may include parts obtained from any animals which have died from sickness or disease provided they are rendered in accordance to law. 

Along with such ingredients, the food can also include dangerous chemicals such as pentobarbital, the drug used to euthanize animals. How could such a drug get into dog food you might ask? 


If euthanized animals are part of the mix going into the food, the chemical will be found in the food. 

Back in 2007, a great scare ran through the pet owner community when dogs began to die unexpectedly of renal failure.  It was found that the chemical, melamine, was found in many dog foods originating from China.  

Another contaminant found in dog food is salmonella. Check out this You Tube video produced by the FDA.

Still, other contaminants include aflatoxin B1, a known carcinogenic toxin, melamine, and cyanuric acid were all found in various brands of USA pet food imported into Hong Kong in 2014. (1)

There are also many other studies that cite Mycotoxins found in dog food.  All of these potentially lethal contaminants should be worrisome to any pet owner. It goes without saying that these so-called, “ingredients” are never mentioned on the pet food label.

Some inferior ingredients can be found on your dog’s food label, but unless you are keenly aware of what to look for, you might miss.

Pet foods might contain ingredients that are quite inferior and are unsafe for pet consumption. Therefore, before buying any pet food, take a careful look at its ingredients found on the label.

Some of the pet food makers use chemical additives to grains to enhance the protein percentages. 

4. Choose Food that is Free From Chemical Preservatives

Chemical preservatives are a well-kept mystery in both human and pet foods. BHA and BHT are well-known chemical preservatives that are made use of in the pet food industry. These preservatives are related to some benign and malignant tumors in pets. 

Yet another dangerous preservative that is related to most cancers is ethoxyquin, which is allowed in more significant proportions in pet foods.

Check the ingredients and the component listing for such preservatives mixed with the food. Choose food that has natural preservatives such as vitamin E or mixed tocopherols.

Food dyes should be avoided.  They are not necessary, and they only appeal to the human eyes. 

Dogs don’t care what color their food is. Some food dyes have also been linked to cancer and other problems. 

5. Look for APHIS European Certification

The best food for pets is those that use the same components that can also be added to human food as well (human-grade).

Most of the pet food manufacturers do include some human quality ingredients, but the majority of the elements that go into dog food are considered to be feed-grade.  Feed-grade ingredients are lower quality than human-grade. 

Such a certification ensures that all of the components in the pet food are of human grade. APHIS is the division of the USDA that assures buyers of the quality of the ingredients used in pet food.

But it is not authorized to show such a certification on the label, we can find in their FAQ section or from the customer’s page of the food brand.

6. Choose Healthy Dog Food Brands that are Fortified with Minerals and Vitamins:

Understanding a bit about dog nutrition is necessary when selecting a healthy dog food.  Minerals are an essential component of human food; it should be present in animal food as well. 

Some of the widespread minerals observed in the pet food are copper, zinc, and iron that has to be introduced into the body through chelating techniques for better absorption.

Check the pet food for chelating and recognize the minerals on the labels of the packet. For best effectiveness, the food should contain chelated minerals, such as chelated copper and zinc, etc.

Vitamins are necessary for a complete diet in dogs and include all the same familiar ones that people need, such as the B-complex, Vitamin A, E, D, K, and others. 

You won’t see these vitamins listed on the ingredients label in an easy to read form.  They need to be there if the food is to be certified as complete and balanced by the AAFCO.

7. Choose Food That is Friendly on the Small Dog's Intestine

Small dogs have unique needs and understanding those will help you find the perfect healthy dog food for your small dog.  Food that is rich in friendly bacteria is vital to maintain the overall health of the pet’s gut.

A massive part of the immune system of the pet is observed in its intestine.

Incorporating microorganisms such as friendly bacteria as found in the yogurt will be beneficial for the pet in the long run.

Check the label for terms such as Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, etc. as these are the names of some intestine-friendly bacteria that can also improve the pet’s immune system.

Choose foods that supply probiotics or prebiotics or supplement with natural ingredients such as yogurt or commercially available.

Small Dog Place Recommends

Pet Feeders

Apart from these seven secrets of choosing the ideal healthy dog food, also learn how to feed the pet appropriately. For it is not just good nutrition but timely nutrition that matters in enhancing the overall health of the pet.

Large automatic dog feeders help in maintaining the nutritional status of the pets while one is dealing with the hassles of their day to day life.

These dog feeders help in maintaining a consistent feeding schedule and are convenient for the pet owners as well.

Secrets to Choosing a Safe, Healthy Dog FoodHealthy Dog Food Pin

Author Bio: Seven Secrets to Choosing A Safe, Healthy Pet Food 

Ramya Suresh is a passionate writer who loves to write about tips and guides for various topics. She has written almost 1000 articles that are published on many different websites.

Furthermore, she enhances her knowledge about various topics by reading lots of journals about pets, animal care, large automatic dog feeders as she loves writing about them.

References for Healthy Dog Food

1. Price WD, Lovell RA, McChesney DG (September 1993). "Naturally occurring toxins in feedstuffs: Center for Veterinary Medicine Perspective". Journal of Animal Science. 71 (9): 2556–62. PMID 8407668.

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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, beagles, English bulldogs, carin terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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