What’s in a “Good” Dog Food?

Many things contribute to your dog’s overall health — genetics, amount of exercise, and NUTRITION.  What you feed your dog has a significant impact on your dog’s health.  So when you buy your dog’s dog food, do you know what is in it?   If not, you SHOULD.  You can do this by reading the ingredients on the dog food label.  Just like people food, many dog foods off the shelf are low quality or can be considered as “junk food” and is no better than feeding your dog fast food 2 – 3 times a day.

I’ve owned many dogs, during times when I could pay more for dog food and when I could not.  One thing I have found is that the higher quality the food you feed your dog, the less medical and health issues you will generally have as your dog ages.  Of course, this is not a guarantee, as there are many factors that are at play when determining your dog’s overall health, but nutrition is a key contributing factor.

“High” quality food does not always equal “expensive” food.  The key to ensuring that you are feeding your dog a solid quality food, is to read the ingredient labels!  There are some brands of dog foods that you can purchase at a lower cost that have the same ingredients in basically the same quantities as a high priced food.   Of course, no matter how healthy the food is, or how much it costs, won’t matter if your dog won’t eat it.  So as a dog owner, it really is a balancing act.  You need to find a food that your dog likes, that also provides him the nutrition he needs to stay healthy that you can afford.

So let’s talk about the ingredients… Go get your dog food right now and let’s go through the ingredients.


Dogs needs protein. Protein can vary in quality so it is very important to understand what the ingredient listing means.   When you are looking at the ingredients on your dog food, you will see them listed various ways.

A good rule of thumb is if you can identify the source of the protein then it is of higher quality than if you can’t.  For example, chicken is better than chicken by products, which is better then animal by-products which is better than digest.  When considering proteins, it is most beneficial to make sure that your dog’s food contains protein from more than one source.  Why?  All proteins also include 1 or more of the 13 essential fatty acids.  The 13 essential fatty acids come from different protein sources, and are required for  the transport and metabolism contribute to thousands of bodily functions including brain and visual functions,  transporting oxygen within the blood, and helping your dogs body deal with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, bowel diseases, etc.  So your dog should get their protein from chicken, beef, lamb, fish, and eggs.  If you feed your dog food that only contains protein from only chicken, then your dog is getting some of the 13 essential fats that are provided by chicken proteins, but they are missing the other essential fatty acids and the benefits that are provided by those specific fatty acids.


Having high quality carbohydrates is very important for a dog’s nutrition.  Carbohydrates provide your dog immediate energy.   In many foods, carbohydrates are provided in the form of corn which provides no nutritional value to dogs.  Corn is purely a filler and what goes in, comes out in their stools!  So if you want your dog to absorb more nutrition from their food, then you want to limit or eliminate corn from their diet and ensure that they are consuming higher quality carbs.  Listed below in highest quality to lowest quality are some common carbohydrates found in dog foods:

  • Rice Bran
  • Brown Rice
  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Wheat
  • Corn


Grade Your Dog Food

If you want to know how your dog food holds up, grade it!  The attached PDF file below provides step by step test to evaluate your current dog food by reviewing the ingredients and subtracting or adding points to 100.  The final value of your dog food will give it a grade of A, B, C, D, or F with A being high quality and F being low quality.   I love this test and actually still use it today when I am thinking of changing my dog’s food.  I do not know who developed this test, otherwise I would give them credit for it.  But it is a great tool to determine if you are feeding your dog the nutrition they need.




Permanent link to this article: https://pawsnplaydogtraining.com/whats-in-a-good-dog-food/


    • Geoffrey on January 23, 2015 at 5:01 PM
    • Reply

    This is a great article. I have been researching for a while and found this one by searching through Google images for wholegrain for dogs.

  1. Thanks, I will care more now about the food of my dog after reading this interesting article

  2. This is really helpful, I love the tool! I’ve read a bit about choosing dog foods here and there, but the info is so confusing… and I hate math, I’m not going to try to calculate crude moisture vs protein in the middle of a store. I think the quality of the ingredients is important, too, but you just don’t get that on the back of the bag. When it comes down to it, pet parents need to add fresh food sources too, no matter what food they buy.

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