Healthy Dog Food: Know if the Food You're Giving Your Pup Is the Best

Everyone wants their dog to be healthy. Healthy dogs are usually happier, more active, and live for longer than unhealthy pups. Unfortunately, many dog food brands are not particularly good for dogs. They typically taste delicious, and your dog wants them, but they aren't providing the nutritional value that your dog needs to become strong and healthy, both physically and mentally.

When it comes to healthy dog food, rather than listing off a few foods that you may or may not be able to find locally, it's often better to understand what makes dog food healthy vs. unhealthy. That way, you can walk into the store armed with the necessary knowledge to make the best food buying choice for your pup!

What Is Healthy Dog Food?

The concept of healthy dog food is quite a complex topic. Consider that the Merck Veterinary Manual has a many-thousand-word article on "Nutritional Requirements and Related Diseases of Small Animals." This article discusses all the nutritional requirements, ranging from protein to fat and even all the vitamins. 

However, you don't necessarily need to be a food expert to know whether or not the food you want to feed your dog is healthy or not.

Like humans, healthy dog food consists of ample protein, good fats, sufficient vitamins, and plenty of fiber. You're looking for lean proteins like chicken or buffalo (two common types of meat that dogs love). You're also looking for high-quality, high fiber grains like quinoa, chia seeds, and more. These types of grains are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates. The best dry dog food products have high protein, lower fat, and provide plenty of vitamins.

In many respects, you need to think about your dog's food from a human perspective. Food that would be good for you (leaner meats and more natural products) is probably good for your pup!

What Are the Signs of Unhealthy Dog Food?

It is worth noting that commercially-available dog food does need to meet some nutritional requirements. It cannot be devoid of the nutrition necessary to keep your dog alive. However, that doesn't mean the food needs to be healthy to be on the shelves in your local pet store.

Unhealthy dog food typically has some subtle but essential indicators that it might not be the best for your pup's overall wellbeing.

For starters, you'll typically see plenty of "filler" ingredients on the list. These are high carbohydrate or high-fat ingredients that make your dog feel full but don't necessarily provide them any nutrition. While these ingredients vary from food to food, again, if you apply human nutrition knowledge to dog food, you'll spot them quickly.

Also, meat that isn't as good for humans (e.g., beef) typically is an ingredient in unhealthy dog food. That's not to say that all dog food containing beef is wrong - instead, if you see food with beef as a base, you should read the nutrition label more carefully. There's a higher chance that it isn't the food you want.

Finally, unhealthy foods will typically have fewer vitamins and minerals than their more healthy counterparts.

Dog Food Recipes

If you're concerned about your dog's food, you might be thinking that it's easier to make your pup some food at home instead of buying it from the store. After all, that way, you can give your dog the exact nutrients they need.

That is partly true. While you can make healthy dog food at home, it can be challenging to ensure that your pups get all the nutrients they require to survive.

You'll need to follow a recipe that you find online from a reputable source to provide your dog with a genuinely healthy food option. If you're looking for healthy homemade food recipes for your pup, here are some of the best ones:

Alternatively, you can ask your vet what they recommend if you are making homemade healthy dog food.

Best Dry and Wet Dog Food

The above tips help you identify whether or not food is good or bad for your pup. While there is no universal "best" dog food, here are a few examples of healthy dog foods that you can use either as a reference to compare with what you can find locally or as a nutritional guideline for when you make your dog food.

  • Taste of the Wild with Ancient Grains: This food is one of the better ones because it contains lean meat (Buffalo) and numerous natural whole-grains like sorghum and millet. Your dog will get all the protein without the carbs!
  • Hill's Science Diet Puppy Chicken: If you have a young dog, consider the Hil's Science Diet Puppy brand with chicken. The use of chicken indicates that they include lean meat to give your dog healthier food!
  • Canidae All Life Stages: No matter what age your dog is, this brand sticks out for canned foods. It includes chicken and chicken liver to provide your dog with all the lean meats and nutrients they need!

Pick a Healthy Dog Food in the Beginning

It's easiest to start feeding your puppy right when they are young. Pick a high-quality food (or make your own) and stick with that. Do not give your pup treats, as those are almost always unhealthy! When you select the right food, you'll give your beloved pup the best chance at living a long, happy life!

What can dogs eat?

Dogs can eat a wide variety of foods, but they cannot eat everything humans can. It's a common misconception that dogs are carnivores, but in reality, they are omnivores. In the wild, dogs derive nutrition from both plants and animals, which is why your dog has a broader range of food choices than you might realize!

What foods are toxic to dogs?

Many foods that are perfectly fine for humans are toxic to dogs. Some will cause nothing more than diarrhea and an upset stomach (e.g., dairy). The most dangerous foods are alcohol, chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins, yeast dough, and very salty foods.

What is the best puppy food?

There is no universal best puppy food because every dog is different and has different nutritional needs. However, many people rate products from Wellness Complete, Blue Buffalo, and Hill's Science Diet among the most healthy. If you're worried about your canine's nutrition, you can always make your pup some custom dog food!

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Written by Leo Roux

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