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Dog food - what you need to know

Deciding on the type of dog food you provide is one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your dog. Dog food nutrition directly influences every aspect of your dog’s life. How puppies grow, their behaviour habits, health, overall well-being and appearance are all closely connected to the nutrition we provide – it’s a big responsibility.

A healthy, well balanced and nutritious diet promotes:

Healthy skin and coat

Strong, well developed bones

Bright clear eyes

Firmer stools (and less of them)

Well defined muscle tone

Quality of life and longevity

Healthy teeth and gums

Fewer trips to your vet

No bad odour

Fewer digestive problems

Energy and vitality

Fewer behaviour problems

Overall health

A poor diet can potentially lead to an increase in:

Sluggish behaviour or hyperactivity

Putrid gas

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Dull coat and heavy shedding

Ear infections

Itchy skin

Bad breath and “doggy smell”





Countless allergies 


How to read the label

All of the ingredients in dog food are required, by law, to be listed in order of weight, starting with the heaviest ingredient first. A good rule of thumb to distinguish the major components of a food is to look for the first named source of fat (sometimes called oil) in the ingredients list. Anything before that, and including it, makes up the main portion of the food. Other items are presented in much smaller amounts to add flavour, function as preservatives, or because of their dietary benefits (e.g. probiotics, vitamins and minerals). Examples.

Food A (first source of fat underlined) Cereals, Meat and Animal Derivatives, Vegetable Protein Extracts, Oils and Fats, Derivatives of a Vegetable Origin, Vegetables, Minerals.

Food B Turkey, chicken meal, ground barley, ground brown rice, potatoes, ground white rice, poultry oil, herring, apples, carrots, cottage cheese, sunflower oil, alfalfa sprouts, egg, garlic, probiotics, vitamins, minerals.

This is important to know when looking for ingredients that may not necessarily be harmful, but should only be present in small amounts (e.g. rice, maize, potato).

Practices and ingredients to be aware of


Where ingredients are broken down into different categories to make them appear further down the ingredients list. e.g. Chicken Meal (26%),White Rice (24%), Brown Rice (24%), Rice flour….. At first glance this looks like a good food because chicken meal is listed as the first ingredient, but the total weight of brown rice, white rice and rice flour together equals more than that of the chicken meal, meaning that rice actually makes up the main bulk of this food, which is not necessary for an opportunistic carnivore.

Did you know?

Looking at wet food ingredients (if you feed it) is just as important as looking at dry food. The quality of ingredients can still be compromised depending on the price of the food. It is also well worth taking a look at the ingredients list of the treats you feed your dogs too. The composition of the treats and wet food should be the same quality of ingredients of the dry dog food, especially if fed in excess amounts.

Meaty looking foods might not actually be ‘meat’ as the product is likely to be made up of vegetable fibres to look like a meat type of consistency. 

What’s in a Name?

Dog Food Name

If a food is named specifically, e.g. “Beef Dog Food”

Legal minimum required percentage of ingredient

95% (or 95% combined where more than one ingredient is named, e.g. “Beef and Liver Dog Food”)

Dog Food Name

If a food name includes the word “dinner” or similar phrases such as “formula” or “nuggets”

Legal minimum required percentage of ingredient


Dog Food Name

If the name includes the phrase “with [ingredient]”e.g. “with Beef”

Legal minimum required percentage of ingredient


Dog Food Name

If the name only includes the word “flavour”

Legal minimum required percentage of ingredient

0% - No specific percentage is required at all, but it must contain “a specific amount to be able to be detected”

Cost per Day

A lot of low range dog food looks very attractive at first glance because of their low costs and large full bags. But, because of the cheap cereal fillers used in these foods, your dog might have to eat up to three times as much of them to get the same nutrition as a higher quality brand. So they don’t work out as value for money after all! 

Don’t let the price tag of higher quality foods scare you off. Read the back of the bag and work out roughly how much the cost per day would be based on your dog’s weight, you might be pleasantly surprised! And that’s not to mention the money you could potentially save in vet bills in the long run!

What to avoid …

Cereals: This generic term refers to grains such as corn, soy, and wheat, which are not very digestible and are usually used as a bulking material to make the food look more impressive. 

Meat and Animal Derivativesthis is a generic term for animal protein; it can be sourced from ANY animal. It covers all parts of any animal such as heads, feet, lungs, guts, hair, feathers and wool.

Vegetable Derivativesa vague term that covers all vegetable by products, from processed vegetables to residues such as charcoal.

Artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or sweetenersEspecially those believed to be carcinogenic or that are banned from use in the human food chain. E.g. BHT, BHA Ethoxyquin, Propyl Gallate.

EC Permitted Additives – this term hides a list of over 4000 chemicals, many of which have been banned from human foods due to health concerns.

What to look for 

Named Carbohydrates such as Sweet Potato, Potato, Brown Rice, Oats, Barley which are easier to digest. (As long as these grains do not make up the main bulk of the food). 

A named Meat Source, such as ‘dried turkey’ or ‘turkey meal’. A high quality food will have one or more meat sources listed as the first ingredient(s). The higher the meat content and number or named meats the better!

Whole Named Vegetables. E.g. peas, carrots etc.

Natural Preservations such as vitamin E. foods with high quality ingredients shouldn’t need a tonne of additives to make them palatable!

Natural Prebiotics and Probiotics to promote the healthy growth of good bacteria in the gut. E.g. pumpkin. 

If you need any advice about which food to go for, don’t hesitate to contact Claire Corley BSc IMDT at K9 Anytime Dog Training School. The number of different brands out there can be daunting! 

Alternatively, check out this website to compare different brands of dog food:


K9 Anytime

Dog Training School

Shifnal, Shropshire

TF11 9ES


01952 730333

Shifnal | Bridgnorth | Telford | Wolverhampton | Shrewsbury


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