What Makes Dog Food Healthy?

Just like people, your dog has a wide variety of food choices. From dry to wet food and everything in between, you want to give your dog quality, nutritional food without harmful additives. Experts say that dog food is highly-regulated and tested, but what makes pet food healthy?

As you know, dogs eat anything and everything—deriving extra nutritional value from vegetables, fruits, grains, and sometimes your shoes. The best dog food must meet their nutritional needs, and your pet’s needs differ from other pets because all dogs are different. Here’s what you need to know.

Palatability Enhancers

When your dog gobbles down your pet food and it’s nutritional—that’s success. Achieving palatability in dog food necessitates balancing flavor profiles, ingredient stability, and product formulation. Palatability enhancers increase the appeal of particular diets by elevating preferred aromas and tastes.

Beyond taste, some brands provide pH-adjusting palatant technology, providing ideal application rates of 1.0 to 2.5 percent. Organic acids are incorporated into the enhancers to balance palatability and acidification, using plant protein with palatant technology to create meaty aromas for different types of diets. Manufacturers prepare these enhancers for topical application for treats and meals.

People Food Can Be Healthy for Pets

Many holistically trained veterinarians promote the benefit of including some people food in dog diets. The difference is in giving your dog healthy food as a supplement over a bag of chips. Follow two rules:

  1. Choose Non-Toxic Healthy People Food

Examples include steamed and finely-cut fruits and vegetables, baked sweet potato, oatmeal, rice and meat — no junk food. Beware foods that are healthy for humans but toxic to dogs, such as grapes and raisins.

  1. Reduce Dog Food for People Food Supplemented

If you feed your dog people food, feed her less dog food to prevent extra weight gain.

There’s also a market for home-cooked dog food. Rather than people messing up their pet’s diet, manufacturers provide premixes where pet owners add the meat with a pet-safe oil. The premixes, such as Dr. Harvey’s and Honest Kitchen Preference, include vitamins, minerals, vegetables, and sometimes grains. Give your pet extra love with a premixed homemade meal.

Don’t Live by “Complete and Balanced” Labels

Pet food companies love to promote “complete and balanced” brands, but realistically, not every meal is complete and balanced—focus on the day.

As long as your pet consumes at least half of a “complete” commercial diet, your pet will be fine. Boosting your dog’s diet through people food, fresh vegetables, cooked meats, and canned foods also increases her enjoyment in her meals while getting nutrition in, and you can also include a multi-vitamin recommended by your veterinarian. Be wary with meat since its high in phosphorus and low in calcium—balance out the ratio by adding a calcium supplement and raw bones to their diet.

Choosing Healthy Dry and Wet Food

State regulations necessitate that pet food guarantee minimum crude fat and crude protein percentages. However, “crude” refers to the method of testing rather than the quality of the nutrients included. Some dog food manufacturers do provide guarantees for nutrients, such as phosphorus, sodium, calcium, and linoleic acid.

Dry dog food makes up many household dog diets due to its affordability and storability—containing roughly 90 percent dry matter with 10 percent water. Crude protein and other nutrients typically run lower for canned products due to relative moisture content. Canned dog food contains about 75 percent more moisture, where dry foods contain about 10 percent moisture. When you count out the water, the canned product contains more protein.

Dry dog food is created by converting the starches of cooked food, flash-sterilizing ingredients, and destroying toxins. Wet dog food isn’t necessarily healthier than dry dog food, but it contains higher degrees of fresh fish, poultry, meat, and animal byproducts. The best dog food depends on the dog’s dietary needs, especially if she’s on a special diet recommended by your vet.

Follow the guidelines on pet food labels, but all your dog needs is a varied, high-quality diet. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet for advice about your dog’s diet to ensure a long and healthy life.


Emily is a freelance wildlife conservation and pet blogger. To check out more of her work, see her blog, Conservation Folks, or follow her Twitter account @emilysfolk.

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