Top 10 Things To Look For In Dog Food

With the recent Salmonella contamination at Diamond Pet Foods’ plant resulting in the recall of 14 (or more) brands, some of us may be wondering how to select a good, safe, nutritious food for our companions.

Below is a list of my Top 10 things to look for or avoid.

1.  Look for: Ingredients you can pronounce and recognize. 

When you walk down the supermarket meat aisle, between the lamb chops and the chicken wings do you see anything with eight syllables?  Anything like Sodium Metabisulfite?  Here’s a good rule:  the more syllables it has the less of it should be in our dog’s food.  And if the ingredient has more than six syllables, put the bag back.

2.  Look for:  USA (or equivalent) made and sourced.

Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina also offer some solid choices.  Try to find a brand that also produces their own instead of outsourcing the production.  Here are four good examples:  Champion Pet Foods (Canada), Fromm’s (WI), Precise (TX), Evangers (cannery) (IL).  You’ll find them at an independent pet supply store, not the supermarket.

3.  Look for:  Identifiable animal proteins as the 1st and ideally the first three ingredients. 

Meats should be marked as USDA certified, fresh.  And while the packaging may not say “human-grade” or “table-quality” because of strange issues the industry has with those terms, their websites probably will.   Between 60% – 80% of a healthy dog’s diet should be animal protein.   Look for this on the label too.

4.  Look for:  Fewer ingredients, and “complete and balanced.”

Less is more from quantity of ingredients standpoint.  If you get “deer-in-the-headlights” syndrome from reading the ingredients panel, walk away.  The label should also say “complete and balanced” which means it has the necessary vitamins and minerals.

5.  Look for: Ingredients that do not come from China.

There’s enough evidence of major problems with the human food chain in China.  Currently our pets are not safe eating ingredients from China.   China pet food imports grew 30% last year and now make up 70% of all pet food imports.  By a rough sketch estimate that means 40% of pet food ingredients in USA-made products are coming from China.

To get the answer to this one point, you will need to go to the manufacturer’s website or call their customer service department.  In all likelihood companies that are not using China-sourced ingredients will promote it on their website as it’s a big selling point.  This is  especially true given the 2007 melamine-based recall that killed 8,000 animals (China manufacturers were purposefully lacing wheat gluten with melamine to boost protein content and selling the ingredients to US dog food makers); and the recent toxic China chicken jerky issue.

If you don’t find the information readily available, then it’s suspicious.  If you want a China-free choice, then you can probably eliminate over 60 brands from five manufacturers right out of the gate.  All these guys were forced to recall products in 2007 for melamine so they were buying from China then at least.  Here they are (at the risk of their attorneys knocking down my doors):

Eighty-five-percent (85%) of the pet food market is controlled by these 5 multi-billion dollar companies The top two (Mars and Purina have 87 manufacturing plants and combined revenues of over $26 Billion).  When you get to be that large everything succumbs to shareholder value:  how little money it takes to produce something and how much of it you can push.  So it’s reasonable to assume their stuff is coming from China.

A must read on this subject is From China with Luck. (It also lists the 60 brands from the Big 5).

6.  Avoid generic unidentifiable meat, byproducts, animal digests and “natural flavors.”

It’s well known that the FDA allows dead, dying, diseased and disabled animals to be rendered into animal feed.  This includes euthanized animal shelter animals; roadkill; Anthrax , mad cow, or otherwise diseased animals, and more.  Byproducts include things like McDonald’s used grease.  Natural Flavors is a dumping ground for MSG and other junk.   A good read for more info on this topic is:  Where’s the Beef

 7.  Avoid wheat, corn, soy.  Avoid gluten-grains and minimize rice. 

Wheat, corn, soy and gluten-grains (rye, barley, spelt) are highly inflammatory and many dogs cannot digest them.  Oats are a fine choice for grain as they are gluten free.  They are also higher in calcium and potassium and lower on the glycemic index than pumpkin and sweet potatoes.  Instead, however, of a laundry list of grains, look for fruits and vegetables.

There are a number of other health issues around soy which will be the subject of a future post.

8.  Avoid salt, sugar, garlic (it’s in the onion family and causes anemia in dogs), and glycerin. 

Glycerin is the new dumping ground for methanol.  For more information read:  Glycerin.  A Diesel By Any Other Name Wouldn’t Taste As Sweet.

9.  Avoid preservatives and fishmeal.

The most toxic preservatives are these:  BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, TBHQ, Sodium Metabisulfite.  Most fishmeal in dog food is preserved with ethoxyquin but the ethoxyquin is not disclosed on the label.  (Read:  Where’s the Beef? for more information.)

Nitrites and Nitrites should also be eliminated.

10.  Avoid Food colorings.

Ever see a dog turn his nose up at food because it got a low score for plating and presentation?  Food colorings are added for our visual benefit, not the dogs and many are carcinogenic.  The worst ones are:  Caramel Coloring, Yellow #6, Blue #1 and #2, Red #3, and Green #3.

Wishing you and your pup a long, joyous, healthy life together!

About Amy Renz

Amy is the CEO and Pack Leader of Goodness Gracious, LLC ( and we save lives. We make healthy 100% human-grade, USDA certified, USA sourced dog and cat treats, and give 51% of our profits to local animal shelters, rescues and spay/neuter programs in communities where our treats are sold. Our products include single-ingredient jerky and gluten free biscuits that pets love, and parents love to give. Amy is a Marathoner, a slalom skier, but first a parent to her pack of three beautiful canines. Find us on Facebook at Twitter @Goodnssgracious
This entry was posted in Animal Health, Dog nutrition, Dogs, Pet food, Pet Nutrition, Pet treats and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Top 10 Things To Look For In Dog Food

  1. Debbie Albritton says:

    I make my own dog treats (meatballs) from fresh ground meat, oatmeal, eggs and vegetables. My boys love them and it’s a LOT cheaper than buying them in the store.

  2. LAURA KRENTZ says:


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